Thursday, October 15, 2009

The God-Obsessed Atheist

In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy we find a character that I thought was Antony Flew back when it came out.

Oolon Colluphid is the author of several books on religious and other philosophical topics. Colluphid's works include:

Where God Went Wrong
Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes
Who Is This God Person Anyway?
Well That About Wraps It Up for God
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Guilt But Were Too Ashamed To Ask
Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Sex But Have Been Forced To Find Out

Adams writes:

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing." "But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D." "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic. "Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing. Most leading theologians claim that this argument isn't worth a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid from making a fortune with his book Well That About Wraps It Up For God.

Adams, an atheist, couldn't have been making fun of atheists who obsessively attack religion, could he? Naaaah.

Does anyone besides me see the irony in all of this?

21 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Why are you obsessed with offering and defending proof of your beliefs to yourself, atheists, agnostics, even to Christians who hold beliefs differing in some respects from your own?

Christians are obsessed with arguing for the superiority of their biblical and theological interpretations over those of other Christians. Visit more Christian forum sites like Christian forums, Catholic.com, Theology Web.

There also polite disagreements and discussion between bibliobloggers (blogging profs of religion) who are often moderate in tone if not also in belief, some are liberals and even a few atheists. Their "Biblical Studies Carnival" is always fun to read by the way.

I suspect that in general we all have a desire to reach out to others via our thoughts and interpretations of what we've learned in life, and it makes us feel a little uncomfortable when others don't see things through the spectacles of our own individual experiences and understanding. "Look! Somebody's WRONG on the Internet!"

Are you becoming obsessed with proving how obsessed others may be?

Anonymous said...

There is something hilarious about Edward T. Babinski, of all people, chiding someone for obsession with a topic.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Adams' Hitchhiker books. I was never sure if he was being ironic or not, but I though his Babel fish argument was great fun. -- Bilbo (forgot me password)

Edward T. Babinski said...

Ha. "Obsessed with Science"

"Balloon boy’s family obsessed with science"

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33332120/ns/us_news-life/

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dear "Anonypuss"

I never said I was chiding Vic nor anyone for having interests or obsessions. I was chiding Vic for implying that "atheists" who question people's philsophical and theological arguments are acting any more ridiculous than all the other people on the internet questioning each other's arguments.

And thus far in history Christians have expended far more words than anyone else in attempts to debunk each other's interpretations of the Bible. Christians are the greatest Bible debunkers of all.

Edward T. Babinski said...

By the way Anonywus,

Vic contacted me, years ago, even emailed me copies of his lectures on Christian Faith, and asked my opinion. Sent me advance chapters from his book and asked my opinion. Vic then formed this blog site.

Vic may not be happy about all the interest I've shown his blog site, nor my sending him various emails on C. S. Lewis and others topic I've run across on the web, but we have remained friends and spoken civilly for years and he's allowed me and any others to express themselves here on this blog. Skip my entries, but don't be so coy about your own obsessions and interests. We all have them.

D.J. Lower / KKairos said...

This reminds me of a question that some Christian blogger was attempting to answer on the internet, which was "Why does Christianity need so much defending, if it's true?"

My snippy answer to that would be "Why does Christianity need so much attacking, if it's false?" The point behind it being where I would guess said person's response was going: Because it's getting attacked.

If you believe you've attained even a measure of knowledge of the truth, defending that truth becomes part of your duty. It's also notable that lots of what Reppert does on his blog is truth-seeking, not just a bullheaded defense of what he already believes. The paramount example in my mind is his posts on the ethics of abortion. If anyone wants to see someone who's actually trying, really trying, to ask questions on that matter, I'd definitely refer them to Reppert.

It's also notable that in doing this duty Reppert provides a part of his service to the Kingdom of God. Some of us (this sometimes includes me) aren't so strong philosophically and might be easily swayed by supposedly cogent arguments about, say, why Jesus of Nazareth never existed. If there's nobody around to correct those errors... In other words, Reppert isn't just defending his faith. He's defending the faith of others who might not have the time to do all the research into arguments which, otherwise, might hold unnecessary sway over them. Another guy-with-blog who does this well is Roger Pearse.

unkle e said...

I agree with D.J. Lower / KKairos that you are performing an admirable and useful work here Vic. It is rare to find someone, believer or unbeliever, as fair-minded, courteous and even handed as you are. I have learned much from this blog. Thank you.

I'm not sure if Douglas Adams was "making fun of atheists who obsessively attack religion" or just having fun with words and ideas, but either way it was worth commenting on.

Anonymous said...

As long as Christians keep making the world a worse place, decent people will criticize Christianity. The fact that you find it a mystery says more about you than non-theists.

bossmanham said...

As long as Christians keep making the world a worse place, decent people will criticize Christianity. The fact that you find it a mystery says more about you than non-theists.

Yes, since in the 20th century our philosophy killed 70 million people in China, 6 million in Germany, 7.1 million in Cambodia...oh wait...that was atheists...

Christians built hospitals and fed starving people...huh

And what is your standard of "making the world a worse place." Surely you don't concede there is a standard that transcends us somehow...do you?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I had in mind more recent examples: you're a bunch of fools who get duped into voting for incompetent politicians. People like Bush who fought for curbing global warming (hooray, now the world's gonna suck forever -- thanks); being pro-criminal corporate activity (hooray, now my economic future's ruined), voting against loving gay couples from being married; turing a blind eye to repeated warnings by military officials of a terrorist attack (hooray - -thanks for 911); sending thousands of young soldiers to their deaths for a fictitious war, and many tens of thousands more in Iraq; etc., etc. Basically, too many of you are idiots, and you fuck up the world for the rest of us.

Matthew said...

I think I have to re-read all 5 parts of the 4-part trilogy.

Carbonman said...

I've never found any evidence in Douglas Adams's work that he believed that atheists 'obsessively' attack religion. Shortly before his tragic and untimely death he gave an impromptu speech that set out his views on the validity of questioning arbitrary belief systems.

Shackleman said...

Mr. Babinski,

You asked "Why are you obsessed with offering and defending proof of your beliefs to yourself, atheists, agnostics, even to Christians... "

I can't speak for Dr. Reppert, but I'd like to offer my own view of this, and also ask a question of you.

I imagine some Christians "defend the faith", because they're interested in saving the very souls of the unbeliever. When I was an atheist, I was *extremely* irritated at this notion. I thought, "who do these people think they are, trying to 'save' me?---I'm offended that they even think I need 'saving'".

I can still appreciate that sentiment. And yet, if one can quiet their sense of being offended for a moment and give honest and fair treatment to the evangelists' intent, one would find that it *is* a noble goal. The evangelist might want to save the unbeliever from eternal torture and damnation (not that *I* believe in this sort of thing, mind you). Not only that, they would like for the infidel to bask in the love and glory and wonder of God for eternity. I dare say therefore that *some* evangelism is very much an act of altruism.

Now, as a Lutheran, I don't think it's necessary for this type of evangelism. I think Christ already did the heavy lifting and paid the price for us and that we're saved by grace alone, not by works, nor by belief (although it is our faith that *justifies* our salvation).

Still others "defend the faith" because we're called to do so. "Go ye therefore and make disciples of men.". Speaking for myself, when I defend the faith or evangelize, I'm doing so because I believe it can make one's *Earthly* life better (Again, Christ already handled the eternal life for us). I believe that perhaps one can find *peace*, and meaning and fulfillment in *this* life, if they would grow to understand and to accept the Good News.

Now, I don't speak for all---there are certainly those who defend the faith because they're actually seeking an audience for their own hidden doubts (that would describe myself for example, still, on many occasion), or they may evangelize as a form of belittlement, or as a tool with which to wield power. In other words, *some* evangelize for very unrighteous reasons, I'd imagine.

But leaving those aside for a moment, the point is, the *motive* of the pure-intentioned "faith-defender" is often ultimately an altruistic, self sacrificing, caring, and loving endeavor. The intent is to *better* the lives, either Earthly or Eternal or both, of the would-be convert.

That's a good thing, no?

But now I wonder, what is your own motivation, Mr. Babinski, for proving false the views and beliefs of the faithful? Is your motive altruistic? Are you doing it for the benefit of the would-be-deconverted? Or are you perhaps irritated that the believer is happy and has found peace and meaning---all found due to ignorance or a cowardly inability to face reality without a loving God? If so, what business is it of yours? If I, a believer, is living in a fantasy, a dream, and I'm happy there, why would you wake me from it? Why not leave me in peace to enjoy my life, since after all, if you're right, when I die I turn to dust....Period. Why awaken me?

Looking back, I realize that when I was an atheist, I defended atheism and attacked religious belief because I was miserable. And I wanted not to be alone in that misery. I also was hoping that one day someone, perhaps someone like Dr. Reppert, would be able to argue for their positions well enough to show me a better way. I was seeking The Good News, and certainly found the glassy-eyed fire and brimstone self-serving, and irrational evangelistic styles of many to be a giant hurdle. I'm grateful, therefore to those who, like Dr. Reppert and other commentators on his blog, take the time argue for the religious position in a strong, honest, and *rational* way. I believe they are serving Christ, and doing their part to make disciples of men, sharing the Good News.

Thanks for your time, and be well.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I usually get the impression that people truly are looking out for the welfare of my soul. Except for the god hates fags types, but they just seem mentally ill or something.

There is nothing wrong with liking a good argument for intellectual stimulation. That's a third of the reason I come to this blog. Another third of the reason is to learn about Christianity, and the other third is procrastination.

Shackleman said...

"and the other third is procrastination."

Amen!






PS: I appreciate and agree with your other reasons too!

Blue Devil Knight said...

When I first became nonChristian, then agnostic, then atheist, I was talking about this stuff all the time, was particularly combative against Christians. I think that's a common phenomenon: the rebellious teenager kind of behavior as we leave the next.

Blue Devil Knight said...

As we leave the nest, not 'next.'

Shackleman said...

For sure. There's an exuberance that goes along with discovering a new truth for the first time and one tends to, in their excitement, focus their attention on it.

For those engaged in the art of "Discovery", blogs are a great resources for engaging in discussion. They represent an audience.

After all, don't we all seek witness to our thoughts and ideas? How boring would life be if I only had myself to talk to?

Even still, one's motives may not be so mundane and benign. Sometimes mine are. Other times I'm unashamedly and admittedly seeking to convert. I think it's good for them {{smile}}, and other times I'm seeking to strengthen my own position as a method of assuaging my own doubts. But now I'm repeating myself But now I'm repeating myself (!!), so I'll zip it for now.

Be well, BDK.

unkle e said...

Shackleman said: "When I was an atheist ...."

I would be interested to know, in the context of this discussion, how you came to change your mind - whether engaging in, or watching, arguments on websites like this had any influence, and whether forceful or gentle arguers had the bigger influence?

Thanks.

Shackleman said...

Hello Mr. unkle e,

You asked "I would be interested to know, in the context of this discussion, how you came to change your mind - whether engaging in, or watching, arguments on websites like this had any influence, and whether forceful or gentle arguers had the bigger influence?"

Thanks for the question.

It's important to note that I think Blogs can be helpful in the same way a coffee-shop can be helpful--in other words, blogs help to keep the discussions going and you get to hear views from competing ideas and philosophies and the like. Maybe once in a while something will really get you thinking or inspire you to research a topic further. But blogs shouldn't be used as the sole source of information and knowledge for a person!! Sadly, too many people, in my experience, *do* use blogging as their sole source of knowledge and information. It's embarrassing and a little scary, really. One should read the good-stuff. The Bible, Lewis, Reppert, Plantinga, Chalmers, Kant, Chesterton, Craig, Hasker, Kierkegaard, Bonnhoeffer, Berkeley, Nietzsche, (just to name a few of my favorites!).

If *I* had anything at all to do with my own conversion (my Pastor teaches me it was the Holy Spirit, and not my will, but it doesn't feel that way to me), then it was primarily because I stopped reading *only* the skeptics and the critics, and started reading the best stuff from the best minds on the subject.

That said, to more directly answer your specific question, I found that those arguing for theism and Christianity in a respectful, well-reasoned, and professional manner (with a big helping of grace and humility thrown in) were far more impactful and influential. Those who resort to being rude, or self-righteous, and who show little grace and humility I think actually are a detriment to conversion. I think this holds equally true for those arguing against the theistic and Christian views and/or for atheistic or materialist views.