Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Reasonable atheism (3): of theological mistakes

I want to start a list of common misperceptions that atheists have about Christian language and Christian claims (some of which will be common to other faiths as well). Now I should say right up front that I do not see atheists as culpable for these mistakes, for the most part, simply because they are mistakes that are made by a great number of professed Christians, especially in North America. However, what this means is that most Christians don't understand their own faith, which is the fault of a) their pastors, and b) the historical development of Modern Protestantism.

When, for example, Davidov comments "Atheism is not trying to provide answers to those questions or indeed any questions. It simply denies that the central proposition of most religiions (God exists) is correct. There are two ways this is put (1) God does not exist; (2) there is no proper evidence that God exists. Only one response is needed - (1) explain the characteristics of the God whose existence you assert; (2) set out the evidence in favour of your assertion that this God exists. You are making a proposition (God exists). It is for you to prove that it is accurate" he is assuming at least two things: a) that it makes sense to attribute existence to God, and b) that this is what Christian thought does. Whereas I want to say that neither are true - it makes no sense to apply the word 'exist' to God, and Christian theology does not do so (which means that Christian theology as a whole is not delusional in the sense assumed by that video). I will go into this in more detail in a separate post (I've written some material on this elsewhere).

This is why I want to ask of atheists 'how much theology have you read?' It's another way of distinguishing between humourless and sophisticated atheisms. The humourless variety not only hasn't read much theology, instead taking their understanding of Christianity from popular level publications and TV programmes, but rests content with that level of understanding. Imagine how Richard Dawkins would feel if he ended up in an argument with an atheist who happened to reject the theory of evolution - because he could demonstrate that Lamarckian inheritance was wrong - that would give you an idea of what it regularly feels like to debate with atheists. The assumption is that I am defending something which I don't actually believe in.

Underlying much of this, however, is a misperception of the grammar of religious faith, in other words, what sort of thing a religious belief is. Too often, the assumption is that religious belief functions in the same way as religious scientific belief, in other words that what is at stake is the existence of something, or some truth about a matter of fact (hence the plea to start out with some agreed facts, which is one way of indicating what counts highest in the hierarchy). Yet religious belief is not at all the same sort of thing as a scientific belief. I'll say more about this in due course as well.

Anyhow, I'm starting to ramble. What I will do is have a subsection of this series called TM, which is when I'll point out some of the common errors or misperceptions that get trotted out on a regular basis.

1 comment:

  1. ok then in MAT 4:3 the Devil is a supernatural being, who knows God on a personal level (Book of Job, etc). The Devil was in Heaven at one time, and the Bible (Jesus Himself) says that Christ (He) was always in Heaven with God. It follows that The Devil knows and is acquainted with the Son of God, but he says "If thou be the Son of God" shouldn't it be "i know you are the son of god, turn this rock into bread"


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