Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Update (27 March): I don’t normally forget to lean on my toodler: Ten Questions to Ask Christians (original: Ten Questions to Ask Your Pastor, Reverend, Minister, or Priest).

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martin m

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

This seems a little heavy-handed to me.

Even for you.

By martin m on 25 March 2007 · 13:47
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Jen

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

I found the guy's voice kinda obnoxious and patronizing... I doubt any "educated christian" would actually sit through this. If he were criticizing my beliefs or opinions with that sort of smugness and arrogance, there's no way I would listen to more than 30 seconds.

I really really like the way that Michael Shermer writes and talks about science and religion. He's a bit more tactful. Sometimes it gets on my nerves, and I wish he would just go full-out Christopher Hitchens-style, but in the long run, it is probably more effective and at least more respectful. People don't like to listen to arguments that start off by insulting them.

By Jen on 25 March 2007 · 14:17
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Ashley

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

:) I think you’ll have to read back a bit or on QueryLog to see it’s quite tame compared to a few things.

I had the same reaction as Jen, really. The guy’s voice put me off a bit and the presentation was so redundant it did come off insulting. I also challenge the basic premise that a college education means one has learned to think analytically.

Whatever one believes… well, okay. I think peer pressure (social network stuff) is a good way to make this sort of social change (never legislation) which is mostly what he’s doing. Jen is right, it can impede discussion. Without direct confrontation, however, things rarely ever change in history or in individuals. Showing respect for irrational behavior is not the best way to end it.

Mencken or Hitchens (as Jen mentioned) are way more heavy-handed. Even Tom Jefferson and Paine who I quoted recently found organized religion one of the the most dastardly forces in history. The churches have as much blood on their hands as the Nazis but somehow get a pass when talking about history. Some churches, to this day, shuffle pedophiles around the country even after they’ve been repeatedly caught raping kids. Some churches tell you that you will go to Hell for using condoms and that they don’t stop HIV. This in places like sub-Saharan Africa where the birthrate is 8 children per woman and the HIV rate is as high as 30%. For every bowel of soup served in Chicago there are dozens, if not hundreds, dying of famine and disease from the same influence.

This site—Rejection of Pascal’s Wager: A Skeptic's Guide to Christianity—is a totally measured, documented, neutral-toned approach to it all. It totally destroys (my word choice) the notion that Christianity has historical or philosophical veracity. I’ve linked to it for years but how many people are going to go and read a 100 page scholarly treatment on the topic? The in-your-face / video approach is simply more consumable. More likely to be considered by the average visitor.

By Ashley on 25 March 2007 · 16:17
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martin m

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

I think there's a lot more stuff easily challenged in this presentation than the premise that a college education makes you able to think unilaterally analytically.

The presentation certainly leaps across some logic to arrive at it's conclusions. Pretty unforgivable I think considering he could have whittled the fucker down to 2 or 3 really strong "questions every intelligent Christian must answer" and then spent the leftover time from nixing 7 questions to actually bother to REALLY go through the logic he's supposedly using. I can't imagine any intelligent Christian listening to this bothering to go through all the questions before they just stop it. So why aren't they in any particular order? I think the most obviously logical one is the divorce rate question, because it's a really succinct example that doesn't sound like a joke. Amputees, on the other hand, may be equally logical, but please. It sounds like a pussy Atheist piss take, because that's pretty much what it is.

(There should be another definition in the Devil's Dictionary X, by the way. Agnostic = pussy Atheist.)

Assuming the goal really is to get "intelligent" Christians to reconsider their beliefs critically, I think it'd be much more effective if the thing was framed as a challenge:

I challenge you, Joe/Jane Intelligent Christian, to explain why you're neither blind nor sporting hairy palms without resorting to any "excuses for God."

By martin m on 25 March 2007 · 19:22
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martin m

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

Also, for what it's worth, I consider myself a peculiarly amorphous variation of the aforementioned "pussy Atheist." In many ways I believe this to be the logical extension of being a certain kind of critical thinker and raised Catholic.

I don't actually think logic is critical for one's belief system to be totally workable or that science or critical thinking are the only worthy metrics.

But then I also don't think Christianity is workable. Not "as taught" anyway.

By martin m on 25 March 2007 · 19:29
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Ashley

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

I agree with most of that though I see no harm in agnosticism unless it takes the too moderate path of allowing one to excuse horrible behavior on the grounds of religion. The thing that makes us want to worship is important. I don’t think I can qualify that easily but I don’t discount it in and of itself, just the the heinous dogmas and backwards thinking it seems so prone to cement.

By Ashley on 27 March 2007 · 00:06
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Gene Callahan

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

"Assuming the goal really is to get "intelligent" Christians to reconsider their beliefs critically..."

No, the goal is for smug, self-satisfied, not-too-bright atheists to be able to pat themselves on the back for being so much brighter than those Christians dopes. Like, you know, Augustine, Aquinas, and Milton.

By Gene Callahan on 26 March 2007 · 23:01
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Ashley

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

You left out Bacon.

By Ashley on 27 March 2007 · 00:03
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Gene Callahan

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

Yes. And Newton, Berkeley, Abelard, Albertus Magnus, Dante, Descartes, Pascal, Mersenne, Galileo, Copernicus, DaVinci, Kepler, and Petrarch.

By Gene Callahan on 27 March 2007 · 05:36
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Ashley

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

The Bacon thing was a self-diagnostic insult and rebuttal.

None of those men (nor any of the Arabs, Chinese, Greek, Egyptians who were brilliant, non-Christian, and contributed to science) was intelligent because he was religious; you’re conflating the ideas. Notice also the list includes no women. The empiricist might assume it’s because women are stupid. The honest historian might conclude religion has been a good excuse for keeping the ladies out of the libraries.

While I didn’t actually enjoy the video, I understood it. In not one second does it say, or even imply, that being religious = being stupid. That’s the opposite of its message—intelligent and educated people can only be religious if they allow themselves to be delluded.

Any illusionist would find this unsurprising. The more intelligent someone is, the easier he is to fool. He is too willing to use his smarts to mold his perceptions through his prejudices.

I’ll refer the curious back to Paul Tobin’s most excellent site, Rejection of Pascal's Wager: Title. Read the whole thing then brag about how brilliant the great Christian philosophers were. Their chief brilliance was in convincingly twisting history, natural and human, to fit a brutal, plagiarized philosophy which sees the murder of a perfect child as salvation. Every contribution made by those men which advanced humans was not derived from their religion but made in spite of its manifold proscriptions and false testimonies.

By Ashley on 27 March 2007 · 11:21
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Will

Re: Sunday school guest sermon: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

I found this video highly interesting, and would agree 100% that any religious person should use critical faculties to assess their faith. I also agree with the implication that rationalisation occurs in religion as a means of avoiding complicated problems in the logic of that religion. However, it is worth remembering that just as a religious person can approach life with pre-inscribed prejudices and rationalisations, so too can a secular person approach religion with similar limitations.

Take Question #2 for example. I am pleased that the author of this video raises the obvious dilemma that the religious often are preoccupied with relatively minor concerns, and will attribute success to Divine intervention, whilst others in major trouble are apparently uncomforted. But this doesn't expose a fault in the nature of God, but the nature of man. Those children are starving because people are more concerned about that raise than clothing and feeding their neighbour. People starve because other people let them starve. The Bible presents an understanding of the world as fallen, and that the consequences of sin in the world are death and suffering. So from a Christian perspective, those children starve because of human selfishness, because of the sinful nature of mankind. They could be fed - there is enough food to go around; God has provided plenty to keep us alive - but our desire to run the world our way means that not everyone is kept within acceptable standards of life. God, as far as I am concerned, has given us the full potential to solve such problems - it is our moral failing, and not His, if we fail to do so.

I could go on and point out that Question #3 betrays a flawed understanding of Old Testament Law and the distinction of killing and murder. Or I could comment on the ridiculous statement that as a graduate one "know[s] how science works" - as if all science can be understood in such a generalised manner. But I know that the author is an intelligent person, and they know that it's important to apply critical thinking to one's arguments.

By Will on 9 May 2007 · 18:46
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