Daily Archives: November 10, 2010
Just read what I have to say before you start quoting 1 Peter 3:15 at me.
This post from Debunking Christianity may just be the height of John W. Loftus’s stupidity. In a short space, Loftus asks questions that just prove that he is not just ignorant, but willfully ignorant (and that’s the worst kind of ignorant). The crux of his argument:
Christians have faulted the so-called New Atheists with ignorance. They do the same thing with me. If only I knew this or that I would see the error of my way and believe again.
He closes appropriately, “Surely the theist cannot possibly demand that nonbelievers must know all that can be known before their rejection of religion is warranted.” No, we can’t ask for that, since we ourselves can’t know everything there is to know to accept our position as rational. But, that’s not really the focus. The focus here is the naivety and outright stupidity of the so-called rhetorical questions being asked. Let’s look at them:
How much philosophy should Richard Dawkins know to rationally reject religion?
He doesn’t need to know any philosophy to rationally reject religion, but if he’s going to write a book for the general populace using naturalism to debunk philosophical arguments of the existence of God, he ought to at least study his philosophy and learn what philosophers, both ancient and modern, have to say on the philosophical points he wishes to raise.
Had he done so, he would have known that “Who designed the Designer?” is a naive and silly question often asked by second graders who fail to distinguish between the heavenly and earthly realms. If God was a material entity, originating in a created plane of existence, then he would require a designer. However, he transcends the universe itself, existing outside of time and space, and therefore doesn’t require a cause the way a material entity or event does. Without the constrains of time, a cause-and-effect chain isn’t necessary to bring about a desired result or to create a being, event, or formation. God is, and always will be.
How much science should Christopher Hitchens know?
As above, to reject religion he doesn’t need to know. But, if he’s going to write a book that logically debunks religion with science, he ought to be familiar with his subject matter.
How much Bible should Daniel Dennett know?
Depends. If he’s going to write a book about the Bible, its history and construction, and contrast that with evolutionary development, then he ought to know quite a bit about the Bible.
How much theology should Sam Harris know?
If he’s going to argue the morality of Christian theology, he ought to have a basic grasp of it. He also ought to have a basic grasp of the cultural morality of the time in which the Bible was written. However, he doesn’t have even a 101-level grasp of any of those things and therefore shouldn’t argue it. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from writing three books on those exact topics.
How much should we know to rationally reject religion? How much? What if we know very little? What if all we know is that God did not save our child and she died from Leukemia?
Let’s say all you think you know is that God couldn’t save a child from leukemia. Before you conclude that religion is stupid, don’t you think that you should at least investigate what a learned theologian may have to say on that matter, instead of just going the completely emotional route?
Here’s John being extremely inconsistent again. Atheism is a reasoned conclusion, religion is being biased and defending what you prefer to be true. But if you reject God solely on the basis of your child’s untimely death from leukemia, that is taking your visceral, emotional reply to a tragedy and rather than applying your mind to the task of weighing evidence or considering arguments, you shut your heart down to any possibility of God because you’re mad at him.
Exactly like my three-year old when she doesn’t get her way.
What if a scientist rejects religion because s/he cannot adequately test supernatural hypotheses?
What if a historian rejects the claims of a religion because as a historian s/he must assume a natural explanation for the events in the past?
Are they culpable for doing so when this is all they know to do?
Yes, they are culpable.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Rom 1:20-25)
Everyone knows about God. Everyone can see God’s eternal nature and divine power. These folks are using their professions to hide what they know to be true under a thin cloak of pseudo-rationality. That’s willful rejection of God, gross idolatry, and a major sin.
When can it be said that a person can rationally reject a religion?
I don’t know the answer to that. But the rejections of religion that I’ve seen are emotional rejections of God because of anger directed at God, or disgust at the behavior of Christians. Not exactly rationally concluded atheism, is it?
I’ll let you know when I actually see a rational rejection of religion. I have yet to come across any.
If you’ve been following John W. Loftus’s blog, you know that he’s now writing a debate book with a Christian scholar. It looks like it’s going to be pretty shallow, at only 160 pages. Each debate is going to be less than 2000 words, with 750 words each presenting affirmation and denial, then a 100 word rebuttal each, and finally a 50 word conclusion each.
The good news is that Loftus is softballing questions to the unnamed scholar. The first three questions are:
- The biblical god ruled over a pantheon of gods and had a wife, Asherah.
- The biblical god required human sacrifices for his pleasure.
- The biblical god commanded the genocide of whole people groups.
As to (1), that is a big fat NEGATIVE. The people of Israel often worshiped Asherah (a Canaanite fertility goddess who also governed prosperity, I believe), and perhaps some of them may have believed that God took her as a wife. But the heretical beliefs of any religion do not define that religion.
The monotheism of ancient Israel (and most probably Abraham’s own journey to monotheism) didn’t conceive of God as a single entity or being. Rather, God was a plurality of powers. In polytheism, each discrete deity of a pantheon had a portfolio: a set of related areas of mortal life which that particular deity oversaw. Zeus, for example, ruled the skies, thunder, and lightning. Hades ruled death. Aphrodite ruled love and beauty, and her son Eros was responsible for matchmaking and sex (Eros is where we get our word erotica). When Abraham journeyed to monotheism, he (and people who followed after him) saw God the might of heavens (like clouds, thunder, and lightning) as an aspect of God. Similarly, death, love, beauty, matchmaking, and sex were all aspects of God. So, in our Greek example, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Eros were all seen as discrete powers, but unified in essence, purpose, and intelligence. They wouldn’t have individuality, but would be part of the divine.
This means that the Israelites didn’t see anything specifically wrong or blasphemous about worshiping the gods of the Canaanites, since these gods were seen as aspects of the One, True God of Israel. But in the Law, God through Moses sought to correct that way of thinking by forbidding Israel to make images of things on earth (you can’t worship nature, trees, or animals) and in heaven (forbidding both ancestor worship of oriental religions and the polytheism of most ancient cultures). God didn’t wish to be thought of as a set of individual entities, but as One.
As difficult as this is to wrap our modern minds around, it proved even more difficult for the Israelites to grasp. Hence, other deities (especially Canaanite deities) were worshiped throughout Israel. Asherah was by far the most common. The Bible makes repeated references to this, and consistently condemns it.
Whatever Loftus’s source for (1), it isn’t the Bible. The Bible is the infallible rule of faith and practice, and nowhere in it do we find a hint that God married Asherah. Nor do we find this alleged Israelite pantheon. Viewing God as the unity of intelligence and purpose behind a plurality of powers doesn’t make the Israelites into polytheists. Judging the whole of an ancient religion by its heretics is also dangerous. When Loftus was a Christian, I’m sure that he would take great exception if an opponent were to judge him by the tenets of Marcionism.
I’ve repeatedly said that (2) is just false, and I would love to see a biblical challenge to it. I’ll save you time: there ain’t one. God forbid human sacrifices. Yes, the Israelites often practiced them (I’ll even grant the famous story in Judges, but you have to show me where God accepted the sacrifice explicitly or implicitly without appealing to an argument like, “God is omniscient and omnipotent and could have stopped it if he wanted to”). But, as I stated in (1), you can’t judge a religion by its heretics. Every religion has them, but don’t use their practices to condemn the religion as a whole, especially when there are clear, unambiguous biblical mandates against human sacrifice.
We’ve also addressed (3) so many times that I don’t even want to get into it again. No one is innocent before God; we are all sinners, worthy of death and deserving of hell. Life, also, isn’t a guarantee. Nothing in the Bible promises that humans won’t be the victims of murder, genocide, war, or a tragic car accident. Whether we die in our beds of old age with our families around us, or by application of a strangle wire after being raped for the two previous hours, we will die. For good or ill, it is our destiny, and has been since Adam first ate the fruit of the forbidden tree.
God is perfectly able to judge guilty sinners as such and even use a human war machine as that people’s undoing. And that’s exactly what we see in the commanded genocides. Indeed, we see similarities in all deaths; it is all God’s judgment upon a sinful people.