Ask a Fundamentalist Christian (The Responses)

Last week, Maria, a self-described “31 year old, married, Christian, homeschooling mom of a 12 year old and a 2 year old” offered to answer questions about her conservative, the-Bible-is-literally-true beliefs. A lot of questions were submitted and I picked a number of them for Maria to answer.

Her responses are below.

While everyone is welcome to respond back, keep in mind that it’s not an easy decision to voluntarily throw yourself to the wolves :) So as you comment, just keep that in mind.

Many thanks to Maria for offering to do this.

If you have any other questions for her that weren’t asked below, please post them and we’ll try to do a “part two” in the near future.

Is there any amount of evidence that would be able to dissuade you of your belief in the Bible?

I guess the short answer to that question is no. I have struggles with belief from time to time, times where I feel very close and connected to God, and times where I feel really ticked at Him and want to pull the covers over my head and tune out and forget about church or anything like it. But as much as I can struggle or not like the way some things go on, there really is no other way of life for me. I’ve tried life without God and, for me, that just doesn’t work.

How do you reconcile contradictions and misinformation in the Bible?

Being as I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, I don’t believe that it contains contradictions or misinformation. However, it is a big book that covers a lot of topics and while I am no great Biblical scholar, I have had times in my study where I have come across apparent contradictions. However, further study and [making] careful notation of context have always cleared things up for me. If you have specific questions regarding certain passages, I will do my best to answer them.

How do you know you’re right when people of other faiths say the same thing with the same amount of certainty?

The simple answer to that is I don’t. I don’t know that I am 100% right and people of other faiths are 100% wrong. Really, putting it like that I don’t know for sure that I am any percent right and they are any percent wrong. I could write a book about all the ways that God has worked in my life and the many ways that I have seen Him prove Himself true, but that wouldn’t prove anything. Why do I stay the course then? Because, simply put, there is no other way for me. Maria, without God, is non-functional. I’ve been there and done that and have absolutely no desire to do it again. All churches have error in them, as they are run by human beings who, even with the best of intentions, are imperfect creatures. I love and am very committed to the church we currently attend but I don’t agree with everything the pastor/leadership says and does all the time. But I don’t have to. Just like I don’t have to agree with my husband all the time to stay committed to him. The Bible says that we see things “through a glass darkly” now, here on earth. Some things I won’t get answers to in this life and as I have told my own Mom and other people of different denominations or beliefs than me, I don’t believe that anyone is going to get to the other side of glory and hear God say, “Wow, you had everything 100% right!”

Do you believe the rapture will happen in your life time? If so, how does that affect your day to day decision making?

I really don’t know. I suppose the idea of rapture only very vaguely affects my day to day decision making as I am trying to live every day as the woman that God is calling me to be. If the rapture did occur during my lifetime, I’d like to be found by God doing what He wanted me to do. And I guess that means it would be best for me if it DIDN’T occur in my lifetime, as I have such a LONG way to go. :-)

How would you outline the theory of evolution (in a paragraph or so)? From where did you get your information on the theory of evolution?

I attended a secular high school and took courses at college. It’s been awhile since either one, so forgive me for being rusty. I probably will never be able to do this justice.

Billions of years ago, there was an atomic explosion that hurled matter in every direction. Somehow, through this random chaos the universe and Earth came together. On Earth there was a pool of “primordial soup”. I have heard some versions of this in which the soup was struck by lightning or some other blast of energy to get things going. All life forms have cellular structure of some sort so life began with one celled creatures. Out of time and necessity of the environment, these one celled things gradually evolved into more complex organisms. A whole lot more time, some natural selection, and many more variations later, you have human beings.

What are you teaching your children (especially the older one) about politics and feminism? Where do you and your husband fall in terms of politics? How does your religion impact your politics, and vice versa?

I suppose I would be considered a moral conservative and maybe in some instances a social liberal. I don’t believe that our politics impact our religion much, but our religion does impact our politics. I get incredibly frustrated when I hear politicians say that they try to keep their religion separate from their political life. I don’t see how you can believe one thing and make a living supporting something else.

I am trying daily to teach my daughter to think for herself. I don’t want anyone to make her choices for her, her friends, her future mate, or her mom and dad. Nobody can control her but her. Her choices will dictate where her life goes. I tell her often that all we can do is her parents is give her the best information we have to give to try and help her make good decisions, but all the deciding about who she’ll be and what she’ll do with her life is up to her.

Is there any scientific/religious disagreement in human history that you can point to where religion has been proven right, and science has been proven wrong?

At one time, the most up to date science there was thought that the earth was flat. The Bible had said already that it was round.

If your child suddenly became seriously ill, would you take him/her directly to the priest with his prayers or the doctor with his science?

I’m not Catholic. I have never consulted a priest for anything in my life. When my kids are sick, and when they are well and just for scheduled check ups, I take them to the doctor. When there are emergencies, like when my two year old had the croup or when my daughter got bit by a dog, we rushed them to the emergency room. I prayed the whole way there, and once the kids were safely receiving treatment, I called my pastor and let him know what was going on and asked him to pray. When my husband and I are sick, we go to the doctor, and we pray for God to bring us through that trial. I think doctors, hospitals, and medications are some wonderful answers to prayer in this broken world we live in.

Do you homeschool your children because you feel your children will start to question their own beliefs if they are exposed to children at public school that hold different beliefs or no beliefs at all?

No. We homeschool because we believe that this is the best education we can provide for our children. My daughter is exposed to children who believe differently than her all the time. She has several friends in our neighborhood alone that attend public school. One or two of them are being raised Catholic and most are being raised with no particular religious affiliation. We expect and even encourage our daughter, and will with our son once he’s old enough to understand, to question what she believes and why she believes it. A belief that won’t stand up to questioning isn’t really much of a belief.



[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, fundamentalist[/tags]

  • Steven Carr

    I’m still curious to know why Jesus compared God to a wicked master who in anger has his servants tortured, even after forgiving them.

    What did Jesus mean when he said (Matthew 18)?

    32?Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

    35?This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

    Had God not just forgiven the people he handed over to be be tortured?

  • Steven Carr

    MARIA
    All churches have error in them, as they are run by human beings who, even with the best of intentions, are imperfect creatures.

    JESUS (Matthew 5:48)
    ‘Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect’

    Why did Jesus load rules on to human beings that they cannot obey, even with the best of intentions?

  • Brooke

    The myth of the flat earth:

    http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/library/russell/FlatEarth.html

    “…with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.”

    It really annoys me that the Flat Earth myth is still perpetuated. This is not something the bible “got right.”

    “And God set them [the stars] in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.” Genesis 1:17

  • http://reasonableatheist.blogspot.com Bart

    On the question of flat vs round earth in the bible:

    Isaiah 11:12
    12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH. (KJV)

    Revelation 7:1
    1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. (KJV)

    sphere’s don’t have corners

    Job 38:13
    13 That it might take hold of the ENDS OF THE EARTH, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? (KJV)

    Jeremiah 16:19
    19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ENDS OF THE EARTH, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. (KJV)

    Daniel 4:11
    11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the ENDS OF ALL THE EARTH: (KJV)

    If something is a sphere, you can’t get to the END of it.

    Matthew 4:8
    8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (KJV)

    There’s no mountain in which you could see all the kingdoms of the earth, because of the curve of the earth. Not even in biblical times.

  • J.S.Brown

    It sure seems to me that the Bible describes a flat Earth. However, the phrase “the corners of the Earth” always made me wonder if it was literal, or figurative. If I heard it today, I would assume it mean something describing the entire Earth, figuratively, rather than that it actually had corners. Is it really so different than calling the Americas the west? Since the poles are north and south, there can be no western destination… just west in relation to something else.

    This is why I don’t argue against such things. The book’s words are so open to interpretation that it’s very difficult to nail down an error like this. We just don’t know what the authors really meant. It’s a case of say what you mean and mean what you say. We can’t trust the authors in this way, and there are loads of people ready and willing to offer explanations.

  • http://www.jaredmlee.net Jared

    I really felt like tackling those questions, but out of respect to both Hemant and Maria, I thought it best not to do so here. But it made for a nice post on my blog, so Steven, Bart, if you’re interested, visit my site.

  • Pingback: Jared Lee » Blog Archive » My friend the Atheist

  • Aj

    How do you question faith without answering with faith?

    Are you going to teach comparative religion, or are you going to teach Christianity as if the Bible was the literal truth?

    Are there things you think you’re probably not going to be able to educate your children in, i.e. Evolution?

  • Steven Carr

    J.S.Brown is right about the metaphorical , and non-scientific nature, of much of the Bible.

    For example Job 26:7 ‘He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.’, just raises the question ‘Why is there nothing rather than something?’

    Clearly Job is not meant to convey the idea that the universe is the ‘nothing’ that God is supposed to have created the universe from. It is not meant to be factual. The universe is not ‘nothing’, despite Job.

    And by the way, the Greeks had measured the circumference of the earth long before people realised that when the Bible said the world was flat, it actually meant that the world was round.

  • Linda

    Thank you for answering. You remind me of my sister, a kind person who tries her best to live a positive life and be a role model rather than an angry crusader. Though my non-belief does cause her worry.

    Possible questions:

    Are science and religion mutually exclusive? For example, can one believe in both creation and evolution? But, please don’t limit yourself to this example if you wish to discuss more.

    I don’t understand how some people can in one breath say that every word in the Bible is true, yet in the other pick and choose which bits to believe. For example, in the Torah it says that adulteresses shall be stoned and also that homosexuals shall not see heaven. Yet, people will choose to quote the last one as justification for discrimination, but ignore the first one, I assume, because they like to fool around. This makes no sense to me. Do you have any insight?

  • http://meritboundalley.wordpress.com Joe M

    Maria,

    I wish I had caught this earlier, but if you could indulge another question about homeschooling, I’d appreciate it. One of the things that I feel is most valuable in a traditional school environment is the wealth of different perspectives on any subject that a student gets from their different teachers and the other students. I think this challenges a student to consider different views as a topic is being discussed.

    How do you make sure your children get different views on any subject and how do you provide for discussion of topics from viewpoints that are not your own?

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    There is nothing in modern scientific theory that says galaxies or humans came forth “randomly”. Quite the contrary- modern science says that such things developed thanks to fairly deterministic laws. Oh, randomness plays a factor- on a galactic scale, it might make the difference between the galaxy forming over here, or forming a few million light years to the left.

    But the principles that govern galactic formation are deterministic and predictable, not random. The same is true of evolution- randomness might play a role in deciding whether that puppy or it’s brother dies of a genetic disorder, and it certainly plays a role in driving mutation- but again, the principles are largely deterministic, not random.

    It’s also worth noting that the “science” of the time never claimed that the earth was flat. This is a grade-school myth. Certainly, the thought could never take root in a sailing civilization (like the Greeks)- how else to explain ships vanishing beyond the horizon other than a round Earth?

    A corollary to this myth is that Columbus somehow proved the Earth was round- which is an utter myth. Columbus claimed, on faith, mostly, that the Earth was smaller than Erathanoses (the Greek who first measured the circumference of the Earth). Columbus was utterly wrong, Erathanoses was bang on- with incredible precision. The thing that worked out in Columbus’s favor was the fact that there was a relatively undiscovered continent not too much farther beyond where he predicted (wrongly) the Indies were.

  • Mriana

    Here’s three questions for you and I only ask this because of the answers my fundie relatives would give. I know the answers you might give could be controversial and you might not want to venture into answering them. If so, I understand. Here goes:

    1. The Path of Salvation: Do you harp on that much and do your believe that if people are not on “The Path of Salvation” they don’t know God and are going to hell?

    2. Homosexuals: If you believe the Bible is infallible, then I assume that you take the Biblical view of homosexuality, they must conform to a hetero lifestyle or go to hell even though science says there is a possible genetic link?

    3. Women, according to the Bible must be submissive to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22). 1 Corinthians 7:4 The husband controls his wife (I’m summerizing). There are several like that in the books we attribute to Paul. Do you believe that a woman is stuck with her husband for life even if he is abusive to her and her children? And if she doesn’t, she has to repent and forced to return to him? Do you believe that women are lessor than men?

  • batyah harris

    Bart, there was once a famous and beloved writing instructor named John Gardner. He was a religious Episcopalian who lived and taught in the mid 1900′s; then, as now, it was unusual to find an academic who was also a man of faith. My favorite quote of his is, “God is a very uneven writer, but when He’s good, nobody beats Him.” Gardner recognized the literary quality of the bible. It is impossible, if you know anything at all about scripture, to ignore that metaphorical elements are suffused throughout biblical writings. No biblical scholar would ever take “four corners of the earth” as evidence of the bible’s assertion that the earth is flat.

  • http://fivepublicopinions.blogspot.com AV

    Ok, but what metric/method do biblical scholars use to determine which parts of the Bible are metaphorical, and which are to be taken literally?

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    There is an interesting contradiction in your responses. On the one hand, you write that there isn’t any amount of evidence that would dissuade you from the Bible, but on the other hand, you also write,

    We expect and even encourage our daughter, and will with our son once he’s old enough to understand, to question what she believes and why she believes it. A belief that won’t stand up to questioning isn’t really much of a belief.

    To really understand why one believes what one believes, one ought to be able to conceive of circumstances that would undermine that belief. (The classic example of evidence that might disprove evolution, for example, is J.B.S. Haldane’s “Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.”)

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Ok, but what metric/method do biblical scholars use to determine which parts of the Bible are metaphorical, and which are to be taken literally?

    I find it amusing when atheists ask this question with the apparent assumption that there is no metric or method and that it’s all just based on arbitrary preferences. The reality is that there are many different tools we use to interpret the Bible and answer exactly these questions. There’s a whole branch of biblical studies called hermeneutics about these very issues. Of course, different scholars and different branches of the church will disagree on what kind of hermeneutics to use, but the answer to your question at least is that they certainly do have rules and a system that they follow.

  • Steven Carr

    They certainly do have a system.

    When Jesus says nice parables, they are meant to be applied.

    When Jesus says God will hand people over to be tortured, it is just a story, of no particular relevance to Christians today.

    When eyewitnesses say Jesus walked into locked rooms, that is literally true.

    When eyewitnesses say Jesus ascended into the sky, that is not literally true.

    The system is called ‘What can I get people today to buy?’

  • Patrick

    Scientists in the Middle Ages did not believe the world was flat.

    It is not altogether fair that I am making this point in response to Maria’s responses, since we skeptics probably promote this myth more than anyone. I actually found Maria to be following an admirable path with respect to raising her children to explore intellectually. I assume that includes a strong science curriculum.

    It is a modern myth that, in the Middle Ages, people thought the world was flat. We skeptics need to look at the historical evidence and stop perpetuating this myth:
    http://www.bede.org.uk/flatearth.htm
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/woods/woods46.html

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    To those leaving questions, I asked Maria not to respond to new questions, but if there are enough of them (and there are some from the previous posting I’d like to have answered), we’ll have a second round :)

  • John

    Is there any scientific/religious disagreement in human history that you can point to where religion has been proven right, and science has been proven wrong?

    At one time, the most up to date science there was thought that the earth was flat. The Bible had said already that it was round.

    Her answer gives pretty good insight into how fundamentalists are able to justify their denial of scientific reality. They feel that scientific reality changes. What science proves today, it will change tomorrow. Whereas, their religious beliefs are unchanging, even if there isn’t any sort of consensus about whose god/belief is right.

    Using scientific logic and argument will never convince someone like Maria because science will never prove anything to her satisfaction. Instead, a better way to communicate with fundamentalists is to focus on the emotional aspect of beliefs, rather than making logical arguments. As counter-intuitive as that is to most atheists, people with a deep religious beliefs hold onto them strongly not because it makes logical sense but because it feels right.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    They feel that scientific reality changes. What science proves today, it will change tomorrow.

    Is there something inaccurate about this statement? Do fundamentalists merely “feel” that science changes, or isn’t it a reality that science does in fact change?

    I’ve had scientist friends of mine make this same point to me actually. When I asked them whether they thought science and Christian faith were in conflict they replied “Well, which science? Science is always changing.”

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Regarding the flat earth, Maria didn’t specify the Middle Ages. She just said “at one time”. And it is true that some ancient cultures believed the world was flat for at least part of their history – the Babylonians, the Chinese and the Norse for example, among many others.

    However, I’m not sure I can recall where, if anywhere, the Bible specifically teaches the world is round. Maria, can you provide a reference?

  • Rasputin

    I haven’t seen anyone point out a contradiction they would like addressed, so here’s one.

    Matthew 27:5-7 says that Judas threw his 30 pieces of silver away in the temple and went and hanged himself and that the priests of the temple wouldn’t take the silver into the treasury because it was blood money and instead bought potter’s field to bury strangers.

    Acts 1:18 says Judas purchased the land and fell over burst apart and his guts spurted out.

    There’s two contradictions there 1) who bought the land and 2) how did Judas die?

  • http://t3knomanser.livejournal.com t3knomanser

    And it is true that some ancient cultures believed the world was flat for at least part of their history – the Babylonians, the Chinese and the Norse for example, among many others.

    There’s a gap between the mythical reality and real reality. The Norse would have never become the powerful navigators that they did if they based their navigations on the premise of a flat Earth.

    Even so- it’s hard to connect her words “the science of the time” and ancient cultures. I would argue that the science of the time argued no such thing- because science, in its current form, didn’t exist until some time between 1600 and the mid 1700s. Charitably, one could grant the Greeks some scientific credit. Much of the rationalist ideas of the Enlightenment descended from them.

    Perhaps a better example is that “science” once told us that smoking was good for us. Of course, it wasn’t science- it was people making crap up and pretending that it was true because it looked like it should be. In fact, every “mistake” science has made has almost always arisen due to bad methodology. People assuming their conclusion, or getting caught up in belief.

    And that’s the final beauty of science- my beliefs don’t matter. I don’t believe in gravity. But that doesn’t stop the Earth from applying a 9.8m/s acceleration to me (ignoring the small force I apply to the Earth, of course).

  • Aj

    Is there something inaccurate about this statement? Do fundamentalists merely “feel” that science changes, or isn’t it a reality that science does in fact change?

    I’ve had scientist friends of mine make this same point to me actually. When I asked them whether they thought science and Christian faith were in conflict they replied “Well, which science? Science is always changing.”

    Correction of errors, improving upon, and growing, the way you state it is entirely misleading. Was Newton’s Gravity proved completely wrong by Einstein? Is Darwinism not compatible with the modern theory of Evolution? I think not. If the Bible suggests that the moon emits light, the Earth is flat, and the Earth is a few thousand years old, then it is in conflict with science.

  • Richard Wade

    John said,

    They feel that scientific reality changes. What science proves today, it will change tomorrow. Whereas, their religious beliefs are unchanging, even if there isn’t any sort of consensus about whose god/belief is right.

    And then Mike said,

    Is there something inaccurate about this statement? Do fundamentalists merely “feel” that science changes, or isn’t it a reality that science does in fact change?

    I’ve had scientist friends of mine make this same point to me actually. When I asked them whether they thought science and Christian faith were in conflict they replied “Well, which science? Science is always changing.”

    The way I’m reading you, I think you’re both right on target.

    Change is science’s greatest strength but it’s most unpopular trait. The lack of change is religion’s greatest weakness but it’s most popular trait.

    Science, when applied properly doesn’t take the stance to say “This is the truth.” It says “This is the best explanation we have so far, given what we have observed.” When better observations are available science revises, alters, or even completely revolutionizes its older explanations to fit the new observations.

    Many, I’d venture to say most people don’t like that. They want “what’s so” to be settled, decided and done. They want to learn “what’s so” once and not have to worry later that they might be wrong. To be confronted with continuous changes in “what’s so” by science is confusing and frustrating to them.

    That is one of the great attractions of religious accounts of “what’s so.” It doesn’t change. It says unabashedly, “This is the truth.” In fact it says, “This is the Truth,” with a capital “T” to say that since their source is divine, all of its accounts of “what’s so” are sacred and not subject to doubt, examination or challenge. Religion’s certainty appeals to people who cannot abide uncertainty or unpredictability. It appeals to people who want things simple, settled and unambiguous. It appeals to people who want to be reassured that it’s all according to a plan by a greater mind much older and wiser than them. Sorry, but here’s where I’m going to make somebody mad:

    In short, it appeals to children.

  • Andrew

    I guess the short answer to that question is no.

    I think this statement right here, though sadly honest, pretty much makes enlightened debate with this woman virtually pointless. She has just stated that she will not be intellectually honest or reasonable in here discussions here. But I enjoy sowing the seeds of doubt, so here it goes:

    How would you outline the theory of evolution (in a paragraph or so)?

    Billions of years ago, there was an atomic explosion that hurled matter in every direction. Somehow, through this random chaos the universe and Earth came together. On Earth there was a pool of “primordial soup”. I have heard some versions of this in which the soup was struck by lightning or some other blast of energy to get things going. All life forms have cellular structure of some sort so life began with one celled creatures. Out of time and necessity of the environment, these one celled things gradually evolved into more complex organisms. A whole lot more time, some natural selection, and many more variations later, you have human beings.

    Great question, and a frankly unsurprising answer. This Christian is toting the party-line on evolution, and she reveals her ignorance of science in the first sentence. Ma’am, with all do respect, you need to pick up a book (and not the one with Holy on the cover) and stop accepting everything you here at church at face value. That was key for me in my path to freedom from religion.

    At one time, the most up to date science there was thought that the earth was flat. The Bible had said already that it was round.

    I don’t know what you mean by “science” here. Science as we now know it has only existed for the last few centuries. And I don’t believe that people actually had “proof” of flat-earth. It was simply assumed.

    But it was not assumed by all. Many ancient cultures from the Druids to the Mayans understood the shape of the earth. It can only be said that what would become Western civilization did not fully accept the shape of the earth as round until 2000 years ago. This includes the Semites who mention the “four-corners” of the earth, “pillars holding up” the earth, and being able to see the whole world from a mountain (only possible on a flat surface) many times in the Old Testament.

    When my husband and I are sick, we go to the doctor, and we pray for God to bring us through that trial.

    You are saying here that you and your husband put your trust in science when you are sick and not solely in your god. If you truly TRUSTED your god, you would leave it to his “will”.

    I think doctors, hospitals, and medications are some wonderful answers to prayer in this broken world we live in.

    Oh… so modern medicine ISN’T the result of hundreds of years of hard-earned advances in science often at direct odds with the established religion (autopsies were sacrilege), medicine is really a MIRACLE! God sent medicine to us!

    No. Advances in modern medicine had nothing to do with prayer or miraculous interventions, it had everything to do with the scientific method and hard work. This belief you have about medicine being God’s gift is a cop-out to allow Christians like yourself to go to the doctor when you are sick and not rely solely on prayer…

    Tell me, why can’t you rely solely on prayer? Surely your god’s will would be done either way in your view. But wouldn’t you be insulting him by putting your trust in science and not him?

    We expect and even encourage our daughter, and will with our son once he’s old enough to understand, to question what she believes and why she believes it. A belief that won’t stand up to questioning isn’t really much of a belief.

    Interesting that you say this when just a few paragraphs before you said this:

    Is there any amount of evidence that would be able to dissuade you of your belief in the Bible?

    I guess the short answer to that question is no.

    So you encourage your daughter to “question” her beliefs when you yourself are not willing to accept any argument against it solely because it is an argument against it?

    Ma’am, you are sadly an all-too-typical Christian. And I hope I have pointed out a few of your contradictions and hypocrisies. For a true dialogue about religion, you have to first be able to accept the fact that you may be wrong.

  • Steven Carr

    As a one paragraph summary of evolution, Maria’s answer is pretty good.

    I’m not sure the ‘primordial soup’ hypothesis is the best one, but that was the only thing I could criticise in her summary, apart from the claim that all life is cellular. Viruses are not cellular, but then they are not always considered to be ‘alive’.

    Life is quite hard to define, even for university professors, so Maria shouldn’t be criticised for not doing a perfect job.

    All-too-typical Christians have hypocrisies? So what? Doesn’t everybody? When did Christians stop being human beings with human faults and virtues?

  • Andrew

    All-too-typical Christians have hypocrisies? So what? Doesn’t everybody? When did Christians stop being human beings with human faults and virtues?

    I’m sorry but when someone claims to not only have the universal truth for themselves, but for ME as well, I am going to hold them to higher standard.

  • John

    Scientific opinion does change, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to prove things. It doesn’t mean that science can’t produce truth. And it can certainly disprove many things (i.e. the sun revolves around the earth, etc.)

    When properly applied, the scientific method will always produce more trustworthy findings than anything that comes out of meditation, ancient texts, psychic powers, new age mysticism or any other religious/spiritual belief. People like Maria don’t see that though. They put science on the same level as all these belief systems, while holding their own religion above all. And worse, since science makes no value judgments and offers no comfort in the form of a celestial caretaker, it is deemed with greater skepticism.

    Why can I put a belief in science above a belief in religion? Simple: undeniable results. We’ve landed on the moon, cured a myriad of diseases, communicate with each other at the speed of light, and so on and so on. This has been in spite of the attempts throughout human history to stifle the advance of human knowledge by various religious factions.

    Some people aren’t wired to be able to think with more logic than emotion. In order to explain ourselves people such as this, we have to try to see things from their point of view and give compelling emotional reasons why atheism is a valid and reasonable belief.

  • Steven Carr

    ANDREW
    I’m sorry but when someone claims to not only have the universal truth for themselves, but for ME as well, I am going to hold them to higher standard.

    CARR.
    Well, yes, Jesus did command his followers to be perfect, but let’s be serious here.

    Nobody can obey the laws Jesus sent his followers. Why do you hold them to the standard Jesus said they should live up to?

  • Aj

    Some people aren’t wired to be able to think with more logic than emotion. In order to explain ourselves people such as this, we have to try to see things from their point of view and give compelling emotional reasons why atheism is a valid and reasonable belief.

    I was with you up to this point. I think almost everyone has the capacity for logic and a basic understanding of science, even Maria, who doesn’t seem to have a problem with logic at all. It seems to be ignorance, that’s not crime, and it’s probably not her fault.

    Religion is inflicted on the young, when they haven’t built up the defences of logic of reason. You’re taught not to question your faith, and faith can’t possibly withstand the slightest of questioning, it’s baseless. I can understand why they would want to keep their faith, it’s comforting, it’s frightening to step out into the enlightenment. In the end, they care little what is true or not.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to use logical fallacy, appeals to emotion, to argue what is the rational approach. I think it’s worth persuading people to think, reason, but it’s more important to stop the indoctrination of children, break the cycle. I think it’s slowly going that way, I hope it continues.

  • Thomas van der Meer

    Andrew,

    I can see your points and certainly agree with most of them, although you yourself don’t lack contradiction either. For example:

    I’m sorry but when someone claims to not only have the universal truth for themselves, but for ME as well, I am going to hold them to higher standard.

    Your earlier comment reads like you also feel the truth you describe there is true for others than yourself. Surely, if God doesn’t exist, he does not only not exist for you, but also for the rest of the world.

    In addition, I’d like to counter the following:

    No. Advances in modern medicine had nothing to do with prayer or miraculous interventions, it had everything to do with the scientific method and hard work. This belief you have about medicine being God’s gift is a cop-out to allow Christians like yourself to go to the doctor when you are sick and not rely solely on prayer…

    Surely I agree with you that advances in modern medicine are to be credited to scientific method and human work. However, what Maria believes is certainly not just an excuse to be able to visit a doctor. Christianity doesn’t unconditionally say medicine is bad, or even ungodly:

    “Put everything to the test and accept what is good”
    - 1 Thessalonians 5:21

    I like the dutch phrase more, which says: “Explore everything and keep what is correct”. For me this is the indication that science is not something we should refrain from, but is something which is only stimulated in the Bible. But maybe it’s just me, I’m the more secular kind of Christian.

    Greetings from the Netherlands,

    Thomas

  • batyah harris

    You know, it’s funny; I’m a budding atheist, am probably already an atheist who just hasn’t accepted herself as such yet, or maybe I’m just a part time atheist. But I always find myself arguing with the atheists! You just get it SO WRONG, so much of the time! I say this not from meanspiritedness, but, can you take a little criticism? You atheists really need to get clear in your mind what are your own beliefs, and if you wish to be reactive against religious beliefs, you need to first study them, at least a little bit, and understand them. Otherwise, you make mistakes and assumptions, and then it all boils down to an argument between two idiots (one an atheist, one a believer). Because you have no respect for theology, you assume it is all just nonsense, but have you ever taken a Philosophy of Religion course? It can be quite the mind twister. If you remain ignorant because you cannot conceive of the possibility that religious thought could hold anything of value, then you are really no different from those who reject science for the same reason. Both are coming from a position of ignorance. Orthodox Jewish rabbis and scholars who become atheists are fascinating to read (lots of blogs out there) — their arguments are on a much higher level because they know what the real issues are. Actually, they are way beyond me.

    There is nothing about a belief in God that is inconsistent with taking advantage of medical or scientific technology. Furthermore, there are very different beliefs between religious people of different faiths. We are quite complex and varied, even if you can’t see that (because you are uninformed — heh!) The Jewish Talmud frankly states that when one is ill, one should choose the superior medical doctor over a medical doctor who is pious but not as skilled or experienced. There is nothing at all confusing or illogical about a God who “works through” humans. That some ignorant Appalachian fundamentalists (my apologies to sensible Appalachians, but I couldn’t resist seizing upon a stereotype and exploiting it) avoid medical doctors and opt for holy water instead is irrelevant. They do not represent the most sophisticated of theological philosophy.

    In Judaism, we have the concept of “hishtadlus,” which means “our part to do.” A person’s “hishtadlus” is to find the best surgeon to treat him; it is God’s will whether the surgeon’s efforts will ultimately be blessed.

    Rabbi Natan Slifkin is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and scientist who wrote a controversial book in which he attempted to reconcile these arguments about the infallibility of the bible’s literal description of creation and evolutionary theories. I haven’t read it; my husband says it is an admirable effort. Rabbi Slifkin did not just make it up as he went along — he painstakingly referenced all information that derived from famous sages down through history. Some in the Orthodox camp applaud his work — others have banned his book and threatened to excommunicate anyone who reads it. To that, I say, OY VEY! It should not automatically be assumed that the bible and science are in terminal conflict.

    I’ll leave you with Psalm 14:1

    “The fool hath said in his heart, “there is no God.”

    I mean, come on; no matter what you believe, isn’t that poetic and beautiful? Isn’t it fascinating to think that centuries ago, there were people who just didn’t accept the concept of a deity?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Excellent points batyah! (though I’m not quite sure what your point was with quoting Psalm 14 at the end)

    Anyhow, I’ve often felt that if I were to become an atheist in my philosophy, I still wouldn’t want to identify myself with that label for many of the reasons you stated above. Friendly atheists like Hemant notwithstanding, there are still too many out there who do fit the negative stereotypes… as represented by several of the comments here. I just wouldn’t want to associate myself with those who are just so unwilling or unable to see anything of value in religious worldviews. (I’ve blogged about this same issue myself in the past, here.)

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Re: the changeable nature of science, I agree with Richard Wade above, except with the usual caveat that his comments about religious certainty only apply to some types of religious faith. There are plenty of other types however that value things like mystery, doubt, and questioning. (In fact, just the other day I filmed a television program for a conservative Christian TV station that was all about the value of mystery and how we don’t need to have all the final answers.)

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    batyah, I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, but I was a Christian for over 25 years. I went to Bible school instead of college, after which I taught at the school, I read the Bible cover to cover in several different translations, and I gave every fiber of my being to prayer and worshipping God every day, and I regularly led the music portion of church services. I certainly know a tiny bit about Christianity.

    As a matter of fact, there are many Christians who do not go to the doctor, who believe that God will heal them. I was one of those people for many years. Looking back, my mother probably should have been arrested for child endangerment for not taking me and my sister to the doctor when we were quite ill. Even though I no longer believe, it still seems somewhat hpyocritical and ironic to me to pray for healing and then to go to the doctor.

    Regarding your other points, I agree to some degree. Even though I went to fundamentalist/evangelical churhes, I never believed the “days” in Genesis were 24-hour periods, for example. I don’t remember what I thought about evolution, actually. I do remember reading some anti-evolution Chick tracts, but I somehow always thought I didn’t really care and if I ever got interested, I’d look up the pertinent information. (As it turns out, that’s what I eventually did, and that’s what led me to atheism.)

    But I certainly did believe a lot of supernatural nonsense, some of which came from the Bible and some of which did not. It was just a very superstitious worldview, even if some people could segregate that portion of their lives and also “believe” that some science is true. I can’t even imagine how I once believed some of the nonsense, looking back. It’s like I turned off a portion of my brain for half of my life.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Mike C, like there are not many more mean and bigoted and spiteful Christians? C’mon. That’s not a valid argument, or you wouldn’t be calling yourself a Christian today.

  • Jen

    Ma’am, with all do respect, you need to pick up a book (and not the one with Holy on the cover) and stop accepting everything you here at church at face value. That was key for me in my path to freedom from religion.

    I agree, somewhat, that it is important to know what is going on in the scientific world, and I hope Maria has a more clear understanding of this before she teaches her children about it, because, clearly, her children’s understanding will be stunted if she does not. On the other hand, I am an atheist, I enjoy reading about science, but in complete layman’s terms. I am not sure I could do a better job explaining the begining of the universe than she did. And I read a ton- but about other subjects. Ask me about Shakespeare or fairy tales or sexual history, and I could write a book.

  • Andrew

    There is nothing about a belief in God that is inconsistent with taking advantage of medical or scientific technology.

    Yeah sure, if your parameters for your religion are limited merely to belief in a god, but most religious dogmas go way beyond that. Most Christians believe that their god answers prayers, rewards piety and humbleness, and intervenes in the natural world (miracles). There is a disconnect between this stated belief and actual contemporary Christian behavior. The fact is that contemporary Christianity has evolved to coexist in the modern world. If religious leaders had continued the tradition of hard stances against medicine, they would have lost a lot of followers to the first schism that allowed the practice of secular medicine.

    Christian believers from the fourth century would not recognize Christianity today because Christianity has been forced to adapt to survive. My point was to cite an example of how Christianity is not this:

    That is one of the great attractions of religious accounts of “what’s so.” It doesn’t change. It says unabashedly, “This is the truth.” In fact it says, “This is the Truth,” with a capital “T” to say that since their source is divine, all of its accounts of “what’s so” are sacred and not subject to doubt, examination or challenge.

    That belief is a self-inflicted delusion on contemporary Christianity. Although it may change too slowly for most to notice, Christianity DOES change.

    I’ll leave you with Psalm 14:1

    “The fool hath said in his heart, “there is no God.”

    I mean, come on; no matter what you believe, isn’t that poetic and beautiful? Isn’t it fascinating to think that centuries ago, there were people who just didn’t accept the concept of a deity?

    What’s the rest of that Psalm? Hmm let’s see:

    The ENTIRE Psalm 14:1 (KJV):

    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

    That is clearly wrong. According to this passage, atheists are incapable of doing anything good. They cannot be honest, they cannot accomplish good things, and they cannot even show a simple act of kindness…

    Now either a lot of things that contemporary society believes are good are actually abominable or the BIBLE IS WRONG!

    Friendly atheists like Hemant notwithstanding, there are still too many out there who do fit the negative stereotypes… as represented by several of the comments here. I just wouldn’t want to associate myself with those who are just so unwilling or unable to see anything of value in religious worldviews.

    Right, trot out the ad hominem…

    I have never said that I don’t see anything of value in religious worldviews. I think religious people (especially Mormons for example) seem to live very fruitful, happy, and fulfilling lives. But that does not mean that what they believe about the world, the universe, and their place in it is actually true! And for me, the truth is more important than a happy delusion.

  • gsb

    “I’ve tried life without God and, for me, that just doesn’t work.”

    I hate to break it to you, but you’re living life without God anyway. You just don’t know it. You are also living a life without Invisible Pink Unicorns.

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    Is there any amount of evidence that would be able to dissuade you of your belief in the Bible?

    I guess the short answer to that question is no.

    I think that about sums it all up.

    We expect and even encourage our daughter, and will with our son once he’s old enough to understand, to question what she believes and why she believes it. A belief that won’t stand up to questioning isn’t really much of a belief.

    You talk a nice talk but yet you admit right off that there is nothing that could change your belief in the first place. Doesn’t sound like there is too much questioning going on, only a lot of rationalizing. I guess it helps to have an infallible book to fall back on?

  • Polly

    Here’s another Bible contradiction:

    II Kings 10:6, 9-11 and verse 30
    6 Then Jehu wrote them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side and will obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me in Jezreel by this time tomorrow.”

    9 The next morning Jehu went out. He stood before all the people and said, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? 10 Know then, that not a word the LORD has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The LORD has done what he promised through his servant Elijah.” 11 So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor. (emphasis mine)

    30 The LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”

    Now, compare that to Hosea’s take on the whole Jezreel matter…

    Hosea 1:4
    Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. (emphasis mine)

    OK, Please explain this to me. God affirms that Jehu did “well” and what God wanted. Then, Hosea says that God is punishing the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, the very same incident in II Kings10.

    Is this not a blatant contradiction?

    Doesn’t this show that these writings were not by one god, but by multiple conflicting factions?

  • Mriana

    Maria is Catholic? She’s not fundamentalist. She’s Catholic. OK, In all seriousness, I really should put it this way, Protestant Fundies are completely different and she probably will not come near answering my questions the way my relatives would. It is a totally different world even from Catholicism. Science is not true in anyways shape or form with the Protestant Evangelical Fundamentalist that I know. Even my older son can attest that it is a totally different world, even from hardline Catholicism.

    Hemant, if you want a Q and A from a Protestant Fundie you need to find someone like Farwell or worse. Yes, there are worse, but I’d be very afraid of religious abuse IF they did dare come here. They probably wouldn’t because it is a sin to associate with “infidels”. In all honesty, when you said Fundamentalist, Hemant, I really thought you found someone from my relatives’ school of thought daring enough to come here without feeling the need to tell us about “The Path of Salvation” and/or having to go to the alter themselves because they came here and associated with us.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, you got really lucky, Hemant, that none of the churches you attended were REAL Evangelical Fundamentalist churches. You truly have no idea, because if you had run into one, you might just run, never to even think about going to church again. IF they didn’t scare you into going up to the alter to “be saved” first. I’ll warn you though, if you do, you belong to them and they won’t leave you alone very easily. Not quite as bad as the JWs, but close.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Umm, Mriana… Maria said she WASN’T Catholic.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Mike C, like there are not many more mean and bigoted and spiteful Christians? C’mon. That’s not a valid argument, or you wouldn’t be calling yourself a Christian today.

    I don’t know about more or less. I would guess there plenty of mean, bigoted and spiteful within just about any worldview. Seems to just be the human condition. But as for who has more, I have no idea. If I were to take a wild guess based on the atheists and Christians I encounter online, I’d have to say it’s about even really.

    And truth be told I’m not entirely at ease with calling myself a Christian these days either, for much the same reasons that I wouldn’t want to call myself an atheist – just too much negative baggage. I greatly prefer the term “Christ follower” – I think it gets at what it’s all about for me a lot better. However, I still end up using the term Christian because I don’t want to be accused of being evasive or merely “trendy” by avoiding the word… and I don’t want to have to go into every conversation with an explanation of the difference between Christian and Christ follower. So for simplicity’s sake I still use it when I have to.

  • Mriana

    Oh yes she did. I’m going have to stop reading and re-reading things, esp when I’m tired.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Right, trot out the ad hominem…

    I have never said that I don’t see anything of value in religious worldviews. I think religious people (especially Mormons for example) seem to live very fruitful, happy, and fulfilling lives. But that does not mean that what they believe about the world, the universe, and their place in it is actually true! And for me, the truth is more important than a happy delusion.

    Very well, then why did you assume my comment was about you?

    And it’s not an ad hominem. If I had said that atheism was untrue because some atheists are close-minded, then that would be an ad hominem. But to say that I wouldn’t want to be associated with the atheist label because of a perception of close-mindedness, even if I thought atheism as a philosophy were actually true is not an ad hominem. The attitudes of the “hominem” is exactly what the statement is about in the first place.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Mriana, I agree. Catholics don’t fall into the category I consider fundamentalist. Technically, fundamentalistm is a subset of evangelical Protestantism. (Fundies don’t even think Catholics are real Christians!)

  • Maria

    Hi all,

    Well.. that went better than expected, I suppose.

    There is no way that I could have posted answers to questions from people that are diametrically opposed to everything I believe and actually satisfy everyone. The fact that I said what I did and had courteous responses from nearly everyone even those who obviously disagree with me 100% was greatly appreciated.

    I’m sure there are areas where I could have elaborated better. I was trying not to ramble or get emotional while at the same time accurately representing myself and others who believe as I do. I, just like all of you, am a complex, multifaceted person. It’s hard to represent complex things like philosphy of parenting, personal belief and other heavy topics in a few concise paragraphs. Thanks for respecting my efforts to do so.

    Hemant asked me not to answer any more questions unless he decides upon a round two. We’ll have to see what he decides.

    Till then, thanks to all of you who read the blog, all who commented and all who took the time to read my thoughts, share how they felt about what I felt, and all the thought provoking questions.

    Your “fundie” friend,
    M.

  • Mriana

    Mriana, I agree. Catholics don’t fall into the category I consider fundamentalist. Technically, fundamentalistm is a subset of evangelical Protestantism. (Fundies don’t even think Catholics are real Christians!)

    That was my original point when I misread what Maria said. Fundies do not consider Catholics Christians, which is funny, because they basically, except for the Apocrapha, use the very same Bible. Another funny thing is, Apocrapha is a form of literary writing. If Protestants reject the Apocrapha, how did the Revelation, another Apocrapha writing which is attributed to John, make it into the final cut of stories? If they reject astrotheology, why did they accept Revelation, which is FULL of astrotheology that they have managed to push aside some how in favour of something else? They have managed to bury from their minds the astrotheology in Revelation for another unsubstantiated interpretation because they want to believe astrotheology is sinful, yet it is right there if you understand what you are looking at, which most Christians don’t anymore. Things that make you go humm…

  • John

    I was with you up to this point. I think almost everyone has the capacity for logic and a basic understanding of science, even Maria, who doesn’t seem to have a problem with logic at all. It seems to be ignorance, that’s not crime, and it’s probably not her fault.

    I’m not saying Maria can’t appreciate logic. It’s just that when it comes to matters of religion, faith trumps logic. Creationists think their position is logical. And that is the point. Maria has said that there is nothing that could ever convince her that the bible isn’t the absolute truth. You can present evidence all day long, but it won’t matter.

    A better way would be to talk about what it is like to be an atheist. Fundamentalists think that we lead empty lives without purpose. That we feel alone and are lost. That nothing guides our lives and that in times of despair we have nothing to give us hope. I think it would be a better tactic to explain how and why this isn’t the case.

  • Mriana

    How does faith trump logic? I never could understand that one.

  • Steven Carr

    Christians are people who follow Christ.

    They can be Catholic or Protestant.

    But they all believe in the goodness of a man who threatened people with torture for disbelief, who resorted to abuse and insults when he disagreed with others, and who greeted people who came to him for help with the words ‘How long must I put up with this disbelieving generation?’

    Christians are people who follow somebody who taught that illness was sometimes caused by demon-possession.

    And Christians have the amazing audacity to claim that they follow somebody who taught the demon theory of illness, which they just ignore by visiting doctors.

    Jesus even once had to be shamed by his disciples into helping somebody.

    But when Jesus was reminded that even somebody he likened to a ‘dog’ (as compared to his ‘children’), might need help, then he learned his lesson.

    So the guy was prepared to rethink his attitude when shamed into reconsidering.

    Just like many Christians, really…..

  • Mriana

    Steven, We know Catholics and Protestants are Christians. That was not the point. You completely misunderstood what was being said between writerdd and myself.

  • Richard Wade

    Maria, thank you for your patient and open-hearted responses to so many pointed questions. You faced us with courage and graciousness. I was reminded of the sharks in “Finding Nemo” who are trying so hard to not eat the fish, all the while they can just barely control their carnivorous urges. I hope you can dialogue with us again and I hope we can remain at least as courteous as this time or even a little better.

  • Richard Wade

    To Mike C,

    Re: the changeable nature of science, I agree with Richard Wade above, except with the usual caveat that his comments about religious certainty only apply to some types of religious faith.

    You are right, and I apologize for not including an appropriate qualifier in those remarks.

  • Andrew

    Very well, then why did you assume my comment was about you?

    And it’s not an ad hominem. If I had said that atheism was untrue because some atheists are close-minded, then that would be an ad hominem. But to say that I wouldn’t want to be associated with the atheist label because of a perception of close-mindedness, even if I thought atheism as a philosophy were actually true is not an ad hominem. The attitudes of the “hominem” is exactly what the statement is about in the first place.

    You basically said that atheists you encounter on the internet (and implied that to this debate) are mean (except for Hemant). That’s an ad hominem attack and completely irrelevant to the debate. So moving on…

    Christians are people who follow Christ.

    They can be Catholic or Protestant.

    But they all believe in the goodness of a man who threatened people with torture for disbelief, who resorted to abuse and insults when he disagreed with others, and who greeted people who came to him for help with the words ‘How long must I put up with this disbelieving generation?’

    Christians are people who follow somebody who taught that illness was sometimes caused by demon-possession.

    And Christians have the amazing audacity to claim that they follow somebody who taught the demon theory of illness, which they just ignore by visiting doctors.

    Jesus even once had to be shamed by his disciples into helping somebody.

    But when Jesus was reminded that even somebody he likened to a ‘dog’ (as compared to his ‘children’), might need help, then he learned his lesson.

    So the guy was prepared to rethink his attitude when shamed into reconsidering.

    Just like many Christians, really…..

    Word…

  • John

    How does faith trump logic? I never could understand that one.

    Me neither, but for some people it does (though they would deny this). I think that’s one of the reasons both sides talk in circles around each other.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Andrew: “You basically said that atheists you encounter on the internet (and implied that to this debate) are mean (except for Hemant). That’s an ad hominem attack …”

    Ahem, you should read this: http://rockstarramblings.blogspot.com/2006/12/doggerel-49-ad-hominem.html

  • Karen

    Me neither, but for some people it does (though they would deny this). I think that’s one of the reasons both sides talk in circles around each other.

    As a former Christian, perhaps I can try to explain. Faith is extolled as one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – virtue of a conservative Christian. The virtue of believing without “seeing” (i.e., without demanding evidence) is something Jesus himself encouraged in his followers in one of his last and most direct statements on earth. It’s often cited as being given specifically for Christians today.

    In contrast, I don’t remember “logic” ever being mentioned in a sermon, or bible study teaching. If it was mentioned, it was denigrated as something ridiculous and negative – such as, “People today try to use logic to find god, but they’ll never succeed until they open their hearts.”

    You may remember the story of “doubting Thomas” – the disciple who was AWOL when Jesus first appeared after the resurrection. This guy said he wouldn’t believe the other disciples’ story unless he could see, and touch, the evidence for himself. Jesus appears to him and he gets the proof he desires and so believes.

    Skeptics would approve of and admire Thomas. He wasn’t going to take anecdotal evidence of a great miracle – even from his closest colleagues – he wanted proof! But Christians do not admire Thomas. That story is told over and over again as a cautionary tale of a foolish and weak person who didn’t have enough faith.

    The values here are completely contradictory. This is why you note correctly that we often “talk in circles.” John, I think your points about explaining what atheists think in a positive sense and appealing to emotion are good ones when we are interacting with the religious. However, I also think that logic and reason need to be discussed as well.

    After all, for the majority of us who were formerly religious, it was the discovery and application of logic and reason that led us to question blind faith.

  • Aj

    Because you have no respect for theology, you assume it is all just nonsense, but have you ever taken a Philosophy of Religion course? It can be quite the mind twister. If you remain ignorant because you cannot conceive of the possibility that religious thought could hold anything of value, then you are really no different from those who reject science for the same reason. Both are coming from a position of ignorance.

    It is all nonsense, not that it’s not rational or logical in itself, but when you see what it’s built upon. I don’t see how an Atheist would be saying that isn’t nonsense. If you don’t accept the stuff taken on faith that theology is built upon, it’s absolutely irrational nonsense. That’s how a Christian can see other religions, and call them ridiculous, but isn’t capable of looking at their beliefs with any scepticism.

    I’m not going to study the practices of atrology, homeopathy, or “chi” either, because it’s like studying why the wings of fairies are green. I think we should study them, and religion, like Daniel Dennett is doing. Not from the inside, that is an absurd position. Atheists should not be wasting their time with the “philosophy” of religion, because there is real philosophy they can study. We should be studying why people beleive strange things.

    You accuse rationalists of rejecting faith on the same basis that faithheads reject science. How can you possibly defend such a position? No faithhead ever rejected science because of lack of evidence.

    Here’s Richard Dawkins’s response to this backwards notion of asking atheists to study theology:

    You can’t criticise religion without detailed study of learned books on theology.

    If, as one self-consciously intellectual critic wished, I had expounded the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus, Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope (as he vainly hoped I would), my book would have been more than a surprise bestseller, it would have been a miracle. I would happily have forgone bestsellerdom had there been the slightest hope of Duns Scotus illuminating my central question: does God exist? But I need engage only those few theologians who at least acknowledge the question, rather than blithely assuming God as a premise. For the rest, I cannot better the “Courtier’s Reply” on P. Z. Myers’s splendid Pharyngula website, where he takes me to task for outing the Emperor’s nudity while ignoring learned tomes on ruffled pantaloons and silken underwear. Most Christians happily disavow Baal and the Flying Spaghetti Monster without reference to monographs of Baalian exegesis or Pastafarian theology.

    How dare you call me a fundamentalist

    PZ Myer’s response on Pharyngula:

    I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

    Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.

    The Courtier’s Reply

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    But Christians do not admire Thomas. That story is told over and over again as a cautionary tale of a foolish and weak person who didn’t have enough faith.

    But of course, Jesus’ didn’t rebuke Thomas. In fact, he honored his request for more proof.

  • Siamang

    But of course, Jesus’ didn’t rebuke Thomas. In fact, he honored his request for more proof.

    Tell Jesus I make the same request.

  • Steven Carr

    The trouble with Dawkins is that he freely admits that he has read the Bible.

    Little wonder he understanding of Christianity differs from people who read Christian books and listen to Christian preachers.

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C
    But of course, Jesus’ didn’t rebuke Thomas. In fact, he honored his request for more proof.

    CARR
    And somebody who claimed to have first hand experience of all these appearances (ie Paul) couldn’t draw on any such stories to tell the Christians in Corinth what sort of a body Jesus had.

    Instead he tells them Jesus became a spirit, and instead of the simple ‘proofs’ Jesus gave that the body was the same body , waffles on about how heavenly bodies are as different from earthly bodies as a fish is from the moon.

  • Mriana

    As a former Christian, perhaps I can try to explain. Faith is extolled as one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – virtue of a conservative Christian. The virtue of believing without “seeing” (i.e., without demanding evidence) is something Jesus himself encouraged in his followers in one of his last and most direct statements on earth. It’s often cited as being given specifically for Christians today.

    Yes, my mother has said this more than once and my sons and I never did understand it.

    You may remember the story of “doubting Thomas”

    My mother has called me this quite often, only in the feminine form. :lol: I take no offense in part because one of my favourite Gospels is the Gospel of Thomas. That and Thomas means “the twin”. I think there is something to be admire about this character, contrary to most Christians’ thinking. Like Mike said, Thomas was not rebuked for his doubt and if you read the Gospel of Thomas, there is something unique about it in that it places the Kingdom in us and in every living thing on earth. It even states that the Kingdom of Heaven is here on earth, not in the sky. Christ is in everything. Verse 3 and verse 77. By the time you are done reading this Gospel, and this is a very Gnostic belief, you find that we are all Christ crucified. Given the way we treat each other, we crucify “Christ” over and over again, every day.

    Of course, to understand this, one has to think Non-realism, or like Cupitt and Spong, which is non-theistic, and put aside the traditional Christian POV. You cannot view Christ as an athropomorphic or metaphysical being. Once you comprehend this, it is easier to comprehend where the non-realists are coming from when they talk about Love is God and loving wastefully.

    Yes, I know. I’m a strange Humanist in that I study almost everything. So does Robert Price, but I would call myself more of a Religious Humanist than a Secular Humanist because I do study various religious text, but take none of them seriously, but I can accept the POV of the Sea of Faith faster than other religious groups, because it is non-metaphysical.

  • Karen

    But of course, Jesus’ didn’t rebuke Thomas. In fact, he honored his request for more proof.

    After which, he said:
    “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” John 20:29

    It’s the second part of that verse that we – conservative evangelicals – were taught about repeatedly. In fact, I was often told that Jesus was addressing that remark to all his followers who came after the ascension and who would not get the “proof” that Thomas got, but would instead get a special blessing for believing on faith alone.

    I guess we needed a consolation prize. ;-)

  • Richard Wade

    Belief in spite of seeing nothing was and still is promoted as the highest virtue because of the constantly embarrassing absence of God. Other virtues such as kindness, fairness, truthfulness, thoughtfulness or tolerance make for a nice community but they don’t keep bringing people and their denarii back to the temple. The priests would have to go out and get honest work. Convince folks that belief trumps behavior and you have a guaranteed income.

  • monkeymind

    Regarding Richard Dawkins’ excuse for not being more conversant with the best thinking on religion:

    I would happily have forgone bestsellerdom had there been the slightest hope of Duns Scotus illuminating my central question: does God exist? But I need engage only those few theologians who at least acknowledge the question, rather than blithely assuming God as a premise.

    That would indeed be a vaiid excuse if Dawkins confined himself to disproving the existence of God. But he goes farther than that, accusing religion of being the “root of all evil”, a mind virus, etc. It’s where Dawkins crosses over from being a scientist/logician to a cultural critic/historian, that he loses credibility for me. He ignores how the best thinking in religion such as Sufi writings, OT midrashes, etc illuminate the human condition. For godess’s sake, one huge branch of Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy, agrees that god does not “exist.”

  • monkeymind

    Regarding faith, I think part of the problem may be our old friend polysemy. Faith can mean either belief or trust in/allegiance to a person or cause. Fideism, the idea that reason is opposed to faith, and that faith should always take precedence, is an important strain in Christianity but not the only one.

    “Faith isn’t believing without proof – it’s trusting without reservation.” William Sloane Coffin

    It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.– Fyodor Dostoyevski

    Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. –Paul Tillich

    Faith is the refusal to panic. –David Martyn Lloyd-Jones

    Belief is reassuring. People who live in the world of belief feel safe. On the contrary, faith is forever placing us on the razor’s edge. –Jacques Ellul

    Faith is much better than belief. Belief is when someone else does the thinking.–R. Buckminster Fuller

    Christianity is not a message which has to be believed, but an experience of faith that becomes a message. –Edward Schillebeeckx

    I guess it’s this kind of faith, or sort of existential faith, that I value. To stake out a philosophical space, a system of values, and say, this is what I believe and resolve to make real in my life. I guess it is not so different from my ancestral roots in the Mennonite faith:

    “True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people.”

  • Steven Carr

    Of course, Dawkins does not say that religion is the root of all evil.

    But why bother with accuracy?

  • monkeymind

    Umm, I think calling your documentary about religion “The Root of of all Evil?” could be taken by SOME people to indicate that in general one does not take great care to disassociate oneself from the view that religion is the root of all evil. To be pedantic, the ? could I suppose be taken as a bit of weasel punctuation – disassociation by linguistic mechanics.

    However, these niceties seem to be lost on Dawkins’ target audience, as in this marketing blurb for the DVD on skeptic.com:

    The Root of All Evil?, by the Oxford University evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, is his controversial documentary that complements his bestselling book The God Delusion. Dawkins presents his view of religion as a cultural virus that, like a computer virus, once downloaded into the software of society corrupts many of the programs it encounters. It isn’t hard to find examples to fit this view; one has only to read the dailies coming out of the Middle East to see its nefarious effects.

    Dawkins is so compelling in his on-camera narrative style in his cultured British accent, marshalling his facts, examples, and interviews so convincingly that when you reach the end you are compelled to answer Yes! to the rhetorical question posed in the documentary’s title.

  • Steven Carr

    Dawkins didn’t call his documentary ‘The Root of all Evil?’

    Haven’t you bothered to read him?

  • Steven Carr

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Root_of_All_Evil%3F

    ‘Dawkins has said that the title “The Root of All Evil?” was not his preferred choice, but that Channel 4 had insisted on it to create controversy. His sole concession from the producers on the title was the addition of the question mark. Dawkins has stated that the notion of anything being the root of all evil is ridiculous’

  • monkeymind

    I’m sure if it was a deep matter of principle to Dawkins not to unfairly characterize religion, he would have held out against the producers. It’s not a situation like in the newsroom, where headlines get stuck on an article without approval from the writer. With the explanation you quote above, again the best word I can think of is “weasel” – he didn’t care enough to insist, didn’t mind stirring up a bit of controversy, but doesn’t want the high negatives that go along with his high positives.

  • monkeymind

    Haven’t you bothered to read him?

    Yes. Great science writer. Writer on history/anthropology/culture – not so much.


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