Friday, July 15, 2011

The Age of Shallow Conviction and Strong Pretense


The Age of Shallow Conviction and Strong Pretense

Every now and again a random Christian sends me Bible verses, thinking, heck, this atheist doesn’t know anything about the Bible. Some just rattle off unrelated quotes, thinking that just by sharing with you this incomprehensible jumble of texts, it will somehow fill you with awe and make you a believer. Usually this tactic backfires because the Bible verses are so incomprehensible that you have no idea what they are trying to say.

Other times, the faithful will try to organize quotes, in some kind of rhetorical form, designed to get you to argue or defend your position, but once you do, they will supply other verses which negate your opinion, such as pulling the old ace out of the sleeve, and state the Bible, i.e. God’s Word, is the final authority on everything and so nothing you say could ever be used against their position. 

At once, they have made your position irrelevant because the have discounted your opinion, mainly because they don’t care what your opinion is, they just want you to accept theirs.
 
Sometimes I send them quotes from other skeptics and philosophers, and even other religions, since I figure if they read at least something from more than just one book, they will be better off.


Rational Defense—Engage the Idiocy
Recently I received the following:

“All the heavens declare the Glory of God. (Psalm 19:1) But if the gospel (the revelation of God) be hidden, it is hidden to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world has blinded their minds lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).”

Implicitly, this person has done the underhanded thing, by using a quote which negates anything the non-believer would say in defense of their position. After all, we’re the confused ones, not them. Anything we say, would therefore be wrong, because we say it in our state of confusion.

This seedy verse is the popular last straw, the trump card of the deck, which believers like to whip out and use against the non-believer to shut them down. It’s a cheap way to shortcut the debate and as a way to get out of having to seriously consider the other side’s position. If the theist can simply call you a confused fool, then what could you ever say to convince them otherwise? After all, they’ll just probably quote Psalms 14:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.”

Such debates are not rational, because the people making such arguments are deliberately trying to avoid anything rational. Rationality is the bane to faith—because it has the power to destroy faith. 

As such, when you enter rational, logical, well reasoned arguments into the debate the believer loves nothing more than to shut you down, or just stop listening to anything you have to say.

Such a strategy reminds me of what George William Foote once said, “The Bible can be read by Freethinkers, and it confirms them in their skepticism; but if a Christian reads infidel books he is lost. Hearing the other side is fatal to his faith.”

The cyclone of rationality must constantly be held at bay, defended against, by the tall walls of religious ignorance fortified by dogmatic conviction and blind faith. This is why Christians, and theists of all kinds, devote so much energy to not listening to others—for if they did, the damage would be devastating, and the walls protecting their faith from the outside, like Berlin, would come tumbling down around them.

Losing Confidence in Faith—Gaining Confidence in Rationality
Regrettably, my opinion of Christians has diminished in the past few years, not because of some fanciful beliefs I cannot buy into which they push with the zeal of a car’s salesman, but rather, because of a general laziness on their part to consider any other possibilities.

Most Christians use their protective bubble of faith to live care free lives. No serious thinking ever need be required of those who build up communities consisting of all like-minded people. No disagreements to debate, no new information to have to scrutinize, no heretical opinions to critically examine, indeed, within the confines of faith you never have to defend your position. Everyone is just always in happy, cordial agreement—everyone nodding along like bobble-head dolls to what is preached from the pulpit.

So although I’m sure know that “All the heavens declare the glory of God” is comforting advice for someone trapped under a delusion that it actually means something, the truth is, it means absolutely nothing to the person who must deal with reality. Much of the Bible is like this—completely irrelevant. But if that wasn’t bad enough, the Bible, as mentioned early, confirms the atheist and non –believing freethinkers their very skepticism. Or as Erasmus affirmed over five-hundred years ago, “The Christian religion seems to have some relations to Folly, and no alliance at all to wisdom.”

My own mother proved to me, somewhat unintentionally, that there is a lack of wisdom to be found in faith. She is a woman of deep spiritual faith, and still I feel she thinks there is hope that I will one day renounce my freethinking ways and come back to the faith. As such, she often writes to me on matters of faith and religious belief. In her last correspondence she stated, with alarming certitude, that “I have experienced God … so I know He is, and He is a reality in my life… [and] I just KNOW him, in the heart of my being.”

I love my mother dearly, but this is the sort of thing I have come to expect from most moderate Christians. They know God is real, because they have experienced him, or they know because, well, they know. Never mind that our experiences are, more often than not, mistaken. Never mind that saying we know because we know is little more than an unfortunate paradox bordering on the absurd. The only thing stronger than this type of believer’s convictions is their pretenses for believing.

There is no wisdom to be found in this kind of faith—just the dogmatic certainty of one blinded by faith so severely that they can no longer recognize what wisdom looks like—or what wisdom really is. Of course, this explains why so many Christians I know respond to the challenge of being asked to question their faith by appealing to authority. If they say they believe because they believe, and you ask, yes, but why do you believe—then they must answer with something other than because, lest they be laughed at for their incredulity. It is in this defensive response, in which they attempt to find reasons which might justify their beliefs, where they quote scripture.

Rational Offense—Debating the Idiocy
If the people who like to quote endless lines of Bible verses knew their Bibles better, and not just what was in it, but the entire origin of the entirety of their so-called divinely mandated book, they would be less confident in claiming that it is the final authority on anything.

I decided to prove this to my quote happy friend, by showing him, exactly how terribly flawed, and untrustworthy, the Bible really is.

As most people who have actually read the Bible know, it is terribly contradictory. There is no denying this. Those faithful folk who have their blinders on, and believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired, word of God, will often claim it is perfect—that any error we find in it is simply an error of our understanding—but, ultimately, they say, God’s message is perfect. This is obviously false.

Indeed, I can prove, without much effort, that the Bible is not just contradictory, but it often negates the very premises the theists try to use it to defend. For skeptics and outsiders, it is this very fact, which confirms out doubts. More than this, it validates them! Meanwhile, only those who have a superficial understanding of scripture, even as they may have an impressive amount of scripture committed to memory, can quote it so blithely.

As I said, however, those who recognize that scripture isn’t perfect, will sooner realize that they should not rely on it to validate their faith since it frequently works against them. There is probably no better example of this than the Evil God Hypothesis. The Evil God Hypothesis is a theory which states that the God of the Bible is inherently corrupt, and that the majority of his actions are evil, not good. As Marcus Aurelius said, “If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them.” According to the Evil God Hypothesis, if we can prove God is evil, then believers should not worship him because such a being would not be worthy of anyone’s worship.

At the same time, the fact that the primary belief, as believers currently hold it, is that God is not evil and cannot commit evil acts means that if the God of the Bible was found to be evil and contradict the loving persona erected by believers, then the God of the Bible would be disqualified as a being of love, or believers would be disqualified for having the completely wrong understanding of God’s true nature. Finally, if we find that both claims are valid, that the God of faith is both completely evil and all loving, then this contradiction in his very nature negates the possibility of the existence of such a being—therefore there is no God.

Evil God Hypothesis: According to the Word of God there is No God
Under the category of Evil God Hypothesis, I have developed an air tight argument which destroys faith in the Bible, or else, faith in God, if not both. I deliberately selected verses that were claimed to be of divine origin, that is, they were revealed directly by God or through the Holy Spirit. This way we can exclude human error—making it impossible to deny the verses as authoritative.

               Contradiction 1:
God is love (John 4:16)
Love is patient, love is kind and is *not jealous. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5)

If God is jealous, he cannot be a God of love. Which means we are left with an evil god, or no god at all. Believers hate this argument, and they try and claim that it is my failure to understand the complexity of God which accounts for the seeming discrepancy. This is just false. The reason that love and jealously are incompatible, is because they are contrary in nature. God may be vast and contain multitudes, but he cannot simultaneously be the embodiment of love and hate, otherwise to claim God is a God of love would be rendered meaningless.

Also under the heading of Evil God Hypothesis, I have developed a second, equally as devastating, argument based on the faultiness of scripture.

               Contradiction 2:
God is not the author of confusion. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
God confuses the people of Babble. (Genesis 11:6-9)
God deceives Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 20:7)
God deceives and confuses unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Again, God cannot simultaneously be the author of confusion yet not be the author of confusion. The two are exact opposite descriptors, one of truth and one of falsehood, thus making God’s very nature contradictory. Since the Bible claims both are true, and both supposedly stem from divine origin, God is rendered non-existent.

Both arguments together leave believers confounded, stuck trying to unravel an impossible Gordian knot. Along comes Ockham to save the day, and lending us his blade, we can solve the problem with one easy swipe of its razor edge.

God cannot be a God of jealousy and confusion while he is a God of love and truth. Since it is quite literally impossible to be both, simultaneously, the very proposition of the theists is negated by the very same scripture they seek to use to prop up their faith with. In other words, logic dictates, according to the word of God there is no such God.

Granted, this realization only rules out the Christian God, it doesn’t mean there is no god whatever, it merely means the God of the Bible cannot possibly exist and that the Bible is at odds with both believers and itself. But either way, the believer cannot use the Bible to support or affirm the God they profess a belief in, because the scriptural contradictions negate the very possibility of such a being.

Faith Ruined
Now that we are aware of this enormous, undeniable, incontrovertible problem, we come to the strange rationalization of believers. I have heard one believer say in response to this dilemma, that since God can never be wrong—the Bible is therefore right by default—after all, it is God’s word. Don’t feel bad for them, because they weren’t aware of the fact that they just relegated their beloved God to the biggest moron in the universe, an imbecile so mighty, that the only way to worship him was to become an imbecile yourself. A contradiction is a contradiction. Calling it *not a contradiction, because you don’t like the implications of it, is just stupid.

Another response I have received, albeit more reasonable, is still unimpressive. A group of Christians I posited this argument to deliberated over it, and responded with the same premise, God can never be wrong. But taking a more liberal stance, they admitted that since human hands wrote and assembled the Bible, then it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that the mentioned discrepancies are simply human error. There rationalization, was, however, that God’s message is still perfect—as long as you have the Holy Spirit to speak the Truth to you. Without that, you are left in the dark. No amount of reason or logic will save you. Which is a rather stupid way of getting around the problem.

God cannot possibly be wrong, so the Bible is wrong because of apparent human error, but the Bible’s message is never wrong. How, do they suppose, the Bible can be wrong but its message never wrong?

If you haven’t been able to come up with an answer which makes sense from the time it took you to read the previous sentence to the time it takes you to finish this one, then chances are, it’s just a bad rationalization. The truth of the matter is much simpler, the Bible is wrong, because it is provably wrong, therefore its underlying message, whatever it may be, is prone to being equally as wrong. As Foote reminds us, “This is an age of weak conviction and strong pretence. Christianity is perishing of intellectual atrophy. Its scriptures and its dogmas are falling into more and more discredit.”

Even so, Christians love to throw Bible verses around. And whenever the atheist proves she knows the Bible just as good as, if not better than, the theist, the theist tends to become agitated and then immediately set about trying to out quote the atheist--as if that will prove they know the Bible so much better. Instead considering what the other side is trying to say, or pause to consider that he might be wrong, the theist retreats even further into the depths of a faulty text and uses it to buttress an entirely flawed faith. When you show their proofs to be fallacious--they retreat even further--until they can claim they know because they know--and so nothing you say will ever convince them otherwise.

Like Foote observed, however, such behavior of the theist only proves it is the age of shallow convictions and strong pretense.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist