Godisimaginary.com – (“Proofs” 6-10)

(Continued from previously)

Proof 6: Ponder God’s Plan

This argument reflects on the absurdity of God having planned the world as we see it.

It might be worth decoupling the powerful parts of this argument from the tension we feel between free will and determinism. All humans must deal with the tension between free will and determinism (or simply deal with determinism, if it is in fact true), so it will do no good to ask why Christians “act like they can change God’s plan.” Why do atheists act as if they have choices? It is the same question. It is not the same question as why we should believe in a god would determine the universe in such an absurd way.

Proof 7: Understanding Religious Delusion

Well. I sure can’t find anything wrong with this one.

Proof 8: Think about Near Death Experiences

This argument states that since we can reproduce NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) with Ketamine, we should accept that they provide no evidence for spirituality.

I believe the inclusion of this argument is a bit of a mistake. First, it is not demonstrated that Ketamine produces all the features of some experiences that people have had (which occasionally, allegedly, include knowledge of events that took place while they were unconscious–not all of these have been debunked well enough to make it worth saying so). It is not demonstrated that people’s brains could not access something real while in an altered state. Finally, NDE’s often have nothing to do with Christianity, even if Christians believe they are real.

The most powerful argument against Christianity involving NDE’s is that for every Christian NDE, there are a million “New Age” and “generic” NDE’s that involve a Being of Light who appears to even atheists and agnostics (and, rather than taking them to hell, is oftentimes quite nice to them). Howard Storm, an atheist who became a pastor after his experience, nonetheless reported that when he asked which religion was “right,” the answer was “whatever one brings you closest to God.” That is not a Christian answer. These experiences show a remarkable consistency for hallucinations, and they mostly go against Christian teaching–that should be a far bigger knock to the Christian’s beliefs than the idea that drugs can induce this commonly-reported experience.

The point is not that NDE’s are, or aren’t, real: the point is that in both cases, they are not evidence for Christianity.

Proof 9: Understand Ambiguity

I put my support behind all these statements.

Proof 10: Watch the Offering Plate

The point of this argument is that for all God’s being omnipotent, he sure relies heavily on all sorts of natural human activity.

The absurdity presented here is valid, if you ask me, but it’s argued in an equally absurd way that I think will fly right over the heads of any remotely fervent Christian. When a Christian reads this, the Christian immediately starts thinking of all sorts of reasons why God might set things up this way. The response to the Christian rationalization is that “God is stealing people’s money and using them as puppets.” Like this is going to change anyone’s mind. I hate to point it out, but Christians don’t even believe that they own their own bodies.

I can scarcely think of a less effective way of framing this. This is about how religious efforts are totally governed by practical and predictable constraints. Furthermore, it’s worth pointing out that these constraints sometimes screw the church over: God doesn’t always send the money to American churches, and sometimes the church forecloses. Sometimes lots of churches foreclose (see the latest news). Missionaries and evangelists often fail to secure natural, material resources that are needed for a divinely-appointed effort, and then they hold long prayer meetings where they search their souls for the sin that caused the failure.

Other examples include the fact that it’s possible to scientifically analyze trends and causes of people’s conversions, the spread of the faith, and so on. Are you really telling me that if the price of overseas airfares drops this year, more people will be in heaven? I think that there are better ways to pick this issue apart, but this is only my opinion.

*

That’s the second set of arguments. It turns out that I agree with most of the things this guy says. The problems I see still have to do with overstepping boundaries, and knowing when to stop. Why does this matter? Because if you go too far, someone may notice you’ve gone too far, and discredit your sound claims based on the fact that they were able to wiggle out of your tenuous claims. I also think the tone of this entire site is way too harsh and self-certain to make the difference that it otherwise might make. And this is another common problem with the atheist movement: when you see someone talking like this, without showing any signs of having experienced the human condition (or its concomitant problems and uncertainties), you’re sorely tempted to assume that he just isn’t like you. If he isn’t like you, then he can’t know God like you know God. It provides an easy escape.

Further comments tomorrow.

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