Over the past few months, I’ve been a participant in a local Alpha course at a mini-megachurch in our area (i.e., a church with about 2,200 members). Alpha is a program aimed at arming Christians with a knowledge of the foundation and tenets of Christian belief. At least, that’s the intended goal; what I experienced was more along the lines of “a bunch of confused multi-denominational Christians who have no idea what the Bible actually says being forced to listen to hour-long lectures from a charming British pastor and engaging in discussions dominated by the course leader and an atheist (me) with more knowledge of Christian doctrine than anyone present.”
I was bored. So sue me.
I’ve been remiss in that I haven’t been blogging about this as it’s gone along, but I’ve got plenty of notes and recordings to review for when I finally do go about describing the experience. In any case, tomorrow night we’ll be having a dinner to wrap up the whole series. I wonder if they’ll be disappointed that I’m still unconvinced… not only that, but that I’m even more convinced than ever that the arguments for Christianity are useless. It just reminded me of all the reasons I started to lose my faith in the first place, and how utterly unsatisfying the apologetics really are.
Another atheist by the name of Stephen Butterfield has also attended an Alpha course and blogged about his experience. He went into great detail about both the subjects covered and the discussions he had; I highly recommend reading the whole series of posts if you’re interested in this sort of thing.
YouTuber Evid3nc3 recently put out a couple of videos that describe the development of the modern concept of the Judeo-Christian God in great detail. From what I’ve heard and read before, he really seems to know what he’s talking about; plus he has plenty of sources cited to back up his claims. If you’re at all interested in learning about how the monotheistic god of the Abrahamic traditions came to be, you should definitely watch these. It helps explain the evolution of the mythology, from the worship of the tribal war god of the Israelites as one deity among many to the theology we see today of a singular, all-powerful creator god.
Evid3nc3 also has several other great videos, including the compelling story of his deconversion.
Famed anti-theist debater, columnist, and literary critic Christopher Hitchens is debating Intelligent Design proponent and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor William Dembski this morning at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas on the subject, “Does a good God exist?” The debate is streaming live at PCA’s webcast site and I’ll be updating this blog post as the debate goes with my impressions and observations.
It should be an interesting debate. Hitchens is known for his scathing wit and sharp rhetorical skills, and Dembski (while not exactly up to snuff on his science… if you ask me) is a well-trained theologian (whatever that might mean).
(Any times I mention will be Eastern Standard Time, and I’ll largely be paraphrasing since I can’t type fast enough to quote exactly.) Continue reading →
I’ve managed to dig up an almost four-year-old discussion on a web forum where I argued (with cringeworthy levels of smarm and fake logic) for the existence of God (of the generic Deistic variety) against a few atheists.
Worthy of note is the fact that I was a college senior and most of the people I was talking to were high school students or younger college students, and yet they tend to come off sounding more rational than I do. Continue reading →
No, not ultimate as in “last.” Ultimate as in “this post is about the idea of an ultimate [insert concept here].”
So often in my discussions/arguments online with theists of various stripes I run into one of the following statements:
“If there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate source of morality. Everything would be subjective.” “If there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate meaning to life.”
I find these arguments more than a bit bizarre. For one thing, they seem to assert that we absolutely, 100% know that there is an ultimate source of morality, or an ultimate meaning to life. For another, they seem to be a strange use of “ultimate.” When did “ultimate” come to mean “given to us by a supernatural creator?”
Yes, if there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate source of morality. But this does absolutely nothing to support either the existence of God or the existence of an ultimate source of morality! It’s essentially an argument based on the idea that there is some self-evident objective moral standard. But if were objective and self-evident, there wouldn’t be any argument. People who disagreed with it would be viewed with the same uneasy suspicion as people who disagreed with gravity. Instead, we live on a planet where people are constantly arguing over morality, and while we often find common ground, it’s rarely beyond the bare minimum standards we need to maintain social cohesion.
As for an ultimate meaning to life: Why would the meaning have to be ultimate? Why isn’t it enough for life to have current meaning? And what sort of value would the “meaning” have if it were dictated to us? If life’s meaning came only from some sort of ever-present quasi-benevolent universal dictator, then it would no longer be meaning – it would be purpose. And when you have a purpose, you’re not free – you’re a tool to be used for the desired ends of some other being. (Cue Rick Warren.)
I have absolutely no problem with the idea that ultimate morality and ultimate meaning don’t actually exist. To argue that God must exist because these things are self-evidently real is to do nothing but beg the question. I’m not a nihilist; I just think it’s silly to assume that something exists because its existence would support your preconceived beliefs.
One of the strongest evidences I’ve seen against the existence of God is the problem of the unreliability of prayer. The basic problem is this: every Sunday, in all the Christian churches in all the cities in all the states of this country, there are millions (if not tens of millions) of people praying – most likely, for many of the same things. An end to war, an end to hunger, healing of the sick, and so on; these are consistent themes for prayer in most moderate-to-liberal churches. More conservative and fundamentalist churches will pray for the return of Jesus, the spreading of the gospel, God’s protection over the nation, et cetera. Continue reading →