Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Uncritical?

Some claim that Christians uncritically accept their faith. When I hear this, I think, "Have you ever heard of adolescence?"

Apparently even Sean McDowell, Josh's son, was far from uncritical.

16 comments:

Crude said...

Some claim that Christians uncritically accept their faith. When I hear this, I think, "Have you ever heard of adolescence?"

You want to know the critical thinking that led Jerry Coyne to embrace atheism?

Behold, his conversion story:

It happened in 1967 when Coyne, then 17, was listening for the first time to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on his parents’ couch in Alexandria, Va.

Suddenly Coyne began to shake and sweat. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, it dawned on him at that moment that there was no God, and he wasn’t going anywhere when he died. His casual Judaism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes, he says, and when it was over, he had left religion behind for good.


That's right, folks. One of the lions of internet atheism was planted in his convictions... by convulsing while listening to Sergeant Peppers.

B. Prokop said...

Well. From personal experience, I can assure you that this particular Christian did not go through life uncritically accepting everything I was taught.

Yes, I was raised Catholic. But by the time I began college, I had abandoned the faith of my childhood to become an evangelical non-denominational Christian. It was during that period that I engaged in my one and only bit of “proselytizing” ever – aimed at my college roommate, Bruce Hazel. I recall the evening with near perfect clarity. For hours I threw every argument and emotional appeal I knew at Bruce, to no avail. I never convinced him. (There was a bit of urgency about my efforts, because my roommate and good friend was a drug addict, and I desperately hoped faith in Jesus could help cure him. He died of an overdose several years later, and I partly blame myself for that. I just wasn’t good enough that day.)

But there in that same room, sitting silently without a word the whole time, was Joe Sheffer, toward whom I had directed not a word, not a syllable the entire evening. Imagine my amazement the next day when he called me up to say I’d convinced him. He was ready to become a Christian. But in which church…?

The two of us spent the next 4-6 months (can’t remember exactly, but at the time it seemed like forever) discussing and debating the various pros and cons of each denomination (we even drew up a Bayesian Decision Matrix to help sort out our thoughts), and once again to my amazement, the victor in that endeavor was none other than the Catholic Church. Like C.S. Lewis, I was the most unwilling re-convert in the world the day we had made that decision.

Yeah, I know. You’re going to protest that was just an internal debate between various flavors of Christianity. True, I at no time saw any rival world religion as a serious contender. The only ones I ever studied at great depth were Hinduism, Daoism, and Buddhism, yet there was no single moment where I really thought any of them had a genuine, fighting chance. But I still have enormous respect for all three.

And even there my quest hadn’t ended. The Main Issue had been settled, but there were dozens of peripherals to be wrestled with. Does Christianity imply pacifism? (Remember, the Vietnam War was going on at this time.) How historically accurate is the Old Testament? Is universalism possible? Do we have the actual words of Christ? And many, many more – not one of them accepted uncritically, but only after long study and pondering. And many of my conclusions surprised me - something that could never have happened were I uncritically accepting everything.

But the one thing I could never take seriously for an instant was atheism. It has never seemed to me to be anything but incoherent nonsense. And it’s not from not examining it. The more I thought about atheism, the less sense it made. Genuinely not trying to insult anyone here, but I fail completely to understand how anyone can be an atheist.


Jezu ufam tobie!

Shackleman said...

Bob,

I can't speak for anyone else but in my case, atheism made sense in light of the evolution narrative. Not just biologically, but also the evolution of the universe at large as it unfolds from the Big Bang.

Couple that with the Problem of Evil, and having been raised in a strong-agnostic household, and atheism was the *only* thing that made any sense to me.

It wasn't until my own experience, similar to Coyne's at a similar age, that started me on the opposite road *toward* conversion. Only for me, what sent me into a cold-sweat crisis wasn't just the fears that came with truly comprehending my own annihilation at my death---but also it "dawned" on me that if atheism were true, then some form of deterministic materialism was also more than likely true, and even the thoughts I was having right then and there weren't "mine", but were the inevitably result of mere physical, chemical, deterministic processes.

I damn near lost my mind.

The following ten YEARS of deep thought, reflection, study, and research culminated eventually in my conversion. But my atheism went down with a substantial fight, and even now, and perhaps for the remainder of my life, the allure of that agnostic upbringing, the evolutionary framework, the Problem of Evil---the still all lurk in the shadows of my mind, and at times pull with a palpable force toward de-conversion.

Today, some twenty years after the start of my conversion journey, I'm firmly planted in "the faith"(*), but questions, concerns, and that "thirst" for seeking the truth remains, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

(* I'm a Christian, but the specific "flavor" is still an elastic sort of declaration. Some days I lean strongly toward Berkeley's Idealism. Other days Thomistic Dualism. Some days Protestant/Lutheran. Other days Classic Catholicism).

Edward T. Babinski said...

McDowell has the typical testimony of an uncritical only slightly informed and totally restless teenage mind, which is when most Evangelical's convert. And even worse, he has over the decades rewritten his own memories to make himself appear like a great scholar who visited all the great libraries of Europe prior to converting. He's making stuff up now, decades later. All for the sake of deluding himself and others. Here's his original testimony, sans all the additions his memory added decades later: http://infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/experience.html#mcdowell

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dustin Lawson was being groomed by Josh McDowell for a future career in apologetics outreach. Dustin travelled round with McDowell. But Dustin did start to have questions, and wrote The Christian Agnostic, left the fold, and had lunch later with McDowell who tried to answer his questions and get him to rejoin the fold, to no avail. Dustin today writes some interesting novels for people with questions like himself: http://www.amazon.com/Dustin-Lawson/e/B00LLPJVKI

The Christian Agnostic can be read partially via google books: https://books.google.com/books?id=t9qkVQkNw5EC&lpg=PR14&ots=AXkJ-_V-yn&dq=%22dustin%20lawson%22%20christianity&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

B. Prokop said...

"atheism made sense in light of the evolution narrative. Not just biologically, but also the evolution of the universe at large as it unfolds from the Big Bang."

I find that an extremely interesting comment, in that it just shows how data in these discussions can be largely neutral. You (once) looked at the history of the universe and saw "no God". I looked at the identical information and thought to myself, how could such order and consistency "just happen"? Same info - totally opposite conclusions.

"but also it "dawned" on me that if atheism were true, then some form of deterministic materialism was also more than likely true, and even the thoughts I was having right then and there weren't "mine", but were the inevitably result of mere physical, chemical, deterministic processes."

Here we have the opposite of the above paragraph. Never having been an atheist myself, I came to the exact same conclusion. No God - no free will, no personal identity, no self.

"the Problem of Evil"

I stand by what I've written multiple times on this site. The existence of evil is a problem for the atheist, not for the Christian. We at least have an explanation for its existence. You may not agree with it, but at lest there's one out there. What have the atheists got? Nothing! If atheism were true, then the universe ought to be exactly as it should be. There is no mechanism for anything to go wrong.

Shackleman said...

Bob,

"You (once) looked at the history of the universe and saw "no God". I looked at the identical information and thought to myself, how could such order and consistency "just happen"? Same info - totally opposite conclusions."

Of course I agree now, but growing up in an agnostic home (in "practice" an atheist one), coupled with a society which is largely secular in practice, coupled with a public education which espouses evolution, randomness, implied purposelessness, and chaos...it caused in me a far different "baseline" of understanding, from the earliest of age, than what I imagine a "baseline" would be for other children exposed, from the womb to the religious/spiritual. And I think I'm not unique in this.

It causes a sort of Plato's Cave in a young mind, and like a salmon swimming upstream, it takes enormous effort and fortitude to go against the grain of everything you thought you knew, and everything you've been taught. What seems obvious to me now, was anything but for the first half of my life.

Regarding the Problem of Evil...I totally agree with you *now*, and in fact, the Problem of Evil actually lead me *toward* Christ specifically (as opposed to other "theisms" I studied). But I think I'd be in the majority in that it's a weighty problem, and remains a difficulty for many. There's a reason why so much ink has been spilled over the centuries on the subject.

I can and have reasoned through that thicket...for the most part...but the emotional and spiritual impact of that question remains for me, and I think many others.

I survived many years of sexual abuse as a child---and so "evil" first impacted my life at the tender age of 5 in an enormous way. But "reasoning" my way to an understanding probably will never fully cover those kinds of emotional scars, and they, perhaps permanently, remind me that the Problem of Evil is a big problem. A problem with a reasonable solution, but a big problem nonetheless.

B. Prokop said...

"A problem with a reasonable solution, but a big problem nonetheless."

I think that sentence is a near perfect summary of the situation. There is a "reasonable" solution (i.e., one that satisfies the reason), but the emotional issue remains.

Which is doubly ironic, since the atheists are always on about how they're supposed to be Team Reason and all that, yet their biggest argument is pure emotion. In fact, you have to suppress your reason for it to have any force at all.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Shackleman said...

"Team Reason™"

LOL! Priceless.

B. Prokop said...

"Team Reason"

Not my invention. I saw that on a bumper sticker. My own bumper sticker says... "Jezu ufam tobie!"

Ilíon said...

Shackleman: "... what sent me into a cold-sweat crisis wasn't just the fears that came with truly comprehending my own annihilation at my death---but also it "dawned" on me that if atheism were true, then some form of deterministic materialism was also more than likely true, ..."

Not merely "more than likely true", but inescapably true: IF atheism is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN there is no such thing as freedom, and *everything* is determined: caused-and-deternined by prior states (which are, themselves, caused-and-determined by prior states).

Atheists sometimes try to get around this obvious-and-gaping flaw in their worldview by asserting that 'randomness' can cause events ... and by trying to equate 'randomness' with freedom.

Shackleman: "... and even the thoughts I was having right then and there weren't "mine", but were the inevitably result of mere physical, chemical, deterministic processes.
I damn near lost my mind.
"

And: IF atheism is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN there is no such thing as a mind, or a person, or a thought, or a belief, or knowledge, or an act of reasoning, nor the possibility of an act of "reason" "convincing" a "person" to change "his" "belief".

If atheism is the truth about the nature of reality, then you habe no mind to lose (nor is there any "you" to lose it, anyway).

Shackleman: "The following ten YEARS of deep thought, reflection, study, and research culminated eventually in my conversion. But my atheism went down with a substantial fight, and even now, and perhaps for the remainder of my life, the allure of that agnostic upbringing, the evolutionary framework, the Problem of Evil---the still all lurk in the shadows of my mind, and at times pull with a palpable force toward de-conversion."

The so-called "Problem of Evil" may be an excuse for denying the reality of God -- which is also the denial of the reality of one's own self -- but it is, nor can ever be, a reason for denying the reality of God.

We -- *all* of us, even Jeffery Jay Lowder, that intellectually dishonest (and whining) fool -- *know* that God is, because (among other things) we know that if God is not, then we are not (and also that there is no such thing as 'knowledge'). The so-called "Problem of Evil" does not change this fact.

B. Prokop said...

Perhaps the atheist's misperception of "uncriticality" is due to differing life experiences. Not many of us are granted a theophany. (And were we fully aware of the consequences of such, few of us would ever desire one.) But all of us are, at one time or another, party to what T.S. Eliot called Timeless Moments, when this physical world connects for an instant with the larger reality that enfolds it (and indeed maintains it) at every moment.

Quoting myself here: "These moments of connection between ourselves and the greater reality that enfolds our universe of the senses, the world constrained by matter and energy and bound fast by time and space, are defined precisely by elements not of this world, and so we despair of finding words to convey their meaning to others." (Observing the Nearest Stars, page 46)

Or this: "Being a glimpse of what lies beyond our everyday physical reality, [mystical experience] seems to have no use for the trappings of that reality – indeed, it positively flees from them. Witness Jeremiah, at the beginning of his prophetic career:

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, “I see the branch of an almond tree.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well” … Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” (Jeremiah 1:11-13)

And in such manner, the great prophet has come face to face with the Lord God Himself. What could be simpler, indeed what could be duller, than Jeremiah’s own account of that tremendous experience: the branch of a tree waving in the wind, a pot boiling over?" (Observing the Nearest Stars, page 45)

My point here is that "the Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom," while genuine Faith can satisfy neither... nor should it!

SRV said...

The evidence and arguments we have are enough to make the "leap of faith". God and human immortality are not 100% proven, but by a preponderance of the evidence, our hope is justified and reasonable.

B. Prokop said...

"preponderance of the evidence"

That's the way I feel, too. But I don't care for the phrase "leap of faith". In my opinion, the leap is in the other direction. So much of what we understand about Reality has to be just tossed aside before one can even begin to take atheism at all seriously.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record here, I flat out do not understand how they do it. The atheist's cognitive dissonance must be overwhelming. Somehow they have to square the circle of a universe bound by unbreakable, inviolable rules... an yet, just happening for no cause whatsoever.

Makes Perfect Sense

Ilíon said...

"... an yet, just happening for no cause whatsoever"

And no reason.

SRV said...

"And no reason"

Which is why atheism can be labeled as unreasonable. I have no problem in stating that theism cannot be proven with 100% certainty, but that belief in God is at the same time far more logical and reasonable than atheism.