Friday, June 1, 2012

Why Attack Christianity?

Are atheists cruel hearted robots? R2-D2 and C3P0 didn't believe in God. And everybody loves them.


It is often asked, usually by my Christian family members, why I am so bent on attacking Christianity? Why don't I attack Buddhism with the same zeal?

Well, Buddhists aren't, en mass, currently trying to restrict the rights of my homosexual friends to get married and be happy. My Buddhist friends aren't trying to dictate whether or woman can have an abortion or not and dictate what she can or cannot do with her own body. Buddhists aren't trying to control education policies by supplanting historical and scientific facts for their ancient myths.

But that's just one of my reasons for speaking out against Christianity. My other reason is more subtle. I want to educate Christians, because the truth of the matter is, many Christians don't seem to know all that much about Christianity. Granted, it might be unfair of me to expect over two billion people to have access to higher learning, and I feel much of the things which religious historians have understood for the past 300 years should be made more common knowledge to the general public, perhaps Christians most of all. But there is no reason we shouldn't have the right to correct a Christian when they are wrong about some straight forward fact.

The problem is, however, this isn't always as easy as it sounds. The general Christian, meaning the majority of Catholics and Protestants (and mainly in Western societies), do not really care so much to learn if their faith is TRUE or not. A FALSE faith is to be avoided like the plague. That discovery is to be avoided, which is why they invented apologetics. So that discovery would never have to be made. 


Most Christians (in my experience) take things on faith because, well, it is easier to believe such things if one takes it on a matter of faith. My Christian mother is a prime example of this line of reasoning. She constantly informs me that I am wrong about this religious business, and how does she know this? Well, she informs, "I know because I know because I know."

If Christians questioned and doubted with the same degree of a Skeptic, this would be seen in their religious community as dangerously on the verge of heretical thinking, and they could be shunned for it--or worse. And that's only the asking the question part. The actual investigation into these matters is a another thing entirely.

To actually take it upon oneself to read, oh, I dunno, say 150 books on Biblical histories requires a lot of time and dedication . Investigating these questions is no simple task, nor should it be treated as such. Having myself spent such time and dedication learning about what we can claim, with certainty, to really know and what we can't know, takes years of familiarizing oneself with the arguments. And even then, the best I can conclude, is most of the questions remain open.

So, as you can imagine, it is extremely bothersome to run up against Christian apologists who parade their Biblical and theological degrees around, as if it made them incontrovertible experts, and then say I'm wrong because I haven't looked into things thoroughly enough. My training in religious studies may not be formalized, but I have put in as much time as anyone with a masters or Phd. So it seems, perhaps, a little hasty to write off the layman's criticism simply based on credentials alone. I have no desire to debate with someone who thinks the only thing that distinguishes a genuinely intelligent person is a piece of paper. Such people have proven themselves fools, and you know what they say about arguing with fools, right?

The average Christian of faith doesn't like the fact that I try to educate them on their own religion. When I inform that I was an ardent believer for over three decades, they claim I was no true Christian at all. It could be argued that such a lack of respect, and not taking someone at their word, or even implying they are liars, is far greater offense than having someone ask you to reconsider the reasons for why you believe something.

Others like to point out that I am working for Satan, which I get all the time, because I make a simple distinction between the Gospel Jesus (a fictional character) and the historical Jesus (who I am confident existed). To them, anyone who denies the Son of God is in league with the Devil, for the Bible tells them so. These are the people I am most concerned about. The average believing Christian.

Why am I concerned about them?

Because they make a show of denying my beliefs, my truths, by claiming theirs are the only ones which matter. This is doubly offensive. And it's simply not true.

Usually they will preach to me the doctrinal tenets of faith. Convert the unbeliever! It's the Christian thing to do, after all. I'm sorry, but to me that is a huge offense for a couple of reasons. First, because it is disrespectful to assume someone else is wrong, without even pausing to consider their position, and simply write them off as "in need of correction." Worse to try and force them to change to your standard of what you deem "proper." The second offense is that anyone who engages me by preaching the tenets of their faith have given the clear sign of a mind already made up. A mind which has turned off and hidden behind the walls of religious dogma.

I have had thirty years of doctrinal faith, so I know the tenets better than most "cultural Christians" who have never actually studied what these tenets are and what they entail. But that's just a bother which compels me to be argumentative. I don't like people dictating what other people should believe. Some might argue, but you are trying to push your atheism on us! No, actually, I don't argue that way. I simply try to adhere to the Socratic method of getting you to ask the questions for yourself.

You might feel it's not very fair to hold two billion believers to the same standard of scrutiny we use for everything else, the same we use for history and science, but I think that if they are the ones making truth claims then they have to do better than just state the reason they know is because they know because they know.

That's why I talk about systems which demonstrate themselves. If it can be demonstrated they know something because of a specific series of justifications, then I'd be more willing to have a meaningful and informed conversation with well informed believers.

But the conversation with the average believer rarely ever gets this far. In fact, most times, I will claim something like the following FACT: that Joseph of Arimathea did not exist. Or that Judas Iscariot didn't likely exist. And that Satan, most certainly doesn't exist. Then the Christian would rather not debate such things because the FACTS so assault their faith by diminishing it to the rubble of myth they so adamantly love to deny in other religions.

My point is, they do not even stop to take the time to consider the objections raised. Maybe I made a mistake in my analysis of the data, and Joseph of Aramathea actually did exist. It's possible. See, for me, that would be interesting to learn. But here, I am pointing out the fact that Christians have every opportunity to engage in the religious debate. But instead, they would rather continue demand the respect of a belief system based on the so-called truth--and when you criticize it--they say you are attacking everything they believe in.

Here's is where I have, perhaps, the biggest problem. People who have the burden of proof who are not in the habit of checking their facts have no right to dictate the rules of the conversation in the discourse. You cannot demand respect from me when you in turn do not respectfully engage in the process of discovery and enlightenment. If you want me to believe you--show your evidence. But it seems to me the Christian esteems faith above reason, whereas I don't think you can pretend to have a faith which matters if it isn't at least reasonable.

I would be content to allow Christians that small happiness, if they practiced a simple faith and didn't expect me to the adhere to their rules and try to force policy changes which effect everyone, even people not of faith. Notice that the whole anti-gay sentiment is strictly a religious motivated ordeal. In other countries, not letting women vote or drive cars, and killing them when they try to learn to read, is religiously motivated. The killing of African children suspected to be witches is religiously motivated. It's not just Christianity I have problems with. It's dangerous modes of religiously corrupted thinking in general. It's bad thinking which I have problems with. It's the lack of good reasoning skills which are so predominantly found within religion that makes me suspicious of most religious claims.

So you see my problem. I am trying to have a serious conversation with people who are so confused, due to faith based reasoning, that I can't always expect every single one of the two billion Christians to be reasonable people, like a hand full of genuinely thoughtful Christians I know. Yes, thoughtful Christian do exist! I never said they didn't. In fact, we usually find ourselves in agreement more often than not.

For that reason I probably resort more to polemics, because the sensationalist tactic shocks the "cultural Chrisitan" awake and forces them into a knee-jerk reaction of having to defend their beliefs. That's exactly what I want them to do--because it forces them to ask the question how to I defend this belief? And as they struggle to do that, they inevitably begin thinking of reasons to defend their core set of beliefs. Once they consider the reasons they have for believing any one given proposition, they begin to realize that, perhaps, not all their reasons are air tight. Perhaps their is reason enough to doubt after all.

Although, they would never come to this conclusion if some "mean" atheist hadn't poked them with a stick and stirred up their collective bee hive. But my poking isn't intended for Christians thinking Christians, who take the time to think about these things, rather it is intended for those wishy-washy faith based Christians that simply don't think. I would much rather have discussions about the importance of belief and the things we believe and how they impact our choices and our lives--but I simply can never get that far when the Christian complains, for example, of being persecuted simply because they weren't allowed their time honored sense of privilege. I'm sorry to say, the era of Christian privilege is at an end. It's best to learn to cope and move on.

But the age of reason is still a far ways off. Religion still dominates the social and cultural spheres, and it's only because of Skeptics and Free-thinkers that there is any resistance in the first place. And if this push-back which is skeptical of religious claims and wants people to be more reasonable bothers you, then I think the question you need to ask yourself is: why does that make me uncomfortable?

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist