Saturday, February 04, 2006

Oreo atheism: atheism on the outside, theism on the inside

“If I were a pantheist I could say that you are a sleeping god. Deep down you know you're god, you just won't acknowledge it. I could argue that you are not being intellectual honest with yourself if you didn't espouse pantheism.

Let's say I pointed this out to you. What would you make of it? Probably nothing. You know you're not a pantheist (presuming you aren't). That's all you can say.

So what difference does it make to argue the way I see Christians argue when they say there is no atheist? Nothing. It has no more force to atheists as my aforementioned pantheist argument has on you.

It's a waste of bytes. It doesn't solve anything. It's a silly claim. This is merely a theological discussion between theists and has no business being any apologetical tool with atheists like myself.

See my blog for more Scroll down to read the first few posts and comments.

# posted by John W. Loftus : 2/04/2006 11:00 AM”

Up to a point, I agree with Loftus. Psychoanalyzing the unbeliever is not necessarily the most efficient use of our time.

However, I also drew some distinctions which he has chosen to ignore. There is a difference between mass apologetics, in which we stay on the abstract plane of pure reason and evidence and the rules of evidence—a difference between that and personal evangelism.

There is more to the unbeliever than a dehydrated argument for atheism. An unbeliever is a real live person, with an emotional make up, individual experience, and a set of motivations.

If I happen to know this individual, if I know what makes him tick, then that ought to affect the way I reason with him.

As to his hyperlink, I assume that Loftus is alluding to his tongue-in-cheek letter, in which he has the correspondent say things like:

“You think you believe but you really don't. You see, your behavior itself tells on you. You don't live every waking hour of every day the way you would if you truly believed. I don't even have to know you, but if you're a man you probably peek at pornography on the web--say it isn't so? You don't give your money to Christian causes like you would if you truly believed. You don't pray enough. You don't read the Bible like you should, or evangelize as you should. You're not truly grateful for the purported sacrifice Jesus made for you that saved you from hell. Nor do you really care about the fate of unbelievers who are heading to hell. If you truly believed unbelievers will be eternally punished for their unbelief then your whole life would be radically different. So your behavior tells on you. You do not believe. Underneath all of the protestations to the contray you simply do not believe. You are in denial. You deny that you are an atheist.

You probably have someone in your life that rubs you wrong—a relative?—that you simply cannot forgive, and you may even dislike someone to the point where you may even hate them. Some Christians are even having extra-marital affairs right now, or they are pilfering from the church treasury, or beating their wives. Are you? You have guilt running through your veins for all of this and yet you claim that you stand forgiven in the eyes of God—is that not a contradiction?”

As well as Loftus’ follow-up comment.

“Paul, Paul, Paul. I never thought I could prove my case against there not being any Christians, precisely because Christians have ways of explaining why they don't always act consistent with their beliefs.”

But this is a very poor exercise in reverse reasoning. It confuses Christian theology with Christian ethics.

A Christian is a sinner. This is unethical. Immoral. Whenever he sins, his sin is inconsistent with his value system.

It is not, however, inconsistent with Christian theology. To the contrary, it is not only consistent with Christian theology, but predicted by Christian theology.

For, according to Christian theology, a Christian is still a sinner. What makes him a sinner is a relation between two propositions:

i) He has a standard of conduct (the law of God);
ii) He has fallen short (he is a law-breaker).

Loftus then attempts to preempt this objection by claiming that “Christians have ways of explaining why they don't always act consistent with their beliefs.”

But this move won’t work on a couple of grounds:

i) Inconsistent with what beliefs? Their conduct may be inconsistent with what they believe is right. But it is not inconsistent with what they believe is true concerning their fallen condition and desperate need of God’s daily grace in their lives.

Indeed, they couldn’t be Christian in the first place without this self-recognition and acute realization of the unbridgeable chasm between what they are and what they ought to be.

ii) There’s a difference between ad hoc explanations and systemic explanations. Appeal to original sin is not some ploy which the Christian apologist improvises on the spot to get out of a logical bind.

1 comment:

  1. and along that line of analysis: I have a colleague who is a real devout atheist. Some years ago he paid several hundred dollars to purchase a mulitivolume set of Bible commentary(from a pro theist group of editors).I perused his office one day and I saw he has spent nie on thousands of dollars on books about the Bible and Christianity. And he is not a religion or ethics professor. You know, I just can't say it rings true with me that he doesn't have a deep nagging anxiety about the existence of God. Sometimes, the proof of the pudding is in the actual eating of it. One certainly has to wonder about all these atheists who spend the lion's share of their time 24/7 on the internet fighting against christianity. worried,are they??