Oct 10, 2012

Jesus: the source of atheism (yes he really said that)

Looking back on losing the faith, what surprises me the most in hindsight is just how bad the arguments for God really are.  The Cosmological argument, founded upon a premise disproved by physics nearly a century ago; the Ontological argument, which defines God as existing and then claims that God exists by definition; the argument from design, refuted by biology a century and a half ago; Pascal's wager, in which you bet your soul that God is dumb enough to fall for a mercenary swindle; and then the countless variations on the theme of 'subjective experiences have convinced me of the ultimate reality of my God, but not the God of all those other people who have also had subjective experiences.'

There are others, of course: shred 43 terrible arguments, and soon comes the shout of triumph, "The 44th stands unanswered--victory is ours!"  Or, more commonly, you have the folks who acknowledge that many bad arguments get made, but insist that good arguments exist, and they were reading one just the other day, and that you would like it, and that it's much better than this one, and they'll send you the link later if they can just find it again.  But for sheer weirdness, I've never seen an apologetic to match "An Attempt to Explain Christianity to Atheists In a Manner That Might Not Freak Them Out."

To begin with, the title: atheists don't 'freak out' over 'Christianity'--most of us are actually former Christians who are pretty familiar with several different flavors of it.  The point of contention is not that we don't know what Christians think, or that it gives us the willies, but that, being familiar with the doctrines of said religion, we think that they are incorrect--or at the very least not sufficiently supported by evidence.  We know what you believe--we just don't believe it ourselves.

As for the argument?  He starts with the premises that suffering must have a purpose and that the universe doesn't measure up to his standards; from these dubious beginnings he assumes that God exists, then arrives at the notion that Christianity is true and also that Jesus is the source and wellspring of atheism.

In his defense, he claims not to be trying to prove God; in my defense, I did warn you that it was weird.  I've read it twice now; I think I know what he is trying to say, but I can't imagine thinking this argument convincing.  Wishing that suffering had a purpose does not make it so; finding the universe less than satisfactory proves nothing whatsoever; bowdlerizing 'sin' to refer to that shortcoming proves even less; and Aquinas--"a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest"--is flagrantly incorrect: a thing is said to be hotter according as its temperature increases, and there is no maximum.

It's 'The Case for Christ' as it would have been written by Plato, if only he were vaguely aware of spacetime and intimately familiar with word-salad theodicy.  'Weird' only just begins to cover it.


  1. "most of us are actually former Christians"
    "not supported by evidence"

    So you believed something that was not supported by evidence? Why? And if you believed something that didn't have evidence, are you sure you weren't just believing in beliefs? The beliefs of someone else at that?

  2. In my particular case, it was a combination of being taught Christianity while a child, then having several deeply emotional experiences that I was trained to associate with Christianity. Those two things will lodge a belief in your mind, and then a combination of stubbornness, emotional investment, and social expectation can make it very hard to change.