Friday, July 03, 2009

The stupidity ... it burns!

It's been a long time since I last fisked anything on this blog, but today, I came across something which just begged to be fisked.

It's posted in something called the Christian Post so you just know it gotta be bad.

Is atheism ever morally justified?
By Randal Rauser

The title starts out burning brightly with stupidity. Atheist is simply the lack of belief in a deity, so talking about it being "morally justified" is just nonsense. You could ask if it's justified by the evidence (I think so), or if it's possible for an atheist to be moral (an old discussion, to which the answer is "of course it is"), but the whole idea of justifying lack of belief morally is just plain stupid.

"Tell me about the god you don't believe in because I probably don't believe in him either,"

There is a lot of truth in this old quip. Whenever someone identifies him or herself as an atheist we should always take the time to ask for a definition of the god this person does not believe in. It may just be that we don't believe in this god either.

Someone obviously fail to understand the whole concept of being an atheist. It's not one specific god that atheists don't believe in - it's all gods. No matter what personality your god has, the atheist doesn't see any evidence for his or her existence, and thus doesn't believe in him or her.

I think here of a well known academic who avowed disbelief in the Christian God because he was told -- with a notable absence of pastoral sensitivity -- that a childhood Jewish friend who died in a car accident was burning in hell. As a result this academic came to believe that the Christian God is arbitrary, capricious, and unjust. So when he says that he disbelieves in God, he is saying he disbelieves in a god who is arbitrary, capricious and unjust. But I don't believe in such a god either.

I understand that it might be hard to understand for a person like Rauser, but people usually becomes atheists gradually (unless of course they've always been one). What did incident did, was to lead the future academic in question down the path towards atheism. What happened, was that he started evaluating his belief in the god he was raised believing in, and found out that he didn't believe in him. That process lead on to him realizing that he didn't belief in any god.

Rauser doesn't believe that his god is arbitrary, capricious and unjust (something which he clearly is, if one is to trust his holy book), but this hasn't lead him to question the whole concept of a god.

This does not mean that the atheist friend is exonerated, that his disbelief is wholly without fault. Maybe his disbelief is in part a rationalization for a rebellious human will that refuses to submit to the divine will. (How could I know?) But is it possible that at least in part his disbelief might arise from a refusal to recognize a conception of God which is rightly rejected?

Being religious requires faith, which means belief in something in spite of lack of reliable evidence (otherwise, no faith is required). One cannot be at fault for not believing in something without evidence, so yes, the atheist friend is indeed exonerated.

Here's another example. I was raised on Jack Chick tracts (little cartoon books that convey a hyper-fundamentalist Christian faith). In one of these tracts titled "Somebody Goofed", a young man is tricked into hell. (Read the tract here: )

I find this to be a complete distortion of the doctrine of hell, and one which paints God as cruel and capricious. If this is what atheists think of the doctrine of hell then I can understand why they reject the Christian faith.

While Chick tracks are quite extreme, their general message is well supported by the Bible, which is the firmament of the Christian faith. Still, many people, including Rauser apparently reject this particular aspect of the Christian faith. That doesn't mean they are atheists.

Atheists reject the core concept of the Christian faith (and the Muslim faith, the Jewish faith, the Hindu faith etc.) - the existence of a divine being. They don't reject it out of spite, or in the face of overwhelming evidence, rather they reject it, as they find no evidence supporting the existence of such divine beings.

The discussion boils down to this. Perhaps before we judge the disbelief of the atheist, we should judge our own household. To put it bluntly, how often does our witness in the world offer moral justification for atheism?

I find the message interesting. The whole concept seems to be that atheists simply reject religion as a whole because of the mean content of some religions. This is of course nonsense - many atheists are actually fairly well versed in different religions, and understand the different nuances. What they reject is not the different messages in different religions, but instead the very core that those religions are built upon.

Still, I guess that it's likely that fewer people start on the path to atheism, if the are not confronted with the most ugly, base aspects of their religions. This allows them to safely ignore their doubts, and just continue being part of the flock (their word, not mine).

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Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Perhaps before we judge the disbelief of the atheist, we should judge our own household. To put it bluntly, how often does our witness in the world offer moral justification for atheism?

They may be doing it for the wrong reason, but I think it's the right thing: "Hey, fellow Christians, let's not be complete assholes, please."

It may not help them logically, but at least having more Christians behaving in a civilized manner would be nice.

July 23, 2009 8:23 PM  

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