Monday, February 9, 2015

Pastor's Pen: Evidence

lakeexpo.com apparently has a feature called Pastor's Pen. And this time the topic of conversation is atheists and evidence. A pastor talking about evidence seems odd to me, but let's see what pastor Rick Bell has to say...
If you happen to be an atheist and read this, I am not trying to be snarky or proud. And I value you as a person, and really do wish you the best.
And I generally wish believers (and everyone really) the best as well...
But I’m amazed at how you can be so sure that God doesn’t exist.
That's where Bell is a bit confused. We aren't so much convinced that no god's exist so much as we are aware that there is no proof that he does, or good reason to believe that he does. In short, we're
waiting for evidence.
In my interactions with atheists, I have found that their usual battle cry is, “Show me the evidence!”  They claim they cannot believe in God because He doesn’t exist, and if He does, prove it. What usually happens next is a volleyball match of philosophical or scientific arguments that the Christian makes and the atheist refutes.
What's wrong with wanting evidence? Pastor Bell would probably require evidence to believe that Zeus is real, so why is it so abnormal to him that we require evidence for his god?
Many arguments are weak, but no matter what the Christian says, the atheist remains unconvinced, and often takes a position of the “high intellectual” who is dealing with the fool. The Scripture, however, says it’s the other way around: “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
Who's arguments is he claiming are the weak ones? Because in my experience, it's the arguments from believers that are laughably weak. And so what if the Bible calls me a fool? The Qur'an would suggest that pastor Bell is the fool. So is he moved by that book's claim? If not, why should I be moved by his?
I believe that atheism is an issue with the heart. It’s one or both of two things. The first is that one’s heart may be hardened, wanting nothing to do with God or religion. No matter what is said, the door is shut.  
This old chestnut is so wrong it's not even funny... In general, most atheists are very open-minded. We study religions, we were religious, we listen to opposing arguments. If we are wrong we want to know and learn from it. I was a Christian that became an atheist while studying my (former) religion. My non-belief wasn't the product of a hard heart. It was a byproduct of learning so much more than I bargained for.
The second is that the heart leans too much to that which is apparent, logical, and understandable. All the dots have to be connected. There’s little room for mystery.  Everything has to be explained. There’s little room for wonder.
That's ridiculous!  As an atheist I am still full of wonder. The beauty and wonder of nature and the cosmos captivates me. And what's wrong with seeking logical evidenced explanations? If we are supposed to surrender to fantasy and mystery, what about other religions? Is Bell supporting believers of Hinduism now as well?
In life, there must be allowance for what can’t be seen or understood, as well as for logic and reason. To be overbalanced in either direction is to be in trouble.
Which is why we tend to say that we don't believe there is a God, and not that there absolutely can't be a God. Show us the evidence and we'll have what we want and change our mind. Yet so many believers will tell you that they would never even consider being wrong. So which side is the one taking it too far again?
G.K. Chesterton noted in his book, Orthodoxy, that those who ended up in asylums were usually the rationalists and not the poets. The rationalists went mad because they expected chess-board logic in everything, and when life didn’t fit within their logic, the crash came.
I'm not sure I believe those claims what with all those in mental heath facilities that claim to talk to God or that they were doing his will. But what about the fact that the vast majority of US inmates are
Christians? What does that tell us about Christianity?
That’s not everyone’s story, but without faith in God, you are limited to a world system that cannot fulfill your deepest needs.
And those needs are? I'd say that the deepest needs are for happiness and love. Both of which I've obtained as an atheist.
That said, there’s plenty of evidence out there.
Such as?
Creation shouts it.
There's no proof that this 'creation' actually is a creation. And even if it was, it doesn't get us any closer to which god, or if it even was a god that created it. But the simple fact is that if you don't put the cart before the horse,  and don't cherry pick and twist data this cosmos absolutely doesn't suggest a creator!
Design, ethics, the hunger for significance.
How exactly? There are good aspects of this supposed 'design' but  there are also far too many things about it that are of a terrible 'design'. As for the others, how exactly do they attest to there being a God? Simply throwing out ideas with no proof or explanation isn't exactly impressive or persuasive.
The ability to think and reason.
Thanks to the wonderful brain that evolution has given us...
The empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
A claimed empty tomb, actually. Remember the empty tomb only exists in the claims of Christianity. There is no proof that Jesus ever existed. There is no proof he was actually crucified. There is no proof he was put in a tomb, rose from the dead, and that the tomb then layed empty.

And even if there was an empty tomb, that wouldn't be proof that he rose from the dead, or that he was the son of God. It would only be proof that the tomb was empty. There are far less magical ways tombs can end up empty, mind you. I wonder if pastor Bell would be impressed with the proof of the empty tomb of Sid the magic Honey Badger? He did the unthinkable and gave a shit for our sins, was sacrificed, and then rose from the dead. The tomb was empty! Sid be praised!
Atheists have heard plenty of shoddy arguments and rightfully rejected them, but there’s no lack of scholarly, philosophical and scientific works available that provide reasonable warrants to believe in God.
Again, such as?
It’s ultimately not the head that rejects those, but the heart.
Or maybe it's because we've never actually heard these claimed 'reasonable' arguments for belief in God... Could it be that Bell is only impressed by some arguments due to his bias?
The real evidence, however, is in the very people they argue with. I recently said to an atheist, “If there is no God, explain me. As I grew up, I didn’t care about God. I wasn’t a bad guy, but I had no selfless love. It was all about drugs, beer, and women!  How do you explain such a radical conversion, to the point that I would become a missionary to China?
How? Easily. Pastor Bell used belief as the thing to kick start this transformation. But it was only what initiated it, not what actually caused the transformation in full. That 'spark' can be caused by any number of things... love, a close call, a personal inspiration, a dream...

And talk about cliche... He goes with the tired drugs and party picture for non-believers. A picture that I as a non-believer couldn't be further from.

But since pastor Bell wants to ask 'how can you explain me?' How can he explain me? When I was a Christian I was incredibly close-minded. By time I reached middle-school I was quite prejudiced. My opinion of anyone who wasn't white wasn't great. Sometimes when the topic was 'blacks' it could border on racist. I had absolutely no compassion for illegal immigrants either. I talked about
'Mexicans' like I was Fox News.

I was also hateful and bigoted against homosexuals. In the days of my belief there was 'something wrong with those people'. But today I see everyone as the cousins that they are. We're all human, and no one group is somehow superior or better than the other. After I left belief I became a better person, an open-minded person, I discovered the wonder of the natural world, and I even found love. So how does he explain me?

Or how does he explain a believer in a competing religion that would share the exact same story that pastor Bell did? If a Hindu talks about their transformation, would that convince Bell of the truth and power of Krishna?
How do you explain all the answered prayers?
How so? What prayers? More often than not, it's probability. Other times it's cognitive bias. Or there's the dishonest trick that prayers are answered in 'yes', 'no', and 'wait'. A useless tool that defines all prayers into being 'answered'... for every single religion. After-all, those are the only three possible outcomes. I could use that answer to claim prayers to my orange juice were answered. So by all means, please elaborate, or show some actual proof that a prayer actually was answered. Otherwise, I'm simply answering a hypothetical...
And it’s not just me. The testimonies are legion across time and geography.
And what about the legions of Hindus that could also give testimony? A religion that still has many adherents and is  much older than Christianity is. Does that somehow make Hinduism more real than Christianity?
Yes, there are plenty of negative examples as well, but the existence of bad apples doesn’t negate the existence of the good.
Well, at least he got that correct...
The very evidence the atheist looks for is in the entire community of faith that they debate with.
He does realize that we don't just debate Christians, right? So the proof is that Christian's believe without proof... that they 'know' that their God is real. But also that a member of another religion believes in their own god, and 'knows' their god is real and the Christian one isn't. And in the believer in another religion that 'knows' those other two religions are wrong, and so on... I'm sure you get the point.

So what pastor Bell started with was a contention about atheists claiming the need to see evidence. A challenge he met by claiming there was, but never actually provided any of... He then went on to make terrible arguments that don't help his case one iota. Sorry, but you're going to have to color me unimpressed.


-Brain Hulk

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