Coming back to this amusing move by the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, to set up a website and make available a brochure for believers to counter Atheist claims. I promised to take a look at this brochure, so here goes !
The intro states :
The aim of those involved in the preparation of this brochure is to assist Christians in preparing to engage in conversation with atheists that is courteous, informed and mindful of the fact that we are all women and men made in the image of God. As Christians, we need to be prepared to listen to the views of those with whom we disagree with grace, humility and love, and to respond with the best arguments we can muster. However, we must also be mindful that our faith is in Jesus Christ, not in a set of propositions.
Translation : We will courteously engage with the enemy, but when the atheists ask us for evidence, we will stick our fingers in our ears, shut our eyes and pretend that faith is outside the realm of science, another kind of “knowing”, and anyway, you are rude by asking this, I feel uncomfortable now and ZOMG atheists are so rude !
But let’s have a look at the first 3 out of 7 questions they prepare the flock to be exposed to, by those door-knocking, in-your-face proselytising gnu atheists. Oh, wait.
1. How can you believe in a God who allows evil and suffering?
Tough one for believers. Requires large amounts of cognitive dissonance to uphold a belief in a supernatural being, one the believer really wants(and needs) to be good, all-knowing and wise, when she keeps doing stuff like floods and Malaria and earthquakes, and killing auntie Mabel with cancer ! But fear not, the Anglican committee on New Atheism has a solution, here’s what believers should answer :
The traditional understanding is of a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and good. This is often taken to imply that if God exists, then God knows how, wants, and is able to prevent all suffering and evil evident in the world. The problem arises from the evidence of suffering and evil that we see around us, and which may lead us to conclude that God must be ignorant, powerless or not completely good. This conclusion may lead us to the view that God, as envisaged by Christians, does not exist. But this is not the only conclusion open to us.
No, we could make up some theological workaround to the fact that the existence of gods doesn’t make sense. Here it comes :
Christian teaching recognises that we have free will within the framework of God’s sovereignty. An important new insight(sic !) is that the processes at work in the physical universe also have a degree of freedom. Cambridge scholar John Polkinghorne argues that suffering is the price that has to be paid for a universe which has been given its own freedom as well as the free will that is God’s gift to us. God does not cause suffering even though God permits it.
I’m glad we have this new insight now, otherwise it would all sound like a load of bullcrap. Well, it still does. This is meant to be a guide for believers how to answer our questions, right ? What makes an earthquake any better, even if god didn’t cause it, but permitted it ? Still an assmove, if you ask me. Well, the committee must have realised this too, and they don’t really seem to think their flock will get it :
This matter is extremely complex, and the problem of a loving God who allows suffering is a significant challenge to the Christian faith. Christians respond to this challenge in the light of their belief that God loved this world so much that God sent his Son in order that humans might have life in abundance. Christians believe that when the Kingdom of God breaks into the world all suffering will cease and Christ will establish his rule of love.
Translation : When in doubt, and you have no answer to a question, cite scripture.
2. Can you prove God exists?
First, the committee has framed the problem incorrectly :
The most common objection raised by the ‘New Atheists’ is that there is no sufficient proof that God exists and therefore no need to believe in Him
That’s not correct. While some say there can’t be proof, and others can picture such a proof, most atheists are of the standpoint that the fact that we have no evidence for gods after thousands of years of claims of their existence is enough to conclude that they do in fact not exist. Parsimony, pure and simple. And nobody is arguing against a “need” to believe in
Him gods, just that this belief is baseless. Anyway, how should believers counter this question ? Why, by moving the goalposts, of course.
Behind this objection lies a problem relating to the nature of proof. The problem concerns the kind of proof that ‘New Atheists’ are looking to find. For example, the Bible describes Jesus as the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). What form of proof might Christians offer in support of this claim? Asking a Christian to provide proof of this would be like asking a person in the street to provide empirical evidence that yesterday exists. Even though both parties to the conversation would accept that yesterday exists, neither could prove it because it is the wrong type of proof that has been requested.
Sure, the wrong type of proof has been requested. LOL ! By the way, as to yesterday, there are phone records, news articles, work rosters, photos with timestamps, in short, physical evidence, that yesterday did in deed occur. Replace “yesterday” with “Dumbledore”, and you can see this for what it is, another weave and dodge in the face of lack of evidence, and in the face of a belief based on stone age stories from the Middle East. But the Anglican snakeoil salesmen’s committee knows that :
The type of proof that a person might be willing to accept may not necessarily be the type that is available
Translation : We have nothing.
Excellent grounds for believing the truth of Christianity’s claims can be found in history, morality and its rich cultural heritage. None of these things amount to proof in a scientific sense, but science is inadequate to establish the claim of the truth of the claim of Jesus Christ to be God.
We are the dominant religious cult in a large part of the world and hence own some cultural artifacts and buildings, therefore god ? Seriously ? Is this really a brochure for Anglicans to counter atheist questions, or did we make this up to make believers look stupid ? I can’t tell anymore !
3. Was the world created or did it evolve?
What does cosmology have to do with evolution, you might ask ? Well, fucked if I know.
The growing sophistication of our knowledge about our world, including what we know of the relative simplicity of the chemical structure of DNA, the genetic code that gave birth to molecular genetics, and the age of our universe, should act as a caution against reading Genesis Chapters 1 to 3 as either science or history. Rather, the primary message of these chapters is theological. They tell us that without God our universe would not exist and nor would we.
Translation : We have wisened up enough to not deny the obvious fact of evolution, or interpret parts of our holy book literally anymore, because it would make us look even more stupid, but we can still try to inject our god into the gaps somehow.
Evolution is understood theologically as the process by which God has endowed the universe to bring about increased complexity, novelty and, ultimately, intelligent life.
So the committee has no idea what evolution means. Well, color me unsurprised. I do think this is more than a little bit embarrassing, however. There might even be the odd Anglican embarrassed by this. I mean, they could have at least googled “evolution” ?
Creation is to be understood as involving evolution. Creation and evolution are not mutually exclusive. Thus it does not follow that science in general, or evolution in particular, leads to atheism as claimed by Richard Dawkins and others.
A god of the gaps argument. We acknowledge evolution because it’s just too obviously happening, but we will just inject our god into it, as the force that got things underway in the first place. The problem here, Anglican committee, is that we have abundant evidence for the evolution part of your proposition there, but the creation part is rather thin on it. One could even argue, were one a meanie atheist, that you have nothing to prove that evolution is your god’s creation, other than “The Bible says so”. And around and around we go.
Watch this spot for Part 3 !