Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Argument Against an Argument Against the Atheists

Now that people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have written best-seller books exposing the flaws and harms of religion, the religious are responding. One of these defenses is What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza. I have not read the book, but Albert Mohler has written an article praising it, so I'm going to assume that the clips he took out of it are supposed to be among the most convincing.

Of course, there really are no arguments here, but here's what Mohler highlighted:

"This is not a time for Christians to turn the other cheek. Rather, it is a time to drive the moneychangers out of the temple. The atheists no longer want to be tolerated. They want to monopolize the public square and to expel Christians from it. They want political questions like abortion to be divorced from religious and moral claims. They want to control school curricula so they can promote a secular ideology and undermine Christianity. They want to discredit the factual claims of religion, and they want to convince the rest of society that Christianity is not only mistaken but also evil. They blame religion for the crimes of history and for the ongoing conflicts in the world today. In short, they want to make religion – and especially the Christian religion – disappear from the face of the earth."

D'Souza is right in saying that atheists want to expel christians from the public square in the sense that we don't want schools teaching religion, but to say that religious-free curricula is undermining christianity is to admit that in order for Christianity to flourish, children must be indoctrinated with it when they are young and moldable. One way that atheists certainly do not want to expel Christians from the public square is by silencing them. I am confident that I speak for virtually all atheists when I say that a free market of ideas is vital to all public discourse. Where we have a problem is when non-facts are taught as facts to young children. We also have a problem with a faith-based religion that is not held by everyone influencing policy decisions. We have a problem with a Commander in Chief claiming he gets his orders directly from god.

And then there's this line: "They want to discredit the factual claims of religion, and they want to convince the rest of society that Christianity is not only mistaken but also evil."

I assume "factual claims of religion" means the "fact" that god exists, that he created the universe and other such non-facts. And how exactly are these evil atheists trying to discredit facts? Since we use simple logic and proven science, are you saying that atheists are lying, or that the science is faulty? I'm sure she goes into that at some point, and I will try to find a clip, but for now I can agree with this much: "[Atheists] want to discredit the claims of religion." The second part of this statment is also one word away from being true. Christianity is not only mistaken, but detrimental, or harmful, or bad. But certainly not evil. Evil is a religious word (and more recently, a political world) that any atheist I know would not use. It implies some kind of supernatural, spiritual force that drives people or things to do bad things. I do not believe that houses are evil, that books are evil or that religions are evil. It's just not the right word.

Next part of this quote: "They blame religion for the crimes of history and for the ongoing conflicts in the world today."

If someone can argue that the Crusades were not motivated by religion, or that the people who flew planes into the World Trade Center were not motivated by religion, lay it on me. I would love to hear someone make that argument.

Oh, but wait. That clip was just the beginning of D'Souza's profile of the atheist. He proceeds to one of my favorite argument stoppers: when you say a I know that you really mean b, so I'm going to argue against b. Here it is:

"My conclusion is that contrary to popular belief, atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt, it is a moral revolt. Atheists don't find God invisible so much as objectionable. They aren't adjusting their desires to the truth, but rather the truth to fit their desires. This is something we can all identify with. It is a temptation even for believers. We want to be saved as long as we are not saved from our sins. We are quite willing to be saved from a whole host of social evils, from poverty to disease to war. But we want to leave untouched the personal evils, such as selfishness and lechery and pride. We need spiritual healing, but we do not want it. Like a supervisory parent, God gets in our way. This is the perennial appeal of atheism: it gets rid of the stern fellow with the long beard and liberates us for the pleasures of sin and depravity. The atheist seeks to get rid of moral judgment by getting rid of the judge."

If this is true, atheists are the dumbest people on this planet. The logic of one of these atheists would be something like this: I know that God exists because it's self-evident. I know that if I have sex outside of marriage I am going to hell, because the Bible says so. But there's this naked person in my bed and I really want to have sex with him/her. I guess I'll just deny that God exists (even though, deep down, I know He does) and then I'll be okay.
Anyway, this an absurd notion that we want to explain away god so that we're free to do all the naughty things we want to do. And the "personal evils" that we apparantly can't resist are the proverbial icing on the cake. Specifically pride.

So let me briefly explain why christianity is inherently prideful, and atheism is inherently humbling.
Christians believe that the god of the universe created the entire universe especially for humans. Not only that, but he is intensly interested in having an individual relationship with each one of us. When we agree to this relationship, he is always on call, helps heal our loved ones when they get sick (sometimes) and is always watching us. Of course, if we sin, god is upset. Imagine that! I can affect the god of the universe by drinking too much, or by going to see "The Golden Compass." And then there's the whole idea of an afterlife. There must be an afterlife, because I cannot imagine a universe without me. So when I die, I'm going to go hang out with god, in a place that he personally prepared for me. I'm that important.
Atheists believe that each individual is a blip within a blip within a blip within a the history of time. It is impossible to be prideful when you admit that you are but one person of billions, living on one planet of billions, in one universe of billions, possibly in one dimension of billions. Not only that, but you're 60-80 years of existence is absolutely insignificant in the eternity of time.
Probably the most common reaction I get from people who find out I'm an atheist is that I am being arrogant in rejecting god. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the end, the only thing D'Souza seems to get right about atheists is that they don't believe in a god.

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