Chapter 6 addition

A few days after writing the earlier part of this chapter, my attention was drawn to a quote within the chapter by William Dembski: When does determination [to find a natural cause] become pigheadedness? … How long are we to continue a search before we have the right to give up the search and declare not only that continuing the search is vain but also that the very object of the search is nonexistent? (p 29) Was twenty years of my life not enough? When do I have the right to declare that the very object of the search is nonexistent?

I don’t have enough TIME to be an atheist

I need to spend some time doing things that I like doing and some things that I need to be doing.

Still studying for an actuarial exam (August). Still building the stairs to the deck and then replacing some deck boards. Still reading and writing, just not right now. Still running slowly.

I went to a running group thing tonight and was reminded why I have to force myself to do things with new groups. There wasn’t anything that went wrong, it just takes a while to get to know people. And I’m humiliatingly slow right now. Once the big bruise that I have from soccer heals up, it’ll be a little better, because right now I can feel it whenever I land hard or am going downhill.

I finished The Thousandfold Thought, and all I can say is that I don’t understand why so many people like it so much. It wasn’t awful, but with each book, I became less and less interested in what was going to happen next. I hope the Consult wins. That’s the problem though, what can really happen? Probably the Consult won’t win. Kellhus can accomplish all the stuff he wants, but if he stays just the same, that won’t be very interesting since his manipulations are pretty transparent and are mostly descriptions of how everyone is fawning over him and hanging onto his every word. OTOH though, if he becomes sympathetic and non-sociopathic, I’m going to be really annoyed and eat the book. (I also may have said that I was going to eat the book in ASOIAF if Jon Snow was the PWWP, I probably should not promise to eat any more books based on disappointment because these are really long books). And I can’t imagine the rest of the story not centering around Kellhus, so those are probably the two options. I don’t know what I’m rambling about anymore.

Book Review: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist – Ch 6.2

6: NEW LIFE FORMS: FROM THE GOO TO YOU VIA THE ZOO? (PART 2)

I had every emotional and volitional reason to want to believe in Christianity. I was in the nursery when I started going to church. I went to Christian school from first through twelfth grades. I had the fear of hell hammered into me on a deep emotional level at Christian summer camp. I had Christian parents, Christian teachers, and Christian friends. I did not desire to disappoint my parents, to be markedly different from my peers, or to be unable to relate to my daily lifestyle of prayer, Bible study and Christian conversation. As far as security and admiration, I had everything to lose and nothing to gain by publically disbelieving. The idea of avoiding moral prohibitions is laughable. I was eleven when I started to doubt, and there was certainly no chance of escaping the rules of my home and school for a life of hedonism. The possibility didn’t even occur to me. I did want to go to public school, but I had no thoughts about engaging in sinful behavior there; I only wanted to escape some of the spiritual pressure and be able to take higher level classes. Ironically, the fear of being denounced by the Christians in my life caused me to start constantly lying about my beliefs.

For these reasons, I tried hard to discover a personal relationship with Jesus. At the time, I had few problems accepting the tenets of Christianity. If I had been brought up in a tradition in which connection to god through sacraments or affirming a creed constituted salvation, I would likely still believe in that way. Alas, a personal relationship was the one thing that eluded me. I grew up hearing things like it’s a relationship, not a religion and heart knowledge not head knowledge. I have also heard Christians claim that belief is a choice. I did not know what to do except to beg god for a personal relationship, but I never felt any sense that god, Jesus or the Holy Spirit were entities that touched my life in any way. I did not detect spiritual guidance or reassurance. I was not comforted. I was not inwardly moved by reading the Bible. I did not sense love or truth. At times, I would cry myself into a frenzy of entreaty, but when it was over, I knew that it had been emotional self-manipulation.

I was tired and desperate and young, and I decided that I could demonstrate a complete commitment by trusting in the tenets and obeying the teachings of the Bible, which manifested itself in the teachings of the church. I claimed a new salvation experience and set about trying to live a Christian life in faith that if I did so, the personal relationship would happen. It never did. Four years later, in my mid-twenties, my attempts to live the life that I thought god wanted me to live had resulted in a series of poor decisions. Even as I continued to beg god to remove my unbelief, my life was empty and hopeless. When I read the Bible from cover to cover, I observed a morally inconsistent deity in a story full of inconsistencies. I came to believe that promises made in the Bible were not being fulfilled, particularly the promises about the Holy Spirit, and so its god must be non-existent, non-caring or dishonest. Even if such a being created a world or performed miracles, and even if my own moral code is groundless or relativistic, I would not worship that being.  After such a process, the implication of emotional dishonesty angers me.

Book Review: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist – Ch 6.1

6: NEW LIFE FORMS: FROM THE GOO TO YOU VIA THE ZOO? (PART 1)

We’re still not dealing with the specific claims of Christianity as a religion. I discussed the problems with claiming irreducible complexity in the last chapter. There is no way to test for irreducible complexity except to say that there is currently no observable mechanism that explains certain phenomena. By accepting intelligent design, the impetus to attempt to discover such mechanisms is removed. Therefore, this chapter consists of an attack on Darwinism rather than attempting to explain any of the mechanisms of intelligent design. I will take intelligent design seriously as a competing claim when a scientist can demonstrate the method used by a designer to change a DNA strand to create a new lifeform, including the way in which said designer can make a physical change without triggering any laws of reaction.  This is no more rigorous a claim than that which the author requests when desiring to see a materialist create life from inorganic matter.

The rebuttal that the author makes to the claim that intelligent design is not science is that science shouldn’t rule out intelligent causes, and that if intelligent design is not science then neither is Darwinism (p 156). Again, the problem is not that science rules out intelligent causes, but that these causes must be observable in some manner to be studied by science. The author attempts to compare metaphysics to forensic investigation, but in forensic science, conclusions are drawn based upon previously observed behavior or effect. There is no previously observed behavior that applies to anything outside the universe.

Further, the author claims that intelligent design is falsifiable while Darwinists do not allow falsification of their position (p 158). This appears to be a matter of opinion and personality rather than a statement that can be generalized to an entire group of people. I have met Christians who believe that god buried dinosaur bones in the earth to test our belief. There are materialist scientists who have been dissatisfied with the most popular theory of the big bang or with claimed mechanisms for evolution who attempt to find alternate explanations. It’s my opinion that even if natural laws were discovered to create specified complexity, intelligent design proponents would not consider their theory to be disproven. What natural laws or observations would satisfy you that there was no intelligent designer?

What follows is the main reason that it’s taken me so long to do any of the reading. I have an emotional problem, but it’s not the one that the author suggests. The author refuses to believe that anyone could fail to find his arguments convincing and gives four emotion driven reasons why he believes that Darwinists are actively committed to keeping god out. It appears that he is in complete denial that anyone could honestly believe that evidence for god is lacking. He claims that the real motivations of some Darwinists are to be able to claim highest authority over truth and over explaining causes, to keep financial security and professional admiration, and to avoid moral prohibitions (p 161).

There appears to be a double standard. The author surely would not consider it a valid case against Christianity to point out that some Christians are emotionally weak, want to feel morally superior to other people, afraid of death, hypocritical or divisive. Pointing out that some atheists have character flaws is a red herring.

But back to my emotional problem – at first when I began reading things like this, I did not hear a professional Christian apologist’s scorn for atheists; I put my father in the place of the writer. I felt that since he gave me these things to read, they must reflect his view of me. While I have tried to be fair and rational in all other approaches, this one was purely emotional, born of the fear that I was a disappointment to my family. I am not reading and writing as a generalized representative non-theist, but as an individual with personal beliefs and experiences. I had intended eventually to write a little about my personal situation, and I feel that this is a good opportunity to talk about why these jabs at some atheists fail to address any of my actual motivations.

** The next installment will cover some of how I’ve dealt with Christianity and agnostic atheism in my own life **

I haven’t quit writing

I’ve been doing some things IRL lately that have not given me much time to blog.

We’re rebuilding the front porch stairs, I had jury duty on Monday, and I’m reading other books. Message board dudes, I do not know how you managed to fill ten threads about Prince of Nothing. I really don’t care how women are being portrayed, because I have not managed to care about how anyone or anything in the books is being portrayed. I’m halfway through book 3. I don’t dislike the writing and I don’t dislike the story – I have no intention of quitting… I just don’t care very much; I’m not very interested in finding out what happens.

I also find it depressing to do the book review – not even particularly because of Christianity or my non-belief in it, but because I don’t know where my relationship with my father can proceed from here. I’m not concerned about horrendous consequences. We’re not going to disown each other, throw things at each other, or anything so antagonistic. Most likely we will simply have to acknowledge that we believe differently and talk about sports. I just have the feeling like – is that it? I don’t want to make the topic off-limits, but I don’t intend to spend the rest of my life reading about religion.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it struck me that I was “saved” at the age of four. It’s disputable how freely I could have made a choice like that at such a young age. But no Christian ever questioned the experience. Having been born and raised in a Christian environment, it was a natural state of affairs. I understand why my parents don’t want me to leave Christianity, but it’s still a bit surprising that the way out is so much more convoluted than the way in. Claiming that I believed was enough for acceptance by the church. I could have continued on with no real knowledge about evolution, philosophy or other beliefs/religions, and no one would have considered me less a Christian. Even Christians who value education do not challenge others claims to Christianity for being completely satisfied with the Bible and what they believe to be the Holy Spirit. But apparently claiming that I don’t believe is something that I have to defend. Geisler and Turek heap scorn on the willful or shallow atheist. It’s a double standard that they don’t show the same disdain toward the Christian who takes everything on faith and internal evidence. On page 31, they ask if someone could provide reasonable answers to the most significant questions and objections you have about Christianity… would you then become a Christian? If your honest answer is no, then your resistance to Christianity is emotional or volitional. Would they be willing to turn that around and claim that if reasonable answers were given regarding materialism were given, or if unanswerable objections to Christianity were made, they would stop believing? Would they tell the Christian who would continue on faith that their belief was emotional?