Fiddling While Rome Burns, Part 2 of 2
In Part 1 we saw the record of someone’s journey out of Islam into atheism. They made many excellent points about the spiritual void in people, the willingness to be brainwashed, and the escape from such brainwashing by means of acknowledging that reason is not the enemy of enlightenment and freedom, but its defender. Facts are what they are, and they cannot be wished away or dismissed-- objections from religious and scientific zealots to the contrary notwithstanding.
But what would you say to this person now? What facts could you present to convince them that they have only jumped from the frying pan into the fire? Experience? Good behavior? A testimony of your own journey? Community acceptance? Fire insurance? A better “imaginary friend”? A set of rules that makes this person a little king or god over others?
All of those things are what religions do, whether theistic or not. Even atheism has its community, its good deeds, its sense of fulfillment in helping others or achieving some lofty goal. And most of what passes for Christianity is no different. I’ve said before that if the Christian faith is nothing more than community service and love and peace, then there is no need to become one. And if its a cold legalism fronting for the same sins as one finds in the world, then again, there is no need to become one. In fact, I think most professing Christians would be hard-pressed to present anything at all to this atheist that would tip the scales.
That’s why it is so vital for us to know what Jesus came to do, and how to spot errors in logic that lead to faulty conclusions. For example, atheism has its scapegoats and rules and blind faith (in matter to create and order itself), its infallible prophets (philosophers, evolutionist scientists), its sacred texts, its denial of facts which cast doubt on its tenets. This person’s testimony included a brief practice of Buddhism, a non-theistic religion but not really much different from atheism. About the only thing atheism has really given up is the pretense of the supernatural and strict adherence to a particular individual’s teachings.
Remember this last paragraph from Part 1?
But I’m not as arrogant to claim I possess “The Truth”, with a capital tee. In conclusion, for the Muslims in the audience, a quotation from Stephen F. Roberts who eloquently said it best: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”The irony of the last sentence is profound, for the atheist has only renamed God instead of rejecting Him: the atheist’s ultimate god or authority is really magic. They can claim to be free of the illusion of the supernatural and the magical, but this claim can only be sustained by denial-- of how anything physical ever came into existence, how it became ordered, or where the concept of a god ever came from if people are incapable of imagining anything that didn’t already exist in the natural world. Whatever the First Cause may be, they conclude, it just can’t be a god. Yet that is no more rational or less taken on blind faith than any theistic religion’s god.
And I can’t help but notice that the first sentence contradicts the most foundational premise of the whole testimony: that fact is what it is and cannot be altered or denied just because we wish it. How can atheists say they do not have the truth without saying truth is unknowable-- a very Zen Buddhist belief in itself? Isn’t truth absolute by definition, or it wouldn’t be truth at all? And if all truth is relative, then how can anything be called false?
When asked all these questions, the atheist must face the fact that their belief system is no more free of internal contradiction, blind faith, and denial than any religious philosophy. Atheism simply cannot make exclusive or primary claim to rationality, “free thought”, or non-reliance upon make-believe forces that created the universe. The very arrogance this particular atheist mentions finds its ultimate expression in the fact that in spite of being just like all the other religions and philosophies, it nonetheless claims superiority over them all; it has only moved the line in the sand.
So how does one find Truth through rational inquiry? I think the atheist has overlooked a critical clue: a copy implies an original. That is, if there are many false beliefs in the world, all laying claim to Truth yet all suffering from the same fatal flaws, does this not point to an underlying truth that has simply been overlooked? The rational person would then concentrate their efforts on finding not the similarities among belief systems, but critical differences. And that is the point at which I believe the Bible and its teachings shows itself to be that Original.
Now I have other articles here and more I link to on the Resources page that go into the reasons for my belief about the Bible. But the important issue here is that Christians, sincere though most may be, have probably chased more people away from the Truth than they claim to have attracted. Lame arguments, bad personal examples, failure to do one’s own study instead of allowing paid clergy to think for them... there are many factors.
What we need to do as a group is go back to the simple foundation of the gospel: that Jesus rose from the dead. Many implications flow from that point, but this is the one thing that stands out among all the religions and philosophies in the world. We only undermine this uniqueness when we say everyone worships the same God, or that “doctrine” is hateful, or that the most important thing about salvation is knowing your place in a chain of command. Ecumenism tries to blur all the lines and bring “peace” through outward conformity to those qualities that even atheists can exhibit. But standing on a legally verifiable fact of history, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, is that very Rock of Truth against which all other “isms” are smashed.
Rome is burning, Christians... are we going to keep fiddling or are we going to be the rescue squad and fire department that puts the fire out?