Friday, February 02, 2007

It's "Love Your Local Atheist" week

On both Scott McKnight's blogsite and Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert, who doesn't believe in a creator -- ha ha, pun intended)', there have been some interesting discussions on atheism. I've put in a comment on both. I'll list them below, but first, here's an interesting one I found on Scott Adams' blog.

Wow - painful posts. I'll try to be brief.

It isn't irrational to look at evidence and make a decision based on what you can observe and trying to think clearly about that.

You have to understand that an orthodox Christian point of view believes that this is too small a way to look at the world as a whole.

Logic, math, philosophy, scientific method, etc... are all things made up by some guy (or a groups of guys over time). That shouldn't diminish them in any way, they are smart and useful and good.

But if you really take the assumption of religious faith seriously for just a second, of course God is bigger than those things - how could a small man-made thing ever adequately define or explain Him?

That would be like taking a square inch of a Van Gogh and saying that there wasn't any evidence for good painting.

With a narrowly defined course of inquiry, of course you'll reach that conclusion. And it would be a rational one.

The bigger question is - is rationality the only measure? Is rationality the best measure?

I mean, if no religious person believes that the scientific method is the way to find God - then why are you confused that they don't buy your logical and scientifically correct arguments? You've lost before you've started. And vice versa.

You have to have an atheist that isn't threatened by considering things outside of the provable, and a believer who isn't threatened by someone who will tend to demand proof :)

It is such a non-starter to not accept the premise of the opposing camp and then start beating on each other.

It seems to me that the only way to have a conversation that isn't the nauseous restating of your already owned notion... is to agree on a premise that you can both live with. Then go from there.

Now, here are the comments I made, first the one I posted on Scott McKnight's blog, which was a disscussion of Dawkin's recent book. The question being posed was this: So - is Dawkins right, is Christianity hopelessly irrational? If not what is the correct approach to development of a rational, unified, and Christian worldview?:

If faith is what we believe simply because we’ve been taught it, then there is a point to Dawkin’s thesis.

For me, there’s more, but I don’t expect someone like Dawkin’s to readily accept it. I would point to Hebrews 11:1, using the litteral Greek terminology of “evidence” as being a legal term, and “substance” as being a scientific term. It’s something that is tangible, and those whose hearts have been been enlightened can see it, and it produces results when the the various factors are right (i.e. “with signs following” Mark 16…), but it’s found in a realm of reality that as yet seems to be out of reach of present day science.

I don’t doubt that if scientific research could be done using instruments that don’t just expand the five senses, but also the sixth sense, or else if quantum theory were expanded to something beyond a theory by enabling us to actually see sub-atomic activity etc. with absolute clarity, then faith would be fully contained within the realm of science. Humanity may never develope that level of skill. What we’re left with is something like a very subjective sixth sense, with a few pointers to be found in places such as scripture — a bit like “seeing through a glass darkly”.

An explanation like that is not enough to convince someone like Dawkins, but it’s enough to assure the likes of myself that what I’m following isn’t something hopelessly irrational.
...and here's the one I posted on the Scott Adams discussion:

I am of the opinion that the reason many theists won't allow atheists the benifit of the doubt that they are honestly atheists, is that some of us theists are still squirming and trying to convince ourselves that our theistic possition is the right one. The more evidence that the atheist's possition is untenable, the more secure we feel. Maybe we have too much to lose if we're proven wrong.

Real faith isn't just going along with something we've been taught all our lives, but, according to Hebrews 11:1, it's the "substance of things hoped for, and the evedince of the unseen." Once I decided I didn't have anything to lose anyway (and probably everything to gain if anyone did convince me of the "truth" of atheism), and rested on that, things became a lot easier.

What I've experienced is enough to convince me, but it may too subjective for someone like you. We might be looking with a different set of lenses, but we're also dealing with person. Proving the existance of a person (as opposed to a substance or a force) can be pretty tricky, especially when that person has a tendency to make himself scarse at times, responding only to those wearing the right set of lenses.

I believe that the way to engage an atheist in a discussion, as with anyone, be it a Moslem, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Nazi, etc., is with respect. That means, don't go in with the assumption that you know more what's going on in the atheist's mind then he/she does. Give him/her the benifit of a doubt that he/she actually is a genuine atheist. If you read just a few of the comments on Scott Adam's blog, you'll see that there are many types of atheists. For some, there's a fine line between atheism and agnosticism. Each has their own reason for calling him/herself an atheist. Also, don't go in claiming that atheism is a belief system that requires faith. Also, understand that the debate is probably not going to win anyone. Your love and respect will win more souls than your knowledge of science, etc.

For the same reason, I also believe one must never argue with a Moslem by referring to the Quran (unless you, yourself were once a Moslem), nor with a rabbi by using the Talmud or the Kaballa (unless you, yourself are Jewish). It's just not nice to try to show off the notion that you know more about the other's area of expertise than they do. It won't win them, rather drive them away.

On the other hand, if an atheist, a rabbi or a Moslem, or any other non-Christian comes at you using the Christian Bible, be gracious and answer him/her as best you can. It's a double standard, I know, but it's their soul we're interested in, not the fairness of the argument.

No comments: