Monday, February 12, 2007

Another Interesting Atheist vs. Christian Exchange...

Recently, I had another discussion, with another Christian, on a popular religion-oriented message board. It revolved around my recent essay, “The Heartache of Loss,” and my contention within it that religion, while a source of comfort for believers, is not actually true. I do not have verbatim quotes from the Christian with whom I was debating because I had posted my original essay on an atheists-only board at the forum; shortly after my final response, which is published here, the moderators deleted all the Christian’s posts because of that rule violation. However, before sharing my response, I will convey the Christian’s arguments as fairly and accurately as possible.

We had a few very brief exchanges during which period the Christian basically was feeling me out, and getting a sense of the degree to which I reject his faith. When I said something along the lines of, “I know religion is not real,” he posted the following arguments:

1. The type of prayer I describe in “The Heartache of Loss” is not legitimate, but rather a straw man description given by one who does not understand religion. He said he knows nobody who prays the way I describe in that piece.

2. There is evidence for the existence of God—and rational evidence, at that. He argued that one might choose to reject that evidence but, since evidence does exist, it is much more appropriate to embrace agnosticism. Indeed, he flatly said being an atheist is logically impossible since one cannot prove God’s non-existence.

3. Deism is a better choice for atheists. He asked why I do not embrace deist views.

What follows is my rebuttal to the above-articulated arguments:

Well, even though I did not mean to start any type of atheist vs. theist debate with this post, since I deliberately posted it in the atheist-only forum, I will be happy to respond to this quickly.

I used to be a Roman Catholic, so I have some familiarity with Christianity and prayer. I know many people who pray in order that God makes their lives better in some way. Individuals pray for the health of family and friends, success and prosperity at work, the safe return of children trapped in Iraq and, indeed, the healing of sick loved ones. In particular, people pray when they feel powerless otherwise. I know this because my Christian family members have been praying quite a bit since my grandfather got his terminal prognosis. They say, "It's in God's hands now" and pray for some sort of divine assistance. They are Christians, and that is exactly what many are doing.

I am an atheist about God in the same way I am an atheist about invisible garden banshees. I see no good hard evidence and, thus, I presume non-existence. I need be agnostic about God only if I also need be agnostic about invisible garden banshees or white-haired closet goblins. I do not mean to be demeaning in any way, but I simply base my beliefs on the hard evidence at hand. I do not care about holy texts because there are 10,000 distinct religions in this world right now and they all have their own special texts, each equally as reliable as every other (because each contains extraordinary claims which, most of the time, lack extraordinary corroborative hard evidence). I also find the concept of “God” useless since there are infinitely various God characters, with infinitely various skill sets, demanding infinitely various behaviors, promising infinitely various things. Why worship Yahweh and not Thor? Why worship Yahweh and not Enlil (Ellil)? Why worship Yahweh and not Hargazorn? [Hargazorn is a Scandinavian-region deity yet to be discovered by man.]

Deism still involves a God—and a creative God, at that. I see no need for such a God to explain anything on our planet or in our solar system, galaxy, galaxy cluster or universe. I comprehensively reject the divine, including an afterlife. Moreover, I believe Dr. Richard Dawkins' "infinite regress" argument obliterates the very notion of a designer God that constructed/planned/designed our universe.

Texts will not budge me; there are 10,000 others competing for my allegiance (along with innumerable ancient, forgotten mystical texts). Neither will "gaps" arguments; no knowledge gap, in the history of humankind, ever has been filled with the supernatural or the divine. I would need positive, hard evidence for the existence of a God. Then, of course, we would need to narrow that God down from infinitely many and infinitively various to just one.