Our Existence

Courtesy of Stockvault.net

On another blog, there’s been an ongoing discussion between some atheists and a Christian related to our “existence;” that is, our “beingness” — why we are here, why we are alive and living on this planet. Some would describe it as a discussion related to Ontology: The metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence; that is, study based on hypothesis or theory rather than experiment.

As would be expected, there is a rather significant difference of opinion between the two factions.

The atheists naturally consider science as the most important element of our existence because it IS based on experiments. They assert it is the discipline of science that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions, not only about ourselves, but also about the universe we live in. They further contend it is science that has allowed us to survive, as well as improving our lifestyle in the process.

The Christian naturally downplays this perspective and repeatedly accuses his detractors of believing in “scientism,” which has been defined by some as “a scientific method that has no (or few) limits, can successfully be applied to almost all aspects of life, and provides an explanation for everything.” It has even been referred to as a RELIGION and that its followers worship science, its rituals, and its results! The following from Wikipedia is notable:

According to Discovery Institute scientism is an effort to use the methods of science to explain and control every part of human life, in other words, the misguided effort to apply science to areas outside its proper bounds.

Moreover, the blog owner believes philosophy (the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics) plays just as important a role defining our existence as the discipline of science.

He emphasized his perspective by offering the following quote on his blog by Stephen Barr, author, and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware. I find it very telling …

“There’s a misconception that’s actually at the root of the science-religion tension. Many people think that nature and God are in competition, that if something has a natural explanation that God had nothing to do with it. And, if God did something, it’s supernatural, so it’s an either-or. And, so the more science can explain naturally the less there is for God to explain. But that’s a complete misconception because God is the author of nature.

(Emphasis added)

I close this post with a quote from the referenced blog owner: Science cannot prove that we have a complete picture of reality.

Considering the preceding discourse, what are your thoughts?

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God Exists

Is the above a true and infallible statement?

Hardly. As one individual put it …

The statement has no value in [and] of itself and relies on a premise that has not been verified.

And therein lies the marked difference between the believer and the non-believer.

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(Click here for the discussion leading up to this comment.)

Hogwash!

The following comment was made by a Christian on another blog:

Of course, there are many … reasons people choose to disbelieve or walk away from God. We may have prayed for someone and they died, or we suffered some other tragedy and blame God for not intervening. It could be we want to be free from some oppressive version of religion that we experienced, so we look for reasons not to believe.

It seems to me it usually comes down to either being angry with God or not wanting to be accountable to anyone but ourselves. 

(emphasis added)

My response to this statement was the title of this blog post.

Feel free to add your own …

When You Claim to be a Christian

The following is a response one of my “blogger friends” gave to a person who visited his blog. I felt it deemed a wider audience as I think what he wrote speaks for many who have left “the faith.” Yes, it’s long … but it contains a LOT of good thoughts.

Okay, let’s step back. Let’s take a breath and review a few things. You said that you don’t know if the Bible is true or not. You said that it’s not your job to lead anyone to truth. You also said that it doesn’t matter if the Bible is factually correct because it’s not meant to be read that way. I apologize for presuming you believed in these things. I think what led me to believe them was the fact that you said you were a Christian. I assumed you believed in these things as a Christian because these things are found in the “statements of faith” for EVERY SINGLE branch of Christianity. With of course the one exception (Catholicism) which relies on church over the Bible and the Nicene Creed over doing works for Christ. But, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, Pentecostals and even Mormons believe in the truth of the Bible and the fact that our purpose here is to do good works for Christ and lead people to him by spreading “the Good News.” Praying to Mary, confessing to priests instead of to God directly and calling priests “father” all go against biblical teaching so I can see why the Bible is not part of the Catholic “statement of faith.”

If you are suggesting that all of the things that Christians agree upon don’t matter then you are going against all Christian doctrine and instead are adopting a “buffet-style” religion. Picking and choosing which parts to cling to and which parts to ignore. Again, you are more than entitled to believe whatever you want to and live your life any way you want. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s no one’s business but your own. But when you claim to be a Christian and then say the basic tenets of Christianity do not matter, people get a bit confused, myself included. Please, by all means do what makes you happy in life, but be prepared for anyone who knows what Christianity (not to be confused with just a belief in Jesus or being a fan of Jesus) is supposed to be about, to question you.

Now as far as me getting a “pass”, I’m not sure if I should laugh that comment off or address it. I guess I’ll address it. If you say you are a Christian, that usually means (with of course that one exception called Catholicism) that you believe in the Bible as fact (or at least containing facts) and believe that our purpose is to spread the Gospel to all people by being good disciples. If you say that’s not what you believe, then an explanation is necessary or else you are the one getting the pass. If I say I do not agree with Christianity as a religion built on truth and I find evidence for it lacking, that doesn’t mean I have to come up with a better, more believable alternative. Let me explain with a fictitious scenario with two people discussing Aurora Borealis. You know, the northern lights? Let’s call these two people Bill and Sally:

Bill: “Isn’t this beautiful Sally?”
Sally: “It sure is Bill.”
Bill: “Do you know what causes these lights to appear?”
Sally: “No, what?”
Bill: “Magic. 100% magic.”
Sally: “No, that cannot possibly be correct. You can’t back that up.”
Bill: “Do you have a better explanation for why these lights appear?”
Sally: “Well no. I never really thought about it and I never took the time to do research on the subject.”
Bill: “Well, if you have nothing better to offer as an alternative, then magic it is.”

Do you see the flaw in this logic? Is Bill right because Sally couldn’t offer an alternative? Of course not. Just because someone is unconvinced by someone’s beliefs DOES NOT mean that they have a better explanation or need to come up with one. I do not believe in the Christian story because there is no evidence to back it up. I don’t know enough about evolution or the Big Bang or any other scientific theory to say I know what the alternative is. If I say 2+2=7 to someone who has no clue how to do math and they say “I don’t think that’s right” but can’t come up with the answer for themselves, does that mean my math is right? No. It just means that the other person disagrees. Asking for a better alternative is called deflection. It is what people do when they can’t adequately defend their position.

You mentioned that giving up my “childish faith” shouldn’t mean making the leap to “no faith.” What are you suggesting? Believe in something just to say you believe in something? If you had been following my blog for the last 3 years or so you would know that I am always searching for truth. I am always learning and trying to figure things out. But, since I still don’t know what the actual truth is and what our purpose is I will not just jump to faith as a default response. I do not consider myself an atheist because I DO NOT KNOW enough to rule God out. But I also DO NOT SEE enough evidence to say I believe. So yes, in my case, “I don’t know” is the appropriate response. It’s not a pass, but my response to not being convinced by religion. I don’t need to say what we all should believe in to know what I DON’T believe in.

What convictions “guide my life”? I don’t have any right now. I did, for most of my life. Then I investigated the doubt I had for years and found that I don’t really believe in it. Religion isn’t always the answer. It’s not, “well Christianity didn’t work out so what are my other religious options?” It’s more of, “I don’t believe in Christianity any longer so I will just live my life the best I can.” What drives me? What keeps me going? My family. My wife. My kids. My friends. The people in my life that are always there for me drive me more than an absent god ever did. Is there more to life than what we can see? Maybe. Should I devote myself to religion “just in case”? The old “Pascal’s Wager” way of life? If God was watching me live that way, he would not be fooled. I can’t just believe to say I believe or have some kind of faith because it’s “better than nothing.”

I think that you think because you have a belief system and a “faith” that guides your life, then everyone must have one. If not Christianity, then some other belief system. Some people (whether they want to or not) just live their lives. It may sound bleak to people who believe in eternity. But without proof, eternity is just a nice thought that is more comforting than just having life end and then have nothing more. I’m not going to pretend I have an alternative just to say I have one. I’m also not going to say that because I don’t have a better belief system than Christianity, that Christianity is right. That’s absurd.

Look, we can just keep going around and around or we can just be honest. You believe in something that I don’t. You don’t know for sure you are right and I don’t see any reason to try to come up with an alternative answer. I will always be searching. I will always be striving to find truth wherever it is. No matter where truth leads me, I will follow. I can’t, and won’t, ever follow something I do not believe in, even if that means living a life that simply ends when I die. You are free to believe whatever you want to and I am free to say I disagree with it, but let people do what they wish. I don’t write blog posts to stir up trouble or to make enemies. I also don’t feel that I need to come up with “something” when I do not know the answer. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to either. I will leave it at that and I wish you the best. Take care.

Go here to read the original post and additional comments.

Atheists Are People Too

The following are direct quotes from a blog conversation between an atheist and a believer. I’m not providing names as I prefer readers who are familiar with the dialogue focus (and comment) on the message rather than the messengers. (I will delete names if necessary.)

Believer:

Atheists hold no religious convictions. That’s pretty straight forward. And that’s why people don’t trust atheists.

Atheist:

So, you are claiming that people who do hold religious convictions are automatically trustworthy?

Believer:

I’m saying that atheism makes people suspicious because it makes no statements of belief. It offers no values, virtues, codes, rules or laws. A lack of belief is also a lack of substance. On atheism, right and wrong are matters of public opinion.

While not an atheist myself , I find these comments to consist of pure rhetoric. In other words, they are nothing more than tired, worn-out, meaningless, and oft-repeated words that Christian leaders use to brainwash (yes, I said brainwash) their congregations about anyone that doesn’t “profess Christ.”

Atheists are no different than anyone else EXCEPT they reject the idea/belief/persuasion that gods (any gods) exist. (As related to the above conversation, they specifically reject the Christian God.)

To say that atheists have no values, virtues, codes, rules or laws is nonsense to the nth degree. Truth be known, many are FAR more virtue-driven than those who sit in a pew every Sunday, pray before meals, cross their chests in public, display their bible on the living room table, place Christian stickers on their cars, carry placards to reject freedom of choice, etc., etc.

In other words, Christians do not have a monopoly on being a “good person.”

In fact, truth be known, many who wear a Christian badge are often far less caring and compassionate and kind towards others than those who possess no affinity to religious principles. Case in point — Christians bloggers who berate, insult, use sarcasm, and totally disrespect those who disagree with them.

Bottom line? Atheists are people too. They’re not monsters or ogres. They are not out to destroy religion (well, maybe some of them are), but they will — and do — stand up for their personal perspective on life. And it’s their right and privilege (at least in this country) to do so just as believers can express their affection and attraction to their deity.