If I were to say that Atheists are stupid, I would be labeled intolerant, disgruntled, biased, arrogant, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. However some militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins feel that I as a theist am stupid, dimwitted, foolish, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. But do they have a point? I mean realistically I am asking Atheists to have an open mind so I should as well. I believe in something that has no empirical evidence, requires me to act in ways that are completely contrary to my normal thought process, asks me to sacrifice myself for the sake of others, and ensures that I will be persecuted to some extent while alive. I have to admit the evidence weighs against me.
Historically my kind have offered responses to this that I would love to grab hold of and swing for the fence against these heinous accusations but I find they leave me empty at times. If Christians are going to respond to views like Dawkins, we need to be able to provide a defense for the hope that is within us. This is not just a theoretical polemic based upon the advent of the Spirit in time of need; it takes thought and preparation ahead of time which Dawkins feels we do not use.
Dawkins argues in his book The God Delusion that “God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe discoverable in principle if not in practice”. He feels that even if we cannot prove for or against the existence of God, we should be able to do much better than a 50% chance of being correct. I disagree with these hypotheses. If human science is able to open the door and find the man behind the curtain, then there must be a curtain, a door, and a place for the man to stand. In other words, if we are using tools common to the human realm, how can they determine something outside the human realm? If the best we can offer is not 100% accurate, than replacing faith with reason is faulty.
Dawkins argues that the existence of an advanced being that is more complex than human beings would require either an even more advanced being to create him or that a more advanced process would need to create that being. This starts with an assumption that all things need to be created or evolved. This is a carefully constructed false alternative fallacy. For a mind to be truly open about God, we need to be willing to accept options that are outside of our parameter set.
He argues that the Bible is “just plain weird”. It is “a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents”. I would have to agree. It was clearly not written by a single author or even complied by one. It has structural elements that span two millennia and was complied over the better part of one. But what does that have to do with God or Christianity. If my intention was to do a Book Review on the text I understand his concerns, but whether the ancient writings are collected in a book, online, PDF’s on my laptop, or scrolls in jar somewhere, that really doesn’t address their information. He says that the God of the Old Testament is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak”. That sounds an awful lot like a schoolyard bully trying to control a conversation through an ad hominem abusive argument, not a scholar looking to gain wisdom. I guess my challenge is I don’t see much explaining why my beliefs are stupid, dimwitted, and foolish. I do see an awful lot showing Dawkins doesn’t like them. I can live with that.
There are arguments that have validity that question my views. I am nowhere near arrogant enough to dispute that. But questions do not make me stupid, they actually should help to either reinforce my beliefs or help realign them. I believe in the God who communicated his message for man through scripture. Unless I am willing to say that I have a lock on all scriptural understanding, which I am quite unwilling to do, I have to accept that questions can only help me.
One question centers on Theodicy. It centers on the problem of evil and destruction in our world and the question of how an omnipotent and omniscient God could allow this. It argues against the assertion that God is all powerful, all knowing, or benevolent if he allows these things. This question calls out the same issue with Dawkins original hypothesis above. For us to claim God is not these things that befit the character of God, we are saying we fully understand how God is involved with the world, how he interacts, and we are judging that as not correct thereby claiming dominion over God and reducing his godhood. The question appeals to an outside governing agency to determine that God’s actions are either right or wrong. The problem is that if they are truly able to determine that, he is not God.
Another question comes from the idea that Jesus is the only way to get to God. The idea is that it is narrow minded to require all people to accept this single view point when there are a plethora of religions to choose from. A young pastor I once new felt that this argument had weight. He began to accept the idea that as no concrete scientific evidence exists for the assertions of the Biblical texts, than no religion should be excluded and all ideas should be embraced. He felt this larger more inclusive view better represented a god he would want to believe in and gave up his pastoral role and began to build out his own religion centered on this new god. Redacting the text by virtue of what is popular is nothing more than creating fiction. Calling it loving and inclusive makes it sound nice but does not reduce the fact that it is still creating fiction. The biblical text requires faith in God to be in right relationship with God. Emasculating that God on the account of our inability to reconcile his justice with our desires is rebellion and not faith. We can call it harsh, we can question the purpose, and we can even say we don’t like it. The moment we choose executive privilege to rewrite it is the moment we stop believing in it and elevate ourselves to godlike status.
Many other questions exist but none prove the idea that Christian belief in God is sub intelligent. The answers may be difficult and may not even best represent the God they are meant to represent. But believer are not less intellectual because they exist. If we are unable to openly discuss the idea that God exists outside of our ability to control, we only discuss what we control and that will never be God. It is not wrong to question God, in a lot of ways it makes sense. If we do however, we need to be ready for the answers and not expect they will fit in the boxes we want them to. Abusive rhetoric will not change that. Asking God why makes sense, listening to his answers makes even more sense.