What Would Jesus Really Do?

Roland

Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and former editor of the Chicago Defender, an influential black newspaper. If you’re unfamiliar with him, you may remember this exchange on legacy admissions (which essentially mean you got into a good college because daddy went there and now gives the school money) he once had with President Bush– it made national headlines:

Roland Martin: So, the colleges should get rid of legacy.

President Bush: Well, I think so, yeah. It should be based upon merit and also based upon — I think colleges need to work hard for diversity. Don’t get me wrong.

Martin: Just to be clear, you believe that colleges should not use legacy?

Bush: I think that colleges ought to use merit in order for people to get in and they ought to use a merit system like the one I put out.

An op-ed in the Boston Globe said of Bush’s remark: “But even the world’s most famous legacy admission and the world’s most glaring example of privilege with his C average at Yale, had to realize the seismic proportions of what he said.”

Anyway, I bring Martin up because he hosted a program called “What Would Jesus Really Do?” last Friday on CNN.

His panelists included Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Paula White, and Jerry Falwell.

You can read the full transcript, but there were a couple excerpts worth noting.

First, an exchange with Jerry Falwell, where Falwell manages to say something utterly stupid (about women) and then completely surprising in the same breath:

Martin: Let me ask you this.

Is there a Christian litmus test for a presidential candidate? Should we be basing our choice on where they stand on faith?

Falwell: Well, I can — yes, I think that the ideal is that we would have a man or a woman of faith who also is right on the moral issues.

But I have known many women of faith who didn’t have a clue regarding national security, didn’t have a clue about how to deal with terrorism, had no idea about how to change the federal courts and to defend the unborn.

And, so, it’s like this. I would rather have an atheist who is a neurosurgeon of excellent talents operating on me if I ever need a brain surgery, than to have the best Sunday school teacher in the world who doesn’t know a thing about it. I would much rather have the atheist, if that is his specialty.

We have got to elect a president who, whether he or she goes to church, or which church, or whatever, understands the issues. And the top issue today in our culture is survival. Right now, the war against terror and Islamic terrorism, it is the most dangerous time I have known in my 73 years. I have lived through Hitler, Nazism, communism. This is the most dangerous time America has faced.

And the next president has got to have a grip on this gravity of terrorism and the survival of the people, and has got to be willing to take the battle, whether it’s to Iraq or Afghanistan, or wherever, to defend our children and children’s children.

Martin: I got to agree. If I’m on the emergency table, you’re right. If it’s an atheist who is cutting me, that’s fine, as long as you’re good.

I’m shocked.

I mean, did anyone else know Jerry Falwell had a brain?

Martin closed the show with the following message (emphasis mine):

Martin: Folks, I don’t have a time to mince words. In 2007, enough with the people who pimp God. That’s right. I said it, pimp God. Instead of focusing on the totality of Jesus, we have Christians who want to make the faith all about abortion and homosexuality. And then we have others who seek God as nothing but a spiritual slot machine. They say a prayer and down from heaven comes a big house or a new car.

Faith should be used to break down racial and economic barriers, not solidify them. Don’t tell me Jesus would have embraced the sinners and you bar them from the church door. How can people say they love Jesus, but are afraid to speak to their neighbor, eat with a co-worker have their children play with peers across town?

As we heard tonight, the Christian agenda should be broader than two issues. Let’s stop with the nonsense that one political party has a hold on Jesus. We are called to speak truth to power no matter who sits in the White House. Christians, let’s stop wondering what Jesus would do to make this world better. The question you need to answer is what am I prepared to do?

(Thank to Jason for bringing this to my attention.)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Roland Martin. Chicago Defender, George W. Bush, Boston Globe, Yale, What Would Jesus Really Do?, CNN, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Paula White, Jerry Falwell, Christian, Islam, terrorism, Hitler, Nazism, communism, Iraq, Afghanistan, God, abortion, homosexuality, Jesus[/tags]

  • Jen

    Props to Falwell for still coming off as an idiot even in the middle of a vaguely reasonable thought.

    Only women have no idea what to do about terrorism? All men know how to deal with the courts? Seriously now.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I mean, did anyone else know Jerry Falwell had a brain?

    Though of course he’s still dead wrong when it comes to morality and especially national security.

    For instance:

    And the top issue today in our culture is survival. Right now, the war against terror and Islamic terrorism, it is the most dangerous time I have known in my 73 years. I have lived through Hitler, Nazism, communism. This is the most dangerous time America has faced.

    Because of course the millions globally who might die or be displaced because of global warming are nothing to a few thousand Americans who die from terrorism.

    Or

    And the next president has got to have a grip on this gravity of terrorism and the survival of the people, and has got to be willing to take the battle, whether it’s to Iraq or Afghanistan, or wherever, to defend our children and children’s children.

    Because apparently our children are far more important than Iraqi or Afghani children.

    Sorry, I know you were trying to say something nice about Falwell, but I really wish people would stop paying any attention to him at all. It’s been years since I’ve met any Christians who would say that he actually speaks for them.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    It’s interesting how modern man would not be so modern if there were no atheist doctors and scientists unlocking the mysteries of nature to better our lives. How often do theists rely on the atheist doctor to cure a disease so that they can quickly go back to spreading their theism?

    With all the talk of “ID” and other religious alternatives to science, at the end of the day when someone’s life is on the operating table the theist understands that all that science they oppose when they are on the pulpit is the same science that WILL save their life. All the prayer, laying on of hands and other superstitions can’t compare to good old empirical science.

    Competence really is more important than religious morality.

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow makes some good points. In my opinion no force on earth has been more of an impediment to human progress than religion. No need to look back into history, just look at the suffering in the world today where religious traditions takes the place of enlightenment. If the fundies like Falwell had their way there would be no true science. Remember, he’s got a ‘University’ that displays dinosaur bones that are only 6,000 years old.

  • Richard Wade

    Falwell doesn’t have a real brain, it’s an enormous tumor that devoured his brain before he was 6 years old. I wonder if Jerry realized that Martin’s description of those who pimp for God fit him perfectly? As for his not representing most Christians hopefully that is true, but there are apparently enough tumor-brains to feed him hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Falwell talks about living in dangerous times. I have a lot more fear of him and his political puppets than Al-Quaida.

    Don’t get me started on the 6,000 year old dinosaurs. It’s so much worse than that. According to the Creationist Museum, T-Rex was a vegetarian. Try to eat a stick of celery with only your front sharp teeth and you’ll choke to death.

    What would Jesus really do? I think he’d tell these pimps to stop their self-serving fundraising scams, turn their brain washing universities into job skill schools for the poor, wash their hands of politics, leave gays alone, build bridges to people of other faiths and views rather than the walls and trenches that they have built, and he’d tell Jerry to lose weight and get a real education.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    The scientific application of biology may not hinge completely on a belief in evolution but medicine, biology and chemistry are all part of the evidence that proves evolution has happened. For a major theist figure to say that he would rather have a competent atheist fiddling around with the wires in his brain instead of Mrs. Sunny the Friendly Neighborhood Bible Teacher speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of fundamental Christian belief. What Mr. Falwell is really saying is that he KNOWS ABSOLUTELY science is correct but because he chooses to believe in God he must then discredit science because it goes against his belief in God.

    The religious community can’t have it both ways. They can’t reap the benefits of a science that proves religious belief is flawed AND do everything they can to discredit science. There is no gray area here, there is no scientific agnosticism – you either believe in science or you believe in religion.

    If the religious believers really mean what they say about a 10,000 year old earth, no evolution and no big bang then they should be living like the Amish. The Amish have no use for the modern world and they want nothing to do with modern advances in technology. They may take advantage of medicine and a few perks of modern living now and then but they also don’t go around trying to debunk the science behind it so that it fits’ with their world view- they just take what they need and go on with their lives, quietly. That I can respect because the Amish don’t pretend to know anything about science.

  • Richard Wade

    An op-ed in the Boston Globe said of Bush’s remark: “But even the world’s most famous legacy admission and the world’s most glaring example of privilege with his C average at Yale, had to realize the seismic proportions of what he said.”

    Well no, there really are people who are so stupid that they don’t know they’re stupid. The prospect of George the Usurper being as dumb as he appears is so scary that most of us just refuse to believe it. We all complain about people who ignore evidence; let’s not do that ourselves. The countless dumbass things that He Who Would be King has done and said is a large body of evidence that he is indeed a dumbass. He gets to his desk every morning with his hair combed, his shoes tied, his fly zipped and his chin dry only because of his handlers. This country is being run by personal assistants, spin doctors and P.R. damage control specialists. The reason that religion has so strong a grip in America is because when we look at our leaders we all say, “God help us.”

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    The reason that religion has so strong a grip in America is because when we look at our leaders we all say, “God help us.”

    That is by far the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. You should copyright that quote, Richard :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    What would Jesus really do? I think he’d tell these pimps to stop their self-serving fundraising scams, turn their brain washing universities into job skill schools for the poor, wash their hands of politics, leave gays alone, build bridges to people of other faiths and views rather than the walls and trenches that they have built, and he’d tell Jerry to lose weight and get a real education.

    I completely agree. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    you either believe in science or you believe in religion.

    I suppose it’s pointless to mention yet one more time that these are false opposites, that this is not an either/or. It is possible to believe in both, and I myself am evidence (as are millions of other religious believers who see no reason to doubt the findings or methods of science.)

    I agree that if you take the first few chapters of Genesis as literal history then a conflict does exist. But if one doesn’t read Genesis this way (and I could argue very strongly from scripture itself that these chapters were never meant to be read as literal history), then there is almost no reason at all for believers to have to reject anything about science.

    But of course, all this has already been said many times before, so I apologize for repeating the obvious.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    BTW, speaking of supposedly “atheist doctors”, the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times today reported that a majority of doctors in America believe that God can help people get healthy.

    According to the University of Chicago survey, 54% of doctors believe that God or another supernatural being intervenes in patient’s health. 76% believe that God or another supernatural being helps patients cope with and endure illness and suffering. And 85% believe the influence of religion and spirituality is generally positive.

    So much for all these “atheist doctors”, huh?

  • Atheist MD

    Hey, there are some of us around.

    While I don’t personally believe in god, I do think that a belief in god (or other supernatural being) does help some people (and their families) cope with/endure terrible illnesses and/or death. That is not to say that it is the only way, the most psychologically healthy or the most reasonable way to deal with illness and loss, but it works for some people.

    At these pivotal moments at the ends of a person’s life, I cannot begrudge them that comfort particularly if they have held the belief their whole life. Even though I don’t believe, I have no problem holding a patient’s (family’s) hand while they pray and/or pass on. It gives them a modicum of comfort and sometimes that is all I can offer.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Shhhh, don’t tell people god will make people healthy. Just wait until the insurance companies hear of this, and tell people to pray rather then go to the doctor!

    If someone is dying, that isn’t the time to preach your beliefs. If you know someone is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and they happen to be dying, don’t start spouting off how dumb they are, and how god doesn’t exist. Is it false hope? Sure. In this case, I think people should get what they want, you’re dying after all, and that’s all you get. Save your debates for the living.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Mike C.:

    At issue is that there are two types of Christians – one type that does take Genesis literally and the other type that does not. Now I am clearly opposed to any literal interpretation of Genesis as I’m sure you can tell so let’s talk about the other camp which sees Genesis as more of a mythology (which I assume is what you believe).

    By reading certain books of the Bible with an eye towards interpretation then it does get much easier to see science as God’s method for creating and running the universe. From this point of view science and the Christian God do not seem opposed and should be able to live in harmony. Trouble with that line of reasoning is that when we apply science to the nature of the universe we see rigid rules and structures that can’t be tampered with. God may have created everything but now he can’t meddle with it – he basically writes himself out of his own creation.

    Now I’m sure you don’t believe this can be true. A Christian firmly believes God is in control of all things from the smallest variation in the gravitational forces between galaxies to the reasons why a tsunami killed child A and not child B. So how can science co-exist with the Christian God when science leaves no room for any God?

    This is why I believe science and religion (at least Christianity) are two separate camps. When we look at the universe, our bodies, a volcano or global ocean currents we do not see evidence of a God but rather all road signs point to a rational, natural explanation of the universe with no outside influence. If science is the language of God then why do we not see God in the science? Why does science drive us further and further away from the supernatural but not towards it? And no, God does not live inside of the yet unexplained bits of science either because every time that argument is used God gets flushed out and He has to retreat to yet another gray area – a “gap” if you will.

    Now science may be able to save many lives but we all die and when we do many people need the comfort and assurance that their lives will continue on somehow. This is why prayer and meditation are effective because these actions induce a calm state in a person. When a person is without stress the body can better heal itself and prayer and meditation have been proven to reduce stress.

    This is also why after a surgery or other form of medical treatment a doctor will say “Get some rest” because a rested body is a body that heals better. It is not a God doing the healing, it is the individual that is healing themselves. Any good doctor knows this and is what doctors are actually referring to when they say they believe in the positive effects of spirituality. They aren’t saying it’s actually God standing at the patients bedside doing the healing but rather it’s the patients belief that God is standing by their bedside that helps them heal.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Hey Dan,

    You do an excellent job of arguing against a God-of-the-gaps theology, and I often argue against it too, so we have that in common. But if you think that’s the only possible way (or even the most common way) that Christians can reconcile belief in God with science then I’m afraid that you’ve been misinformed.

    I believe I already posted about another possible way to view God’s relationship to his universe here, and wrote about it on this blog too (though I don’t fault you for having missed it. There’s a lot to keep up with.)

    Anyhow, you can read it if you’re interested, though the short explanation is that I believe God is the creator of all the scientific “laws” you refer to, so I don’t need to look for “supernatural” evidence, the rational structure of the universe is itself an example of God at work. In fact, I love how you phrased it “science is the language of God” (emphasis mine). The more we know about the natural world, the more we know about God.

    (Though I might still question your statement that science presents us with “rigid rules and structures that can’t be tampered with”. That doesn’t seem like a very accurate description of science to me – given that science is essentially a descriptive not prescriptive look at the world, and especially given that the more we discover about the basic structures of the world, the more we find that they are based on probabilities (i.e. Quantum theory) and unknowable factors (cf. the discussion on Omega numbers in one of the earlier threads). But that’s kind of a tangent, so we don’t really need to go there.)

    And I do agree with with your description of one of the ways that religious belief can psychologically help the healing process. That’s one part of its value. But even given that, I still don’t see much support for your implication that there is some kind of connection between being a doctor and being an atheist. I think that inference just continues to play off that false dichotomy between faith and science. Some doctors are atheists; but according to this article, the majority are not. They seem like mutually independent categories to me.

    Peace,

    -Mike

  • Darryl

    you either believe in science or you believe in religion.

    I suppose it’s pointless to mention yet one more time that these are false opposites, that this is not an either/or. It is possible to believe in both, and I myself am evidence (as are millions of other religious believers who see no reason to doubt the findings or methods of science.)

    Not so fast partner. Do you believe in miracles Mike? Not the invisible kind, but the walk-on-water-change-the-water-into-wine-raise-the-dead kind? If so, then square that with the “findings and methods of science.”

  • Darryl

    Mike, you and “millions of other religious believers” are evidence of one thing: compartmental thinking. So what else is new?

  • Darryl

    Oops! Almost forgot: it is pointless.

  • Darryl

    the short explanation is that I believe God is the creator of all the scientific “laws” you refer to, so I don’t need to look for “supernatural” evidence, the rational structure of the universe is itself an example of God at work.

    Ah, so easy to do–just say it, and poof, it’s true! Besides Magical Thinking, there’s Wishful Thinking: just make stuff up that you want to be so, and since no one can disprove made-up stuff, presto, we’ve got an explanation! Yes, all the pieces fit so neatly; no messy details to fidget with; no remaining puzzles to solve; one lovely little system! Must be a coincidence that all imaginary worlds are internally consistent. Too bad that nothing about the physical world is so neat and tidy. Oh, well.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Not so fast partner. Do you believe in miracles Mike? Not the invisible kind, but the walk-on-water-change-the-water-into-wine-raise-the-dead kind? If so, then square that with the “findings and methods of science.”

    I believe I already answered that question in one of my replies on that other thread. Also here.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Darryl, whenever you’re ready to have a real conversation about this stuff, sans the caricatures and strawmen, let me know. Until then, I don’t have time for your ridicule.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Mike:

    On a personal note I have concerns about quantum theory. Mainly I do not understand it all that well (and not because of a lack of effort on my part) and also because it is so misunderstood even by people who have a good grasp of it that the jury is still out for me. Yes, even I, the ever scientific and atheist Dan Harlow am willing to question science :)

    Let me get back on track now.

    I read your posts about miracles and you bring up some good points. Exactly how did the Red Sea part at exactly the right time (if one is to believe the story at all) and what were the chances of their being a plague right when it needed to happen? If I worked in Vegas and had to set the odds on either of those events happening I would set them pretty low (taking into account the timing factor for those events to change history).

    For me they are not miracles because I question the source material. I do not believe the Bible is an accurate historical document in all cases. I do believe there was a great flood, but I come to that knowledge knowing that there is geological evidence of a natural disaster in that part of the world around the time the Bible says it happens. Also other cultures who are not Christian recorded a similar event on their oral traditions so I believe the Bible is somewhat accurate there.

    As for the Red Sea parting? Possible there had been an earthquake. Possibly the earthquake was much more destructive than the Bible tells us it was. Maybe there had been a very great natural disaster that allowed Moses to leave Egypt in the first place because he knew there was an escape route across what normally is a large body of water. Who knows? I was not there but I do believe the Bible is not telling us the full story because it is only trying to make a point about a group of people fleeing an oppressive government (Egypt and the Pharaoh) in the hope they can make a better life far away from tyranny.

    Getting back to the schism that I believe exists between science and religion, when I say that science is the language of God I am referring to the idea that Christians attempt to reconcile the disparity between what science has discovered against what the Bible says.

    I am a big fan of trains. I am probably a heartbeat away from being one of those crazy people you see hanging out the side of a speeding car with a camera just to snap a few feet of footage of the Union Pacific or a Zephyr. I am also a fan of logic trains. I like to see where a particular line of reasoning leads to – in other words, where the tracks go. When I say science and religion do not mesh it is because I see it this way:

    A- A doctor begins to research the nature of cancer in hopes to find a cure.
    B- The doctor discovers that at the cellular level cancer works by replicating healthy cells over and over without stopping.
    C- The doctor realizes that he needs to learn more about how cells really work
    D- The doctor discovers that single cell organisms share very similar properties with human cells (as well as the cells of most everything in nature) and uses these organisms to further his research
    E- In his research he learns that the chemical properties of these cells share a similar composition with even more basic forms such as amino acids.
    F- The doctor studies how these amino acids behave and begins to understand how they interact with each other to form more complex structures.
    G- The doctor then turns to the evidence of creatures long since deceased to see how this process has created even more complex structures such as eyes (retinal), hearts, brains and skin.
    H- By now the doctor has a better understanding of the behavior in base chemicals that interact with each other to produce more complex forms.
    I- The doctor applies what he has learned about the similar nature of all living things on this planet to a new drug which blocks certain interactions between base amino acids in the hope of slowing out of control cellular reproduction.

    Now I’m not saying the above method is the way to find a cure for cancer, but it paints a very simplistic picture of a typical scientific process. At no time did the doctor discover anything supernatural going on. The doctor turned to fossil evidence of creatures that lived very long ago (which is empirical evidence of evolution), the doctor discovered that life and cellular structures are really the cause of chemical interactions between base chemicals (which is empirical evidence of a natural introduction of life and not supernatural) and the doctor was able to apply all that knowledge to the possibility of curing a terrible disease.

    Nowhere in there did the doctor find God. The doctor may marvel at the beauty in which DNA can replicate itself, or he may marvel at the endless possibilities that just a few chemicals are capable of producing but he has not found God.

    Now one might say that the fact that most of all life on this planet shares very similar qualities might be evidence of a God but again that is just not true. All life on this planet is similar because, well, it is all on just this one planet. What works on Earth might not work on another planet where silicon is more abundant than carbon. Life on this planet is a causal factor of the ingredients present upon the Earth and that is why it is so similar.

    So is it a miracle of God that the chemicals have produced life? Well, what is life? When we look at life through a microscope all we see is the chemical interactions of nucleic and amino acids. We see the stuff of the natural Earth pumping through our veins. We see the heavier metals of long since exploded stars in our blood. In short we do see absolute beauty, but we do not see God.

    Also, when it comes to order from disorder that too is not a supernatural phenomena. The universe at it’s most grand scale tends to order and complexity because of the natural qualities of the universe. In deep space we have massive gravitational forces interacting on interstellar gases to form stars and star clusters. These structures in turn interact with each other and form even larger structures such as galaxies. All in all because of just a few elemental properties we get order from chaos, life from non-life.

    I do not believe these are miracles, but rather the causal factor of a few elements interacting with each other to form more complex structures.

    This is why I see a schism between science and religion. Science builds tools with which to probe every sector of the natural world yet finds no God. Science is able to cure disease and improve old technology but still does not find God. Religion (and I’ve really taking about Christianity here), on the other hand says God is everywhere – an alpha and an omega and all points connecting. Religion states that science is the language of God but science clearly shows a universe that even He cannot meddle with because it would collapse the entire house of cards since everything in the universe is dependent on every other thing in the universe.

    In short, I do not see how a scientist can look at the universe and see God when He (God) has written himself out of His own creation. Even if we take into account quantum theory which says things like an electron never actually exists in a time or place that is actually observable we still see a complex structure with rigid, interconnected rules and a solid foundation based upon very simple and mundane principles.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Dan,

    I totally get what you’re saying. Thank you for taking the time to write it all out so thoroughly. I still get the impression that we’re talking past each other though. There’s nothing about the scientific processes you described that I would disagree with, and yet I think we mean different things by the phrase “finding God”.

    Can you clarify what you think it would take to “find God” through the scientific process? I’m not sure what you’re looking for. What would you have to see for you to say “this is supernatural”? All I can guess is that you’re still looking for a “gap”, i.e. that if we found a spot in nature that nothing could explain then that would be where God is. But I’ve already agreed with you that that is not a valid approach. The point of the blog post I linked you to was to say that I don’t think God has to work apart from the natural order of things. God is not at work in the gaps, he is at work in the whole thing.

    That’s really my point, that it’s the whole universe which is an act of God. The whole system. Where do I “find God” in science? In the whole process, in everything you just described. I’m not looking for “miracles” in the system to prove God. I look at the beauty and intricacy of the whole system, and the beauty and intricacy of the principles and processes that allow complexity to arise out of simplicity and see the mind of a planner behind that (I would say “designer” but that is such a politically loaded term, and I don’t want you to think that I sympathize with the beliefs or agenda of the ID folks – I don’t).

    All I’m saying is that God is seen in nature, in the discoveries of science. There’s no need to look for “supernatural” miracles and unexplained phenomena. The explained phenomena is enough. God doesn’t “write himself out of the equation”. The equation itself is from God.

    And more importantly, what I’m saying is that there is nothing contradictory about believing in all of these natural processes and believing in a God who planned them and brought them all into being, who set the whole system in motion in the first place. These are not mutually exclusive ideas, thus science and religion are not inherently opposites.

    However, I can understand why you would look at all that and still say “Well, but that’s not proof of God’s existence. It can all still function without positing a creator/designer.” And you’re right. I think there are two equally unprovable possibilities here – either all of this exists on its own or someone designed/created it. Both, IMHO, are valid and rational possibilities (which is why, even as a Christian, I am less antagonistic towards atheism than some atheists seem to be towards theism. I’m willing to say that both are possible answers and see no reason to condemn that don’t choose the same option that I do.)

    So let me be clear, I’m not offering any of this as a “proof” for God’s existence – but that’s not what we were talking about anyway, was it? All I’m trying to show is that there is nothing inherently contradictory about belief in science and belief in God. They’re not opposites. (My reasons for believing in a Creator God in the first place is an entirely different discussion, and one that would probably far too long and involved to get into right now.)

    On more thing (and this is tangential to my main point, so please don’t get distracted by it – my previous point stands even if you reject what I say here), but regarding miracles and whether God can “meddle” with the system that I believe he himself has set up: I don’t think he often does, but I do think he can. I don’t think this brings down the laws of science like a “house of cards”, because science (as I understand it) is descriptive, not prescriptive. That is, it tells us what typically does happen, not what must happen. For instance, scientific observation can tell us that people typically don’t rise from the dead, but there is nothing inherently contradictory about someone possibly rising from the dead. If that were to happen it would be just one more way that the world can possibly work, even if it usually doesn’t. (If one believes in an all-powerful Creator God, then why is it such a stretch to believe that this God could modify her own rules sometimes?)

    As for how this works, I don’t really know, I’ve already speculated on a few possibilities in this comment over on the “Math” thread.

    Anyhow, sorry that this post is so long. You’ve given me a lot to respond to, and I wanted to make sure that I’m being clear. Thanks for the conversation!

    Peace,
    -Mike

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow,

    Mike C. is right about one thing: a lot of people, including scientists, accept science and believe in God. This is any easy thing to do. Since, as you have pointed out, science in its work never bumps into God as it is scanning the cosmos, there is no necessity to reconcile his existence with the findings of science. He poses no problem for science because he is not present to science. This is why someone like Dr. Francis Collins can have his religion and his science too. But, let’s understand what such believers are doing: they are simply asserting the existence of an entity because they desire it, and their desire has no basis in reason or scientific inquiry. And, as I previously stated, and Mike previously avoided answering, this is nothing but Wishful Thinking. As Dawkins has said, by the same logic we may assert that we believe in science and the flying spaghetti monster. So long as this monster plays no part in our researches we cannot falsify its existence, and this seems to be enough for theists–if you can’t prove God doesn’t exist, he exists.

    I do like you’re analogy of the train and where the tracks lead. To argue theism philosophically is a waste of time, partly because believers aren’t philosophers (despite their claims), they are apologists. They aren’t searching for the truth; they are searching for arguments to defend their faith. To expose the irrational in their world-view just look at what they do. Jesus said “By their fruits you will know them.” I didn’t reject Christianity because of philosophical arguments about theism; I rejected it because of all the absurd and contradictory elements of its practice. As I asked Mike, and he skirted answering, are we to accept the miracles that Christianity claims? Did Jesus walk on water? Did he really violate the laws of physics? (on that note, I can’t resist that humorous and true definition of prayer: Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. Ambrose Bierce – THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY) If you think that he did, then why no miracles today? Now, I realize that at this point Mike is prepared to say that questions about his faith are undeserving of answers simply because they have been asked of believers many times before. I can hear him now: “Oh, posh, that’s such a tired old argument (yawn).” Such a response does not constitute an argument. These questions have been asked, and continue to be asked because they are good questions, and because they have never been truly answered by believers, just fended off. To truly answer them, is to indict belief.

    So, again I say, where are the miracles? Mike’s faith is founded upon one such miracle; miracles lie at the heart of his faith, so where are they? Whatever Mike happens to believe about miracles is not at issue here, it’s what Christianity espouses. Millions of Catholics claim to see the face of the Virgin Mary in a pancake and it’s a miracle. Evangelicals ask God to make them rich, and if they manage to pay the bills that month, it’s a miracle! This is Magical Thinking, and it lies at the heart of Mike’s religion. “His eye is on the sparrow so I know he’s watching me.” This is the teaching of Jesus (hard to say it isn’t central to the faith). Yet, Mike, and Francis Collins, and all other compartmentalists, insist that in spite of a complete lack of physical evidence for a personal god that “breaks into history” (sounds macho doesn’t he) and performs an incalculable number of miracles in, by, and for his saints, we are expected to conclude that reason and science are beautifully consistent with the Christian religion.

    We love the warm and reassuring words of Jesus–”the meek shall inherit the earth; I am the vine, and you are the branches; if I go I will come again and take you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also, etc.–and we wish they were true. But, we would infantilize ourselves and delude ourselves if we were to believe them simply because we desire them to be true.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Darryl, you’re doing such a great job of not just presuming to tell me what I believe, but then also presuming to tell me how you think I would respond to your own objections that I see no reason to interrupt this nice little conversation you’re having with yourself. You go right on ahead, it seems that I am unnecessary.

  • HappyNat

    Oops! Almost forgot: it is pointless.

    What is? Posting four straight comments in a row? :)

  • Darryl

    Alright, Mike. So that you will quit avoiding real answers by using that tired old “caricatures and strawmen” ploy, please answer a few questions, if you would:

    We already know that you accept science and believe in God from your previous comments, so one can’t say I’m presuming to tell you what you believe about this. Are you saying that you believe in God for scientific reasons? If so, then show me your evidence. If not, then I must assume that it is for other reasons. You imply that desire has nothing to do with it, as I have suggested, so what then? Please be brief. No reason to go into detail.

    Are you saying that you are searching for the truth and not defending your faith? I’ve read many of your posts. I don’t hear you saying that you are searching. You only argue for your conclusions about religion. Just like me you have made up your mind. If you were still searching you would still be doubting and testing your religion. But, perhaps you are. Perhaps this is why you come to this site and argue. Are you like the criminal that keeps committing crimes in the hope of getting caught—sending out notes saying “Stop me before I believe again?”

    Mike, do you believe in the resurrection? Do you believe Jesus walked on the water? Do you think that God nullifies the laws of physics on your behalf? Do you think so based upon the claims of a religious tradition? From a scientific perspective, this is Magical Thinking–it’s not science, and it’s not reason. Now, I know that you have some way of thinking about science and your faith that keeps them from colliding with one another because you have implied as much, and if that works for you, great. But, from now on let’s be clear on our terms: your ‘science’ is not my science. Your science is the kind that includes God in some manner, mine has no need of that hypothesis. If you say that it does not include God, then you have compartmentalized your faith and your science. So, tell me if you would, does your science include God, or exclude God? Even Francis Collins would be unwilling to publish in the journals that he has researched the human genome by looking for God amidst all those letters (not some cosmological argument, but evidence of God). God’s not there; there is no test that can detect it, no device that is a god-o-meter or god-o-scope. Is this not compartmentalization? What is it, and how do you know? Does your Bible tell you so?

    Am I presuming to tell you what you believe about miracles? You are a Christian aren’t you? I mean, it’s common knowledge that miracles like the resurrection are one of the things that Christians believe, isn’t that right? Or perhaps you prefer to be left undefined on this matter so as to avoid examination. If you do believe in miracles, then I ask you again: Where are the miracles? If your God acts in the cosmos, it acts in a physical universe. So, where are the traces? If it leaves no traces, it performs no miracles. If you want to postulate some parallel, invisible universes like string theory requires, well, that is a different story. These universes were not postulated on account of some archaic religion and its understanding of the world. String theory resulted from scientific inquiry. String theory demands testing, and will not be accepted by people of science if it can ever be falsified. If these parallel universes exist, if your God is there, it will have to leave traces there too; it will have to be falsifiable. So, where is your God? Does it dwell in a ‘spiritual’ place called Heaven? I know of no theory of science that requires a spiritual dimension in which God and angels and saints might dwell. Oh, perhaps I am presuming to tell you that you believe God is a spiritual, incorporeal entity. Sorry, must be a bad habit from all that Christian theology I’ve read.

    Okay, Mike, now you can answer, right?

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Mike:

    I too appreciate this conversation. You have given me allot to think about as well. Sorry it took me half the day to post my response but I am doing this at work. The irony is that the company I work for is owned and operated by a family that also runs an Evangelical Church. In a way I feel kind of bad writing all this at work because the people I work for a very nice and generous and I do not mean to disrespect their beliefs on company time, but it’s also REALLY slow today :)

    ++++++++

    To clarify what I am speaking about in terms of what would it take for someone to find God in science let me explain it this way:

    I’m not looking for miracles. I will give God more credit than just being a “miracle factory” in that I am willing to look and see if there is any sign of Him at all, be it a miracle or God’s universal stick shift and clutch or just His college ruled notepad. It would not take a miracle, per se, for me to think I’ve seen God in science but I do expect to see something which does point towards a creator, designer, controller … heck, even an accountant :)

    However, I can understand why you would look at all that and still say “Well, but that’s not proof of God’s existence. It can all still function without positing a creator/designer.” And you’re right. I think there are two equally unprovable possibilities here – either all of this exists on its own or someone designed/created it. Both, IMHO, are valid and rational possibilities

    So maybe I am just not seeing the forest through the trees?

    But if that is the case then why do we really need a God after all? If, like you point out, the universe can function without Him, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to follow that idea all the way down the rabbit hole and just say He was never there to begin with? Why attribute a God to a system that does not need Him in the first place?

    What is the purpose/use of God? Religion states that God is supposed to have a plan for each of us, ie: God is in control and that God has a reason for things happening. So is God in control in that he set the universe up in just such a way that my decision to, say, take part in this discussion with you had it’s groundwork in the first rumblings of electrons in the primordial epoch of the big bang?

    You stated that “The equation itself is from God” but that is really the same thing as saying “God IS the equation”. But what about free will? Does my having free will which is the freedom to sin or do good because I have the knowledge of good and evil from Eden then contradict the natural order of the universe? If everything else in all of existence has been laid out and planned (past, present and future) by an exacting creator then how can we humans who are made up of the same stuff of the universe not also be on the same set of train tracks that we can never get off because God has already set our past, present and future?

    If that is the case then the entire point of the universe is moot because why would He need to “test” us with that knowledge of good and evil if everything has already been set to begin with?

    Or is He in control in the way that he just started the ball rolling then stepped back from it all?

    If that is the case then what we are really both talking about is a God who steps into the universe from time to time to raise the dead or part a sea but then quickly steals off into the night once more to hide from us. Of course I don’t believe that’s true at all since I don’t believe He exists and I don’t think even someone who does believe in God would describe Him that way either. He is supposed to be a God of love that looks out for each of us all the time and is not an “absentee landlord” (as Al Pacino said in “The Devils Advocate”).

    Basically I do not see a need to give meaning to the way things are. Since the universe works like a well oiled pocket watch with or without a God then it is reasonable to say there is no God because nothing we see around us really needs a God.

    Now Darryl says that there are no miracles anymore. Yet miracles may still happen but they just are a matter of perspective because while I may say an airbag saved my life you may say it was God who saved my life. In a way, it’s all relative (as Einstein said). For me though, I see the simpler explanation of there not being a God because I do not see a need for a God nor do I see God in the science. Since a miracle can be explained both scientifically and religiously because “God is the equation” then really why do we need both explanations? Why do we need to add God to the equation at all when the equation does not need Him? It’s like saying my flashlight which has room and use for only one battery also needs a second invisible battery to work correctly and produce light.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Dan & Darryl,

    It seems that between the two of you, you’ve raised pretty much ever major question that typically comes up in a Philosophy of Religion course. :) (Darryl, thank you for finally asking honest questions.) I’ll have to write a book to answer all of them.

    I promise that I will reply to both of you as soon as I can find the time. However, I have a mountain of work to do right now and I’ve been irresponsible enough as it is by spending too much time on this blog. But I didn’t want you to think that I’m ignoring your questions. I promise I will get to them eventually.

    -Mike

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow,

    Now Darryl says that there are no miracles anymore. Yet miracles may still happen but they just are a matter of perspective because while I may say an airbag saved my life you may say it was God who saved my life. In a way, it’s all relative (as Einstein said).

    “. . . a matter of perspective . . . ?” It’s all relative? Please, don’t attribute this to Einstein. Einstein’s theory of relativity operates in a physical universe, and has nothing at all to do with miraculous explanations. Are you saying that for believers the resurrection of Jesus was just a matter of perspective? If that’s the case, why have so many people been murdered and tortured over the centuries for not having this ‘perspective?’ I don’t think most Christians would agree with you. Any action of a spiritual being in our physical world is a miracle; what else could it be? If God acts in our world, it either leaves a trace of its activity or it doesn’t. If it does, then evidence can be provided for this. If it doesn’t, then no evidence can be provided. To see an event that one may consider beneficial as an act of God is a choice not a necessity–it is a wish. Airbags operate by physical laws, does God? How would we know? If God leaves no traces of its operation through physical laws, then we’ll never know if God opened your airbag or not. So, how can any Christian ever have a reason to think that it was God? Certainly not for scientific reasons.

  • Darryl

    Mike C.,

    Darryl, thank you for finally asking honest questions.

    Thank you for your back-handed compliment. I have been asking ‘honest’ questions all along; that was the point of my last post to you. I asked nothing there that was not included in my previous post.

    As for me, I’m not interested in your regurgitated Philosophy of Religion notes. As I have said, arguing over the vague categories of theism and philosophy is a waste of time. Address what Harris has addressed: talk about the particulars; talk about the beliefs and actions of religious people. This is where the truth is found. This is where one discovers what motivates and perpetuates religion. Do you only want to argue for theism because you’ve emptied your brand of Christianity of all of its really distinctive aspects? A liberal Christianity is possibly the most useless of all its many varieties. Any value it adds can be had by government services and a good club. If you’re a moral and caring guy, then why do you need God?

    I can say this much about the fundies: at least they believe that Christianity is about power–wonder-working, earth-shaking, devil-fighting power. Their God is a god of power, and his saints are a people of power. This is the only thing I require of them or you: show me your power. Don’t give me the love, peace and justice stuff–any religion has that, with or without a god. Show me your power. Why should I believe in your God when it is silent? Why should I believe in your God when it never acts? All I hear is you and your endless excuses. Talk is cheap. Do you only want to talk philosophy because that’s all you have? I can appreciate the philosophies of many men and women, but that doesn’t mean that I need to believe in their gods.

    Take your time with that reply.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Darryl, do you want me to answer your questions or not? Honestly, I’m not going to waste my time with a reply if that’s how you feel about it. I’m here for conversation, but I need to know whether conversing with you is even worth the effort. It seems like your mind is already made up and you don’t really care what I might say. Are you interested in my answers or should I just not even bother? Seriously. Let me know.

  • Darryl

    Mike C.,

    If you’re just going to recycle your rejoinders, no, no need to reply. But, if you want to get down to the heart of the matter, then I would appreciate answers, honestly.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Darryl:

    When I speak of perspective I am, of course, speaking about the differences with how I see the world and how a theist sees the world.

    Let me break it down this way:

    Any event that happens in the physical universe that I wittiness, no matter how absolutely miraculous it may appear to someone who believes in God (walking on water, wine from water, parting of water) I will attribute a scientific explanation to it. Why? Well first of all because I am that much of a skeptic and second because any event that takes place in the physical universe must also abide to the laws of the physical universe (even if those are laws we do not yet understand or have even discovered).

    If a person saw Jesus walking on water one stormy night while in the middle of a lake they had never been to before then they might very well say it was a miracle. They choose to prescribe a supernatural meaning to something they can’t explain. I, being so skeptical will say “I’d like to test the salt content of the lake to determine at what point an object (Jesus) is able to remain buoyant in comparison to that same object (Jesus) in a body of water of whose buoyancy I already have determined.” (Yes, I really do take the fun out of things). I therefore see no miracle because that is my perspective.

    However, I do believe the point of the story remains just as viable. I do not need to see something as a miracle to get the hint that we should all be kind to our neighbors or that turning the other cheek is sometimes the best policy (actually honesty is the best policy, I think). Anyway, for me I am fine with someone saying “Hey, Dan, do the right thing.” while for someone else it may take a bit more convincing and a “miracle” may be used to get the point across.

    Now I’m not saying I’m somehow smarter than someone who believes in a miracle, I’m just saying that a miracle will never work on me because I will always look for the man behind the curtain. I don’t need cheap theatrics (and I mean that in the kindest possible way) to get my attention. Since I value logic and science on all fronts I therefore am open to accept a message that plays to my sensibilities.

    Problem though, is that not only does the Bible say I have to be a good person, but I also have to believe in some guy “up there” who I can’t see until I die. I can’t accept that, I just can’t. I can’t put my faith in something that does not trust me enough to see it – it just seems sneaky somehow. Why can’t God do this:

    God: Hi Dan.

    Me: Hi God.

    God: I need you to do the right thing.

    Me: Okay. Why?

    God: Because I need to know if you are worthy enough to spend all of eternity with me.

    Me: And if I’m not worthy?

    God: Then when you die I’m not going to be able to extend my eternal invitation to you.

    Me: So you are saying that the decisions I make in life will somehow effect a spiritual process that I am unable to verify empirically?

    God: Yes.

    Me: Oh. Okay. I had no idea there was something beyond the realm of the physical universe.

    God: That’s why I needed to have this talk with you.

    Me: Well thank you. I’ll try to not let you down.

    God: I’m sure you will do your best.

    Me: I will. Bye, God.

    God: See you soon!

    Me: Not too soon, I hope.

    Now my story may be funny but I don’t think I am asking for too much either. Give it to me straight without cryptic biblical prophecy and over-the-top miracles. Just the facts, please.

    Of coruse the problem with my above scenario is weather or not I would really believe that the person talking to me actually is God. Maybe nothing then can work for me no matter how straight forward it is. Maybe God really is up there in Heaven right now trying His best to get me to believe but He just can’t seem to find a way that can convince me because he has to operate within the physical limits of the known, empirical universe.

    ===

    So that’s my perspective, my way of seeing the universe. I need empirical evidence. Possibly all those people who have killed others in the name of the Lord could have saved history allot of trouble by taking the time to question their own beliefs a little more throughly?

    Yes, I do believe the people you are talking about had the wrong “perspective” because not only did they blindly choose to follow a belief based on no empirical evidence but they didn’t even bother to read the parts of the Bible that said not to kill other people and to turn the other cheek. Very much so do I believe they had the wrong perspective.

    Now if we are talking about a level-headed theist such as Mike C, then no, I do not believe he has the “wrong” perspective. I do not agree with his perspective but I also believe that he believes in God and that his belief makes him the person he is. I believe in his belief, I just question that belief for myself because I see no evidence for it existence. In short Mike has faith and I do not. I am unable to leap across the chasm of doubt just to accept something which I can never test.

    In closing, if God could find a way to convince me of His existence then I would call that a miracle, but raising the dead and walking on water is just not going to do it for me.

  • Keith

    Darryl,

    You said:

    As for me, I’m not interested in your regurgitated Philosophy of Religion notes. As I have said, arguing over the vague categories of theism and philosophy is a waste of time. Address what Harris has addressed: talk about the particulars; talk about the beliefs and actions of religious people. This is where the truth is found.

    If you are talking with Mike, and he talks about philosophy, you are in fact talking about the particulars of the beliefs and actions of one religious person. What else are you looking for? If you want to attack generic, averages-of-all-issues Christianity, then set it up and knock it down. What you have is a real-life Christian, and you seem to not want to listen to him talk about what he actually believes. The implication that Mike is a pseudo- or useless Christian is offensive to me as his brother. Mike is a follower of Jesus in every sense of the word. Either interact with him recognizing he is a real Christian discussing what he personally believes, or go back to the straw man. My strong tone is motivated by my respect for Mike, and not any animosity toward you specifically. Thank you, and good luck in your dialogue.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    If you’re just going to recycle your rejoinders, no, no need to reply. But, if you want to get down to the heart of the matter, then I would appreciate answers, honestly.

    When I mentioned “Philosophy of Religion course” I was merely speaking facetiously. (I actually skipped that class in college to be truthful so I could take Postmodern Philosophy instead.)

    And I don’t have any material to “recycle” (I’m not the apologist that you think I am, and I don’t keep canned arguments waiting on hand); well, except for those blog articles that I already linked to above, which apparently you haven’t read since they answer about half your questions for me already anyway. (Especially the ones about whether I believe in actual “miracles” – short answer: yes.)

    I’ll give you the other half of my answers later.

    Peace

  • Siamang

    I actually skipped that class in college to be truthful so I could take Postmodern Philosophy instead.

    And the rest, as they say, is history.

    ;-)

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow,

    Now if we are talking about a level-headed theist such as Mike C, then no, I do not believe he has the “wrong” perspective. I do not agree with his perspective but I also believe that he believes in God and that his belief makes him the person he is. I believe in his belief, I just question that belief for myself because I see no evidence for it existence.

    I understand that you have your perspective and Mike has his. My point is that Mike cannot say that his perspective is anything more real than that. It is not a scientific perspective. Anyone may play imaginary games all day long by imagining invisible friends, imagining that trees can talk, that rocks have feelings, or whatever. There are people that do these kinds of things all over the world every day. That is their chosen perspective; but they can’t say that they’re taking a scientific approach to nature.

    Keith,

    What you have is a real-life Christian, and you seem to not want to listen to him talk about what he actually believes.

    I’ve asked him a dozen specific questions about what he actually believes and he hasn’t answered them. I’ve read enough of his comments to know that arguing in philosophical terms about the existence of God is pointless. As he has said more than once, he just doesn’t see it. That’s fine. But, when he explicitly asserts that science and religion are not at odds, I expect him to account for the implications of that statement in light of what nominal Christians say they believe and how they behave. If he is a non-religious theist let him say so and I will cease with my questions.

    I’m sure Mike is a wonderful person and does his best to be the best Christian he can be. But, would you prefer that I play softball and let him off the hook? What use is this blog in that case?

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    I’m sure Mike is a wonderful person and does his best to be the best Christian he can be. But, would you prefer that I play softball and let him off the hook? What use is this blog in that case?

    The title of THIS blog is “The Friendly Atheist” so we owe it to Hemant to be reasonable. Now there is nothing wrong with asking tough questions, but it’s all in how the tone of those questions come across. It’s your tone that comes across as someone trying to pick a fight. Are you trying to pick a fight? If so, Mike has his own blog and I’m sure you he can better serve you there just as you can better serve me on my own blog if you would like to pick a fight with me.

    I’m more than willing to jump in the trenches and get my hands dirty with tough issues and my opinions are not always going to be similar to every other atheist, but here while we are on Hemant’s site we should (in his home, if you will) we should play by his rules – and his rule is to be a “Friendly Atheist”.

    Let me get back to my first point in this comment. When you say Mike (or any theist) is playing “imaginary games” (your words) you come across as holier-than-thou and someone who is not willing to listen to what someone else has to say. A good debate that deals with important and tough issues has to be had on a stage where both people show respect to each other. Why? Because everyone else who reads what is written here will make assumptions about the character of a person based upon how they go about debating. If someone just hurls insults than that person wil not be taken seriously.

    Now I will assume that you wish to be taken seriously, but you don’t put yourself in a position where I can work with you. A good debate works by listening to what the other person says and then presenting your information that supports your claim. Now, in all honsety, you have done little to do this and that’s probably why Mike C is not willing to respond to you at the moment (I can’t really speak for him but based on his comments to you that’s the impression I get).

    If you are willing to take the time to read all these VERY long posts and then jump into the conversation, then bring something to the table – give us something we can work with. Show me how your view is unique, give good examples that we had not thought to ponder before and above all never assume that you are right and the other guy is wrong, just assume that you have a leg to stand on and that your view is important enough to talk about. Take pride in your argument, stand with confidence but not arrogance.

    Personally I can get very arrogant, but I do that on my own site. When I’m out in public I know to tone it down a notch.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Thanks for the defense Dan. You’re right that Darryl’s tone has kept me from really wanting to engage with his questions. That and the obvious fact that he’s already reached his conclusions about my beliefs before I’ve even stated them. That doesn’t make me very inclined to want to waste my time trying to explain myself to him. (Which of course he interprets as fear or weakness on my part.) Anyhow, he has asked some good questions, and I’d like to respond to them. I just don’t want to waste my time on someone whose not really interested in dialogue. So I guess if I do answer them it will be a response for everyone, not just him.

    As I’ve said before, I’m not trying to convince anyone to agree with me here. I just want to be understood. I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes of Christians that get thrown around among atheists (though granted, sometimes the stereotypes are accurate to some Christians) and I want to help correct some of those ideas and let you guys know that we’re not all like that. Hemant and others (Siamang, Helen, Karen, etc…) have done such a great job of helping me get rid of some of my own misconceptions about atheists, I really am just here to return the favor.

    But anyhow, I should stop talking or else I’ll never get my other work done and thus never have time to actually reply to your questions. Honestly, I can’t promise anything sooner than late Thursday night or maybe Friday morning. I’m booked solid almost all day tomorrow. Sorry.

  • Darryl

    Dan Harlow,

    Now I will assume that you wish to be taken seriously, but you don’t put yourself in a position where I can work with you.

    Have I asked you to work with me? You’re right, you can get very arrogant. I don’t require your assistance, and I don’t require your sage advice on how to communicate my ideas.

    Perhaps you’ve not paid close enough attention to my past comments and have missed the subtleties of my arguments. It would no doubt help you if you reviewed them. If you hold such a high view of yourself, and are willing to speak for Mike, then perhaps you should answer his questions for him. Gee, you probably know what I’m thinking before I even ask it?

    As to why Mike has yet to answer me, he said it was because he was too busy with his duties. Is that explanation not good enough for you? As to “imaginary games,” I was not referring to Mike’s religion, but don’t misunderstand me. That was not a slight. In my view, if Mike’s God is nonexistent, then Mike is imagining his God.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    Mike:

    No problem. I’ve spent far too much time away from my own duties and fun as well. In fact when I was rock climbing tonight it wasn’t until my second climb that I was able to take my mind off things :)

    I look forward to more on this conversation, but more when we have time to do so without it stealing from our other responsibilities.

  • Darryl

    Mike,

    I apologize if my tone has offended you. I guess I misunderstood what your comments were attempting to do. I thought they were attempting to defend your views rather than to simply be understood, and to be differentiated from other Christians or some stereotypes of Christians. Let me speak candidly with you. I think I recall from previous comments that you are a minister, is that right? In any case, you are a committed Christian from what I gather. You have skin in the game—you have something to lose should the day come when you can no longer believe in God. Some might call this a conflict of interest. How would your life change if you were to give up your faith? Even a committed believer can benefit from reflecting along these lines. You can imagine how difficult it is for people in this culture to abandon religion. I’m too much of a realist not to think that there is a complex mix of thought and emotion that is bound up with faith in someone’s heart, and that this mix includes self-interest, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, security, complacency, and who knows what all. Sometimes we are the last ones to know just what is pushing us along or keeping us from sleeping peacefully at night. I wouldn’t question anyone’s sincerity, but this is a deep subject.

    As I have already told you, I have made up my mind about Christianity and other religions just as you have. I am not searching. I spent many years studying and searching from the inside out. I am at a place of peace with myself and the world. I have no fear. I have known all kinds of Christians; I used to be a Christian. I went from being a hard-core fundamentalist Bible College student to being Orthodox (Antiochene Archdiocese of N. A.). I have a degree in theology. I’m an ordained minister. I have been a student of comparative religion for a long time. I wouldn’t want to count all the books I’ve read and all the years I’ve put into theological studies and Biblical interpretation. That’s part of the cost I had to count when I gave up my faith. If I sound arrogant, like I already know what you are going to argue, it’s probably both. In my journey I have run the gamut and have sought to understand all types of Christians. I know what I know. And I know what’s good about religion and what’s bad about it. At the present time, as I see it, the fighting faiths pose too great a danger to our world to simply tolerate them. If not for this state of affairs I wouldn’t care less what religious people do. I have children and people I care about; my concern is for them. I know you are not a dangerous Christian, and that you are a reasonable person. But, in my view—judging from what you have said—you have misunderstood the meaning of religion in the world. You are still clinging to old, fallacious paradigms. Religion is imagination; it is more like art than anything else. It has nothing to do with science except that it too is a product of our minds. When I gave up theology and belief I returned to music (that’s what I do), and the poetry of Wallace Stevens has meant much to me. He said that when one can no longer believe in God, poetry (for me, music and art) takes the place of God. This replacement is only possible because religion is a complex kind of opera that people live out from day to day. When people take the opera for reality, there’s the rub.

    What is the upshot of all this? I am an atheist that would feel guilty if I were not speaking out against what it is that has messed up our world so badly and that is threatening it seriously. If I could say presto and turn all the fundies into liberal priests today I’d do it. That would be a step in the right direction. So, forgive me if I am ambivalent in how I feel about you: you are a moderating force (a good thing), but you provide cover for religion (a bad thing). Now you can understand where I’m coming from.

  • Karen

    Now you can understand where I’m coming from.

    Wow, very interesting, Darryl. Thank you for the explanation.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Darryl,

    Let me express my heartfelt thanks to you for opening up a bit and sharing your story with us. It really does help me know where your questions are coming from the and spirit in which you ask. It puts me less on the defensive to know that you’ve been down some of the same roads I have. In fact, it sounds like you have a really interesting story and if it were possible I would really love to sit down with you sometime over coffee and hear more about it.

    Personally I’ve come out of a conservative evangelical (though not quite “fundamentalist”, at least by my definition) background, and have gone through several crises of faith at various times. The first was in late high school/early college, when I seriously considered giving up on faith altogether (and if you think that’s too young to really give it fair consideration – I can assure you that was a very intelligent kid. I was reading heavy duty philosophy and theology books in Junior High.) At that time I rejected atheism as a viable option for me – though some of the reasons I had then wouldn’t be the same as my reasons for not embracing atheism now, as some of my previous arguments were based on misunderstandings of atheism.

    The much more radical transformation in my faith came towards the end of college and has continued right up till today, which was a move away from conservative evangelicalism towards what is known these days as the “emerging church” or “postmodern Christianity”. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that at all, but it’s not quite evangelicalism and not quite liberalism, nor a wholesale rejection of them either. It’s a movement that focuses as much or more on “orthopraxy” as “orthodoxy”. It tends to hold to historic Christian beliefs like the divinity of Christ, but is not dogmatic and is open to re-exploring and reimagining these beliefs as necessary. For instance, one of the biggest shifts has been a rediscovery of Christ’s gospel message as being about the coming of the “kingdom” of God (i.e. his way of love, compassion, generosity, justice, and peace) as a present reality, not just about getting our butts into heaven after we die. But unlike the more liberal forms of Christianity, we don’t see this as just about ignoring scripture and rewriting the gospel to something more palatable to modern sensibilities – but actually as a rediscovery of what the Bible has really been about all along. (Of course some of this is also based on a more nuanced understanding of biblical interpretation too – one that takes into account literary, cultural and historical context and doesn’t just assume that our Modern Western interpretive lenses are always the best way to approach an ancient text (as many fundamentalist and liberal approaches tend to do).

    Anyhow, there’s more to it than I can describe here – but I will say this: my shift to this emerging way of thinking has already cost me more than you know. I have already lost jobs, friends, and a home because of my willingness to re-examine what I believe (not that long ago either). You’re right that as a minister I have a “vested interest” in the reality of my faith – but if you think that vested interest would prevent me from looking honestly at my beliefs and changing them if necessary, you are mistaken. I have already done that and have already paid for it, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if I thought I should.

    Anyhow, you say:

    What is the upshot of all this? I am an atheist that would feel guilty if I were not speaking out against what it is that has messed up our world so badly and that is threatening it seriously.

    I get angry about all that too, and trust me, I’m right there alongside you fighting against the fundamentalists that are taking us down so many destructive paths. Far from being a cover for that kind of religion (and I would argue that the problem is not religion per se, but bad religion) I am constantly opposing it and trying to turn my fellow Christians away from those paths. The difference between us is that I’m working for change from within the system.

    BTW, one more tangential thing. You said:

    Religion is imagination; it is more like art than anything else. It has nothing to do with science except that it too is a product of our minds.

    As a postmodern, and a student of the philosophy of science, I might argue that art and imagination are a large part of science too. But of course, to me those are not dirty words at all. :) I don’t think we can divorce truth from beauty or from imagination.

    Anyhow, thanks again for sharing. I really do appreciate it.

    Peace
    -Mike

  • Richard Wade

    Daryl,
    I had hoped to slip this question in before Mike came back with a response, but I will risk an interjection afterward anyway.

    Much of what you address to Mike in these several discussions seems to me to be heavily invested in changing him from a believer to a non-believer. Your questions are more often challenge questions rather than clarifying questions. I get confused when you soften your tone when you realize that Mike is wanting to be understood rather than defending his views, while so much of your posts seem to be attacking his views. If I’m not understanding your intention, please forgive.

    If it could happen, which would you prefer, for religions to stop their destructive fighting, or for religion to vanish entirely? Even in the single post above you describe both desires, and I’m left with an unclear idea of your preference.

    I think religion isn’t going to disappear for a very long time, and it will be a process of atrition, not obliteration. But right now we need people like Mike to help bring religions back to a state of sanity. If Mike were to lose his faith he would be one less potent force for inter-religious peace. Religion will last for another thousand years in some form of another. I’m concerned about the world surviving the next fifty years. For this short term goal we need many more Mikes, not a few more ex-ministers.

    Thank you Daryl for your intimate description of your experiences and feelings, and please forgive if my question is an intrusion.

  • Darryl

    Richard Wade,

    I don’t think you and I are at odds about how we think about the problematic aspects of religion. The answers to your questions are contained in my previous posts, but I’ll give you a brief recap.

    Much of what you address to Mike in these several discussions seems to me to be heavily invested in changing him from a believer to a non-believer.

    I am not trying to convert Mike. I don’t try to convert anyone. The best I can hope for is to provoke thought and to provide a defense of atheism for those that might be considering religion or transitioning out of religion and have questions or concerns that pertain to the matters we have discussed. Theologians have been busy for centuries refining their arguments to both entice seekers and defend their doctrines. Don’t forget, theology used to be called ‘The Queen of the Sciences.” Perhaps what I’m doing is analogous to attorneys in a criminal trial: if you only hear the prosecution’s closing argument, you might think it’s an open and shut case–hang the mo’ fo’! But, once the Jury hears the defense attorney’s closing they realize that the prosecution’s arguments are not so compelling after all; or at least that the case is not black and white but much more complex.

    If it could happen, which would you prefer, for religions to stop their destructive fighting, or for religion to vanish entirely? Even in the single post above you describe both desires, and I’m left with an unclear idea of your preference.

    If it could happen, I’d like to see the end of religion. But, like you, I know that is not very likely, and so what I hope for are more religions that are like Mike’s. Mike’s travails and mine have entailed dealing with one of what I call the ‘fighting faiths’ that obviously pose the greatest and nearest threats.

    But right now we need people like Mike to help bring religions back to a state of sanity. If Mike were to lose his faith he would be one less potent force for inter-religious peace. Religion will last for another thousand years in some form of another. I’m concerned about the world surviving the next fifty years. For this short term goal we need many more Mikes, not a few more ex-ministers.

    I have to modify this last comment of yours. I know what you mean by “sanity” and I agree with you. But, we also need ex-ministers and atheists to bear witness to the absurdity of religion and to keep pressure on it. Look at our situation in the U.S. today: the fundies are a minority in our country, yet look at what the President and the Congress have done with respect to religion and science, that is, look at who we have sent to Washington. The fundies are getting support from somewhere. I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but a lot more ex-Christians, ex-Jews, and ex-Muslims and atheists would certainly diminish this support. Any religion that becomes a hegemon is potentially dangerous. Look at what excessive Christianity has brought us in our history. There must always be foes of religion. When faith has become art in the minds of our people it won’t threaten us anymore, and we won’t need it anymore.

  • Richard Wade

    Daryl, Thank you for your answer. I feel satisfied with this matter for now.

  • Pingback: Atheist Bites Theist! « Gimme Back My God!

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    BTW, Dan and I have decided to continue this conversation over at his blog. It’ll be easier than trying to keep digging this thread up and navigating the different strands of conversation. Dan has done a good job of quoting and summarizing the main points of the conversation thus far, and I’ve just posted my promised reply to him over there.


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