Friday, August 27, 2010

No one likes a moderate

No one like a moderate.

More teens becoming "fake" Christians

My favorite Christian-on-Christian attack phrase is back. “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. Quite a mouthful, eh? This is a form of attack believers throw against other believers who aren’t as delusional as they ought to be. For some reason some believers want happy-happy delusion. Some call them moderates. To others they are normal. To me they are self-fulfilling self-delusional. To fundamentalists, they are a grave threat.

So what is this “moralistic therapeutic deism” and why is it so dangerous to the fundie? Since I listen to the christian radio shows, I can answer this one. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (or MTD to keep my spell check from exploding) is feel-good Christianity. It has a firm moral code, which is mostly don’t do drugs or have premarital sex. Beyond the no drugs/no sex mantra, actual morality is grey, and varies from person to person, just like in real life. As a fee-good dogma, it is therapeutic. Since we have a god here, we have deism. Toss them all together and you have the reason teens leave the faith for atheism: MTD.

The fundie sees this as a great threat. You see, these people actually have deluded themselves into thinking that god wants them to be happy and that’s it. God just wants you to have a coke, a smoke and a smile. Wait. No smoke. Sorry. But the MTD follower may not believe in hell or any kind of eternal damnation. They may not be able to speak in tongues. Worst of all, they may not be able to articulate their faith well enough to stand form against the challenge of an atheist.

I’m kidding. That’s not the worst thing. The worst thing would be that teens do good for the sake of doing good, rather than for eternal rewards. This comes straight from the article:

She [Kenrda Dean] says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.
A parent's radical act of faith could involve something as simple as spending a summer in Bolivia working on an agricultural renewal project or turning down a more lucrative job offer to stay at a struggling church, Dean says.
But it's not enough to be radical -- parents must explain "this is how Christians live," she says.
"If you don't say you're doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people," Dean says. "It doesn't register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots."

See? I can’t make this up. The author of the article says that doing good isn’t good unless you do it and make sure everyone knows you did good because of faith. This is the kind of delusion that makes people dangerous. This is why I find religion disingenuous.

Personally, I think MTD is a good thing. Taking what works from religion and making it your own is the only reasonable thing to do, unless you want to drop delusion for rationality. I find most people who would subscribe to MTD are those believers who would defend the wall of separation between church and state. They recognize that religion’s place is in the church and home, not the statehouse. If I were to imagine a world with religion that works, I’d find a world of MTD believers.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Questions for an Atheist Answered by Andrew the Atheist

Questions for an Atheist Answered by Andrew the Atheist

I recently got an iPod, and pod casts are my new thing. If you have a pod cast and want me to listen to it, I probably will. But be warned, I may also turn it into a blog.

So there’s A Christian and an Atheist pod cast. The one I downloaded was, “Questions for the Atheist”. I was a bit disappointed in the atheist host’s answers. First, though, I want to address something that came up a few times in the pod cast:

Christian: Atheism and Christianity are equally defensible because there is no objective way to determine if either is true.
Atheist: Do you discount all other religions?
C: No.
A: Will you meet other religions in heaven?
C: No, because what makes religion work for me is…. Reality is irreducibly subjective. What is is it is not complexly objective. Perception is reality. As perceptions vary, so does reality, so what I believe can become real to me and there is no objective way to prove otherwise just because.
A: Is that a case for agnosictism?
C: No.
A: Then how can you stand firmly on one side or the other?
C: You make a choice. It’s real for me, and that’s as real as you get.
The atheist goes off into a moral tangent, and never addresses the “it’s real for me” bs.

See, I don’t understand how anything can be real for you, and not for anyone else, and it actually be real. How real is the unicorn poking my ass? I believe it is there, and just so you know, I’ve placed a magical condom on its horn. Ooh it feels great. It’s too bad that this unicorn is not perceivable by anyone else. Who wouldn’t want to experience pokey here? Why would anyone not just tell me I’m delusional and that the unicorn is imaginary?

There certainly is an objective way to determine if Christianity is true or not. It is the same manner in which we prove that a particular person, place or thing exists. Is there evidence for the existence of this noun? If there is evidence that the noun exists, we have an objective way of determining if the claim of the noun’s existence has weight. If not, then there is no reason to believe that the noun exists, until such time that evidence is presented that it does. I cannot choose to believe the noun exists and will it into reality. That is delusion.

Here are the questions, the Atheist host’s answer, and mine.

Question 1: What make you sure that the difference between the Christian and the atheist can be legitimately characterized as the difference between what is rational and irrational?

Atheist Host’s answer: Well, some parts of Christianity are rational, but some important tenants are not. An example would be the idea that we can have free will and never sin.

From here, the Christian and atheist go back and forth really more over the definition of sin rather than the rationality of belief or non-belief. We find the Christian is probably the most moderate believers I have ever heard, as he describes sin not as crimes against god, but “bad habits”. The atheist never asked how one determines a good habit from a bad one, and the only concrete example ever given is addition is a bad habit. But I would say I am addicted to air, and that is a good thing. So someone needs to re-define for me this addiction thing. Anyhow, I really don’t feel the original question was even addressed, so here goes.

Andrew the Atheist’s answer: It is certainly legitimate to reduce the difference between belief and non-belief to what is rational and what is not. Rational belief is based on observable evidence. Irrational belief is based on faith. If the belief is based on faith, it is not rational. If the belief is held without evidence, or in lieu of contradictory evidence, then it is not rational; it is irrational. That is the difference.

Question 2: Does the fact that religion have no value in your life necessarily mean that it has no positive value in anyone else’s life?

Atheist host’s answer: Well, if Christians left it at just what was enjoyable to them, there would be no problem, but most Christians are not able or willing to do so. If Christians said this works for me and it MAY work for you, that’d be great. What I see is Christians saying this works for me and it MUST work for you, or you go to hell.

Andrew the Atheist’s answer: Whether or not religion has positive value has no relevancy to the truth iof it’s claims. The fact is that religion could be the most beneficial thing ever ( and I would argue that it is not) but that has no relevancy if we are talking about if the claims of the religion are or are not true.
In the same way, if atheism was the most destructive thing ever, as many believers would try to convince you, that would also have no bearing whether or not a god exists. If you want to make the argument that believers are more generous than atheists, please show me an act of kindness performed by believers that an atheist cannot do. Would charity done for the sake of charity and not to score points with an imaginary god be less charitable?

Now the host did eventually touch on this after a while using the placebo effect as an example. Actually it was a very good illustration, but I would have used this alone, as I find it the only relevant answer to the question.

Question 3: We seem to be able to separate the principles of science from the erroneous claims scientists may make from time to time. Why can’t we do that with Christians and separate the good underlying principles form the often irrational behavior they exhibit from time to time?

Atheist’s host answer: When Christianity makes claims if irrerrancy, it sets itself up for more scrutiny than science. With little scrutiny we can see all kinds of errors in the bible.

This again is the most moderate christain I have ever heard, as he goes on to explain that the reason so much of the bible is metaphor, like the Adam and Eve story, is so that it can be relative for all time. To interpret the bible literally, he says, is to miss the point of the book. While I would agree with him, that really makes the bible little more than a collection of ancient fables, a description I’m sure would anger many believers, but I rather like. I doubt we’d be trying to pass laws based on Grimm’s fairy tales or the fables of the bible.

Andrew the Atheist’s answer: I’m glad to see we are now admitting that the Christian exhibits irrational behavior. The difference in separating the erroneous scientist and the irrational Christian is that the scientist would welcome being wrong as it means we have learned something new. The Christian, if proven wrong, would see their entire world view destroyed. In other words, errors enhance the scientist’s world view; they destroy the believer’s.

Question 4: What if the atheist took the approach to Christianity looking for what value there is rather than looking for reasons to condemn it? What you find in the bible depends very much on what you are looking for.

AH: How do ever discount anything then?
C: Well, I dunno. I certainly don’t do this for Hinduism, but I think people should be open to doing so.
AH: like the benefit of the doubt?
C: Well, what benefit people find in it is the whole point.

AH: The problem for most atheists is that they have done that. Many atheists, including myself, are ex-believers. I find Christianity lacking in value.

Andrew’s answer: This is the only answer that the host gives that I like. I would re-iterate, however, that whatever benefit believers may find in their religion, it has no relevance to if the claims of their religion is true.

Overall, I like this pod cast, though I did feel the urge to re-answer all the questions. I will definitely listen more, as this particular believer has me very interested.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is the Moderate Christian Moderately Delusional?

Most people I know are moderates. Moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats, moderate believers. I’ve even met moderate atheists. These people subscribe to many of the conventional stances of the group, but not all. Some hold to the basic tenants, some to the fringe. For this blog, I’m defining a Moderate Believer as someone show calls themselves a believer, but doesn’t follow all the tenants of Christianity. By that, I mean, the Moderate Believer understands and accepts evolution, supports equal rights for gays, opposes bans on abortion and abortion coverage by insurance companies, supports comprehensive sex education, and goes to church from 2-3 time per month. Have I described any REAL people? I hope I have.

Actually, I’d say I’ve described a lot of people. Most of the religious blogs I read that are not by the usual few but the random dude transcribing his own thoughts are written by people like this. It leaves you with the question why they call themselves believers. I’d say the answer is community, companionship, and camaraderie.

Now, in my experience, these are the last people to engage in religious discussion. Most don’t understand or want to understand fully how they have been duped into this delusion. They are comfortable here and don’t argue to be right but argue to maintain comfort. This, I think, is why so many arguments with moderate believers end with insults and anger. This is why they think I attack them on a personal level. I’m attacking their comfort. It isn’t the pillow they want; it’s the soft place for their head.

This makes the moderate believer such a mystery. They don’t know the argument for or against their position, and they don’t care. They don’t know why they believe, or why they feel guilty when they miss church or why they don’t like questioning delusion, they just know it’s uncomfortable. Worse, many have been led to believe that outside this comfort zone is nothing but despair, anguish and pain.

Moderate belief is the goal of religion. Fundamentalists are nuts. Everyone knows and recognizes the Westboro Baptist nuts as a hate group. Yet they have the bible more on their side than the moderates do. No, the fundies are not what clergy want. They want people who believe and don’t know why. They want people who obey because they feel guilty when they don’t, but they don’t know why. They want people who will run from logical argument rather than stand and debate. These are the people who will lend support when asked, so long as the petition is “In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

You’d think the moderate would grow weary of the never-ending abuse from the religion of their choice. They do not, because they are told this abuse is from god, and it means he’s watching you and he loves you. Since they are not in the habit of questioning the word of god, they accept it.

You’d thing the moderate would tire of always having to accept more and more on faith. They do not. They have been told to do so makes one more righteous, and since god has sent some punishment our way recently (shit always seems to happen, after all), we need to be more righteous in any way we can.

You’d think the moderate would eventually figure out all this bullshit is bunk. If they do, they simply stop going to church, but still call themselves believers.

So, if you are a moderate, let me ask this:

If you are convinced the religion you call yourself is wrong most of the time, what has convinced you of this? What has convinced you they were right on anything else? Are you really convinced they weren’t wrong ALL the time?

I tried, I REALLY tried to remain Christian after I left Catholicism. I really wanted SOMETHING to have been true. But what I want to be true and what is true cannot be made the same with faith.