Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Twenty Leaky Buckets --- Part One

I found this pamphlet the other day. As with other atheist polemics I have read, it contains little if any new argumentation on behalf of the atheist thesis [or theses]. The arguments presented here have been heard at university, in coffeehouses, at cocktail parties, or anywhere people want to vent their frustrations at "organized religion."

Every now and then, it is good for a man to examine his views in the face not only of the more respectful academic arguments against him, but also in the face of what is bandied about in popular culture.

This little pamphlet has twenty reasons for, as the title says, "abandoning Christianity." I'll make the argument that none of these reasons, by itself, holds any water.

BTW, before proceeding in this miniseries, something important should be noted beforehand that, so it seems, is often missed. That something is the fact that just because a worldview presents a difficulty is not a global argument against that worldview. At the same time, having a multiplicity of difficulties can be a telling sign that a worldview is not in accordance with the evidence, but a difficulty here and there is not some sign of foreboding doom, for every coherent worldview has its difficulties, which difficulties by themselves seem to pack a wallop.

Next, consider two worldviews X and Y. Suppose that thesis A causes worldview X difficulties whereas thesis A is harmonious with Y. This by itself isn't necessarily compelling evidence for Y over X for the simple reason that there might be some other thesis B that conflicts with Y but is harmonious with X.

Let's try to make this concrete with a simple example. It is often claimed by the village atheist mentality that evil [however defined] is not harmonious with the Christian idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God. On a philosophical level, this claim, I'd contend, is false. But let's assume the claim for the time being. At this stage, the existence of what we call evil seems more harmonious with atheism than Christianity, so it seems that there is a point for the atheist. However, if you consider problems of knowledge, of knowing [for example], then the atheist, so far as I can tell, is at a real loss. If we ask for external objective justification of why my killing my neighbor in cold blood is evil and not good, then, so far as I can tell, the atheist is at a real loss compared with the Christian.

Every worldview has its difficulties. This holds of course for worldviews that are not in accordance with reality, but it holds even for the one true worldview. As an undergrad and grad student I spent a few years avocationally studying various worldviews, and, if one examines them carefully, one will find that every single one has an internal tension. People will argue in good faith about the degree of tension, but they're there, whether in Christianity, atheism, existentialism, Buddhism, etc. The trick is, of course is to go with the worldview that has the least tension. [However, nothing says that the worldview with the least tension is the true worldview.]

So far I've been talking in the abstract, and now I wish to return to particulars. This pamphlet which will be very briefly [but we hope fairly] discussed is not chosen for its excellence but for its representativeness of the sort of pop-level atheist arguments I've seen. I've seen these "[insert large #] of arguments against Christianity" not a few times, and I've seen not a few "[insert very large #] of Biblical contradictions" lists. At first, the large number of items in the list presents a sort of intimidation factor [whether intended or not by the author]. The thinking on the reader is of the form even if most items are false or not well-supported, some of it has to be true. After going through a few of those lists, however, my empirical experience is that there are a few fallacies that generate the multiplicity of talking points. This pamphlet has twenty alleged reasons for abandoning Christianity. Are there any strong arguments [they don't have to be compelling, just strong] in the pamphlet?

My answer, which is stated in advance [but after reading the document] is in the negative. This doesn't, by itself, prove that atheism is false, nor does this prove that Christianity is true. What it does show is that, if I'm correct, what passes for pop-level atheist is your typical question-begging emotion-laden drivel that is passed off [even in university settings!] as enlightened modern discourse that has at last shed off primitive superstitions.

Also, switching back to a general observation, much of the atheist literature at the pop-level speaks atheist-speak to atheists. This is hardly useful if you're writing a pamphlet designed to speak to Christians, in particular, to Christians in order to get them to see that their worldview is false, repressive, superstitious, [insert nasty adjective here]. So far as I can tell, this pamphlet is for Christians to read or for people who aren't sold for the Christianity-is-false position.

BTW --- I don't want the readership of PP to think I'm going to spend great amounts of time refuting each point. This pamphlet doesn't take that much work, since many of its points rely on the same fallacies, and one can handle great chunks of it simultaneously. But what I will attempt to do, for my own little intellectual exercise, is to delineate just why the arguments used in the pamphlet have no real buying power for a Christian. This will be stream-o'-consciousness stuff, but, it is really all these poor arguments deserve. I anticipate two, three, or four more parts, though of course I'm trying to get as much done by typing as little as possible!


Blogger chamblee54 said...

I posted this to the wrong thread.
I have not read your complete post...too many words. I may or may not get back to it.
However, you are calling the Pamplet, "20 Reasons to abandon christianity" as a atheist tract.I looked at the pamplet...again, too many words, but i reviewed the 20 reasons...and found that while it is opposed to jesus worship, it is not atheistic...it does not deny the existence of god.
To me, the two lines of thought...rejection of jesus worship and atheism...are not the same. In fact , to me , the first commandment outlaws jesus worship, while affirming the primacy of god.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Ken Abbott said...

Chamblee54, the first commandment cannot "outlaw" worship of Jesus because Jesus is (according to historic, orthodox Christianity) fully God as well as fully man. In the gospels, Jesus is rightly depicted accepting the worship of men.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005 5:33:00 PM  

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