Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Second Response - From Why Won't God Heal Amputees.com


Earlier I said that I didn't get a response from the website Why Won't God Heal Amputees, where I also posted my idea. Until this morning, the only objection anyone on that site had been willing to post was "First prove God made the universe and exists outside of time. Hell, just prove he exists. And also, shorten your paragraphs, they're too long."

Not the most promising introduction. "Wow", I thought, after reading some of the other threads. "These people seem really bitter, and angry. Why not just let people be? I mean, sure, there are fundamentalists out there, and it does seem like there are a large number of religious-to-the-point-of-clinical-insanity people on this site, but it's the Internet. When you get to make up your name and not show your face, many people's sanity goes out the window (which is the reason comments on this blog are moderated, and anonymous comments are disabled). Why is it such a big deal to convince someone who believes in God that they're wrong?"

I have since gotten several intelligent critiques, and a much better appreciation for truly millitant atheism.

One of the critiques was as follows:

I'm just going to focus on this one little point. Yes you are correct in saying that the analogy over simplifies things, and most analogies it turns out are traps (unless they are mathematical analogies). Most analogies used in apologetics like C.S. Lewis's are obfuscation, smoke and mirrors, sleight of hand (but not necessarily maliciously so). The problem with this analogy is that book is at least two different things, a physical object and a collection of ideas. Both things however exist in the same universe and are composed of the same "material" as the author.

Which is an entirely valid criticism, the analogy isn't literally accurate, and doesn't accurately represent the relationship between God and the universe because they're fundamentally different things. And it will strengthen my work if I make sure this is 100% clear. I assumed people would get that it was just an analogy, and I said something to the effect of "Excellent point about the analogy not being accurate. But I think that analogies can be effectively used to convey complex ideas so long as people understand the difference between an analogy and an actual situation."

And then I continued to lurk on the WWGHA forum, just getting the style of the debates that were going on there. I started to read one particular thread, where the person who started the thread asked what people got out of debating here. Seemed a reasonable question, because as I said, some of them seemed really bitter, and I don't think they were making a lot of progress with the fundamentalist Christians who were the main representatives of the Christian religion on this forum. And the person who asked the question said they got initially marked as a Troll by a moderator (meaning the moderator thought their question wasn't genuine, but was just posted to start a fight). So the original poster had gone into more detail, to explain that he actually was honestly interested in the answer, and he was an atheist himself. And still two people out of the first few said they thought he might be lying, and might actually be a Christian.

But this is where giving people the benefit of the doubt comes in. Because I kept reading, and once people figured out that the question was genuine, they started giving genuine answers. And some people, quite a few of them, said they were from the Bible Belt, and in the place where they lived, you had to be religious. If you weren't, you were shunned, and told you were going to hell. And as an atheist, you couldn't get away from being blessed all the time. There were "five or six churches within sight of your house". If you didn't believe, you kept quiet because you didn't know what else to do, until you saw this forum and that other people had been able to get out. Religion just surrounded you, and a surprising number of the people there said they had no non-religious friends to turn to in their local communities. No social support, and they were just looking for like-minded people to talk to.

I learned an important lesson about how lucky I am to live where I do, where thinking for yourself is encouraged, and it's perfectly OK if you don't go to church on Sunday. It's OK if you do, too, and lots of people do, but you have the choice. And so when the person who posted that critique came back and said

The problem with that is that many people accept the analogy, and stop thinking any further. Those who seek to confuse, influence or control others will relentlessly exploit this regardless of whether the analogy itself is malicious or benign.
This is why most people on this forum favour precise, well defined explanations, and why I personally regard analogies with enormous suspicion. Anyone who is seriously discussing these topics should avoid using them when possible.

I understood, and just said "Fair enough, no more analogies." Because in certain situations, millitant atheism, I mean really millitant atheism (but still trying to make a statement with words alone, and on your own forum) is fair. If you're a religious moderate, thinking "rational people can be religious, I don't get why Atheists don't understand that sometimes", I'd reccommend going to the forum and asking one.

UPDATE (August 1st): The more I think about it, the less of a good idea it seems for religious people to ask questions on that forum. I just recently posted "No good or clarity will come from there - they aren't interested in finding answers, only taking yours away" on a Christian's blog. And that's about accurate. But if you live in a place where fundamentalism is rare, and you'd like to see its effects, that's where you'd go.

That's it for me for tonight.


JackieD said...

I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say in this post. Are you just saying that now you understand why some atheists are so antagonistic and bitter towards Christianity and religion, or are you saying that you approve of that viewpoint? Are you saying that it's okay to be millitant? (which to me has always meant so devoted to one cause that you are antagonistic and/or bitter to any opposing sides, maybe you have a different definition?)

Myron said...

Hey Jackie. No, I'm not saying I approve. Just that I understand better. And we have about the same definition of millitancy. I'm going to post something longer clarifying my position on that sort of thing.