Godisimaginary.com – (“Proofs” 16-20)

Proof 16: Contemplate the Contradictions

The argument is that if Christianity were divine, it would not contain such contradictions. Of course, I agree.

The common rebuttal to this argument is that God can do whatever he wants (and things that would ordinarily be wrong are OK if God himself does them). Notice the nuance of the argument: it does not say that an Almighty could not behave this way if he existed. It says that it is unreasonable to believe that such a particular Almighty exists who would create such a mess of contradictions, especially when a much better explanation exists (we see people making such messes all the time but have no reason to believe that God would be like this–in fact we can imagine many ways in which good specimens of humanity might have done what appears to be a better job).

This is a key argument, and I think it is far more serious than Christians realize. Because they tend to shrug it off.

Proof 17: Think about Leprechauns

The argument is that belief in Christianity is no different from belief in Leprechauns, which you can clearly see are silly.

On the face of it, this inductive argument is just fine. The problem, of course, is that there were no real Leprechauns, but there was a real Jesus, which makes it easier to ascribe things to him that may or may not be true.

When the author simply writes “the resurrected Jesus has never appeared to anyone” he loses the rigour. When he writes “The Bible we have is provably incorrect and is obviously the work of primitive men rather than God” he almost certainly loses the attention of any fervent Christian reader. In persuasive writing, there’s no room for statements like “The Bible is provably incorrect.” The Bible is a gigantic book full of completely different types of writing. Some of it is correct (whatever that means). Some of it is provably incorrect. Many Christians don’t care that some parts are incorrect. Hence, this statement is indulgent.

I am sure that if the author himself (or some supporters) were to rebut my criticisms, he might ask me: “do you think the resurrected Jesus appeared to anyone? Do you think there’s any good reason to believe that he did?” I am not a Christian so I would probably give some nuanced answer of “no.” Then at some point I would ask whether the statement has been proven true. He would have to admit that it isn’t proven.

“So why did you write it?” I would ask.

“Because there’s no evidence that it isn’t true,” he might say, in not so many words.

“But you’re specifically trying to prove to people that they shouldn’t believe that Jesus appeared to anyone, because Christianity isn’t true. Then you’re using an unverified statement–namely, that Jesus has never appeared to anyone–as evidence for your position.

“I’m trying to point out that they have never seen Jesus, and Jesus doesn’t appear in modern day,” he might say.

“That isn’t what you wrote,” I might reply. “Furthermore, some people think they have seen Jesus, and some people have heard first-hand and second-hand stories about Jesus appearing to people. Finally, many Christians think Jesus stopped appearing after the resurrection, which happened in times gone by and cannot be verified one way or another. It’s the accounts of his original appearances that many Christians rely on.”

“I wrote other explanations of why those things don’t make sense,” he might say. But that isn’t the point either.

The point is that this guy often takes the very things he’s trying to convince people of, proclaims them demonstrated, and shoves them right into the lists of evidence that he’s trying to use to convince his readers of the very thing. You might think I’m making something of nothing, since this is just a small point. But it isn’t. Why isn’t it? Because I am capable of seeing what a Christian (or even an unbiased) reader sees, and if the goal of argument is to win over the reader, then it should be factually accurate, and if it is going to be technically inaccurate, it should be an accident.

Proof 18: Imagine Heaven

The argument is that heaven is ridiculous because all attempts to envision “how it works” fail, and everyone has their own fantasy about it.

This argument could be a lot stronger. Even if it were framed in the strongest possible way, however, I am still not sure it is that strong.

The author showcases a dialogue with a fanatic who is talking about the rapture (the word “rapture” doesn’t appear in the text). Unfortunately, belief in the rapture involves some highly questionable exegesis, and it is disbelieved even by many evangelicals. So the entire dialogue, which involves absurdities of the rapture, could be dismissed by a Christian who doesn’t believe in it. Furthermore, all the details of heaven (the streets of gold, having a big house) are either not written anywhere in the Bible, or they are nestled in between some language that is so plainly metaphorical that even a secularist would do well to concede to the Christian’s staple defence: that it is “not literal.”

Between all the unbiblical and non-literal claims about heaven, it seems that the only thing left is a criticism of people’s overindulgent fantasies. A shrewd Christian would agree that we really shouldn’t get too far into speculating about things we don’t understand. They would join the atheists in reprimanding these licentious romps of the evangelical imagination. The virus would adapt, and it would survive.

Perhaps a good follow-up question for Christians is: do you really think it’s a coincidence that people are speculating about gold and virgins and big houses in heaven? Do you not think that our doctrines about heaven arose from the human need to engage in this kind of hopeful speculation, rather than the hopeful speculation being some kind of departure from the “true” attitude towards heaven?

The author heavily implies this, of course, but he does not press it.

Proof 19: Notice that you Ignore Jesus

I agree completely.

The Christian response is to feel a bit of guilt, admit that “we’re all flawed” and throw in a bit of rationalization here and there. I’ve written on this blog (and elsewhere) that this is really not enough, if you ask me.

For years I had a note written at the bottom of my to-do list that read: “This Christian Thing.” It meant that I was never, in all my life, really living up to the Christian standard, and if I wanted to actually be a Christian I would have to fundamentally change my ways. I’d also have to sort out my beliefs and stop waffling on key doctrinal points. So I did, and this is how I ended up.

It feels good not to be a hypocrite any more.

Proof 20: Notice your Church

This is all valid. Totally valid.

The only problem is that the author ends, again, by calling Jesus “imaginary.” It is misleading and/or incorrect to call Jesus imaginary.

Let’s say our hero wants to be a Christ-Myther. Fine: but if you’re going to defy scholarly consensus and join the fringe, declare it openly. Do not pretend that your view is common amongst people who study these things. Do you want Creationists doing that? No. So set a goddamn example.

*

The verdict so far: sound arguments (in my opinion) + indulgence, failure to recognize limitations, too much preaching to the choir and pleasuring oneself with the keyboard.

Would you abandon Christianity for atheism by reading this website? Personally I think these bare-bones arguments are fairly strong, so it is possible that they may overcome the aforementioned contamination. But they shouldn’t have to, and in many cases they probably won’t.

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