Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Global Atheist Convention: a Christian reflection

The Global Atheist Convention will commence this week in Melbourne, with speakers such as Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, A. C. Grayling and Phillip Adams. The good folks at ABC Religion have launched a new blog, Questions of Faith, to provide coverage and analysis of the Convention as it unfolds.

They kindly invited me to write an opening theological reflection. So I've written some thoughts on atheism's role in Christian thinking – including some remarks about my favourite atheist, Samuel Beckett:

"I wonder what Samuel Beckett would have thought of an atheism so easy and so confident that it can fit on the front of a T-shirt or the side of a bus. Atheism as a lifestyle choice — an atheism you can believe in..."
Head over and check it out – and while you're at it, you might like to subscribe to their feed so that you can join in the discussion over the coming days.

46 Comments:

Emerson said...

Was it Karl Barth who refused to engage in a debate with atheists on the principle that faith cannot take unbelief seriously? I hope we are not "providing coverage" or "checking out" a convention built on a metaphysical premise that-of necessity- opposes the Lordship of Christ for any other reason than to pray for these men and ask for God's mercy. To take my cue from Emil Brunner, atheism is not "outstanding", and it very rarely* produces an outstanding thinker. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

*I must confess that I do love David Hume. I still do not take his unbelief seriously, and if I do, I shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Ben, I enjoyed your post and would encourage everyone to read Bloch's great work Atheism in Christianity. We must remember that Moltmann only made his claim after Bloch had said "only an atheist can be a good Christian".

It seems absurd to dismiss atheism out of hand because it refuses to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. There are legitimate reasons to question God's existence, or if not God's existence, at least God's love. I think anyone who can dismiss atheists that quickly fail to understand the profound challenge the problem of evil poses to every Christian.

Emerson said...

Anonymous,

I am not trying to "dismiss" atheists. I am trying to tell them (pardon the Barthian language)that God is for them in Christ, that their sins are atoned for, and that faith and thus "the faith" is both offered and commanded of them by Christ. Since this is so, any dismissal of an atheist is sin and a striving against the gospel. And as all of these things are gifts of God, they need only be proclaimed in love, a cheerful heart and a prayerful disposition.

Jesus does not praise our doubts but calls them into question. Or, in Bultmanns terminology, Jesus calls us to a "decision" in the midst of them.

So do lets not shower atheists with accolades and try out various "points of contact" with them. Lets not erect unbelief as a delightful little Asherah pole alongside of God's alter. Let us rather smash unbelief to pieces with the only power worth speaking of: God's power, or the gospel.

P.S. The problem of evil is posed to us on the cross, not from the lips of Richard Dawkins.

Anonymous said...

Emerson: Proclaiming the gospel often requires various "points of contact". Maybe I've just been reading too much Paul Tillich, but, as others have expressed, I feel that the Christian God requires a kind of atheism, a kind of shattering of the "delightful little Asherah pole" of the "infinite person" that more Christians than not conceive God to be. The fool says there is no God, and of course needs to be corrected, but what a mission field, these fools, and how much easier it is to raise in the heart of the athiest a God not of the idolatry of popular Christianity. We are all woeful sinners and ALL need to be engaged and have our sins corrected.

kim fabricius said...

I can imagine Beckett writing an uproariously funny sketch on the conference, perhaps with Dawkins saying nograce before meals which are never served, or Singer trying to thread a needle with a wallaby, or Grayling, blindfolded, lecturing ex cloaca on Towards the Light. With his radical distrust of mind and language, Beckett rightly considered rationalism a form of magic, and stability and conclusion cheap intellectual nostrums and consolations. Suffering disturbed him profoundly - and theodicies even more profoundly still. I have always found it suggestive that Beckett was born on Good Friday.

PS: As well as knowing The Divine Comedy almost word for word, he was a great admirer of Moby-Dick!

Nathan said...

I'll be interested to see if this post brings out the ABC's rabid antitheist commenting lobby.

Daniel said...

Hi,

I'm an atheist and found this blog.

I find it interesting that the author of the blog characterises "new atheism" as "breezy and confident".

Atheists like myself are not without our doubts - indeed I think often about whether my position is correct, how i'd feel to be proven wrong and so forth. I'm not alone - even prominent atheists in the public have been known to share such views.

In this sense, i'd say that i'm an Agnostic Atheist - a non believer who is nontheless compelled to admit, as a fan of the scientific method and the tentative nature of knowledge; that I cannot know all things.

If I had any particular question for people such as the author of this blog it would be this: Why does your Theology not specialise in the Q'uran?

Why not specialise in Hindu beliefs?

This is the old chestnut of the plurality of beliefs. I'm interested in knowing whether believers reach their position of belief in a particular brand of religion based on some evidence that could be teased apart by the scientific community, or whether it is more a matter of where one is born - what language one's parents speak in the home and what school one attends?

This issue, whether the claims of a religion are ACTUALLY TRUE, is my concern.

And I don't know, but without positive evidence one way or the other, i'm not just going to sit on the fence, i'm asserting my nonbelief.

Daniel V
Melbourne

Josh said...

The thing that always drives me crazy is how everyone assumes atheism is a specific position...

The parallel to this conference would be a global monotheist convention.

BTW, ben, I thought your little essay was quite good.

Anonymous said...

It sounded dismissive when you claimed that the majority of atheists are not outstanding thinkers. I agree with you about the relationship between the problem of evil and the cross. However, if one does not understand the cross I suspect human suffering is somtehing very difficult to reconcile with the notion of a loving, powerful God.

I just find that so many Christians alienate atheists with their arrogance and ignorance. And of course the favor is often returned on the other side.

I'm skeptical of all apologetics. Rarely does it ever approach the other as a singularity. Rather, peoople made wide-ranging generalities and assumptions that often go unchecked.

Anonymous said...

Other Anonymous,
I'm somewhat skeptical of apologetics as well. It's not that I don't think some of their arguments are correct or sound, it's just that they don't really engage with real-life situations. They don't really deal with the issues of being that live at the heart of Christian faith.

For instance, when I first read Gilead I cried. I cried a lot because of the beauty of the story, the tragic nature of some of the characters, the hope in the "blessing" given at the end. There was nothing apologetic about it, yet it inspired my faith in the Triune God in a deeply intimate way. I feel the same way when I read the gospels at times...but I've never felt that way when reading apologetics...I've never been moved. There is something deeper that can happen in this type of engagement.

Instead of the typical apologetical method of "Oh, you like biology? Why don't you read this book by "x" who is a Christian and biologist as well," maybe we should give people a copy of Wendel Berry essays and ask them if they just want to talk about life occasionally.

J said...

I must confess that I do love David Hume. I still do not take his unbelief seriously, and if I do, I shouldn't.

Bravo--yet it's not Hume's unbelief that's so problematic as much as those cold and eloquent arguments which lead Hume to...unbelief.

That said, ah agree that Dawkins and Grayling could use a few months of Beckett review....then, the usual sunday schooler could do with some of Grayling's fairly Humean prose...

Evan said...

"This is the old chestnut of the plurality of beliefs. I'm interested in knowing whether believers reach their position of belief in a particular brand of religion based on some evidence that could be teased apart by the scientific community, or whether it is more a matter of where one is born - what language one's parents speak in the home and what school one attends?

This issue, whether the claims of a religion are ACTUALLY TRUE, is my concern."



Daniel V,

Could you clarify how the first paragraph I've quoted here (what I take to be the "this issue" to which you later refer) is related to whether the claims of a religion are "actually true"? You've got me confused.

I feel I can answer the first paragraph well enough... for myself, at least... but I'm not sure exactly how you see this leading into your "concern" as you've expressed it in the second paragraph I've quoted. What does the question of pluralism have to do with the question of truth, in your mind? I get the feeling you're advocating some sort of tight correlation that would tie these two questions pretty closely together, but I'm not sure what it is.

Emerson said...

Dear anonymous (the first anonymous),

You said: Proclaiming the gospel often requires various "points of contact".

I could not disagree more. The being of man is purely set in opposition to his Creator on all fronts (ie. "dead in his transgressions", "what has light to do with darkness?"). Some here may groan at a naive young man's humdrum citing of Barthian theology. To that I apologize, but do not retract my utter conviction that it is both good and true theology, far more in line with the scriptures than the theosophic apologetics I have seen touted in academic circles lately.

What is needed (and so very much available) to an atheist (and all of us), is New Creation. And that does not come by subjecting the gospel to a "point of contact" but by seeing all things come under the dominion of the gospel, which is living and active, performing its own work in us. No preperatory works.

Also, when you say "the Christian God requires a kind of atheism", what do you mean? I have a few very respectable atheist friends, and I'm not sure they would be pleased to know that the word "atheism" is, after all, consonant with belief in God. That seems nothing else than a misuse of words.

The Christian God requires faith; the Christian God says," Stop doubting and believe." As such I cannot imagine that God would ever sanctify our arrival at this theism par excellance via unbelief in God's Name and Word.

Anyways, this is an "in-house matter". I bless you and thank you for your thoughtful contribution all the same.

Emerson

dbarber said...

There's a weird sort of binary going on here, it seems -- either atheism, in its supposedly non-serious version, or Christianity, in its serious Barthian version. But what about a serious atheism? Is the assumption that Barth has somehow overcome atheism (!) ? It would of course be quite easy for a serious atheist to dismiss Christianity by looking at its non-serious versions, and then just as easy to consequently dismiss such an atheist for following a kind of straw man argument...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your article Ben. I am more and more appreciating that atheism is not necessarily the same thing as naturalism, and the two should not be conflated as they often are. As a Christian I would definitely consider myself to be an 'atheist' of some kind.

Anonymous said...

dbarber,
Ben's article seems to address your concern. One of his points seems to be that Christian thinking flourishes in a dialectical relationship with serious atheism. His "altar call" would then be that this conference would produce some dissent against the easy-believism of its major proponents toward a more serious interaction with questions of existence. This more serious atheism has always led to a more serious Christianity.

The last thirty (plus) years have led to an overmarketed, hyper-triumphalistic form of Christianity, which almost prides itself in its lack of intellectual rigor and easy believism. Who could disagree?

A problem is that the New Atheists show themselves to be members of this same thinking. Dawkins, for instance, prides himself in his rejection of philosophy, often joking that he even struggles to tolerate Grayling and Dennett. Of course, he doesn't even consider non-scientific ethical reasoning, theological reasoning or anything outside of his scientific positivism to be brought into discourse. They then frame the discussion as though this is not a bold acceptance of naïvety and ignorance, by not allowing certains forms of knowledge into discussion, by reasoning (in a circle) that only scientific knowledge is knowledge at all.

They then follow the evangelical lead by marketing this naïvety in cheap slogans, t-shirts, bus signs, road signs, mass conferences, social clubs, hyper-political focus, et al.

Ben wants atheists to reject this whole philosophy (just as he urges his fellow Christians to reject it).

Emerson,
When some people speak of Christianity requiring a sort of atheism, it's not meant in the sense that the New Atheists mean the description. What it means is an ability to think through and reject the false gods of our age in pursuit of the Triune God. We have to think like atheists in order to find the subtle and deceptive idolatries that attempt to usurp the Christian faith.

Julia said...

Ben, your article is brilliantly articulated. As an MA student writing on Nietzsche and Marion, these matters hit close to home. Nietzsche's work is "intellectually demanding, morally exacting, an exciting and profoundly human wrestling with the deep questions of existence," and many would call it atheism, yet Dionysus looms large. And so does the idol of "will to power". Nietzsche is interested in the possibility of redemption after the death of God, but gods and "gods" have not somehow been banished. Nor has Christ, for that matter (my thesis is examining kenosis and dispossession of self in "Zarathustra"). A serious atheism - or perhaps a cheerful light-footed atheism, if it be the atheism of Nietzsche's good philosopher - is perhaps always the creation of a new theism, and must be willing to look at those various theisms.
Your post also made me consider Beckett again. I find Nietzsche's work personally demanding, and yet incredibly joyful. Reading "Endgame", however... well, let's just say I could not meet the demands. Perhaps Beckett was stronger than Nietzsche, more unflinching, more honest. Or maybe I just couldn't laugh right then.
I have occasionally read your blog in the past and have decided to do so more deliberately. Thank you for your efforts.

Erin said...

I dig the article, Ben, and am heartened to find another Beckett fan! Do you perchance like his poetry? It's very tough for me, but there are occasional bolts of lightening.

J said...

The Swampflower of atheism (dawkinsi asphodellius) blossoms on the dumps of...hypocritical, corrupt Christendom, whether evangelical or papist...

in said...

I love this blog, oh how we race to prove our cleverness, and show our learning, Kim you are absolutely classic upper middle class, I loves it I does, anonymous I must ask why give a fcuk whether your convictions are intellectually respectable? Are you just craving acceptance like most of us - sorry gagged a bit there, but if you're keen enough the salt's ok. In seriousness to the other anonymous, I was announced in Birmingham, ignored by angels and beaten by men, but hey Hindus are full of shit, islam is derivative and presents no development of God's revelation, Sikh's I kinda love, at least they know how to drink and if you keep away from their daughters theey are damned good friends but shit I'm just generalising based on what i know to what I don't and Emerson, your heart is right but your tone is wrong, it reeks of the prick, lose it and learn the love of being wrong. Yeah baby hippy, trippy, cool in a kaftan, love and peace man.

remylow said...

as a believer and lover of Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Althusser, Lenin, Fanon, Foucault and Rorty, one can only pray for the success Global Atheist Convention.

May there be many more (significant) atheist intellectuals and revolutionaries that will shake us out of the slumber of our petit bourgeois sentimentalities!

Anonymous said...

in: i love your breezy but fake style i does. keep handing out advice bro.

Billygoat said...

what about those that wear t-shirts and make bus posters like the following:

http://www.zazzle.co.uk/christian+slogan+gifts

pilgrimpathways said...

You know, I keep remembering Gustavo Gutierrez saying that Western theology keeps trying to answer atheism and the challenge of unbelief. Liberation Theology, on the other hand, finds the challenge of non-personhood, of the way oppression robs people of their humanity, to be more central than the question of non-belief.

I still think the second challenge is more important.

nate kerr said...

Pilgrimpathways:

A propos to your comment, I have for some time been convinced that the real challenge facing theologians today (as always) is not so much atheism (unbelief) as opposed to theism (belief), so much as idolatry. Of course, it belongs to the long Judeo-Christian tradition to affirm that the human person is created for a priestly existence, that one's humanity is rooted in the praise of God. And according to at least one dominant strand of Hebrew thinking, what is so awfully tragic about death is that the dead cannot praise God. And so to speak with Gutierrez of the way in which "oppression robs people of their humanity" is to speak and to work against the ideological and idolatrous power structures that foreclose on the time and space of the freedom for praise that being human takes.

kim fabricius said...

Absolutely. The OT prophets see an intrinsic connection between idolatry and injustice (and violence). And the great atheists, the masters of suspicion - Nietzsche, Marx, Freud (who must turn in their graves at the vulgurisation of disbelief by the New Atheists, or, better, the New Sophists) - in turn perform a pedagogical, function, because the gods they attack, while idols, are often precisely the gods that Christians worship, and because they unmask the ideological distortions that impersonate faith.

J said...

Update: the OT prophets--assuming the greek Septuagint text, reportedly based on a collection of semitic myths (Hebrew not really a language until 4-5 centuries AD) is accurate--purportedly saw an intrinsic connection between idolatry and injustice ....

Erin said...

@PilgrimPathways: that is a wonderful quote, along with Sr. Kerr's description of idolatry.

Is there somewhere I could find/snag a citation or was it just in conversation?

dylan said...

Daniel V: Rowan Williams just gave a short talk on the subject of pluralism and christianity that is a quick worthwhile read on the subject:
http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2789

Anonymous said...

J.,
I get your point, but the content is off. You might want to consider the work of Seth Sanders on the origins of Hebrew. I'm pretty confident just about everyone in academia considers the origins of Hebrew to have come between the 11th-7th centuries BCE, with classical Hebrew surviving until Mishnaic Hebrew took prominence in 4th century CE and flourished for a few centuries. Any Hebraists out there to clarify more specifically?

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Why concern yourself with something so dreadfully dull as...evidentialism? Why, if it works--it works, brutthrr. Luther, Kalvin and Henry Kissinger agreee to that.

(that said, there's no other OT source 'cept for the LXX, which itself is...about akin to the Iliad, tho' sans the poetry)

Anonymous said...

Oh, are we talking about source texts now? Your previous comment didn't make that clear since you said (incorrectly) that Hebrew "not really a language until 4-5 centuries AD." Thus, my comment was to correct that statement and suggest an avenue for learning more.

As for evidentialism and the like, I could care less.

Anna M Blanch said...

My, haven't we all gotten way off topic.

Thanks for your article Ben, very thoughtful. I'm watching this one from afar, being out of Australia at present and i'm finding the media coverage fascinating.

I found this SMH article quite provocative:

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/blogs/godless-gross/atheism--a-fizzer-or-fantastic/20100311-pzwu.html

This goes to the discussion of the spectrum of atheism and evokes, at least for me, of some passages in the screwtape letters...that and it's well written, refreshing, and infused with a little humour to boot.

J said...

Hebrew..."not really a language until 4-5 centuries AD."

That's correct, in terms of a written alphabet, vocab., lexicon (then, all semitic alphabets ultimately derive from hieroglyphs). Aramaic was the dialect during JC era--tho' Koine greek was more prevalent, even among hellenized jews from 300 BC. JC and the apostles, assuming they existed, and had any schooling, spoke koine greek...

The semitic myths (ie, Old T.) were transmitted orally, with perhaps a few inscriptions here and there (most phoenician/punic)--the LXX was based on a collection, not any one authoritative text..... Most ortho-rabbis claim Moses lived probably during Ramses II (or, the legend stems from that time).

The Rig Veda precedes that by at least 1000 years...

Anonymous said...

J.,
I don't mean to be rude, but you should really ask someone who knows something about the subject before you pontificate. There was a written alphabet as early as the 11th century BCE. That's 15 centuries before your claim. It moved beyond pictographics during this time and there was clearly vocabulary which was similar to other Syro-Palestinian languages of the time. There is one (possible) inscription from the 11th century, more from the 9th-10th centuries (such as the famed Gezer calendar, written in an archaic Hebrew script, but clearly linguistic and no longer pictographic) and many, many inscriptions from the 8th-6th century on pottery, bowls, amulets, etc. Near the onset of the common era we even have Hebrew papyrii, such as the Nash Papyrus (150-100 CE) which quotes parts of Exodus.

As expected, your claim about the transmission of the OT and occasional writings in Phoenician/Punic form is also incorrect as that comes from a separate subgroup of ancient Canaanite, with Hebrew being much more similar in structure and form to Ammonite/Edomite. The majority of our BCE inscriptions are in Hebrew (both archaic and classical). By the time you claim that Hebrew came about "in terms of a written alphabet, vocabulary," etc. it had already been around for 1200-1400 years, showing up all across the archaeological record for the first millenium BCE, and thus when you claim it was just being invented, it was actually nearing the end of what Hebraists refer to as the classical period.

Again, I'd suggest you read the work of Seth Sanders ("The Invention of Hebrew") or an actual Hebraist instead of whatever source you've been reading...because frankly, whatever you're relying on for what you're relaying here is highly uninformed.

J said...

I'd suggest you read ...Ezra Pound.

A few phoenician-like inscriptions showing up on pots or a few clay tablets does not make a classical language. Greek's a classical language (as are latin and sanskrit). Hebrew wasn't a language. The early semitic tongue was canaan (also the name of what became "judah"). There were other semitic dialects--but that's the point. There's no central text, certainly no grammar.

The scribes of the LXX assembled a variety of texts, of various dialects. There were no hebrew letters--that was due to much later scholars, starting like 5th cent. AD. The christian AND jewish scribes all follow the LXX--there was NO other text, a point hebraists simply can't grasp.

Had the greeks not taken egypt, there would have been no "bible".

J said...

No, the Gezer-calendar's the usual zionist hype. It's just some goatherd's song for the harvest or something--in early phoenician forms (which the hype-meisters call proto-hebrew, when it's just...vaguely semitic). It has little or no relation to what became the LXX. "old testament" (or the "hebrew" created in middle ages)

Antonio Manetti said...

The fool says there is no God, and of course needs to be corrected, but what a mission field, these fools, and how much easier it is to raise in the heart of the athiest a God not of the idolatry of popular Christianity. We are all woeful sinners and ALL need to be engaged and have our sins corrected.

I've yet to see a thread on this issue that doesn't brandish that insult within the first few responses. It's a great way to shut down any thought that perhaps the atheists might have a point or two worth responding to.

As to a God not of the "idolatry of popular Christianity", you might start by convincing those Christians before you set out to reform the heathen athiests.

Anonymous said...

J.,
You continue to talk about LXX. That's irrelevant to the discussion as nobody other than yourself has even mentioned it. You mention Phoenician-like inscriptions, but nobody other than yourself is talking about those either, as classical Hebrew inscriptions are much more akin to Ammonite or Edomite. Please, if you continue to discuss things, stay focused on the topic of Hebrew. I could care less about apologetics, source texts or the other various tangents you are straying down. I've (tried) to talk about Hebrew, but since the discussion doesn't seem to be going anywhere, this will be my final comment.

You say, "A few phoenician-like inscriptions showing up on pots or a few clay tablets does not make a classical language." Agreed, but that's not what anyone is talking about. We're talking about hundreds of texts pre-dating the common era, with entire passages, songs, myths, etc.

Let's discuss the Nash Papyrii mentioned above. Since the early 19th century it has been dated to 150 BCE, see here: (http://lila.sns.it/mnamon/assets/img/ebraico/The_nash_papyrus.jpg). With a good quality picture, the text is easily discernible to anyone with more than two or three semesters of Masoretic Hebrew. The reading of the Decalogue (a mixture of that found in Exodus and Deuteronomy) follows the same phrasiology, using the same vocabulary, sentence structure, etc. as the Masoretic text. There is nothing pictographic about the text at this point (that aspect had disappeared nearly a millennia before). Furthermore, it's much more similar to Masoretic Hebrew than to even Aramaic.

Of course, we haven't even discussed the Dead Sea Scrolls, which includes hundreds of documents in Hebrew. From the DSS alone, one could write a Hebrew dictionary and grammar that would sufficiently guide a reader through the Masoretic texts that survive from 1000 years later. The Hebrew is virtually identical. But the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls predate your claims by hundreds of years.

I think these two illustrations alone (among many, many others) show that whatever information you are pandering is blatantly false. Your claims of "Hebrew...not really a language until 4-5 centuries AD," go directly against the evidence. These two illustrations show a Hebrew virtually identical in consonant shape, word order and yes, even grammar to the Hebrew that you claim was created in the "middle ages."

Continue to discuss LXX as long as you please, since nobody else has brought it up and you seem to enjoy the monologue, but please stop discussing Hebrew because you only serve to frustrate those actually studying the data on the ground.

J said...

Anny (and where's yr big theo-business site?), you simply don't understand the point, but yr feee-lings are hurt--. Truth often does that to dogmatists of whatever sort.

It's not blatantly false: it's just upsetting. The LXX was the central text--there were few changes to it in any copies (even St. Augustine had said that), and itself dubious (at least as history)--there were no other sources. A few potshards and clay tablets don't change that.

Many other creation myths predate the Garden of Eden myth (including, say, the Rig Veda, ie, the source of indo-euro syntax--the key point, since the semitic dialects (ORAL) had no syntax. They're akin to...hieroglyhs) That's been known for years--even most rational christians and jews admit it. Unfortunately the irrational ones don't.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's what syntax means

J said...

And the great atheists, the masters of suspicion - Nietzsche, Marx, Freud (who must turn in their graves at the vulgurisation of disbelief by the New Atheists, or, better, the New Sophists) - in turn perform a pedagogical function...

I agree with that mostly (tho' perhaps delete...Sigmund Fraud from the laundry list). Marx did not exactly bless Darwin or TH Huxley, Dawkins' spiritual, or non-spiritual mentor. Nietzsche also words for Darwinism, as applied to all human affairs.

Marx referred to religion as "the opiate of the masses, yet he did not thereby mean to dismiss it across the board--more' like for some of Les Mis (say in London's East end during Queen Vicky), that's about all they had, or something like that. Marx however had nothing but scorn for the clergy, aka the bureaucrats of judeo-christianity....

Jeff Crocombe said...

There is an interesting article on the relationship between Atheism & Christianity at the Huffington Post by Samir Selmanovic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samir-selmanovic/religion-needs-atheism_b_498051.html

Anonymous said...

Dan V,

I commend you on your earlier post and specifically you statement "this issue, whether the claims of a religion are ACTUALLY TRUE, is my concern."

This is True. The questions 'Does God Exist?' or 'Was Jesus God?' are not effected by the actions of individual Christians, Atheists either now or in history past. Christopher Hitchen's rhetoric in this regard is outstanding. He's very entertaining but ultimately he draws a lot of non-sequitors with respect to the above questions. I'm sure it does not bother him though, he enjoys a fine living he is making out of it the debate circuit, the docos etc.

You raised a question about the 'Theology of the Q'uran?' I encourage you to read more into Islam yourself. If you do, you would soon discover there is a significant deficit in Quaranic textual criticism. I have read about 5 Quaranic scholars who have tried to criticize the Quaran and have disappeared (you may be familiar with the outrage over a simple cartoon many years ago). Note however, it is a fact that Biblical textual criticism will not have the same consequences, otherwise many a liberal theologian, the likes of Bart Ehrman etc would no longer be around.

I would also commend you on the phrase "I'm asserting my non-belief".....for the specific 'assert'. 'Non Belief In God' is not the same as a 'No Belief In God'

For example, I have a 'Non-Belief' in who is the best Canadian Ice Hockey team. As I have no information upon which to form an opinion or make a contribution, it follows that I do not enter into discussions on the topic of who is the best ice hockey team in Canada.

This very message board is plainly an example of people with opposing views entering into discussions, trying to advance certain views by communicating their convictions, which are their beliefs about reality. People do not routinely write books or engage in discussions about ideas, topics that they have no view. Why enter a discussion if you have no true intent to communicate your ideas?

To suggest otherwise (and I'm sure some will) is sheer nonsense and to my mind just intellectual laziness. Atheists of the past were not characteristically as lazy.

This 'debate' could move along if Atheists of all persuasions would admit the conviction is that 'God does not exist'. While I recognise the logical difficulties with this statement, I know of know serious Atheist philosopher worth their weight who has any problem with this. Sadly, for the debate in general, many 'disciples' of the 'New Atheists' seem to be so enamored by the pop culture literary offerings from recent years, that I doubt they have ever read further, perhaps into the likes of Russell, Camus, Flew etc etc.

And before any Atheist decides to bite my head off before thinking about what I've said, I would class myself as Agnostic. Which I considered not mentioning, as it is irrelevant.

Dan V - so as you said, what's matters really is what is ACTUALLY TRUE. The Law of Logic, excluded middle, non-contradiction etc are there as a reminder that good arguments for a position or a conviction require some thought.

All the best.

John from Melbourne

J said...
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