Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On the Religion of Atheism

      On February 4'th the Christian Post reported on a live 90-minute debate between atheist philosopher Dr. Alex Rosenberg and Christian theologian Dr. William Lane Craig titled, "Is Faith in God Reasonable?", It was hosted and sponsored by Symposia Christi at Purdue University, Biola University, and Craig's apologetics ministry group called Reasonable Faith.
      The results were reported by a "formal" debate panel as 4-2 victory for Craig, in a vote by those in attendance with 1,390 votes for Craig to 303 votes for Rosenberg as well as online as well with garnering 734 votes to Craig vs 59 for his opponent.  It is certainly impossible to interpret the inherent meaning of these results. I suspect that the majority of the people who read this article assume that Dr Craig was right and D. Rosenberg was wrong.  That would hardly be a correct conclusion.

      A friend David Irvine responded more reasonably to this article as follows:
My first quick read of this makes me wish the article had included a link to the full transcript of the debate; I'd love to know what Dr Craig's 8 proofs are.  Interesting article but a couple of issues about it have already come to mind; the first one being the nature of the statistical population that evidently thought Dr Craig was by far the "winner" of the debate and Dr Rosenberg definitely the "loser"; namely, how many completely unbiased listeners were tuned in to a debate like this?  One might suspect Dr Craig was "preaching to the choir".  I'd think for an impartial evaluation one would have to have a debate about "Christianity vs Atheism" held before an ideal audience that was neither one nor the other which would be problematic in itself.  Another issue for me is how debates are evaluated by many if not most people; is the debate scoring based on the perceived validity of each point made, or is the scoring biased in favor of the one with the better speaking style and delivery? 
Attempting to arrive at a fair analysis, David went on to say,
I still remember listening to the JFK vs Nixon debates on the radio while stationed in France, and thinking Nixon made more sense than JFK but at the dawn of the television age in electioneering where appearance and style trumps content, JFK "won" that debate hands-down and the rest is history. 
      My read on such debates follow.  How do you judge winners of debates?  The common approach is to survey the observers before the debate regarding the topic of the debate and the repeat that survey after the debate.  The winner is the person or team that shifted opinions in their direction.
      I have sat through many of these debates. Michael Shermer has placed several on the web.  He was once a devote Christian who was heading toward the ministry, but along the way he detoured and now is committed atheist.  He is exceptionally intelligent, but I think he likes to engage in these debates because he is still searching.  He would never admit it.  Many devote theists or deists who become atheists also become aggressive and sometimes antagonistic.
      I used to subscribe to publications by secular humanists, but found many of the articles disgusting because of the vehemence and general intolerance toward those who did not believe as they.  The one thing that disgusts me most about the three major religions is the intolerance of dogmas of each.  The religion of atheism engages in this same practice

   As a final observation David stated:
Another issue already for me is the appearance of bias in the author's choice of words; one person's "truth" can be another person's "absurdity"; the (I think it's Hindu) concept of the world being stacked on the backs of an infinite vertical stack of turtles being a convenient example.  I think the term "belief" rather than "truth" may be more appropriate.  Of course the issue of how does one define "truth" in this context apparently was not part of this debate.  Having been on both sides of this debate over the past six decades, my present perception is that from a metaphysical standpoint all religions and atheisms begin with a blank slate regarding objective evidence; the determining factor for me is: What viewpoint or thesis offers the most spiritual value and utility and examples for me today in forming and upgrading my ethical values and perspectives and relationships with others?  
      Instead of simply saying "Amen," I offered. I have read numerous claims of proofs.  My recommendations to everyone is -- if s/he is comfortable in his/her beliefs, are tolerant and respectful of those who do not share them, and are not trying to impose them on others, then don’t search.  They have nothing to gain.  
      The existence of a God cannot be proven and has never been proven or dis-proven.  I am a Ph.D. physicist who has spent many long years studying and has been humbled by the laws and observations of the universe from the infinitely small to the infinitely large.  I have come to realize that the universe is beyond the ability of humans to comprehend.  It logically follows that if such an entity as God exists, it must be beyond the ability of humans to comprehend. I find the simplistic concept exemplified as the God of Abraham to be no less absurd than the Hindu turtle belief.  Throughout history the image of creation and God reflects the comprehension limits of the believer.

Comments by David Irvine were reprinted with his permission.  He has been evaluating his beliefs for a while.  I found a 2006 letter he submitted as a 1980 graduate of Vanderbilt University to the Spire which is a publication of the Vanderbilt School of Divinity, Graduate Department of Religion.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom, Wow, that Dave Irvine writes a great letter, don't he? However, one small correction needs to be made; my 2006 letter as reprinted in the Spire has an error somehow added during its transcription to its Letters to the Editor section. Although I have taken several graduate level courses in some of VU's other Schools, I am not a graduate of the School of Divinity so any of my thoughts and opinions found offensive or absurd etc should not be blamed on them. My connection to Rev. Dr. Beisswenger is through the Penuel Ridge Retreat Center which he and his late wife Joyce founded. Regarding my beliefs, they've been under continuous evaluation since a traumatic event in my life in June 1953; still a spiritual work in progress. Thanks, DTI