Are Christians Really Just Deluding Themselves?

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.

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  1. #1 by Atomic Mutant on November 11, 2013 - 10:47 am

    Let’s not forget, that many Christian DO say that atheists are fools. It’s even in your holy book (Psalm 14:1), so it’s hard to escape that. Of course, it’s not nice and personally, I don’t support it (individual Christians and atheists can, of course, be as stupid as a brick).

    And personally, my problem is not that you believe something you have no evidence for or that your belief imposes limits on you. The point where I start having problems with your belief is the point where you try to start imposing limits ON OTHERS based on your belief. For example, if you don’t want to marry a person of the same gender… Feel free. Nobody forces you. But as soon as you try to prevent other people from doing so, your personal belief becomes a limitation of other people’s freedom – and limiting other people’s freedom should only be done in very serious situations and after very careful consideration, not simply because a 2.000 year old book demands it.

    If science cannot find something “beyond the human realm”, which may be, that still doesn’t mean that religion is correct. “Science doesn’t know everything” is not an argument for some random god. There may be a gap in our knowledge, perhaps even one we may never be able to fill – but filling it with “god” is simple random.

    I notice that you didn’t answer a concern: Don’t you think that the being called “god” in the old testament is described as a horrible person? That’s not an ad hominem, as not the Christian who makes an argument is attacked, but this person’s god. And when the question of morality is concerned, even an ad hominem can become a valid counter argument, if it shows that an argument from authority is based on an authority that has ethical deficiencies.

  2. #2 by yirahyahweh on November 11, 2013 - 6:17 pm

    Hello Atomic, thank you for the comment. I agree with several things you said. I would start by saying that my comments apply to Christians as well. We have no right to categorically call any group fools. I also appreciate your classification of individual versus group. There are days I have difficulty making coffee so I would have to say there is also a temporal effect somewhere to be considered.

    Psalm 14 represents a dialectic style popular in the 10th century BCE for addressing argumentation. It contains polar opposites to offer a “proof” that the writers point holds value. It is not a study on how to address or communicate with groups who disagree with Christianity. It did reflect a societal trend to claim superiority over the nations around them at the time. Christians who call Atheists or for that matter any group fools are flatly wrong. Christ addressed this in Matthew 5:22 saying that if his followers call another person a fool they are guilty enough to be thrown in the flaming dung heap outside the city (Gehenna) used to describe hell.

    The problem of limitations you mentioned has many rabbit holes. By virtue of declaring a code to live by, all religions create limitations within their structure. I agree those limitations should not be imposed on people that are not desiring to practice that religion. As a follower of Christ, I accept many limitations on my life and choices. For someone who does not follow Christ, I would not impose those limitations. That is where the rabbit hole starts. I am a pastor and I have no problem with two men or two women getting married. There marriage does not reflect on my beliefs and their choices are not mine. The argument for Gay marriage is far more complex than that however. Having no problem with it does not mean I agree it is the most beneficial for the individuals. I do not in any way feel the need tell people that information if they are not asking me. If a person is not asking to be in relationship with Christ, telling them the requirements God is placing is irrelevant. The problem is that I am asked to go one step further and change that requirement. I cannot do that. I need to have the same freedom to worship my God that those who are not worshiping him had and should have. I realize this is not what all Christians claim but I am working on that. Please see my post on homosexuality for more information on this.

    I complete agree the lack of scientific ability to discover God does not prove God in the same way the lack of evidence for God does not disprove God. The whole challenge in Christianity is that proof is not a component of faith. It is not that some proof may or may not exist; it is that it is not needed. Faith is the action of belief without asking for tangible verification. I see proof for God on a regular basis in my life. That would not be necessarily tangible for even other Christian’s much less non believers.

    Describing the God of the Old Testament anthropomorphically creates problems. You used the phrase “horrible person”. This is not merely semantics but he is not a person. By virtue of him being God, he cannot be judged by human standards, we simply do not have enough information. To say his actions are wrong, we need to have the omniscience God has in order to do that. We do not so our judgment is nothing more than short sighted opinion. That in no way means I understand the actions or for that matter am not confused by some. Christians make large errors approving actions we could not possibly understand. A man who weighs in on an argument either for or against without knowing the circumstances is in error. I have no problem worshiping God in faith knowing that his justice and righteousness are clear. That does not mean I can reconcile all the text. I do feel though that claiming authority through ad hominem weakens the argument. I don’t feel louder talking gives humans the ability to judge God.

    Thanks again for the input!

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