Daily Archives: August 23, 2010

The Invention of Religion

Cults and new religious movements in literatur...

Image via Wikipedia

A new blogger arriving on the scene, badcatholic, imagines himself back in time as a fly on the wall during the invention of religion.

Caveman 1: Bro, these mammoths are frightening, and I don’t know why it rains.
Caveman 2: Yeah, sounds like we need some supernatural explanation for natural phenomena for which we are not yet advanced enough to understand.
Caveman 1: Right. So we’ll need a god…
Caveman 2: Nice.
Caveman 1: And let’s have no adultery with beautiful women…
Caveman 2: Uh-
Caveman 1: And in with the concept of eternal, unimaginable torment-
Caveman 2: Slow down-
Caveman 1: And moral obligations, and no more of this survival of the fittest. We’ll not be able to lie, or steal, or cheat, or mastrubate-
Caveman 2: Are you sure you-
Caveman 1: Or eat too much, or drink too much, or be lazy, or be prideful… (source)

It has always fascinated me that atheists repeatedly assert that religion is a human invention, yet a quick study of religious vices and virtues reveals that we’ve set an impossible standard for ourselves. Religions, not just Christianity, speak of the evils of acquiring and hording material possessions, lust, adultery, pride; and extol an others-centered attitude as well as exhorting adherents to not even think about bad things. Religion asserts that humans are broken and need to be fixed, either through a set of ritual behaviors or by a quickening of the spirit by the hand of God, and those who refuse to comply will face eternal destruction, shame, and humiliation. Who would invent that?

On the other hand, if God is the author of religion, that makes much more sense. A divine being who  stands in judgment of humanity warning us against adultery, lust, and evil thoughts makes more sense than a bunch of primitive humans with no motivation to make monogamy the preferred form of marriage, adultery a grave sin, and forbid masturbation and all forms of lust as the standard of behavior.

If mankind invented religion, I think we’d see a much different picture than we do now.

"Logical" Reasons for Leaving Christianity, part II

Don Exodus made a series of videos detailing why he left Christianity. The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees touted that his reasons were eminently logical. In the previous post, I made short work of that myth. Don’s reasons were emotional, not at all based in pure logic.

The second part doesn’t start off any better. He spends some time reviewing material from the first video about how the null hypothesis is applied in every area of life except religious belief. Then he makes the claim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Since religion makes the most extraordinary claim of all–that an omniscient, omnipotent God cares for each individual person, then that should require the most extraordinary evidence of all.

Science icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.Image via WikipediaLet’s spend some time there for just a moment. To my knowledge, it isn’t claimed that all supernatural claims should be rejected a priori. Yet, when it comes to claims relating to the existence of God, it seems that all atheistic skeptics reject that a priori, on the claim that there is no evidence to suggest that God exists.

The apostle Paul would disagree strongly. Central to his argument that all are under the law, and thus the condemnation and wrath of God, is that men (and women, I would think) are without excuse for knowing about God’s existence. Without excuse. That’s pretty forceful!

Additionally, as Mariano Grinbank suggests, to merely assert that a claim is extraordinary and therefore requires extraordinary evidence is dodgy. No matter what evidence that the theist provides, the atheist could simply say, “Not extraordinary enough for me!”

I previously discussed what would be considered “supernatural.” God exists outside of nature, but he ordered nature and decreed its movements in a way that serves his purpose. What that means is that the category of “supernatural” is meaningless–it isn’t a violation of the law of gravity for me to pick up a box and hold it in my hand, suspended over a table; so why would it be considered a violation for God to hold that same box suspended over the table? It isn’t.

So if God is ordering nature and influencing its movements to achieve of a particular end, how is that going to look any different than a natural explanation behind everything?

Gravitation keeps the planets in orbit around ...Image via WikipediaDon makes the claim that it is extraordinary to posit the existence of God. I think, however, it is far more extraordinary to posit that the universe expanded from a singularity with exactly the right speed, gravitational pull, force, mass, and energy which set in motion a series of unbreakable chain reactions leading to the emergence of life on a small, insignificant planet. That life eventually became smart enough to deny the existence of a creator and make a YouTube video about it. The sheer odds against that happening anywhere in this universe, or that the universe could have even supported it to begin with, are at odds with any naturalistic explanation. With a naturalistic explanation, it all would have had to happen by complete accident.

Unfortunately, retreating to the theory of large numbers–in other words, that it had to happen somewhere given the enormity of the universe and the myriad of planets therein–is nothing but a convenient dodge. That would only work if each planet that emerged was a dependent trial, much in the same way that you eventually have to draw an ace of spades from a deck of cards given enough draw-and-discards. Fact is, that each planet is an independent trial. That means that each planet that emerges has the same odds of supporting life, regardless of the success or failure of a previous planet to support said life. And that is granting that the universe itself could support life; there are literally hundreds of variables that had to be in place prior to thinking that any planet could support life! Large numbers doesn’t get you out of either of these problems.

Of course, no “I Reject Christianity Video” would be complete without a total misunderstanding of faith. True Christian faith is a reasoned trust based on past performance. Don fails to define “faith” in his video, but I’ll be willing to bet that it is similar to how Richard Dawkins et. al. define it: “Belief without (or in the teeth of) evidence.” That is not how a Christian thinks of faith, and we apologists hate when pastors, elders, or other senior leaders tell a seeker with an honest question about God’s existence to “have more faith.” That’s such a cop-out, and many of the anti-testimonies I’ve read contain that story: “My pastor ignored my question about God and told me I needed to have more faith.”

Next comes the argument that the Bible contains nothing that illiterate goat-herders of the day wouldn’t have already known. Don thinks that God should have had them write something about antibiotics, a scientific equation, or something similar to prove that it was written by an omniscient God.

That’s fallacious for a really good reason. If the Bible contained a recipe for antibiotics or a scientific equation, then textual critics of today would have assumed that the ancient Israelites had worked antibiotics out on their own. Don spends quite a bit of time in his video declaring naturalistic explanations are superior to supernatural ones (stating at the end of part I that supernatural explanations have an explanatory track record of 0). So, if the Bible did contain advanced knowledge, then moderns would simply assume that the Israelites already knew of it somehow.

Prophecy is explained in much the same way. The primary reason that the book of Isaiah is split into two (or sometimes three) separate books is because so-called “Second Isaiah” contains exact descriptions and names of post-Exile personalities and events. The a priori assumption is that it can’t be this way because of fulfilled prophecy, so therefore the second part of the book must have been pseudopigrapha written post-Exile under the name of the pre-Exile prophet Isaiah.

So it would be were the Bible to contain scientific knowledge that wouldn’t be “discovered” until Einstein. The skeptics would try to find a naturalistic explanation for that bit of data to be there rather than bow automatically to God.

Next comes the idea that we reject every historical God except Yahweh, so why not just go one step further? Well, that is really the subject for another post entirely, but briefly: rejecting all possibility of God is tantamount to admitting that, by accident, everything developed the way it did by accident and there is no higher purpose or reason for existence. I might be okay if that didn’t imply that morality is an illusion, free will doesn’t exist, and there is no inherent difference between being born a human or being born a tree. I think that even atheists agree there is a vast difference between being human and being a plant, or even between being human and being a close primate relative.

Two obvious objections arise. First, that I only believe in God because I’m experiencing a visceral reaction to the implications of something I don’t like. In other words, I believe for the same reasons I’m accusing him of rejecting his faith. Second, that I’m appealing to consequences of belief, which is a logical fallacy.
It is fair, in both instances, to point out that the logical consequences of this belief are not accepted as true by either side. That removes the charge of hypocrisy on my part, and the logical fallacy. Evolutionists argue that life didn’t arise by chance, nor did it evolve purely by chance either. They fail to explain the guiding force, but believe that it exists and can be explained.

Don wraps things up by saying that it will take evidence to prove to him that God exists. Again, as with any unbeliever, what sort of evidence will make him believe is left vague and I much doubt that he will be forthcoming with specific evidence. As I’ve detailed above, Don is asking for extraordinary evidence to prove the claim that God exists. But, no matter what evidence is presented to him, he is able to say, “Not extraordinary enough!” This is the cop-out.

Then he asks for God to personally prove his own existence, which I’ve already explained why that line of thinking is futile.

So, Don really has nothing new here. Another emotional rejection of theism disguised in the thinnest veneer of logic.

Enhanced by Zemanta