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Posts Tagged ‘theology’

Over at HuffPo, “after-hours rabbi” Alan Lurie describes four “impediments” to “experiencing god” that he wishes he’d lectured a skeptical job applicant about.

4. The worry that “spiritual experiences” are just feel-good self-indulgence.

Why would someone worry that something is a “feel-good self-indulgence”? Here are some other feel-good self-indulgences:

  • eating cookie dough straight from the tube
  • “borrowing” a single-engine plane for a joyride
  • the Fleshlight

Each of these is popular precisely because it’s a “feel-good self-indulgence”! If people thought god was a feel-good self-indulgence, he’d be bigger than Jesus! His problem is that he’s (imaginary and) a joy-kill.

3. The fear that god-worship makes people “arrogant and/or sheepish.”

I also have trouble imagining this as an impediment. God-disbelievers do plenty of things that make them “arrogant and/or sheepish”:

  • Science Olympiad
  • Stage productions of “Little Bo Peep
  • Obama-worship

In fact, I have never heard this used as an excuse not to do something, although I confess that I tend to avoid people who seem overly concerned with sheep.

2. There’s not a two-column proof that god exists.

This is another doubtful impediment. Except for the handful of us who think we’re mathematicians, most people hate two column proofs. I can’t even remember the last time someone demanded that I two-column prove something before he would start believing in it, although it’s likely it was that weirdo on the street corner with the huge “I don’t believe in Pythagoras’s Theorem!” sign.

1. There’s no evidence god exists.

Finally, an objection that makes sense! It is indeed quite tough to “experience” something when there’s no evidence it exists. That’s the reason so few people are able to “experience” the luminiferous aether, N-rays, the Odic force, or phlogiston.

In lieu of, you know, evidence, Lurie suggests that we look for “little miracles” in things like trees and bodily functions and employment.

Now, admittedly I am not a rabbi, but I am pretty sure that “miracles” need to involve happenings of things generally considered unpossible, like the invention of an inexpensive, tasty-when-spread-on-fruit mayonnaise-like “whip,” or a World Series victory over the unstoppable 1969 Orioles, or a synthetic plant fertilizer made of petroleum by-products.

If the fact that I occasionally experience indigestion is a “miracle” that counts as “evidence” for the existence of “the Divine,” then pretty much anything counts as evidence for the existence of anything else.

What about the “little miracle” of my alarm clock going off this morning at precisely the time I set it to go off! Or the “little miracle” that when I turned on the hot water faucet in my sink, hot water came out! Or if that’s not plausible enough, how about the “little miracle” that this morning my shoes were in the exact same place I left them last night. If that’s not evidence for “the Divine,” then nothing is!

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Poor Darrel Falk. Not only is he stuck being executive director of the ludicrous BioLogos project, but also his granddaughter has noticed the obvious parallels between the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus.

This is great for us, however, as we get to read his “yes, we were lying about the tooth fairy, and also we were lying about the easter bunny, and also we were lying about santa claus, but Jesus is totally different and here’s why!” essay.

He makes the following points:

1. Some of the data underlying evolutionary biology is “historical” in nature. Some of the arguments for Christianity are also “historical” in nature. This makes belief in Christianity just as data-driven as belief in evolutionary biology!

2. “There are some theologians who I consider just as brilliant as some scientists!”

3. Not only has Jesus never been “falsified,” there are plenty of good reasons to think he exists. For instance, check out the New Testament book Romans, which (unlike The Da Vinci Code) is too packed with “sincere emotion and veneration” to be fiction.

4. If you don’t read every pro-Jesus book with “the open mindset that is supposed to be the trademark of any scientist,” you’ve committed an “unforgiveable sin.”

Now, unlike his granddaughter, I am not a 6-year-old girl, and so it’s hard to say which of his arguments she will find compelling. I’m guessing she’ll reject the first, as even little girls understand that — while studying history helps us understand evolutionary biology — there is also genetic, anatomical, geographical, biochemical, epidemiological, and current biological evidence. I’m also guessing that she’ll reject the second, as little girls tend to put more weight on the opinions of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer than the opinions of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth. Along similar lines, the Baby-sitters Club books are packed with “sincere emotion and veneration” yet are clearly fiction, making me suspect she’ll reject his third argument. And although his granddaughter sounds pretty smart, a number of the books he propounds still seem above her reading level, making it tough to condemn her for not reading them.

However, although he didn’t mention it in his article, he’s also got a fifth argument in his pocket:

5. If you don’t believe in Jesus, then after you die you’re going to get thrown into a Lake of Fire and tortured forever. It’s worse than anything you can imagine. Remember how bad you felt that day at school when all the other girls were making fun of you? Remember how much it hurt when you fell on the playground and broke your arm? Remember when you had the flu and you kept throwing up everything we fed you and we had to take you to the hospital where they stuck a tube in your arm so you wouldn’t get dehydrated? Remember how sad you were when your dog Pepper died? This is so much worse than all those combined, and if you don’t believe in Jesus you’ll feel it all day, every day, forever and ever.

And I’m pretty sure that this one is the kind of argument that resonates with six-year-olds.

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I don’t know if you read the LA Times. I do, mostly because I used to live in LA, and I’m always curious to keep track of where the hipsters are hanging out these days, which celebrities are selling their multi-million dollar mansions, and how voters and politicians are driving the state into bankruptcy.

This morning I was greeted not only with the aforementioned journalistic staples, but also by the op-ed piece “Atheists: No Zeus, no reason, just whining”:

The problem with atheists — and what makes them such excruciating snoozes — is that few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against Zeus’s existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, Zeus’s omniscience with free will or Zeus’s goodness with human suffering.

Although it may be tough to believe, I have in the past been accused of lacking seriousness. Nonetheless, I am perfectly capable of being serious, as the following argument demonstrates:

A Serious Metaphysical Argument

1. I am not an excruciating snooze.
2. Typically, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
3. “Zeus exists” is an extraordinary claim.
4. A recurring appearance on a syndicated television drama does not count as extraordinary evidence.
5. Therefore, we shouldn’t believe in Zeus.

Given this serious argument, there’s little point in further addressing the arguments trying to reconcile Zeus’s omniscience with free will. That’s no better a use of our time than taking on theologians’ “serious” arguments about whether Zeus was raised by the goat Amalthea, the nymph Adamanthea, or the nymph Cynosura. Or theologians’ “serious” arguments about why Zeus would have married his sister. Or even theologians’ “serious” arguments about whether Zeus punished Tantalus for cannibalism or for stealing a golden dog.

In fact, given the wide range of things Zeus is claimed to have done, one could spend one’s entire life grapping with philosophers’ “serious arguments” about them. It’s pretty obvious that this wouldn’t be a productive use of anyone’s time.

(The article also contains a wide variety of name-calling, which doesn’t really merit my attention, as it didn’t mention me explicitly.)

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