Monday, January 31, 2011

The facile arguments of the converted atheist.

In my travels across these vast internets, I often tread in the murky apologetic waters of christian bloggers. They serve as a continual reminder that:
     1) Christians don't have any new arguments for their claims
     2) They are still going for the emotional appeal as a major way to convince others of their claims
     3) Even sites such as 'Conversion Diary' which claims to be from a former atheist turned christian, the major objections to the veracity of the christian claims are not addressed. Instead, straw men are erected in order to be burned down in a showy yet ultimately useless attempt to discredit the lack of belief.

One such post on the Conversion Diary blog had the following exerpt:

And then, of course, there’s our own sin. I know that in my own life and the lives of people I’ve talked to about this, some common sins that can turn honest doubts into a dangerous road away from God are:
  • Pride – e.g. associating lack of faith with the intelligentsia, therefore thinking you’re more sophisticated and erudite if you don’t believe; feeling like your life is 100% under your control and therefore God is irrelevant to you; refusing to see evidence for God if it doesn’t look like you would expect it to; etc.
  • Laziness - e.g. feeling lured by the idea of having free time on Sunday mornings; not wanting to sacrifice yourself for others; etc.
  • Desire for revenge – e.g. enjoying the idea that it would hurt family / community / church members who have harmed you if you announced that you were no longer a Christian.
  • Greed / Vanity: e.g. becoming wrapped up in the glamor of the pursuit of money, status, career advancement, etc. and feeling like the Christian faith is bogging you down.
…And so on.
Explore Your Doubts But Do So In Peace )

If you go to the comments section of that page you'll notice a comment I made which will be a summary of what I'm posting here.

What Jennifer has done is erect four arguments that have little to do with a lack of belief. She begins by listing four common 'sins' that turn honest doubts into roads away from god. Right off the bat she has disclosed that her analysis of this phenomenon of loss of faith will be derived from a Judeo-Christian Yahweh is real standpoint. Sin is an artificial construction by christians that imposes prohibitions on certain behaviors which may or may not have any bearing on rational thought out morality, they are in effect divine command ethics. Divine command ethics is no ethics at all, its just obedience to whatever authority you prefer to subjugate yourself to. The rest of this paragraph presupposes a deity, and is therefore fails to address the issues with the christian faith system that cause so many to leave.

Pride: Assosciating lack of faith with the intelligentsia is a valid thing, take a look at the statistics on members of the Academy of Sciences in the US and in London and you will find an acute dearth of theists. Other studies show strong correlations between IQ (yes yes, a terrible measurement but an approximation nonetheless) and a lack of belief. The second part of this 'sin' has the cart before the horse. It is not thinking that we are more sophisticated and erudite that makes us nonbelievers, it is being nonbelievers that makes us more sophisticated, more erudite, and more thoughtful and methodical about the claims that christianity purveys to those without skepticism.

Laziness: The claim that a lack of belief stems from wanting more time for yourself and being selfish is fucking childish. If we are going to discuss laziness, and in particular intellectual laziness, it is the abrogation of our human faculties for critical thinking, reason and logic in the theists that displays the most gargantuan amount of slothful and lazy thinking.

Desire for Revenge: This comes back to the idea that many believers cannot accept atheism, and will often claim that we are all 'secret christians'. While this third item does not explicitly say so, it does imply that the person doesn't actually lack belief, but that they are simply stating non-belief for the purpose of inciting anger against perceived or real injustices. I'm unsure how this is a dangerous road away from god because the person in question isn't actually atheistic, they're just saying they are.

An excerpt from further on in the post:
That really DOES seem kind of fantastical!” I grumbled. My mind quickly trotted out some of the old, comfortable atheist arguments about how that kind of story was rooted in ancient people’s ignorance about meteorology, when they thought that heaven literally existed in the clouds, and that it was ultimately a retelling of Greek traditions about Zeus, the God of the Sky.
And there was more! Now, I was on a roll. I did the same analysis for the few other doctrines I had questions about, and by the time the Mass was over I had worked myself into a tizzy in which I had pretty much convinced myself that the entire Faith was false.
But here’s the thing: I had thought of all these questions plenty of other times, when I was in a peaceful state. I had taken the time to do my homework and seek — and actuallylisten to – the Christian explanations of these teachings, and I found them to be solid. Not only that, but I was able to see the big picture: the overall evidence had convinced me that this belief system is reasonable and true. There were no fatal flaws that I could find. Sure, there were a few things that struck me as odd, like the specific details of how Jesus returned to heaven, but, in a peaceful state of mind, I could recognize that this was not a linchpin on which the Faith hinged — plus, I could see that maybe I was just missing something.
 Yes! You're on the right track! . . . No! . . . What?

This poster would have you believe that details are irrelevant, and the 'big picture' is what you need to focus on. Apparently in this excited state she would be unable to truly listen to apologetics. Never does she say what about them she found to be solid, or what this 'overall evidence' is that convinced her that the belief system is reasonable and true (Are you fucking serious? What big picture are you even looking at?) No fatal flaws that she could find means only that she was not looking hard enough, evidenced by her focus on 'big picture' instead of 'actual facts'.

So ultimately, the solution to nagging doubts about your faith is not to pursue them relentlessly such as is suggested in the top of the article, but is actually to whisk them away with Occam's Broom. Just say its not the lynchpin of your faith, just say that maybe its you not the lack of evidence, maybe its your own inability to construe four thousand year old desert goat herder's fables into something resembling coherence that is causing you to doubt these things. But don't worry about it, just take about fifty steps back, blur your vision and that nice fuzzy picture you get is obviously true. Because it feels good.


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