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.

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