Hawking Up Hairballs

Monday, January 30, 2006

More on Christianity

I would like to make further a response to the remarks of Jeff Dockman. He starts out by saying, ”You say Christianity is bankrupt for claiming that Jesus died for the sins of mankind on the cross. What about this claim makes Christianity bankrupt? Is it because it seems foolish to us that God would utilize this method for the salvation of man?”

The first point regards the existence of God. Most people seem to think that they know what is meant by the concept of God. They will say something like, God was the creator of the universe, or God is the supreme being. However, there are problems with both of those descriptions. For example, what evidence is there that there was a creator of the universe. Just because our minds are structured so that it is difficult for us to imagine an act of creation without a creator does not mean that such a thing is necessarily true. It just means that we have a hard time comprehending it. Calling God the supreme being merely moves the question to what is meant by the phrase “supreme being”. Christian philosophers in the Middle Ages made so-called proofs of the existence of God based upon notions like “supreme being”, but these have been shown as false arguments. I’m not going to go into the details. Anyone who is truly interested can find references to these arguments in a good book on the history of philosophy.

Hence, if someone were to ask me if I believed in God, I would say that I didn’t know how to answer that question since I don’t know what could possibly be meant by the concept of God. It’s such an ambiguous concept. However, I would definitely say that I do not believe in the notion of God as understood by most Christians. The idea that there is some vaguely human-like, patriarchal deity with whom one can communicate and who intervenes in human affairs is certainly something that requires some sort of evidence. And there is no such evidence, not even the smallest iota of it. That is why I say that Christianity is intellectually bankrupt, because it requires the acceptance of ideas that are contrary to all physical evidence and all of the dictates of reason. It is nonsense, pure and simple. However, I would add that there are those Christians, and the evangelicals are not among them, who would say that the Bible is a collection of myths that aim to tell us how we should live, and that Christianity is a system of belief organized around that ethic. I would exclude such Christians from the charge of intellectual bankruptcy because they do not ask us to accept nonsensical statements as fact.

As for tolerance and respect, I believe that people deserve tolerance and respect in spite of the views that they hold, but that their irrational beliefs deserve scrutiny and criticism. For example, there are those who maintain that the Holocaust never took place. We have no problem with vigorously attacking those kinds of arguments and positions, and rightly so, but when it comes to religious nonsense, we tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. Not only is the notion that Christ died for our sins on the cross an utterly nonsensical contention, but the idea that we all inherit some original sin is a toxic notion that should be attacked with as much intellectual vigor as one can muster.

Then there are the social issues in which evangelical Christians in particular have involved themselves, especially the teaching of evolution and the legality of abortion. Quite simply, intelligent design should not be taught in science classes because it isn’t science. One big reason why it isn’t science is because there is no conceivable experiment that could be performed that could falsify it. People have been trying to come up with experiments to falsify the theory of evolution for over a century, but without success. That is why it is so universally accepted by scientists.

Intelligent design states that it is impossible for anything as complex as life to emerge through the action of physical processes alone. What evidence there is suggests the opposite of what intelligent design maintains. There are numerous examples of extremely complex systems arising from simple processes. For example, the complex and beautiful fractal patterns are created by the repeated application of the simple mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. That would suggest something opposite to what is maintained by the theory of intelligent design.

As regards the question of abortion, its Christian opponents are trying to shove their opinions down our throats. They claim that they are opposed to abortion because they are “pro-life”. However, I have met many evangelical Christians and, at most, there were one or two who were opposed to capital punishment. There are even fewer who are opposed to all killing, including killing in war, even though pacifism would seem to be the logical consequence of the notion of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. I find it quite hypocritical to permit one to blow away an enemy with an M-16, while condemning a woman for taking a morning-after pill in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

As regards Prof. Mirecki, who was attacked, allegedly for his comments about fundamentalist Christians, Jeff states that there is some doubt that the attack really took place. That is not true, at least from the viewpoint of the authorities. Those who have written that are people who had axes to grind. They have presented no evidence whatsoever that would cast doubt on Prof. Mirecki’s claims.


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