Before we begin, I’d like you to answer the following question as I feel it may be illuminating:
Suppose for a minute that there’s a group of people traveling about your area, led by a charismatic speaker who claims that the world is ending soon. He promises he alone can save you, but only if you sell your belongings, devote the rest of your life to him, and cut off family members who try to stop you.
He also wants to change your name, advises you to leave your home/job if necessary to follow him, and says that if you don’t love him more than your own family, you’re not worthy of him. His followers have written a book about him in which he performs many miraculous feats, but no contemporaneous outside source corroborates their claims. What sort of group is that?
Don’t immediately reject the answer which first occurs to you. Play with it in your head. Explore it, and see where that takes you. Anyway, on with the show:
”I appreciate your extensive research and your heart for trying to find the truth and to correct injustices. However, I definitely disagree with you on a few things and wanted to bring some ideas to light. In the West that is adsorbed with tolerance, I do have say I found your article fairly offensive at times.”
You say this as if Christians have not frequently been brutally cruel in their dealings with apostates. Should we not return fire, when fired upon?
”Yes, while skepticism and finding the truth is great, I feel like you attack Christianity at many times. No matter if you’re agnostic, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, you should have respect for what people base their entire life around.”
Many people base their life around Amway. Should I respect that business model just because Amway’s victims believe in it? What about Scientology?
I am not just trying to be rude. I have my reasons. If there is a widely held belief that is false, that is not by itself reason to actively oppose it. After all, don’t we all hold false beliefs without realizing it from time to time? Simply being wrong is no crime.
However it isn’t only false, it’s also contagious. This means that if nobody opposes its growth, it will swallow up and destroy whatever truths it cannot assimilate and take credit for (as you do later in this post with Greek philosophy) which anybody committed to truth should find objectionable.
However, it isn’t only false and contagious, it’s also harmful. Persons acting on sincere belief in Abrahamic religious teachings inflict a great deal of suffering upon groups singled out as undesirable/wicked in scripture, like gays and apostates.
This means if not actively opposed, as it spreads, so do the harms it inflicts. The harms are specific and some would argue mild compared to other problems in the world, but they are unnecessary, being that they are inflicted out of sincere belief in a false religion.
The solution to this predicament is not for everybody to respect Abrahamic religion, but for members of Abrahamic religions to realize that they have been deceived.
”I have had struggles with my faith in the recent year and suffered from severe panic attacks and fell into a state of depression that I’m now in treatment for. Please show some, ironically, grace, as you make arguments against faith of any kinds.”
Are Christians typically graceful in their dealings with apostates? My life is evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t me who threw the first punch. I didn’t even really know what Christianity was when I had my first bad experience with it. But I have come to know it since then. Enough to recognize how quintessentially Christian it is to first give you a black eye, then make with the high minded humanitarian speech about retaliation never solving anything.
”This for me took away from the validity as it seems you had some hatred for Christians. It seemed that you used quite a few ad hominem arguments against Craig and Christians in general which also made the post less valid for me.”
I haven’t. There’s a widespread misunderstanding of ad hominem, that it means any insult which occurs in argument. That’s not the precise definition. Ad hominem is substituting insults in lieu of argument. If you present valid arguments in an insulting way, or alongside insults, it does not qualify as ad hom.
”I don’t think its wrong for a scientist or philosopher to question someones bias and motivation when that is the first step in proving someones credibility and beginning to understand what there claims are saying. Its funny as Christian apologists also say that little questions surprise them anymore from the countless one’s that have been arguing for the faith for well longer than 20 years. This brings me to a second thing, the leading apologist is Ravi Zachrias is Indian and not the Tolkien white intellectual as you describe him.”
*Token, I will assume autocorrect is to blame. May I know how the rank of “leading apologist” is decided? I’ve heard of WLC in the media many, many times. I have never heard of Ravis Zachrias. What does motivation have to do with credibility?
”I think its a rather audacious claim that billions of people have just been ignoring science and sweeping it under the rug so they can have a sense of security. I assure you many Christians are just as adamant about finding the truth as you. “
Many things are often visible from the outside which are invisible from an internal perspective. For example, you and I can see that Scientologists are deceived, because we are looking at them from outside of Scientology. Which, by design, is a sort of mental bubble which prevents those inside from recognizing what it is they’re inside of.
Evidently many aspects of it are designed to keep members fooled. Likewise with Mormonism, Islam and any other religion you and I regard as untrue. If that weren’t the case, the members would all rapidly realize they’ve been deceived, and leave the fold.
The implausible alternative is that you and I are somehow smarter than every Scientologist, Mormon and Muslim ever to live. Now, what prevents you from being in the same boat? But not realizing it, for the same reason they don’t? How would you know, when they don’t?
”Please also research Francis Collins who is a modern scientist, led the Human Genome Project, and is well respected within in his field. I would also ask what is your credibility, where’s your PHD to be making these claims?”
I would require a Phd only if I were advancing my own claims. I am instead advancing the claims of others, such as Robert J. Schadewald, former president of the National Center for Science Education. But this is just an appeal to authority, isn’t it? Are you certain that’s the direction you want to go in? Are you under the impression that there are not many irreligious scientists?
I am aware of Francis Collins btw, he is another of the Christian Intellectuals™ I profiled. Name another, if you can. Make a list. Then we can tally up the numbers of religious scientists, and irreligious ones for direct comparison. What do you think the result will be? Why do you feel one, or a handful, of religious scientists vindicates you, but the considerably more numerous irreligious scientists don’t prove anything?
”Here’s a discussion from a current class I’m taking at Oregon State where I had a similar conversation with a student. “I’m glad you found interest in my perspective and I’m excited as well for us all to learn about each other and grow in this class with the common goal of learning to be sustainable. Below is a little more insight into my perspective if you’re interested in learning about the allegiance between faith and science. I’m very passionate about it because like you, I thought there might be conflict in me being in the STEM field and with my personal faith. However, I’ve found they are really two different ways of understanding the world and that one doesn’t cancel the other out. Here’s some of perspectives of how I got there.”
Science is based upon empiricism, which affirms the necessity of supporting claims with evidence. Faith denies that evidence is necessary. That is an irreconcilable conflict. When you say they are two different ways of understanding the world, what evidence do you have that faith is effective at understanding the world?
For science, we have technology. Technology is just the practical application of scientific discoveries. Your computer, for example, functions because the behaviors of electrons and their interactions with materials like silicon and copper are very, very well understood, to a staggering degree of precision, courtesy of science.
What discoveries has faith made about the world, which can be applied in a tangible product the operation of which proves the validity of the method used to create it? Can faith be described as a method of understanding anything at all, when conclusions based on faith are not possible to verify? Functionally, how does that differ from just making things up?
”I actually got to hear a lecture once from Professor Andrew Karplus ,who was the head of the biochemistry and biophysics department of Oregon State, about the very subject of science relating to faith. There definitely can be conflict between people as the Professor has felt unaccepted both while working in science and working in the church. Both sides seem to have misconceptions, but Professor Karplus believes that his faith is not an enemy of science but a central part of fulfilling God’s call to be stewards of creation.”
That perspective presupposes the correctness of Christianity. What is known as presuppositional reasoning, a favorite crutch of apologists the world over. If a Hindu scientist says faith and science are compatible so long as you assume Hinduism is true, do you see the problem?
He is attempting to slip in an unnecessary presupposition which privileges his own religion. Perhaps from his perspective he is exploring the creation of Brahma, but does that make it so?
”I also would make the claim that alliance isn’t a theory but what history shows us. Historians of science now recognize the indispensable role played by the Christian faith in the rise and development of modern science. Up until the late 1800’s, scientists were typically Christian believers who saw no conflict between science and faith — men like Kepler, Boyle, Maxwell, Faraday, and Kelvin.”
Up until the 1800s. What happened in the 1800s? Oh yeah, the publication of On the Origin of Species. Wonder if that might have anything to do with the decline of religious belief among scientists in subsequent decades.
Yes, western scientists used to be overwhelmingly Christian. Because realistically, there was no other option. Society was entirely Christian. Open disbelief could and often did lead to both social and professional ruination. But in the absence of any plausible scientific explanation for how life came to be, most scientists were content to assume a creator because at that time, it was as good as any other guess.
This does not prove Christianity is true, and it does not prove Christianity is compatible with science, in the sense of faith being compatible with empiricism. It only proves Christians are able to do science. I never denied that and don’t consider it remarkable, because I know what compartmentalization is and that humans of all backgrounds are very skilled at it.
A young earth creationist can do geology, for example. But does this mean geological findings do not contradict young earth creationism? No, it proves only that he is able to go through the motions and report his findings impartially.
”In recent history there are people who believe science disproves faith because of a particular interpretation of Genesis 1 that takes a specific position on the age of the Earth(a minority of Christians take this view), which is a question science is interested in. And those people are misguided not because of faith but because their interpretation of Genesis isn’t tenable. This doesn’t really disprove faith, however, only their interpretation of a single page of the Bible.”
The contention that scientific findings conflict with the Bible does not hinge only on Bishop Ussher’s estimation of Earth’s age. That is understood by everybody to be extrabiblical and not canon. Genesis does not, anywhere, specify the age of the Earth.
But it does specify that Earth existed before the sun, the sun before all other stars and birds before land animals. Before you say “there are two creation accounts in Genesis!”, yes I know, the other one also gets the order wrong.
How could you suppose that the purported age of the Earth is the only cause for contention when the original article which set off this exchange was about Biblical cosmology featuring a flat earth covered by a solid dome? Did you forget that? How did you conclude the purported age of the Earth was the only area of conflict?
”The National Academies of Science Engineering Medicine have this quote on their page: “Science is not the only way of knowing and understanding. But science is a way of knowing that differs from other ways in its dependence on empirical evidence and testable explanations … Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science.”
They say this not because it’s true, but because the United States is demographically a Christian majority country. They would lose financial and public support essential for their operation if they didn’t play at diplomacy and accommodationism. This social pressure is also behind various public statements seemingly amenable to religion, made by historically notable scientists like Einstein, who are now known to have been irreligious in private.
”Erwin Schrodinger is also quoted with this: “[Science] puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart … it knows nothing of beautiful or ugly, good or bad, God and eternity.”
First, quotations from famous people are irrelevant to questions of factual truth or falsehood. Secondly, he was wrong. Much is now understood about what makes things beautiful or ugly from a human perspective. Google “the golden ratio” or “the geometry of beauty”.
Science does not answer the question of what is good or bad, but neither does religion, it only pretends to. If you arbitrarily choose a goal, such as “the survival and happiness of humans”, science can tell you how to best pursue that goal, it just cannot evaluate the validity of your choice of goals.
God and eternity, in the way that Christians define those words, are only realities in need of explanation if we first presuppose that Christianity is true when there isn’t currently any logical reason to.
”Here’s a quote from Craig, your favorite haha, who I believe does have some credibility: “The idea of a warfare between science and religion is a relatively recent invention of the late nineteenth century, a myth carefully nurtured by secular thinkers who had as their aim the undermining of the cultural dominance of Christianity and its replacement by naturalism — the view that nothing outside nature is real and the only way to discover truth is through science.”
I do not regard Craig as credible. You do, because you are Christian, for the same reason that Amway distributors regard Amway’s business model as brilliant and innovative. Undermining the cultural dominance of Christianity can be rewritten as “helping the majority to overcome their deceived condition”, which can only be a good thing.
”But philosophers of science during the second half of the twentieth century came to realize that the whole scientific enterprise is based on certain assumptions that cannot be proven scientifically, but are guaranteed by the Christian worldview: for example, the laws of logic, the orderly nature of the external world, the reliability of our cognitive faculties in knowing the world, the validity of inductive reasoning, and the objectivity of the moral values used in science. I want to emphasize that science could not even exist without these assumptions, and yet these assumptions cannot be proven scientifically.”
They can, just not directly. Your computer works, doesn’t it? That’s how you read my article, and how you wrote your reply. If the assumptions upon which science relies in order to operate weren’t true, your computer wouldn’t function. By the by, these axioms are only guaranteed by Christianity if we first presuppose, without reason to do so, that Christianity is true. I am sensing a familiar pattern in your reasoning.
”They are philosophical assumptions, which, interestingly, are part and parcel of the Christian worldview.”
What is remarkable about early Christians copying from Greek philosophy?
”Thus, theology is an ally to science in that it can furnish a conceptual framework in which science can exist. More than that, the Christian religion historically furnished the conceptual framework in which modern science was born and nurtured.”
What you mean to say is that Greek philosophers furnished a conceptual framework in which science can exist, which Christians copied. Early Christians did not originate the concepts you’re describing, they stole them and now Christians take credit for those concepts, as they take credit for a great many other things on behalf of their religion.
”Yes, I did not really address the cosmology you discussed, and I really have no expertise on the subject and will definitely have to research more on it. But, I wanted to bring up some underlying assumptions about science that you seemed to be missing, especially, in the fact that the scientific method as we know it was produced by Christians.”
Non-Christian Greek philosophers, actually. Is this the first you’re learning of this? Also, even if we pretend that Christianity invented science, logically speaking, how would that preclude science from producing findings which contradict Christian claims?
”Also the idea that Hebrews might have believed the world was flat doesn’t really question my faith. The ancient Hebrew also believed that sky was the ocean being held back by God and that he would sometimes let it rain. The ancient Hebrews had many scientific misunderstandings that they believed. But it doesn’t really question my faith as that’s not the story the Bible is telling, or the arena its trying to tell it in.”
This is irrelevant to the fact that the authors of scripture believed that information to have been divinely revealed. It is not only found in the Old Testament by the by, it is referenced in the New Testament as though it were factual. This should give a reasonable person cause to question whether any of the other supposedly divinely revealed information in scripture actually was.
”The Bible is not a science textbook, but is work of many authors with many literary styles producing a cohesive story that transgressed thousands of years all pointing to Jesus.”
The Bible does not have to be a science textbook for it to attempt explanations of natural phenomena which were impossible to investigate at the time, but which have since become investigable. It also does not somehow mean that getting these claims wrong doesn’t count against its credibility in other topics, just because those attempted explanations weren’t the central purpose of the text. As for the Old Testament “pointing to Jesus”, Jews disagree.
”Science has its limits its Domain is natural explanations of the physical universe and physical mechanisms and processes. Conclusions about supernatural/spiritual aspects of reality and things like value, purpose, and morality are off limits (Professor Karplus, Oregon State 2018).”
This line of reasoning presupposes that supernatural phenomena are real, without any proof. This is the familiar pattern in your reasoning I was talking about. All Christian thought seems to be presuppositional. But not concise, abstract axioms like science uses. And without any of the tangible proofs of its efficacy, like computers or other technologies.
However because you brought it up, I’d very much like to examine this philosophy that science cannot investigate the supernatural. Why is that? Stephen Gould called this perspective “non-overlapping magisteria”. The thinking was that since supernatural phenomena are immaterial, they are non-interactive with the material universe and thus undetectable by scientific instruments.
But if that is so, then how does the immaterial soul interact with the immaterial body/brain in such a way as to control it? This is one of those situations where you can have your cake, or eat it, but not both.
”I also wanted to bring up some strong disagreement with what your idea of Hell is. It certainly is not a postmortem torture chamber that when people who die, and didn’t say the magic prayer, go to suffer for all eternity.”
Revelation 21:8 describes it as a lake of fire. Matthew 25:46 says it’s a place of eternal punishment, as does 2nd Thessalonians 1:9. Revelation 14:11 describes it as a place of torment by fire.
Christians commonly recoil from this because of how self evidently immoral a punishment of infinite duration and severity is, for crimes of finite duration and severity. So they try to make Hell into something less objectionable via mental gymnastics and what I will generously describe as creative exegesis.
But really, so long as we can agree it’s intensely unpleasant, the specific form that unpleasantness takes is irrelevant to my arguments.
”God hates Hell, but where did Hell come from. It was created by humans and God wants to get the Hell out of you and the Hell out of earth.”
This perspective is not Biblical. It is affirmed many places in scripture that Hell is a place Yahweh prepared for the devil and other rebellious angels, as well as nonbelievers (Mark 16:16). Seeking out apologists who agree with your exegesis does not make it honest.
”A surgeon doesn’t cut a little bit of the cancer out and leave the rest in, no he wants to cut it all out. Your understanding of Hell, among many Christians misunderstanding, is heavily influenced by Greek mythology and works like Dante’s inferno.”
No, it comes from scripture. Every mention of Hell in scripture is consistent with my characterization of it as a place of painful punishment. Which verses support your alternate definition?
”For example, people could agree that sex trafficking is bad and that we want to rid the world of it. But, Jesus takes it more seriously, he doesn’t even want lust in his good world because he knows that its the root of so much death and evil that takes place in our world. God created the Heavens and the Earth, not hell, and the Bible is a cohesive story that points to Jesus coming back to save his good good world and restore Heaven and Earth. People want Hell, or evil, to be rid of, everyone wants this.”
This is quite the story you have told. What evidence is there to indicate that it is factually true?
”Please see “Skeletons in God’s Closet” by Joshua Ryan Butler and a great video made by Tim Mackie, founder of the Bible Project on the idea of Hell”
I am not interested in books written by professional liars whose job it is to keep you fooled.
”I am saddened at your view of the Bible and the story its trying to tell. Here’s a message about Easter my pastor inspired me to produce.”
What followed was long, tedious exposition about beliefs you hold, but nowhere did you furnish me with any convincing reason to suppose that those beliefs are factually true. That is the only thing I am interested in discussing. Exposition of that type is effective only on the sort of person whose heart is in control of his brain. My brain is in control of my heart, argue accordingly.
”Also the Bible, which is hard to understand so please watch the Bible Project to get more insight. Please continue your search for truth but remember to be respectful along the way. Stay safe and stay well in this difficult season.”
Thank you, I am sure I just seem capriciously mean, but if you were in my position you would come off that way too. For example, suppose you’re thawed from suspended animation 1,500 years into the future.
The first big difference you notice is that all of western culture including art, music, holidays, etc. are based on the life and writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Nearly everyone you meet is a Scientologist.
This is regarded as normal. Everyone was raised to believe in Scientology, and because they see it reflected in society all around them, it feels authoritative and credible. L. Ron’s life would’ve been aggrandized in a holy book and everyone would gather at their local church of Scientology for weekly auditing.
Since the only surviving accounts of what L. Ron was like would be the ones written and preserved through the ages by Scientologists, they would all believe he was a brilliant philanthropist and visionary the likes of which has never been surpassed.
This would seem asinine to you, because when you lived, Hubbard was regarded by the public as one of countless similar cranks and cult leaders. Marshall Applewhite, Gene Ray, Michael Travesser, Jim Jones, any one of them could have inspired a following that eventually refocused all human thought and culture around their teachings, it just happened to be L. Ron Hubbard who succeeded.
Nobody recognizes that it began as one of many cults and are offended by the observation. Anything you say which even hints that you feel this way is seen as simply calculated to hurt people, and you’re shunned accordingly. This makes it difficult to get or keep jobs, while Scientologists gain opportunities by networking that are unavailable to you.
Those who don’t react to your unbelief with reflexive hostility conclude you were simply miseducated in the wrong sect of Scientology, or haven’t been exposed to enough Scientological materials. They direct your attention to the last 15 centuries worth of sophisticated apologetics written by the greatest Scientologist theologians.
Their reasoning is that if such intelligent men devoted their lives to defending these beliefs, and so much complex literature has been written about them, there must be something to it and you can’t say there isn’t until you’ve read everything Scientologist theologians have ever written.
Are you content to remain silent in this world? Letting the status quo go unchallenged? Wouldn’t you feel compelled to unravel the deep, old, embedded deceit, even if it means you will be hated by the very people you’re trying to help?