What Are We So Afraid Of?

WIFE posted a great blog about the issue of separation of church and state, including the common belief that our founding fathers were deists. You can check it out here — and please do, because it is pretty powerful and enlightening, and it may provide an argument for you against the similar people in your life.

Here’s the URL in case you couldn’t click on the above link: http://hosannasmom.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/what-are-we-so-afraid-of/

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I wanted to pop by and let you know that several of my responses to your posts over at Theologigal were removed… I assume because they dealt more with your comments and the issues raised within than the original post. There was nothing offensive or rude in any my responses but it bothers me when my comments are screened so closely and severely compared to others who are more supportive of the poster’s opinion. And for good reason:

    One thing I have figured out is that I learn almost nothing (usually nothing worthwhile) from someone who is in full agreement with my opinion; I learn the most from those who disagree and do so in an explanatory way. So when I disagree, I usually do so with an explanation why… not to belittle or condemn but to show reasons for that I think are better informed than the reasons against. Should my opinions come up against reasons that are better informed than my own, I have the freedom to change my mind!

    I commented over at the link and am always surprised and disturbed how so many of your fellow citizens threaten hard won liberties for the sake of religious convenience so I am afraid I took her to task for her intellectual sloppiness. It’s not personal: it’s academic.

    Reply

    • Hi tildeb,

      I appreciate your candor. I think the way we learn things from each other is with good and hard-fought debate. I’m sorry if you had any impression that it turned negatively on my part. I have absolutely nothing against you as a person, and I sincerely hope that I in no way caused you to think worse about Christians as a result.

      I agree that differing opinions spark interesting discussion and help us learn all the more. I have to admit I had not heard of Methodological Naturalism until you used it in your reply. I’m glad you brought that to my attention, even though I still disagree with it. 🙂

      My only hope is that from all of this you take away the impression that with those Christians serious about belief, our minds are already made up. I know that may seem narrow-minded or short-sighted, but when you already have the best thing available, you really have no reason to look for anything better. I realize that we both feel like we come from an argumentatively superior viewpoint, so we’ll be best left if we agree to disagree. But I appreciate your respect in not letting this turn petty or childish. Hopefully more interesting discussion will occur as a result (although we probably won’t agree then either 🙂 ).

      One more thought that I’m curious to get your opinion on. My pastor had an interesting quote that I’ve never heard a response about. He said, “Without God there would be no atheists. Not from a creation standpoint, but if there was no God there would be nothing for them to not believe in.” Thoughts?

      In Christ,
      Sabepas Hubbo

      Reply

  2. I had no such negative impressions from what you wrote: I think you are heartfelt in your beliefs. I also think you have not been exposed to good and substantive counter-arguments to those which you have been exposed… and that’s a shame. It’s a shame because, although you have every right to believe whatever you wish, to do so with a real sense of choice means having been exposed and given full consideration to views counter to those beliefs. And this is exactly what the New Atheists are all about: presenting the strongest possible case why religious belief should not be granted any consideration from legitimate criticism. In fact, legitimate and sustained public criticism is exactly what religious belief needs to counter millennia of privileged status. Of course, any criticism is usually labeled as strident, militant, arrogant, and so on, which usually includes some sense that to do so is immoral and/or impolite without ever fully appreciating how ubiquitous is the imposition of religious belief throughout our society. In specific cases like creationism in science class, re-writing curriculum to favour a religious mindset, political influence to support religious belief over and above human rights and dignity of personhood like Prop 8 and abstinence and stem cell research, and abortion funding in health care, evangelical christianity in the military, and so on, the religious underpinning of public policy is a growing concern in desperate need of open debate and legitimate criticism. But the most important element in this debate why religion must be kept only as private matter and out of the public domain altogether has to do with appreciating why science and religious belief are incompatible ways of knowing. If you have the intellectual courage to delve into knowing more about the atheist side of these issues, then I will be your friendly neighbourhood non believer. I have no desire to convert you, but every desire for you to support the return of religious belief into the private domain where it properly belongs.

    To answer your query about what your pastor said, let me ask you a question: do you believe in unicorns? I’m not being facetious. I assume you don’t. Atheism means primarily non belief specifically to the root of the word: theism, meaning a specific supernatural deity or deities. New Atheists have expanded the notion that it means non belief in anything attributed to the supernatural generally. If you claimed to be an atheist about unicorns, people would understand it to mean you did not believe in the existence of unicorns. Without unicorns, then, how much sense does it make to you if someone said that you would not be an atheist if there were no unicorns?

    There is an ongoing issue in the atheist community that the word itself is unnecessary. The argument is that a description based on the absence of something implies a more and less consideration that is unjustified: someone with an unjustified belief that pixies live in the garden does not have something ‘more’ than a person who rejects that belief, so to describe you, for example, as a non believer in unicorns makes little sense if unicorns aren’t real. But because belief in this supernatural agency called ‘god’ is so widespread, it does make some sense (to me, at least) to differentiate on this basis.

    So, yeah, without unicorns there be no atheists. Without belief in supernatural pixies, there would be no atheists. Without belief in supernatural demons and devils, there would be no atheists.Without belief in supernatural abilities like ESP and telekinesis, there would be no atheists. Without belief in supernatural gods and god there would be no atheists. Without any claims of belief in the supernatural, there would be no atheists. There would be no need to describe people who do NOT believe in something supernatural if that something were not believed in. It is BELIEF in god that is the opposite of atheism – meaning primarily non belief – not god alone as your pastor has suggested.

    How do you manage to not believe in a pink invisible elephant living in your bathtub? Exactly the same way I am able to not believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, benevolent, supernatural, interventionist, tripartite, creator god.

    Belief itself does not determine what’s true; something more is needed. In religion, it’s called faith – a suspension of the usual rules about evidence and sound reasons to think something is so. In science, it’s called evidence. In philosophy, it’s called deductive and inductive reasoning. In math, it’s called proof, and so on. We don’t believe stuff just because… so in this sense all of us are atheists unless and until something more is provided. Without belief in god, in other words, simply more of would be complete atheists rather than the 100% of us who are at least partly atheists about almost all supernatural claims except the ones we like.

    Reply

    • Tildeb,

      I do not feel like I have lived a life completely oblivious to the counter-arguments to Christianity. For you to suggest such would be similar to me suggesting that you have not been exposed to the strongest arguments for Christianity. While I believe this to be the case, to suggest this as reasonable would be an outlandish statement, given that I don’t know you personally and have no clue as to your upbringing or educational background. Please don’t make inflammatory statements about what is or isn’t a shame based on your limited knowledge of me.

      In specific cases like creationism in science class, re-writing curriculum to favour a religious mindset, political influence to support religious belief over and above human rights and dignity of personhood like Prop 8 and abstinence and stem cell research, and abortion funding in health care, evangelical christianity in the military, and so on, the religious underpinning of public policy is a growing concern in desperate need of open debate and legitimate criticism. To respond to the first part of this argument, perhaps you need to look back at history to refute your own statement. Textbooks were re-written in order to include evolution, since textbooks were in fact around pre-dating Darwin’s proposition of spontaneous generation, which has still not been substantiated with hard and fast evidence. You don’t seem to have a problem with this re-writing since previously we discussed that your argument for this is “most people agree”, so the only reason you have to dislike intelligent design being proffered in schools is that it doesn’t jibe with your “belief.” Keep in mind that we’re not asking for favoritism of intelligent design (as you are asking for favoritism toward evolution by asking that intelligent design remain excluded); we are simply asking for it to be taught side-by-side with no biases and let people choose for themselves. Surely you shouldn’t have a problem with the strongest possible case why evolution should not be granted consideration from legitimate criticism, since your whole point of coming and posting on my blog was to provide alternative viewpoints. You can’t ask for your viewpoint to be heard and for the alternative be squashed and not consider your rational hypocrisy.

      As to your back-up points about stem cell research, abortion, etc., these are issues about morality, not religion. Your attempt to link the two is a bit short-sighted, since non-religious people can also be pro-life and feel strongly against stem cell research. You must understand this as a moral issue, in which case you must ask where the basis for morality comes from. I assume (perhaps wrongly so, since again I don’t know you personally) that you subscribe to the idea of moral relativism, but since morality is inherent in that, you have to ask yourself who gave us the innate concept that there are things that are right and things that are wrong.

      In regards to your argument about theism, if you are going to say atheism is “non-belief,” then you have to allow me to qualify what theism is. The true definition of theism is the belief that there is a God that is both transcendent of the world and immanent in the world. Therefore belief in things like supernatural pixies, ESP and telekinesis are not relevant arguments about theism. Current systems that subscribe to theism are Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Other such arguments that you offer are either under the banner of one of these points (such as the existence of demons under the Christian banner) or have a counterargument to theism (pixies being immanent but not transcendent).

      I think what my ultimate issue with your arguments is that you assume that the smarter person (which of course you believe to be you) presents the better criticism. I submit to you that Christians never claim to be smarter than anybody else. We don’t feel like we’ve unlocked some secret similar to those who were responsible for the “Age of Enlightenment.” We feel like we’ve found something that is supported by archaeology, supported by text and corroborated by historical testimony. It doesn’t make us smarter; in fact, when you come face-to-face with the reality of who God is, it makes you feel pretty piddling and insignificant. To suggest that intelligence is the only basis for reasonable arguments is to make a mis-conception about what Christians are defending in the first place.

      Finally, I saw that you decided to post on WIFE’s blog about separation of church and state. Your highly inflammatory and somewhat baseless arguments over there disappointed me based as much as your condescending and rude tone. As much as you like to say you are not trolling, your actions prove otherwise. Therefore I am going to have to take the same stance as WIFE and let you know that further inflammatory, condescending and rude posts of yours will not remain on this blog.

      Reply

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