Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Rather Compelling Argument Against Christianity

I just came across an article which my Knowledge and Reality professor wrote for his now-defunct magazine, AGENDA.

As you can imagine, this piece outraged quite a lot of Christians, many of whom funded and advertised in AGENDA. Not surprisingly, AGENDA bought the farm soon after.

Regardless, the arguments in this article make the already arduous job of Christian apologists even more difficult. Arguments #3 and #4 I find especially convincing. Are there any Christians up to the task of responding?

1 comment:

Ben said...

A few thoughts; not intended to be a complete rebuttal (each point could have its own page) but a start.

1. Before we do anything else, we need to have a contemporary scholarly version of the bible to work from. This is likely Kings James Version (Possibly Douey-Rheims) which is not a very good translation. Darn it, if you're going to destroy my faith, then find a bible I like to do it with!

2. As well, if one wishes to make an argument against a religion using that religions text, then if must be read in the context of that religious faith. i.e. ask "What does that mean to them?" For example, if I wish to make a case against Islam using the Qur'an, then I better know how Muslims understand the Qur'an or I will succeed in doing is solidifying my own interpretation of a religion.

If that is understood, then many of the arguments fall apart.

For the Grin and Bear It argument (nice pun):
This is one of those cases where having a more accurate translation of the bible helps. The King James and Douey-Rheims versions do translate this verse as “small children” but modern biblical scholars agree that the best interpretation is actually teenagers. And if forty two of them were killed, then how many were there originally? Elisha was in a foreign land, with this mob of people that were denying that he was a prophet (the bald head comments). Very bad and threatening situation.

You touch it, you by it.

Throughout the Old Testament, we have story upon story of God’s mercy. Why would this be different? We don’t know, but what we do know is that David also was angry with God for it (I Chr 13:13). Although it seems irrational to us, there is one thing to understand about this. I don’t think Uzzah’s death was to punish Uzzah, but actually David. If one did not believe in God or His power, then this would obviously seem trivial. But the Jewish people were given very strict instructions on how to carry the ark, and they were not being followed. To us, this may seem to be no big deal, but the them (especially Uzzah, who was a priest) it was.

Because I said so, that’s why.

Remember: this story must be read as a Christian would read it. Job was a very devout believer in God, moreover, he lived that life very well. But a lot of really bad things started to happen to him. So he wondered why… a natural response.

This story wasn’t told to draw in the nonbeliever. It was told for a community of believers that were facing constant oppression. Now, if you’re in a community that is constantly afflicted by enemies, then what do you want to hear when you do get an answer from God? You want to hear that he has the power to change things. And, eventually, he does. For Job as well.

#8 Good Shepherd or Cattle Rustler?

This really doesn’t make much of an argument. The demons wanted to possess something; and Jesus had the freedom to allow them… the pigs, once possessed, threw themselves into the river, killing themselves and possibly taking the demons with them. I think that actual point is that even “unclean” animals know that demons are evil and refuse to cooperate with them, not that Jesus likes drowning pigs.

#7 The Mob Leader

Well, if you read a little further, he does kind of answer the question without endangering his life (too much). Both Jesus and the priests had reasons not to tick off the crowd.

#6 Slinging Mud

This is just a really bad interpretation of the passage.

#5 I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

Again, I think that the authors understanding of this is a little off. No one is perfect; we know that. However, we can see problems in others peoples lives that we have overcome in our own, and we can help them overcome that problem. For example, does it help if one alcoholic tells another alcoholic that the second alcoholic needs to quit drinking? I think that’s called hypocrisy. But what about a former alcoholic that has been sober for ten years? That’s a different story. And just because we struggle with sin doesn’t mean that we don’t help others… it just means we make sure that we are striving for holiness ourselves.

#4 The Scarlet Letter

Again, poor interpretation of the text. It does not take into account the audience to whom it was written. Furthermore, that word could be considered “unfaithful” as it really makes more sense than just “unchaste” (again though, poor bible translation).

Either way, Christians today come to know a Jesus that permits separation of husband and wife when one of them is in danger from the other. The only question then is remarriage, and whether or not that would constitute a violation of the vows.

#3 Defending Slavery

Just because Jesus uses a parable talking about a master and a slave does not mean that that is what he thinks is ideal, just like his stories about Hell. Trust me, God does not think Hell is the ideal solution.

#2. Might makes right

Here’s where the real debate begins. This author has judged God on a moral system that he thinks is correct. But who has set this system up? Either this person, or some higher power.

1). The author is not God, but does seem to be appealing to some “higher understanding” of what is right and wrong, though he dares not define what “right” or “wrong” is. This seems to be a contradiction in itself.

2). He blasts Jesus for offering rewards or punishments for peoples actions. But isn’t this what laws do? If you commit crime X, then you may receive punishment Y or Z? We’re just offered real justice, one that has effects throughout time; one which you can’t get away from by destroying evidence.

3). If there is no God, or God doesn’t care, then what really defines what is a good thing to do? Sooner or later that line of reasoning leads to a no-real-morals approach because it leaves each individual to determine what their own goal is. Because once you’re dead, it doesn’t matter what you did in life. But the author has skirted this issue by arguing that we should just be good anyway. I don’t think that that works long term.

#1 The Torturer

The author is quite off here. Jesus never says that Hell is a good thing. In fact, Catholic theologians (e.g. Hans urs Von Balthasar) not only point out that we don’t know for certain if anyone is in hell, but should hope that no one is.

Furthermore, one more distinction needs to be made. When it all comes down to it, God does not send anyone to Hell. The Christian ideal of “free will” says that we all have a chance to accept God in this life (even if we don’t consciously realize it, e.g. people who live truly good lives but have never heard of God).

Personally, I truly believe that those of us (hopefully everyone) that make it to heaven will be very surprised by what and who we find there.

Not to sound too much like an evangelist or anything, but even if these arguments were valid, they wouldn’t do much damage. Believers know that they have a personal relationship with God, and although the Bible helps them know Him better, it is not the true source or summit of their faith.

In Conclusion

Overall, I found the arguments to be weak in terms of biblical scholarship. I’m kind of surprised that Christians got so ticked that this was being printed; I would have seen it as an opportunity to dispel some misconceptions about the faith. But to have true discussion, the author really should have expanded on his premises and explained his starting point a little more. We can argue points of the bible all day, but it isn’t until we understand each others axioms that real discussion can start.