Monday, July 16, 2007

Religion on the Defensive from the "New Atheists"

At the Daily Mail: Won't Anyone Stand Up for God?

From Althouse:

Why does the Daily Mail put this caption under that picture?

My comments are in brackets in the following text.

The stories in Genesis and Exodus, like Jehovah's obliging parting of the Red Sea and stopping of the sun in its tracks to enable the Israelites to complete some slaughter, are read nowadays by most thoughtful people as the myths they clearly are. [Only because they so obviously go against everything we know now by using science.]

Myth-making is as old as man and inevitably also enters into the New Testament in such stories as the Annunciation and the Nativity, both of which are noticeably absent from two of the Gospels (the earliest, Mark, and the most sophisticated, John). [We'll continue to pretend that we can just pick our favorite part of religion to defend and that the other stuff can be safely ignored because it is too outlandish and indefensible.]

Hitchens is well aware of current New Testament scholarship which acknowledges that the canon of 'authentic books', which was fixed after nearly three centuries of argument, is a man-made selection of much modified texts. [Pretty clear here that the divine touch of God is harder to suppose.]

They were based on other texts that have been lost, which in turn depended on
oral traditions which are not verifiable.

Thinking Christians would no more take every word of either Testament
literally than they would offer up burnt offerings or take their moral teaching
from Deuteronomy and stone adulterers to death. [Yes--because religion had fragmented by the development of acceptance of different views by Luther and Calvin and others. Religious zeal has been toned down by science, reason, logic, and all of the ideas imported from Greece and Rome during and ever since the Renaissance.]

But Hitchens and Dawkins fulminate as though every believer has to accept wildly improbably episodes as 'gospel' along with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, which are the heart of the matter. [So to defend religion, the author is choosing to count only that which he finds reasonable to believe--even though there are still significant segments of the population (as is noted below) which still take every line literally. So any argument against the falsehood of the REST of the document from which he chooses to take his belief shouldn't count.]

Their indignant denunciations of the Bible would be more appropriate in America, where a supposed 53 per cent of believers take Genesis as the literal truth of how the universe was created - only 6,000 years ago or so, they believe. [Unlike this author's defense, the attacks on religion are taking the entire doctrine of religion to heart. Just because the author doesn't follow that part of the doctrine does not make their attack on the whole of the doctrine less powerful.]


As for the other great question - what is the point, or purpose, of it all? - the current answer from science is that there isn't one. Dawkins again: 'The universe has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.'

So atheism is a belief in pointlessness. As Hitchens observes, the views from the Hubble telescope are more awe-inspiring than any medieval vision of Hell.

A Black Hole is as sobering a concept as the voice of God coming from the clouds on Mount Sinai. And the intricacy of the double helix or the human genome are as great a marvel as the most heart-stopping landscape on Earth or cloudscape in the Heavens.

But they are all pointless, without purpose. Our existence on what as far as we know is the one blue planet in trillions that nurtures and protects human life is the result of the most exquisite fine-tuning of forces such as gravity. [Just because you think you should be significant and serve some larger purpose doesn't mean you do. Does that mean existence is pointless? By no means! One should strive to live a full existence in support of one's life and joys.]

Every year we are seeing proved how easy it is to upset this tuning through climate change. We know how fragile the future existence of humanity could be.

But, say the atheists, it all came about by chance, thanks to millions of amazing coincidences, without any God-like creating principle behind them. Strictly speaking science invites us to believe not in a God but in the gambler's goddess - Lady Luck. [Science does not ask for belief in anything. It will show proof using evidence and reason. Only religion asks for belief without proof or evidence--the real definition of faith.]

Luck or not, here we are to ask why and what for. No wonder there are, in spite of everything, many reputable scientists who do believe in God and maintain there is no contradiction between that and their belief in science. [Scientists who can claim such are completely compartmentalizing their careers from their belief systems. They choose reason for their bread and butter and faith for whatever else they may like. They are like the American cafeteria Catholics who take the parts of Catholocism they like and discard the parts of their religion that conflict with the practical side of living.]

Atheists have to face the conundrum: why do so many people believe in God when there is no God to believe in? [Just because people believe in it does not make it true, nor is it a logical argument to debate. Everyone in Egypt believed in Osiris--it didn't mean he was real. This lies in the purview of sociologists and psychologists.]

Their usual answer is that they are all deluded wishful thinkers who invent a God because they are scared of dying and want to imagine life after death.

Hitchens distrusts faith of any kind - 'we distrust anything that contradicts science or reason'. But reason only takes us so far. We do not live by reason alone. We rely also on intuition, imagination and faith. [One's intuition and imagination are based on one's knowledge of the world. Intuition is just another word for feelings, which may not be as well-mapped to reason in some people as others, but they still arise from one's knowledge. Imaginations can only be derived from parts of other ideas we've seen in reality. Faith is called out separately below.]

Without faith - belief beyond evidence - life would be unlivable. Imagine taking a journey without faith - faith in an unknown driver, faith that there will not be an accident. You would never leave home. [Confusion over different sorts of faith. Faith that most car rides don't end in accidents is based on observations of reality. Faith in the religious sense has no 'basis' at all--that's why it's religious faith.]

Dawkins calls non-thinking faith 'evil' but current cosmologists are required to believe that the universe must be full of Dark Matter which they can neither see nor measure. What an act of faith that requires! [This is just idiocy spouted by someone who must have overheard some astronomers talking and didn't bother actually looking up anything about why scientists are positing dark matter. The dark matter hypothesis comes from a mis-match between the calculated total mass of the Universe, reverse engineered from observations, and the apparent (visible) mass of the objects detectable with current instruments. All of which is based on observations and logic and which can be tested and probed further as instrumentation becomes more advanced. I'd like to see the author claim that about God or the doctrine he attributes to Jesus.]

So it ill behoves scientists to ridicule faith as a basic fact of human nature. And of course, as the only ground for belief in God or salvation. No one can prove or disprove it. Atheism as a world view, as a philosophy to live by, is full of holes. It leaves unanswered and unanswerable our questions about the mystery of our existence. [Depending on the philosophy, mine is Rand's Objectivism, the question itself could be considered invalid.]

So I am astounded that in the face of so much aggressive atheist attack no one in the ranks of believers or in the Church has stood up to reply. [The author obviously does not want people who actually fully believe all of the tenets of religion to defend it because he's already admitted that they are not defensible.]

No comments: