Thursday, 15 April 2010

Atheism stumbles over Easter

I'm happy to be reading again, along with a little "Blogger" button that let's me just grab the page I'm reading and start commenting. Ain't technology grand?

Courtesy of Online Opinion comes this opinion piece. Atheism repels feeble Easter attacks - On Line Opinion - 15/4/2010. It's the usual atheist approach to religion, beginning with the scientistic declaration of the primacy of positive evidence over the absence of evidence.
Atheists simply accept that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural—no more, no less. There is no element of indoctrinated belief about atheism. Atheism is founded on the concept of evidence.
Supposing this is true, then I imagine that I'm an atheist. A declaration of "Jesus is lord" is the central declaration of Christianity, marking the claim by the believer that they acknowledge the lordship of Jesus. There is credible historical evidence that Jesus the Jewish Peasant lived in second century Israel, teaching and gathering followers. However, when the follower declares that "Jesus is lord" this is a statement of faith, a statement of devotion. This kind of statement doesn't even require a supernatural being to be involved. What it does require is discipline by the Christian; discipline to learn, understand and obey Jesus' teaching.

Whereas "Atheism is founded on the concept of evidence" faith is founded on the concept of conviction and fidelity. The believer encounters a truth that redefines their world, and goes on to live in fidelity to that truth. This kind of truth is not in the same language game as facts and evidence, making a scientific assessment of an individual truth difficult. The closest we have so far is something like Badiou's ontological theory of the Event. Even this, however, insists that truth does not arise from the systematised facts of the situation, but that it cannot be named or accounted by that situation. The desperate search for the facts of a truth is a waste of time because it is impossible.

I'll give the author some credit for this gem, though.
Religious leaders have never encouraged their congregations to use their brains throughout history, and this situation has not improved in modern times.
Mostly true! This is a double-edged sword, though. On one side, few religious leaders (especially contemporary pentecostal Christian ones) encourage intellectual engagement with the Bible, preferring them to read short, disconnected snippets of the text. The broader themes and intra-biblical dialogue is lost this way, resulting in some wild and crazy theologies. On the other side of the sword is the necessary property of the gospel: it is universally addressed. It's not a message exclusive to the intellectual, or exclusive to the working class. As a universally addressed truth, it ignores those distinctions and presents itself equally to all.

Again, an atheist has come to religion with the hammer of science; seeing everything as a nail. Despite the clumsiness of their approach, they still have valid critique of religion in general (and often Christianity in particular) that the Christian must address.
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