Sunday, August 14, 2011

Atheist after my own heart

In his article The Top Mistakes Atheists Make, sociology professor (but we won't hold that against him) Phil Zuckerman echoes many of my own sentiments. I would only extend a few of these to theists as well.

1. Insisting that science can, or will, answer everything.  This is where atheists are the most apt to misrepresent science, and all the while somehow skirting the fact that it is their faith (sorry, confidence) in science that prompts such insistence. Conversely, Christians often tout the Bible as similarly having all the answers. Now obviously neither can be true, as the Bible is not contemporary and science has known boundaries on available information. Both claims are transparently weak, and only fuel the opposition. And no, comparing the relative veracity of competing speculative statements is not justified. Just because science has proven its own validity does not mean that any speculation based on science has the weight of proof where none exists. "Naturalism of the gaps" is no better than "God of the gaps".

2. Condemning all religion, rather then just the bad aspects thereof.  This goes for theists as well. Granted #1 seems contributory to a general distrust in science by theists. It is much like how a child learns to distrust their parents after finding they were told some exaggeration to keep them in line. Once a theist begins to study science, which is one of the primary social goals of most atheists, they learn how it has been misrepresented. Just as atheists are prone to condemn all religion wholesale, so does this contribute to theists likewise condemning science. After all, doubts about global warming are not really pertinent to a theist's ideology.

3. Condemning the Bible as a wretched, silly book, rather than seeing it as a work full of good and insightful things as well.  This one just always baffles me. Atheists seem to have the uncanny ability to both ridicule the Bible and take it as a legitimate and inerrant source on God. I do not really see how you can have it both ways. You can either accept it as a valid source on God, and use it to form your arguments, or you can write it off as nonsense. Considering atheism, by definition, would consider the concept of God unreasonable, they cannot reasonable make arguments bases on a source for that concept. This includes making any argument about theist "cherry-picking", interpretations, or anything else which may lend credence to scripture.

4. Failing to understand and appreciate "cultural religion."  Phil covers this one well, and it can basically be lumped in with #2, where sociocultural benefits are not differentiated from negative aspects.

5. Critiquing God as nasty, wicked, and immoral.  Basically covered by my comments for #3, where scripture is lent credence by citing it as evidence of such characteristics, although there are arguments worth considering about divine intervention and freewill where "evil in the world" is concerned, even doing so.

6. Focusing on arguments against the existence of God, rather than working to make the world a better, more just place.  Why be so vociferous about why a purportedly delusional, superstitious, or unreasonable thing should not exist? Arguments should focus on their own merits rather than the weakness of their opposition. Positive evidence rather than the old "absence of evidence is evidence of absence" yarn.

7. Arguing about morality in the abstract.   So far I have yet to see a compelling argument or statistics for atheistic morality. Conversely, I have not seen a compelling argument to insist upon morals requiring a specifically Abrahamic God either.

8. Not having more kids.   An atheist recently made this argument to me:  
The demographic data indicates that higher birthrates are associated with ignorance and poverty, so by this reasoning we need to get busy and roll back western civilization a century or two. 
 Now obviously, association or coincidence does not equate to causation. On the contrary, those of means would be better suited to provide for more children.

Anyway, I though this article a fair example of much of my own opinion. Do you know of any compelling arguments for any of the above? If so, please comment.

1 comment:

Saskia Scott said...

Oh my goodness, I am a Christian, but I agree with everything you are saying here. I came to your blog by way of the "angry atheist" blog post and it is refreshing. Everyone - not only we Christians but people of other faiths and no faith - needs to be more careful about flinging around accusations and being one sided. It is such a human tendency, which can only begin to be overcome by really attending to your own underlying worldviews.