Thursday, November 29, 2007

The great religious cop outs

I was recently watching (or rather, re-watching) Richard Dawkins' speech in Lynchburg, Virginia. Of course, in the Q&A segmant Dawkins faced many of the knee-jerk reactions that Christians have to any Atheistic argument.

The first one I'd like to address--because it is one I personally run into all the time--is the "What if you're wrong?" argument, if you want to even call it an argument (you shouldn't). Anyone who has read or heard Dawkins knows his response to this question: What if you're wrong about Allah, Baal, Thor or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? If only that were enough to convince them.

Since this was a Q&A, and not a debate, the girl never actually got the chance to respond to this question (even if she did, she seemed too intimidated by Dawkins to do so). But I have used this rhetorical question to turn the tables on many Christians who ask the "What if you're wrong?" question. The typical response is that most of those religions don't have a hell, so the consequences of being wrong about Christianity is much worse. That's actually pretty good logic, if you're convinced that there's a supreme being but have no way of knowing which religion is right. If I'm hedging my bets, go with the religion that has the worst punishment. Nevermind which religion, if any of them, makes sense. Even if you're 99% sure that Christianity is wrong, the 1% chance of you spending eternity in excruciating pain is enough to scare you into devoting this life to the Christian god. This logic kept me trapped in the prison of Christianity for a good four or five years between high school and college.

This is what makes Christianity such a hard religiong to take down. A lot of people are just too scared of Hell to even consider questioning god's existence. Remember, the one sin that the New Testament clearly deems unforgivable is "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit." I don't know if questioning god's existence is blasphemy, but it certainly toes the line. It certainly seems that questioning the Holy Spirit's existence would be blasphemy, and the Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity, which is god...That's a tough one, so why take the chance?

The answer: you're one physical life, whether it be five years or 105 years, is something that should be treasured. It should not be considered a prelude to a better life. But I'll leave that topic alone, for now.

The other challenge to Richard Dawkins and Atheists everywhere is the favorite cop out of Christians, because it makes any further debate impossible. The idea usally attacked is the Ultimate Boeing 747 argument. The attack goes something like this: "You can't use the laws of nature to disprove God, because God is above the laws of nature." Dawkins response is simply, "Well isn't that too easy?" I'm sure some Christian out there, somewhere, will say that Dawkins could not answer the question. And they'd be right, because it's an absurd question. This allows you to say whatever you want about God, with no possibility to refute your claims.

More importantly, this is yet another example of misplacing the burden of proof. You say that all our knowledge about how the world works cannot be used to disprove the existence of god. Then it certainly cannot be used to prove the existence of god. And since the burden of proof is on the person that claims something exists...point for Atheism.

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