Answering Tough Questions

question_mark_3dRichard Dawkins and Sam Harris are raising an army of New Atheists who are ready to do battle with the people of faith.  It is no longer enough to simply not believe in God; the “New Atheists” don’t think anyone else should have the right to either. 

The issues of creationism, evolution and Intelligent Design have been pushed into the forefront of debate in recent years, thanks to films by Ben Stein and the opening of the Creation Museum.  The battle of words takes place not just in pulpits or auditoriums, but in board of education meetings at the state and local level that determine curriculum and policy.  In both issues science, reason and logic are dragged through the mud by both sides in order to “prove” one side is right and the other wrong. 

Abortion is and perhaps always will be a hot topic in this country.  I can’t believe anyone still thinks that abortion will ever be made illegal again, but the debate over stem cell research still makes appearances on the floor of Congress.  One question being ask of anti-abortion protesters is what should be the penalty for having an abortion were it illegal?  One blog claims that is the question that no pr-lifer can answer. 

These are tough questions.  And there is a lot of truth in that last claim; many Christians do a bad job articulating answers to them.  But we don’t have to.  This is something we can work on.  As Christians, apologists, ambassadors of Christ, we need to educate ourselves.  Read some C.S. Lewis and Becky Garrison.  Find a blog written by a Christian with a brain that has a better response than “The Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it.”  Prove to the average atheist, pro-life, evolutionist ___________ (fill in the blank) that Christians are logical, reasonable people that think for themselves. 

I have read the theories, done the research, and searched the scriptures.  I believe that the God of the Bible is who he says he is, and will do the things he says he will do.  If you’ve never questioned your faith or wondered if the religion handed down from your parents is true, then I don’t think your normal.  Learn how to express not only what you believe but WHY you believe it.  We will not win souls by persuasive argument nor by winning debates.  But for those in the audience, for those on the sidelines, for all those listening to the debate that have not made up their minds; I want them to know that Christians haven’t abandoned logic or sound reason for blind faith.  Let’s be able to answer the tough questions well.  Paul was able to do it, and we are instructed to study and show ourselves approved.

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16 thoughts on “Answering Tough Questions

  1. Your first sentence is crap. You will have a hard time finding any atheist who thinks that people shouldn’t have the right to believe whatever it is they’re going to believe anyway. Atheists know that attempting to coerce people into believing (or not believing) something is doomed to failure precisely because they themselves have often felt the coercive pressure of the religious trying to impose religion. For example, in Saudi Arabia, atheism is a crime, punishable by death. Death! So, for the Christian to whine on about how the atheists wish to remove the right of people to believe is just beyond the paile stupid.

    Now, many atheists DO think that Christianity is blatantly, in-your-face idiotic, and that any person with a mind as smart as the average eight year old ought to be able to see right through it.

    That is not anything like the same think as denying people the right to believe anything.

    Also, banishing religion from public schools, when education is *compulsory* as it is in the U.S., is likewise not anything like denying people the right to believe whatever idiocy they’re apt to believe.

    You sir, are an ignorant ass.

  2. Thank you for a good post about an increasingly relevant topic. You’re right — we need to question our faith to the extent that it’s no longer blind faith based on what we were taught at some point. We need to personalize it, internalize it, wrestle with it, and educate ourselves about it.

    My only point to add is that logic will only get you so far with an atheist. They know, as we should, that there’s nothing logical about Jesus and why He’s the answer.

  3. “Scary Reasoner” is right. I’m glad there are atheists as poorly articulated as this. Seriously, there is a new breed of atheist determined that faith is a danger and a threat to our society, and that all faith must die. You and I agree that this is unreasonable, but their arguments sound intelligent and they deliver them with almost religious fervor. I wouldn’t have written a post on Christians needing to do their homework without first doing mine. I wrote a review for Becky Garrison’s book “The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail.”

    Anna L Davis – During the madness surronding the release of Ben Stien’s “Expelled,” I wrote a post on the failure of science. Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. That’s not the nature of what good science does. It is not “logical” to believe in an all powerful God. Paul says the preaching of the cross is foolishness, but God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. That line of reasoning won’t get you very far in a discussion with atheists.

  4. Any person who attempts to argue that faith is reasonable is attempting to argue that the acto of deliberately attempting to be more certain of something than is warranted by the available evidence is reasonable. Anyone who attempts that, is an idiot. Faith is institutionalized idiocy.

  5. The issue is that faith is faith and cannot be proved, nor should be attempted to prove. Yes we can point at the (to us) very obvious indicators (Prophecies, one short 30-year long life of a small originally nomad tribe changing the face of the earth, the personal experiences, prayer answers, the very fact that we exist, etc), but we can’t prove. Yes, we must show that we are reasonable beings, that we have gone through our trials, and that there is a reason we believe what we believe besides “mommy and daddy said so”, but that’s still no proof.

    I’m frankly getting tired of Christians trying to prove the unprovable, giving logical explanations to everything. This is especially true in regard to evolution, Noah’s ark, etc. They have all kinds of theories about how and when and why the ark was built that are nowhere to be found in the Bible. I believe the ark story because it says so, and I have decided that I believe that the Bible is the word of God. How exactly did Noa do it? How did he manage all the manure? I have no idea, and I don’t really care. The bible doesnt say, because it doesnt affect our personal spiritual life. The whole creation story is a prolouge to the real important stuff in the Bible. It’s not intended as a tool in our fight with evolution, so why do we use it like that? In this sense I do say “the bible says – end of discussion”. I’ll explain to the evolutionist what I explained to you, but I won’t feel any need to find a logical scientific man-made explanation to creationism.

    Science is not a failure, but it has limits. Evolution is a scientific theory. But unlike theories such as gravity etc, we can’t verify it with experiments, and that’s the vulnarebility of it. Creation is a belief. I don’t believe in evolution because it doesnt fit in with m belief in a just and loving God. But I accept that schools teach it, and I expect them too. I will teach my kids creation. Parents who have a problem with evolution being taught in schools can’t be very good home educators. How will their kids ever be equipped with the tools to argue with evolutionists if they don’t even know the basics of evolution?

    Sorry, got to brainstorming and said too much at once… where was I…?

    Right…. I totally agree on your last passage. We definitelly need to show that we have not abandoned logic to blind faith. There is a logic thinking behind our belief. We have questioned it at some point before we made up our minds. But sometimes, the most logical thing to do is “I believe this because it says in the bible, and I have some thoughts on why I think God decided this, but that’s only interpretation. I could be wrong. But I do know that this is the truth, and this is what he expects from me”.

  6. Clark,
    I find your first sentence near-hysterical, misleading and it uses (deliberately?) inflammatory language. Factually, I’d like to call you on this one:

    It is no longer enough to simply not believe in God; the “New Atheists” don’t think anyone else should have the right to either.

    No they’re not.

    Please give me a quote from one of the atheists you mention which states they deny people’s right to believe in whatever god or religion they like. I guess you’re imagining a fearful world where Bibles are confiscated and beliefs dictated. I don’t think any atheist writing today would want to live in a world like that. However, if you’re hoping to whip up fear/hatred of atheists, I can see how this idea would be useful for you to promote.

    What many atheists do have issues with is religion encroaching on public life. Beliefs based solely on faith should not form the basis of secular laws which apply to everyone, regardless of their beliefs. Surely that is rule one of “Live and let live”? Surely we can agree on that?

    I want them to know that Christians haven’t abandoned logic or sound reason for blind faith. Let’s be able to answer the tough questions well.

    Great, I’m glad to see you say this. I look forward to hearing your answers.

    thatdudeyouknow,

    The trouble with relying on faith alone is that without evidence it’s no better than the next man’s faith.

    Clark is right to be wary of the “the Bible says it – end of discussion” argument. Someone else could easily say, “the Quran says it – end of discussion” or “the Bhagavad Gita says it – end of discussion”… and so on.

    How can we work out who’s right? It’s not enough to have an ancient book and faith rather larger than a mustard seed. That doesn’t seem to help us distinguish truth from fiction.

  7. Eshu –

    According to Becky Garrison “These new atheists aren’t resurrecting the old atheist argument that belief in God is wrong. Rather, they’re advocating that belief in God is dangerous and destructive.” Garrison’s book “The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail” is 230 pages devoted exclusively to this subject. Let me find you a quote from an atheist:
    “Religious dogmatism impedes medical research, starts wards, divert scarce material and intellectual resources – in short, it gets people killed.” -Sam Harris

    “In the 21st century: all books, including the Koran, should be fair game for flushing down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal.” -Sam Harris

    AND HERE’S THE BEST SAM HARRIS QUOTE YET: “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.”

    Richard Dawkins is the author of “The God Delusion.” I looked for quite some time for a similar quote from Dawkins, but the best I could come up with was this:
    “Wouldn’t it be loevly to believe in an imaginary friend who listens to your thoughts, listens to your prayers, comforts you, consoles you, gives you life after death, can give you advice? Of course it’s satisfying, if you can believe it. But who wants to believe a lie?”

    While Dawkins may not be trying to end all religious faith period, he did write a book to persuade as many people to become atheists as he could. Sam Harris has made it clear that faith is the enemy, and given the power he would eraticate it comepletely.

  8. Eshu –

    I would like to go on record as offering you a deal. I will purchase and read Dawkins book “The God Delusion” if you will agree to read Becky Garrison’s book. I will mail you my copy if you’d like. We could then have an online debate/discussion. We could put up point/counterpoints on both websites. This will give internet readers the opportunity to hear the merits of both sides of the case. We can both demonstrate that we are rational, thinking adults that listen to each other and respond rather than waiting for our turn to rant. What do you think?

  9. “AND HERE’S THE BEST SAM HARRIS QUOTE YET: “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.””

    Harris was not trying to diminish how awful rape is, but rather emphasizing how much damage religion does. Given the choice of the lesser of two evils, I’m with Harris. Religion has caused more suffering than rape, and that is saying a lot. Which was, of course, Harris’ point.

  10. Rather, they’re advocating that belief in God is dangerous and destructive.

    Exactly. And that is all that your quotes show. I don’t think we’d have to look too far to find examples of where belief in God or gods is dangerous and destructive. Their quotes are not saying, “We should ban religion or certain religions”. They are not saying, “People have no right to believe whatever they want.”

    I happen to think that getting no exercise and overeating is “dangerous and destructive”, but I wouldn’t want people to be banned from doing it. Warned, yes. Discouraged, yes. But not banned.

    The quotes are hardly justification for the first paragraph of your post about “raising an army” or denying people’s right to believe whatever they like. That simply isn’t what they said. Your first paragraph seems to be intended to stir up fear and hatred of “The New Atheists”.

    So Dawkins wrote a book hoping to persuade people to become atheists. Is that a crime?!? Presumably you attempt to persuade people to become Christians? Why can’t all people be free to evangelise their opinions?

  11. Clark,

    Good idea! I like the idea of a book swap in principle. I’m not sure of your suggestion of books however for a few reasons.

    Firstly I don’t think TGD is one of Dawkins’ better books. Where he covered the argument from design I think he did a great job, probably because this overlaps with some of his earlier (and in my opinion better) books. However I disliked his style and think most of his arguments have been put better elsewhere. I’ll do some thinking and come up with something I found particularly good.

    Secondly, by her own admission Becky Garrison is not a Christian apologist, she’s a satirist, which is rather different. As such she’s not trying to show why she’s right, merely to make fun of those she disagrees with.

    Here’s some discussion of her book, The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail by Hemant Mehta “The Friendly Atheist”, who is interviewed at the end of her book. Could you suggest a book written by a Christian apologist with views close to your own?

    As I’m in the UK it’s probably better that I buy your suggestion over here rather than you paying the shipping costs, but thanks for the offer.

    I’ll drop you an email when I’ve had a think about what to suggest.
    Thanks,
    Eshu

  12. Eshu and I are corresponding by email to settle the details of our book swap and debate. Please don’t think I’ve dropped the issue or started ignoring him.

    Shamelesslyatheist – I cannot argue that reliion has never done anything evil, including Christianity. Can you site that rape has ever done anything good? What benefits, if any, does rape contribute to soceity?

    I would like to know where the atheist hospitals are. I would like to know what atheistic organizations are feeding children in third world countries. Where are the atheist schools? Not only do missionaries go into hostile lands carrying Bibles (in the case of Christians) they also dig wells, build schools, distribute vaccinations, and so on. Christian relief workers were in Indonesia after the sunami, and in New Orleans after the hurricane. They weren’t killing unblievers or persecuted those unlike themselves; they were handing out bottles of water, and rebuilding homes, months after the event and long after the television crews had gone.

    Yes you can point out examples of destructive behavior in the name of religion. I can also list a world of good done by the people of faith. There are a few nutjobs in every organization, but the vast majority of Christians are those that feed and clothe the untouchable. But you’d rather be raped, just like those at the false trial of Jesus that shouted “Give us Barabas the murderer.” Some things never change.

  13. Indeed Clark and I are arranging a book swap, but it may take some time… watch this space!

    Regarding atheist hospitals. Why would any atheists/agnostics/freethinkers who care to help people feel the need to label their hospital or charity “atheist”? The only reason I can think of would be as an attempt to convince Christians that they are indeed moral and altruistic people. Not the greatest of reasons, IMO.

    There are plenty of non-religious charities and groups in the world run by people with either no religious beliefs or a variety of beliefs. To make such organisations exclusively “atheist” is unnecessarily exclusive. The people who run secular charities (those with no institutional religious affiliation) do so because they want to help people and make a difference, not because of any common religious belief (See for example the NSPCC). Whether they believe in a god or gods or not is about as relevant to their charity work as whether they think the Earth is flat or round.

    I’m not denying that Christians do some great charity work, but they are not the only ones. My concern with religious aid organisation is when the food and medical supplies necessarily come with preaching or misguided ideas like telling Africans not to use condoms. It can be hard to argue against such advice, as it’s a religious belief, not based on evidence, but no less harmful for that.

  14. Hey Clark, I’ve finally returned to the blogosphere. Interesting that you should write a post like this, because I just now published a post with my opinions on The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. I’d appreciate your comments on that if you have the time.

    And I refuse to get into this discussion, although I want to badly.

  15. the “New Atheists” don’t think anyone else should have the right to either.

    This is a pure strawman. No rational atheist (which is most of them) wants to take away anyone’s right to believe anything. It’s about stopping the creationist/religious degradation of science, culture, and education.

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