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"Logical" Reasons for Leaving Christianity, part I

The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees featured a video that it touted as giving “logical” reasons for leaving Christianity. So I thought I’d take a look at it.
http://www.youtube.com/v/fX1CxxmA5R8&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1
There are numerous problems with this video, not the least of which being that these arguments have been handled before. This guy, who goes by Don Exodus, show no realization that all of his arguments are old, tired, and refuted. In other words, he is looking only at the atheist side of things and not interacting with theist arguments. Confirmation bias at work.
Let’s see what we’ve got here. First, he claims to have gone to Christian school up until college, and he studied theology. But then he claims never to have been very religious. I don’t know what do with this comment. I’m not sure how much theology he has studied (it couldn’t have been very deep, if he is now an atheist using the types of arguments that he is). But, I don’t know many people who are, as he says, “not very religious” that have studied theology. Maybe he hasn’t studied it in detail, and only knows the basics. That will be my working theory with his theological knowledge.

Next, he says that he disagrees with the fact that in America, a person is considered a Christian until something happens otherwise. He thinks that Americans should remain atheists and allowed to choose a religion after examining the necessary evidence. After all, he reasons, that’s how everything else is done. This, of course, assumes that there is no good evidence for God or for religion, as does some additional statements he makes below. I’ll return to this idea in a minute.

After studying evolution extensively, he wanted to find out how the creationist mind thinks. So he spent some time arguing on creationist websites, and testifies to being “horrified” at the arguments that they use. Clearly, they don’t understand evolution. The fact that he was appalled by this led him to distance himself from creationism and re-examine his religious beliefs.

This is where I think that the crux of the problem lies, and this is where the confirmation bias comes in. He wants to jettison everything about creationism, and this includes (for him, at least) his religious beliefs. We have a visceral reaction to something, and that is what starts the dominoes falling toward atheism. Again, we have confirmation of my personal theory that atheism is not a logical conclusion, but an emotional one. To that end, he stresses that, were it not for his interaction with creationists, he would never have thought about his religious beliefs in this way.

He then discusses the null hypothesis. As applied to religion, it  means that we should default to atheism and require the religious person to provide evidence for God. The standard conception of God is that he exists outside of nature and influences natural phenomena (i.e. nature is his servant). What sort of evidence are we looking for here? If God exists completely apart from nature, then we couldn’t find evidence of him within the system.

It’s like asking for wet evidence of a dry being. It can’t be done.
Instead, we can logically argue that, since the universe exists, and life within that universe, that something actually set this in motion, and ordered it to create intelligent life. Nowhere in nature do we see order built out of chaos. Nowhere in nature do we see intelligence emerging where there previously was none. Therefore, whatever caused the universe to appear and life to emerge on earth must be outside of nature. What sort of evidence are we expecting to find within nature?

This also partially covers his next objection to the ability to find a natural explanation of mysterious phenomena. In almost every case, humans have been able to ascertain a natural explanation for things through the use of science. Again, considering that God has ordered nature and decreed its movements to his own ends and purpose, one has to wonder what sort of supernatural explanation would even exist.

It’s probably worth mentioning that some Christians don’t believe in the category of “supernatural.” God is outside of nature, but uses nature as his servant to achieve his desired outcomes. He seldom reaches a divine hand into the machine and just does something ex nihilio. There are only a very few times in the Bible where God actually does that: the creation event itself, the protection of the three loyal Israelites in the book of Daniel, the abundant miracles of Christ, the signs and wonders that accompanied his apostles.

Even supposedly “supernatural” events are described by the Bible as natural. Many suspect that an impending volcanic eruption caused all of the plagues described in the book of Exodus–perhaps the only plague defying explanation was the death of all the first born sons. The Flood was described as natural, with erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, water bubbling up out of springs and caves below the earth, and heavy rains. “Supernatural” is a category that doesn’t exist. Therefore, we can expect to find natural explanations behind alleged miracles without diminishing the need for God.

Then Don outlines the Kalaam cosmological argument for God’s existence. His predictable objection is to simply ask, “What created God?” The fact that God exists eternally is the answer: he has no need of a creator since there was never a time when he didn’t exist. So Don says to just “be consistent.” Why couldn’t the universe have always existed, by that model?

Fair question. If the singularity that resulted in the Big Bang did simply always exist, then is there a reason that the universe could have become what it is without a creator? Nope. If the singularity exists with nothing external to it–not time, nor space, nor other matter, nor even energy–what, then, caused the Big Bang? Nothing material exists without a cause. Even if you back up to the precise moment of the Big Bang, and nothing exists apart from that singularity, then nothing could have caused it to explode and thus begin the universe as we understand it to exist. Here, you fall prey to natural law again. Inertia is a b****. That means that the cause of the universe is external to the universe itself–back to God.

Next, Don quotes Christopher Hitchens. The fact that Don is in agreement with calling Jesus a “human sacrifice” is proof enough that he hasn’t studied his theology very effectively when he was younger. Also, who says that heaven sat around for 98,000 years and took no action? The Bible doesn’t back that theory, as there are numerous accounts of what God has done for his people, listed in the introductory chapters of Deuteronomy and narrated to us in Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers.

That’s just the first few books of the Bible. The case for God interacting in human history becomes even stronger as one reads further.

After that, Don tips his hand and reveals that his reasons for de-converting are emotional. He starts talking about how many infants that God has killed. I would like to believe that infants are automatically going to heaven, but I know that the biblical basis for that is lacking. It seems that infants join the damned in hell, by virtue of original sin alone. However, let’s remember that God is a righteous judge who shows no partiality, so whatever the fate of the infant, we can rest assured that it is perfectly fair and just. So this is nothing more than a visceral reaction to something in religion that Don finds unpleasant.

Next, Don details how he doesn’t believe that an omniscient God would have ever sent the Flood, or be grieved to have made humanity. An omniscient God would have gotten this right the first time, he reasons. Whenever I hear something like this, I always wonder, given that humans are not omniscient, what is the basis for making this claim? Don isn’t omniscient, and therefore unable to say, “If I were omniscient, I’d do this” authoritatively. He could easily change his mind upon getting more information–e.g., if he actually became omniscient.

Finally, Don asks the hypothetical question: “If you were dressed in a flame resistant suit (up to 3000 degrees) and armed with the latest model fire extinguisher, and you come home to find your neighbor’s house on fire, and you stand by and watch the family perish, which of the following describes your behavior: (a) All-powerful; (b) All-knowing; (c) All-loving; or (d) Mysterious.”

This is touching close to the atheist mindset I frequently encounter. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenovolent, then he should take care of all of our problems: there should be no starving children in Africa, there should be no crime, etc.

These problems, however, are generally caused by human beings exercising their free will, which is thoroughly tainted by sin. Why should God clean up our problems? What is wrong with expecting us to keep our own house in order?

I have two kids, and I have certain expectations of both of them. Obviously, I can do everything for them with no problem. I can clean up the mess that Ashleigh makes in the living room, I can read her books, and in the future, I can do her math homework. But why would I do that? How is she ever going to learn to do the right thing if I’m constantly cleaning up her messes and doing her homework assignments?

The crises that occur here on earth are God’s design and they are meant to teach us important lessons. Some of them we learn, and others we fail miserably. Each evil is an opportunity to do good, and sometimes we exercise that ability, while other times we do not. There is enough food to feed the hungry, but it never gets to the hungry. I’ve worked food service for a number of years, and I can attest to the amount of food that Americans just throw away, sometimes for no other reason than the customer doesn’t like the way the food looks and wants the restaurant to make it over again. What a waste. Why is that God’s problem? It isn’t–it’s our problem! We should fix it rather than rely on God to do everything for us.

Looking forward to part 2.

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Does the Lunacy of WWGHA Ever End????

The lunacy of the twin websites Why Won’t God Heal Amputees and God is Imaginary never seems to end. In drafting my answers to their issues regarding God’s plan (there’s a video, a chapter of WWGHA, and a proof on GII), I discovered an unpublicized page of WWGHA. It reads:

Therefore, here is an open challenge to James Dobson, Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, George W. Bush, Antonin Scalia and other prominent leaders in the Christian community:

Appear with me on national TV to read the Bible.

It is that simple. This will be a tremendous opportunity for you to spread the power of God’s word directly to the nation. The Bible is the book that contains the Ten Commandments, the revelation that Jesus is our resurrected savior and the story of our creation. This is God’s holy word to his children. You will simply read aloud from this sacred text. I ask only one thing: Allow me to choose the verses that you will read.

I will not interrupt you or provide any commentary during your reading, nor will you. We will simply allow God to speak for himself through his holy scriptures.

Interesting. It becomes clear what our anonymous friend is up to when he states that he is going to pick the verses. And, in case the naive reader still hasn’t figured out what he’s up to, this should make his agenda very clear:

The problem with the Bible is simple. What God says in the Bible is, in many places, quite offensive to us. As soon as we read the offensive parts of the Bible in public, we all realize that the Bible has serious problems and should have no place in our society.

This is a seriously flawed argument. The problems that would result if this argument were applied consistently throughout society should be obvious. Free speech would be out the window, because we would no longer be allowed to offend anyone. No one who offends people should have a place in society according to the author of Why Won’t God Heal Amputees!

The second problem is defining offensive. My mother-in-law hates the Harry Potter series. She once flew into a rage at the mere mention of J.K. Rowling, and confirmed hating Rowling as the “logical” extension of hating Harry Potter.

I’m a Christian, and I love Christ as much as she does. Harry Potter doesn’t offend me. I’ve read and enjoyed the series, and I like the majority of the movies (#3 and #6, despite being the cream of the crop for the books, were the worst movies). So, my mother-in-law is offended by the Harry Potter series, while I am not. Which one of us is right?

What about Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series? I was hooked on that series from page one of The Golden Compass, and quickly purchased the remaining two before I was halfway through that book so that there would be no interruption in reading the series. It is perhaps my favorite trilogy of all time, and I’m sorely upset that the proposed movie series was a dud.

The books declare that the universe winked into existence from nothing-nothing (H/T to Francis Schaeffer for that term); that “God” was really just the first angel (perhaps a corruption of Col 1:15?), claiming to the inhabitants of the randomly-formed universe that he created them; that “God” is evil and Satan is good, since Satan is fighting for freedom from divine subjugation; and The Amber Spyglass features the death of “God” and the success of Lord Asriel’s rebellion, the purpose of which was to destroy God and set up a new heaven. Should I be offended by this, given that it is the complete antithesis of what I believe?

Many Christians are offended by those books. But I happen to love the series and plan to reread it someday–and I never reread books. I hate rereading and never do it unless the book is beyond awesome. The only other book I have ever deemed worthy of rereading is The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I have read three times already and likely will read again someday.

Who’s going to decide if I’m right to love His Dark Materials? Who’s going to decide if my mother-in-law is right in deriding Harry Potter?

Who decides what is offensive and therefore has no place in civilized society?

The critic may retort that we just know without the need to rely on an outside judge. Really? Well, under an atheistic worldview, there is no ought; only what is. Admitting that we will just know that the Bible (or anything else, for that matter) is offensive presupposes an objective moral standard which binds us all to certain sensibilities. Such a thing is a natural consequence of the theistic viewpoint, but is a serious obstacle to pure naturalism–which the atheist often argues. To argue that society will just know that the Bible is offensive presupposes theism and works against atheism.

Without presupposing an objective moral standard, it is impossible to appropriately define offensive. Therefore, this challenge is based on seriously faulty grounds, and should be dismissed.

Blog for WWGH Summed Up in the Comments Section

The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees has a post on the declining condition of Evangelical Christianity here. As of this writing, there are three comments that sum the entire blog up perfectly.

First, from Burebiesta:

Got admit American Christianity is not well in America. Just like the Hebrews in the OT, when things went well they turned there back on God. America is doing the same.

Anne Rice did not turn her back on Christ, she denounced all the false Christianity which is wise. being aware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The Tea party bomb is just a delusion. No evidence there but when you can’t beat their arguments drop the race card on them. A favorite of the real racist that make up the Black caucus and the Black panthers which as we all know are components of the DNC.

It is a good idea to read the links since our moderator really likes to twist his posts to the point of a pretzel.

Next, from A Christian Guy:

As far as Rational thinking goes, this video is far from it. Every verse and quotation from the bible was taken extremely out of context.

“Our moderator really likes to twist his posts to the points of a pretzel.”

Completely so.

Finally, from Charles:

CG,

If you think that video is twisted visit the godisimiginary sister site. I can’t believe anyone takes any of it seriously but some like to reference it.

Agree, agree, agree. The video in question, “Why Does Every Intelligent Christian Disobey Jesus,” had to be one of the most egregious examples of strawman argumentation ever constructed! Though it scarcely needed a response (intelligent people would see it for the steaming pile of excrement that it is), I did reply here.

The 3 Bonus Sections are Up!

Last year, I was surprised to find that God is Imaginary added three proofs as a bonus. I was able to write answers for all of them in about a day.

As I had suspected, it was very easy to update those bonus sections. Since I had written only about a year ago, they reflect my current theological understandings more than many of the other proofs. They had no comments from skeptic readers that were worth addressing, so they required very little rewriting.

They are now up for your perusal, with comments enabled at the bottom:

Blog for WWGHA Lauds Ann Rice for Renouncing Christianity

After writing some pro-Christian works, such as Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, acclaimed author Anne Rice made the following announcement on her Facebook page: 

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

Followed closely by: 

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Well, I have a few reactions. First and foremost, I don’t know why the Blog for WhyWhyWon’tGodHealAmputees is touting this as some sort of victory for reason. This isn’t a victory, though Thomas thinks it could turn into one. Anne Rice still considers herself committed to Christ, she is just hesitant to align herself with Christianity because it espouses doctrines which she finds morally reprehensible.


On that note, we have to understand that faith in Christ is the only requirement for salvation. So this post is not an attempt to question Anne Rice’s salvation. If she still has faith in Christ, then there is still hope that God will deliver her from her serious misunderstanding that these “morally reprehensible” doctrines are that. In other words, the witness of the Holy Spirit can show her the error of her thinking, and she will be able to repent and remain in humble obedience to God.


Building on that foundation, we also have to understand that orthodoxy (right belief) leads to orthopraxy (right practice). Anne Rice is not orthodox if she fails to submit to the teachings of Scripture regarding homosexuality, the functional subordination of women in the church, and ethics and epistemology. If she isn’t orthodox, then her pattern of thinking is in rebellion to God, and therefore actions stemming from those incorrect thought patterns, will also be contrary to God (i.e. sin). I’ve written on the importance of matters of heart on my main blog, here, with a long list of proofs from Scripture.


That said, Anne Rice is putting herself on the wrong side of James 1:22. She’s currently a hearer, not a doer, and therefore deceiving herself. I don’t question her salvation, but her diligence in sanctification (2 Pet 1:3-11).

Answering the "Hitchslap"

I’m late to the party. This video was posted June 27, 2010, and was featured on The Blog for WhyWon’tGodHealAmputees on June 30. I’m just now getting around to my planned answer to the video. Nothing like moving quickly to respond!

http://www.youtube.com/v/BEqJAKliQG8&hl=en_US&fs=1

This video, titled “Hitchslap13: Christianity is a Sick Death Cult,” features four excerpted statements from a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Allister McGrath. I’m not sure of the date this took place. I would love to see McGrath’s responses, but I doubt that the atheist who posted this video even listened to what McGrath had to say. Let’s examine each of Hitchens’s claims.

First, is the doctrine of vicarious atonement moral? Hitchens says that there are two implications. The first implication is that vicarious atonement erases the notion of personal responsibility for one’s own sins. Secondly, all people share responsibility for the death of Christ, which confirms original sin.

Vicarious atonement is a complex doctrine, and J.P. Holding offers a definition and defense of it here. Briefly, Jesus has taken the punishment meant for us, and acts as a broker for those who wish to enter into a covenant with God. Bearing that in mind, a person should behave accordingly (see Eph 4:1-3; 1 The 2:9-12; and 2 The 1:11-12). Those that don’t probably haven’t really accepted the gift.

As to its morality, Glenn Miller discusses that here.

Responding to the second allegation is tough, because Hitchens is vague about it. He seems to be saying that all of mankind played a role in the crucifixion. He may be misunderstanding what the apostle Paul is writing in the book of Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Paul isn’t saying that all of mankind is responsible for the crucifixion of Christ; rather, he is saying that his sins have been put on the cross with Christ, and Paul has died to those sins. If Hithcens meant something else, someone please enlighten me in the comments.

Second, the former Bishop of Carlisle, Graham Dow, said in 2007 that the floods in Yorkshire, England were God’s punishment for homosexuality. While I agree in spirit with Hitchens’s assessment that connecting meteorology and morality is idiotic, I think that Hitchens (like most atheists) have no idea as to just how serious sin really is.

Based on Jesus’ response to critics regarding the fall of the Tower of Siloam (Lk 13:1-5), I don’t think it is for us to try to understand why tragedy occurs. Instead, I think that we should follow Jesus’ instructions and realize that all of us are sinners, none worse than any other, and repent. Trying to assign transcendental meaning to mere accidents (like flash flooding from bad weather), while it might be somewhat comforting, all we end up doing is judging the sin of others and fail to look at ourselves.

What Hitchens (like most atheists) is completely glossing over is the notion of sin in the first place. Francis Schaeffer notes, “I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did.” This is especially true of atheists, who fervently deny the existence of sin. Many, even Christians, think of sin as merely an annoyance. Sin, however, represents not only disobedience to God, but the corruption of our own formerly good natures as well as all of creation itself.

The nature of sin is summed up in this brief article. John MacArthur exhorts us to understand the Fall of man described in Genesis 3, for:

All the problems in the universe…physical problems, spiritual problems, moral problems, social problems, economic problems, political problems…all the problems in the universe have their origin in the events of this historic account. This Chapter, then, is the foundation of any true and accurate world view. And without this foundation, every and any world view is utterly wrong. If you do not understand the origin of sin and its impact based on Genesis Chapter 3, then your understanding of the world is wrong. Everything then is misunderstood; everything is misevaluated; everything is misread; everything is misdiagnosed, and hopelessly incurable.

This article is in two parts, beginning here. It is foundational to any worldview to understand sin. Generically, sin separates us from the good. Instinctively, humans know that we aren’t morally perfect. We have this conception of the good, and we would like to strive for it. But, we don’t. None of us do. We all know this.

The solution of many is to trivialize the idea of sin. Everyone does it, right? But that isn’t the correct solution to the problem. 

Third, Geoffery Fisher (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1945 to 1961) said that nuclear war would hasten our transition into a more blessed state. Hitchens, somewhat correctly, then elucidates that all religions wish for the end of this life and to transition into the next one. But, Christianity isn’t a passive faith. Rather, according to James, it is an active faith:

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (Jms 1:21-25)

And again:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jms 2:14-17)

These are all things that we have to do in this life. Now, I’m not suggesting that there has never been a Christian that hasn’t put more stock in the next life while completely ignoring this one. Hitchens just cited a great example. Followers of Baptist pastor William Miller quit their jobs and generally gave up on life in response to his prediction that the end of the world would occur on October 22, 1844. This stuff happens. My point is that it isn’t biblical, and therefore these aberrant beliefs shouldn’t be heaped on to the mainline Christians.

Finally, Hitchens wants to know what it’s like to be a cleric and lie to children for a living. He says that clerics teach that we must love God (a compulsory love) and fear him at the same time. Fear of God (the beginning of knowledge, Prv 1:7; and of wisdom, Prv 9:10) refers more to respect and awe than it does to being terrified of God. Of course, the book of Proverbs is also instructional in refuting the notion that love (or fear) of God is in anyway compulsory:

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. (Prv 1:29-33, emphasis added)

Of course, we’re always free to choose whether we love God or not. Hitchens is living proof; does he love God? NO. And these verses in Proverbs make the dire consequences of turning away from the Lord clear.

Now, some may further argue that the threat of destruction for not loving God itself takes away our free will. Proponents of this view, however, have no love of the Lord, so I fail to see their complaint. Knowing the consequences if they are wrong, they persist in their unbelief. Sounds like free will is maintained.

Interesting Stats on the Blog for WWGHA

It’s really interesting for me to note that the Blog for Why Won’t God Heal Amputees supposedly bills itself as a way for humans to free themselves from all religions, not just a specific religion. The tagline expresses this: “Exploring God and religion in our world today.” The About Page also expresses that sentiment. The site is supposed to be about religion in general.

Yet, what do we see when we look at the stats? The stats say that, as of June 28, 2010, there are 657 total posts. Of these, 588 are about Christianity! The total posts about Judaism and Islam don’t come anywhere near that total.

That means this site is biased particularly against Christianity, while largely leaving other religions alone. Do I see any posts about Ba’his? What about Buddhists? Anything on that site about the absurdity of Jainism or an attempt to refute theosophy or Scientology?

Nope. And I’m not holding my breath for it either.