Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Funny Thing About Atheism .......

 The Funny Thing About Atheism .......

God in heaven, I thank Thee that Thou hast not required it of man that he should comprehend Christianity; for if that were required, I should be of all men the most miserable.  The more I seek to comprehend it, the more incomprehensible it appears to me, and the more I discover merely the possibility of offense.  Therefore, I thank Thee that Thou dost only require faith, and I pray Thee to increase it more and more -- Sören Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, 260.
Why does atheism appear to be opposed to the Christian view of God in particular?  What is it about its particular view of God that atheism is so concerned with?  After all, if there is no logical and reasonable explanation for Christianity's system of thought, why have so many brilliant atheists expended such an extraordinary amount of energy to demonstrate how illogical it is?  If its foundations are as devoid of logic as B.C. Johnson attempts to demonstrate, why not just ignore its claims, and go on your merry way? 

Why doesn't Johnson, in his book The Atheist Debater’s Handbook, appear to agree with fellow atheist Michael Scriven that "it is foolish to believe a claim that is disproved, but it is also foolish to believe a wholly unsupported claim, and it is still more foolish even to treat such a claim as if it were worth serious consideration?" 

Yet, there can be no doubt in anyone's mind who has read Johnson’s diatribe or other atheistic propositions regarding Christianity, that atheists have indeed treated the claims of Christianity with very serious, albeit negative, consideration.  A troubling question emerges:  If there really is no God, why bother perfecting a philosophy of atheism?  If there really is no God, why be concerned with developing a flawless philosophical and logical diatribe to prove it?   

I would suggest that in order for this debate to even take place, both the atheist and the Christian must first assume that God does exist, and that He is some kind of real Being in the universe Who acts deliberately and with power in this world that He created. Though the atheist might wrestle with whether God's goodness is obvious within his perception of the reality he experiences in this world, to argue the point, both sides must also believe that God's character and acts can be easily scrutinized, and criticized or defended in human terms, in much the same way some news reporter might criticize or defend a politician's actions. Without both points of view making these assumptions first, there would be no on-going debate on the subject of God's existence, let alone debate on His supposed character of ‘goodness.’  See another related post of mine entitled 'What If It Were True That God Is Very Good?' here.  

One has to be somewhat amused with G. K. Chesterton’s comment: “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”  Think about it.

 The Funny Thing About Atheism ... Part 2

Why don't Johnson and many other modern atheists make the natural mistake of simply lumping the Christian definition and concept of God together with all the other man-made religious ramblings and contradictions about God, suggesting that there are simply many avenues to God, like Oprah does here ?

Here’s another illustration of that point. Even John Huston, a famous scholar and author of world religions, writes that "to claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room but not the next, in this attire but not another."  Elsewhere, quoting the Hindu Ramakrishna, Huston writes "…so the one Everlasting-Intelligent-Bliss is invoked by some as God, by some as Allah, by some as Jehovah, and by others as Brahman …Everyone should follow one's own religion.  A Christian should follow Christianity; a Muslim should follow Islam, and so on." 

Note the clear failure in both Oprah’s and Huston's comments to distinguish the Christian view of God from any other view of God, even among those who believe in a god!  Even a cursory reading of the Bible would demonstrate that the Biblical view of God is absolutely unlike any other view of God in its understanding of the Person of God, salvation, and mankind.

Is it not at least curious then, that most religionists (including Huston Smith and Oprah) and confessed believers in some concept of God from different religions throughout the world, in virtual unanimity, mistakenly conceive of Christianity as merely one among many possible religious paths, when atheists do not?  Is it not all the more strangely curious that atheism, devoted to the expulsion of such modern Biblical notions of God, rarely, if ever, makes the same mistake of claiming Christianity as only one among many viable religious views?    

Why doesn't the atheist concern himself with developing logical proofs against the Hindu, or Buddhist view of God?  Is it because the atheist has seriously considered the claims of all other religious views of God, and found that they are not unreasonable in terms of the atheist's rational system of logic?  Certainly men who are as brilliant as Johnson and Scriven possess the capabilities of uncovering with a mere passing scrutiny some potential illogical assumptions worthy of ridicule within other religious faiths!  What is it about the Christian view of God that so utterly violates the atheist's rational, logical system of thought that other religions apparently do not violate?

 The Funny Thing About Atheism ... Part 3

It appears that Johnson has studied the theistic propositions proclaimed in Christianity in some depth, and has not only read at least some of the Bible (and argued in his book against the logical and rational believability of certain Biblical passages), but he has argued against Christian propositions and philosophies which are founded upon Biblical theology.  Any atheistic arguments Johnson presents against the Judeo-Christian concepts of God, or those who hold to them, are derived from information that is articulated throughout the Bible. 

My last question then and the most important in this brief consideration is: is there something inherent within the Christian biblical message and view of God that necessarily antagonizes logical, rational thought, which is the very foundation of atheism?  If there is, can it be identified, and does it address the problem of understanding Christian theological concepts through the means of a rational, logical process?  Is it foundational and intrinsic to atheism to deny Christianity on the basis of rational and logical thought?

For instance, in his book Atheism: The Case Against God, George H. Smith argues that belief in God is irrational: "It is not my purpose to convert people to atheism . . . (but to) demonstrate that the belief in God is irrational to the point of absurdity. If a person wishes to continue believing in a god, that is his prerogative, but he can no longer excuse his belief in the name of reason and moral necessity."

What is it about Christianity that is so much more illogical and irrational than the other religions?  It is exactly as Smith has argued above: Christianity is indeed, an absurd proposition.  This notion was explicitly expressed as far back as 200 A.D by Tertullian.
Suppose that in point of fact he had wanted to be born of a wolf or a ewe or a cow and put on the body of some animal, wild or domestic, to proclaim the kingdom of heaven.  In that case, I judge, your censure of him would say, “This is unseemly for God and unworthy of God’s Son, and anyone who believes it is a fool.”  To be sure, it is foolish to judge God on the basis of our own understanding… What is so “foolish” as to believe in a God who has been born -- and of a virgin at that -- and in fleshly form too? And who has wallowed about in those very degradations of nature?… Come, then, start from birth itself, the object of aversion, and the womb, and of the bodily fluid and the blood; the loathsome, curdled lump of flesh which has to be fed for nine months off this same muck.  ‘God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise’ (1 Corinthians 1:27). …What is more demeaning to God, what is more shameful -- getting born or dying?  To carry flesh or to carry a cross? To be circumcised or to be hanged?  To be fed at the breast or to be buried? To be laid in a manger or shut up in a tomb? -- Tertullian, from ‘Against Praxeas,’ in The Christological Controversy, Richard A. Norris, Jr. [Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1980], 67-69.

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