Superstitious Faith

Via Dr. Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge, we have a good example of the “superstitious” apologetic for faith in God:

My relationship with God isn’t based on wishful thinking, it’s based on the fact that I actually am blessed to have a relationship with God. Basically, you must simply dismiss any supernaturally-caused experiences I’ve had or events I’ve witnessed that are reasonably unlikely to occur through sheer chance and coincidence without divine guidance as being simply by-products of a sort of mental illness.

Notice what his “evidence” for God is: “experiences…that are reasonably unlikely to occur through sheer chance.” In other words, his faith isn’t based on God actually showing up in the real world. If he had a genuine real-world manifestation of God, like say a video or audio recording of God preaching, then he’d have it up on YouTube or something so that the rest of us could be edified. But no, nothing like that. His faith is based on his own subjective opinion that some of the things which had happened to him were “reasonably unlikely” to have happened through chance alone.

This is a classic case of superstition in action. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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That’s the (S)pirit–er, well…

An Australian news team reports on a Roman Catholic monsignor’s outburst in a confrontation with a group of teens skateboarding on church property.

The Catholic Church is defending the behaviour of one of its leaders, the Dean of Melbourne Cathedral, after a video showing him verbally abusing a group of teenagers surfaced on the internet.

The Reverend Geoffrey Baron is seen being harassed and abused by a group of skateboarders, but rather than turning the other cheek, he lets fly with obscene and racist epithets.

Apparently the monsignor was indeed sorely provoked. The incident, however, calls to mind certain promises of Scripture.

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Unapologetics 101

Before we get into a detailed analysis of I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, I wanted to take a minute and look at the most fundamental and important principle for effective refutation of Christian apologetics. Debating apologetics can be a tricky matter: Christians have 2,000 years of experience in rationalizing their beliefs, and generally know better than to allow themselves to be pinned down to anything that would settle the matter fairly and objectively. There is, however, one inescapable fact, with one inevitable consequence, which can be used to force Christians to face reality no matter how much they would like to twist away from it.

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Liar, Lunatic, or Leafy Green Vegetable

Apologetics is, by its very nature, an inherently bandwagon-y enterprise, so it’s not too surprising that David Limbaugh, in his foreward to I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST , can’t resist the temptation to toss in his own two denarius’ worth:

As C. S. Lewis observed, if Christ is not God, then he could not have been an exemplary prophet or a great moral teacher, because he claimed to be God. If he was not who he said he was, then he was either a liar or a lunatic, hardly a great moral teacher or prophet.

This is a classic piece of Christian apologetics, and quite widely circulated among Christians. It’s so popular, you’d think there was some substance to it. But is there?

Let’s consider another of Jesus’ famous sayings:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-5)

Applying the logic of C. S. Lewis to the above statement of Jesus, we can see that one of three things must be true: either he’s a liar, or he’s a lunatic, or he’s a leafy green fruit plant. That’s it. Those are the only three alternatives that Lewis allows us, so one of them must be true. Right?

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Tolerance is a Family Value

In the foreword to I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, David Limbaugh complains:

Liberal secularists insist that tolerance is the highest virtue. But they don’t tell you what they mean by “tolerance.” To them, tolerance doesn’t simply involve treating those with different ideas respectfully and civilly. It means affirming their ideas as valid, which Christians can’t do without renouncing their own beliefs. If for example, you subscribe to the biblical prohibition on homosexual behavior as sinful, you cannot at the same time affirm that such behavior is not sinful.

That kinda sets the tone for this book, doesn’t it? David’s job is to introduce the topic of Christian apologetics, so right away he kicks things off with biased and inaccurate innuendo against “liberal secularists.”

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It’s here!

There’s a new book in my collection. It’s called I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST [caps as per the front cover], by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. I heard about this book on Hank Hanegraaff’s radio show, The Bible Answer Man, the day he had Frank Turek in for a book-promoting interview. (By the way, has anyone else noticed how much The Bible Answer Man has evolved from being a talk show about non-Christian cults into the Christian book equivalent of Home Shopping Network? Walter Martin used to debate Mormons and JW’s, and take calls from confused Christians and now and then mention “resources” you could ask for from CRI, but Hanegraaff is always shilling this or that book, and sometimes turns TBAM into a complete infomercial hyping some product Christians are supposed to buy from CRI.)

Anyway, I got the book from a used bookseller (no point in funding the superstition-mongers!) and it came in the mail yesterday afternoon. It comes highly recommended, with blurbs from Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, Phillip E. Johnson, Cal Thomas, William Dembski, Ravi Zacharias, John Ankerberg, and J. Budziszewski (“former atheist, professor of government and philosophy, Univ. of Texas at Austin”), as well as Dr. Hanegraaff. All the quotes speak glowingly of the apologetic quality of this book and its importance in refuting skeptics, so I thought it would be a good place to start in our series on Unapologetics.

I’ll be reading this book slowly and carefully, and will analyze its arguments here. I also ordered Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity, so when it gets here I may be mixing in some quotes from that book as well. If anyone has any other books they’d like me to take a look at, just let me know in the comments.

 
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Pharyngula: Another round in the Kleiman/Myers skirmish

PZ Myers has another go at those who claim that it’s wrong to criticize someone else’s belief in God. In so doing, he voices a frequently-expressed opinion that, in my view, does a bad job of (should I say it?) “framing” the debate.

I am saying precisely that belief in god is wrong because there is no empirical or theoretical support for it; there is a concatenation of myths leavened with post-hoc justifications for them, which is not the same thing.

There’s something unsatisfactory about saying that there is no evidence for God. After all, we learn new things all the time. Just because we say “there is no evidence for God” doesn’t mean that evidence might not exist somewhere. It just means we haven’t seen any (yet).

To me, that argument comes up short. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Our Patron Deity

Welcome to the Online Seminary of Evangelical Realism. Since this is my inaugural post, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce you to my patron deity: Reality.

Some of my readers will be unfamiliar with the idea of Reality as a god, but if you think about it, Reality has many of the traditional attributes of deity, and indeed most of our traditional ideas about God are merely garbled perceptions of the incomprehensible complexity and enormity of Reality.

For example, Reality is omnipresent (exists in all places) and omnipotent (all-powerful). Wherever you go in the entire universe, Reality is already there, and no matter what you do, you cannot violate any of Reality’s rules for how things work. Reality is, in fact, the only god powerful enough to truly claim that no disobedience is possible. Do what you will, you cannot help but obey the laws of Reality (and if you think otherwise, the consequences will be uncomfortable at best, if not downright disastrous!).

Reality is also eternal, since if there was ever any time when Reality did not exist, then nothing else would exist either. Reality is also the Creator, having produced everything which exists today. Reality is the “thing than which no greater can be imagined,” as Anselm once put it. Any lesser God we might imagine would be either a non-existent God, or a God which was part of Reality. God therefore either is Reality, or is merely a part of Reality. Reality, therefore, must be greater than or equal to any existing God.

Now, one of our failures as limited, finite beings is that there are limits to what we are capable of holding in our minds. Deity is too vast and too complex for us to comprehend fully and precisely; we necessarily reduce God to a representation that is small enough to fit inside our minds. But how can we represent something as complex, something as knowable yet unpredictable, as Reality itself, in all its fullness and detail?

Answer: by analogy. The most complicated, subtle, familiar, and yet unpredictable things we know of are other human beings, and therefore we imagine God as a being Who is, in many ways, similar to a human-type being. Though this approach is not precisely accurate, it’s not entirely wrong. It’s merely a concession to our own limitations. God (that is, Reality) is and always has been beyond our powers of comprehension. Thus, the fact that Reality is not a “person,” in the traditional sense, is not an argument against the deity of Reality. Traditionally, men have viewed their gods as human-like persons, but even they will admit, if pressed, that the truth about God is more complicated than that.

It is with great pride and pleasure, therefore, that I present to you our patron deity, Reality, to whom we ascribe all honor and glory, and whose knowledge we commend to every honest soul.

 
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