Evidence or pride?
If you, like I, believe that for a good many atheists it’s not a lack of evidence that motivates their lack of faith but rather an unwillingness to submit to God, you’ll appreciate this video clip.
Dan Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a well-known atheist activist. Formerly a Christian minister and musician, Barker eventually “just lost faith in faith.” He has written books and songs about atheism and has presented the argument against God in numerous debates.
In this recent debate sponsored by The Bible and Beer Consortium between Barker and Dr. Justin Bass, Barker gives what I think is a pretty clear window into his soul in his closing remarks, admitting that even if Christianity is true and Jesus really is the Son of God “that does not mean that he is my lord.” He still would not submit to him but would “go happily to Hell.”
Though his opponent describes him as kind and brilliant, Barker’s passionate pride and defiance are what come through most plainly as he wraps up his argument (which was very weak, but that’s for another post). He asserts that having to submit to God is “horribly insulting” and equates his rejection of him with the “proudly rebellious” American colonists who “kicked out the sovereign” and won our independence.
His most telling statement is perhaps when he said that even if there is a God, “I would still reject that being as a lord of my life, ‘cause I’m better than that.” It’s pride and rebellion, not a rational assessment of the evidence, that has led Dan Barker out of Christianity and into a life actively promoting atheism. It’s a stubborn insistence that he’s not a “childish toddler” that “needs to have some lord.”
Have a look and listen for an honest testimony from one prominent atheist on why he rejects God. His closing remarks begin about halfway through this clip at 6:50.
I agree that I have pride, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I have pride in humanity, and I have pride in our collective talents, abilities, and intellect. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this kind of pride. I also don’t think that pride and a “rational assessment of the evidence” are mutually exclusive. If God gave us our intelligence, wouldn’t he want us to use it to the best of our abilities.
The way most atheists (Barker too, it seems) view it, it is not the act of submission itself that it is “horribly insulting.” I submit to authorities of all kinds every day of my life. Also, It’s not that we wouldn’t submit to any. Personally, I wouldn’t submit to the God as described in the Bible because he is unjust, unloving, and at times, purely malevolent. If I exclude the Bible, however, and rely strictly on observation of the world, it seems that God, if he exists, is entirely inactive in the world and our lives. If this God exists, I’m not sure he would care whether or not we worship him or not. Either way, it wouldn’t seem there would be any reason to do so.
Hi, Jon. I agree that there is a kind or sense of pride that is not incompatible with submissive faith in God. But in Barker’s closing remarks he rails against the whole notion of submitting, not making any comment about God’s supposed malevolence or injustice. And if that’s the way he or you see him, then he is/you are not assessing all the evidence objectively or fairly.
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I understand that Christian theology views God as being more complex than we can understand, that he is unchanging, and that the violence (which has to be justified for a perfect God) is only a small part of the picture when viewed in terms of his ultimate love. Personally, though, I’ve never been able to see it that way.
Christianity makes the argument that If God… then all this makes sense, and I agree that would be the case. However, for me, I see it as This doesn’t make sense… therefore NOT God. These are certainly different ways of viewing the evidence, but I would greatly disagree that it means atheists are not assessing the evidence fairly or objectively.
Just what doesn’t make sense to you, Jon?
In this case, I was referring more to the depiction of God’s character. When I read a novel, there’s always character development. I can see certain people change–sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes just simple change. In the Bible, though, we don’t have that option. Numerous times we are told that God doesn’t change. Therefore, any “change” we see must be illusory in some sense. In the Old Testament, I see a God who is more of the “vengeance is mine” type, and to me, (barring the concept of character development) this cannot be reconciled with the New Testament’s “God is love.” unless we are talking about two different gods.
Jon, do you know where we first read “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”? And do you know who, in referring to lawbreakers, said, “and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”?
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Exodus and Jesus, respectively–and those are valid points. However, I don’t mean to indicate that the God of the OT seems wholly vindictive or that the God of the NT is wholly. Indeed there seems to be some of each in both cases. Yet, there seems to be a drastic shift in the overall depiction of God’s personality.
That brings up another point, though, that there seems to be a lot of back and forth on many issues. There’s forgiveness (70 x 7 times) and gentle correction (“go and sin no more”) but there’s also a demand for perfection (as your father is perfect) and unwavering condemnation (all sinners have their part in the lake of fire. Sometimes the sinner is held accountable only for his own actions; sometimes punishment is handed down for 7 generations.
I know there are theological justifications of all this, but I would say that goes back to what I said earlier about the approach. Do we start with God and work backwards or do we start with what we see before us and work forwards?
It’s actually Leviticus, not Exodus. And if you read the whole Bible carefully, you’ll see God’s personality doesn’t change, but the times and people and his purposes in those times and with those people may be different and require different demonstrations of his character.
I believe all the apparent inconsistencies can be reconciled when properly understood. For instance, when Jesus says “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) he doesn’t mean totally without sin. He was teaching his disciples that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees who outwardly looked good but inwardly were nasty and unclean, like dead men’s bones. (Matthew 23:27). The word translated “perfect” there means complete or mature. It’s the Greek word “teleios” and “signifies having reached its end.” It’s the root origin of teleological, which as I’m sure you know is what we call the argument from design. So I believe Jesus here is telling his disciples not to be divided and incomplete in their obedience, just putting on a show for men, in essence, but commit and submit to God from their hearts. Be complete, whole, and mature followers of God, which is “the chief end of man.”
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My bad–I was thinking that was right before or after the account of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20.
I think that might be the first time I’ve heard someone claim that Matthew isn’t referring to a standard of complete perfection. Granted, the Bible acknowledges that we all fall short, but wouldn’t God’s standard ultimately be perfection? James referred to the judgement in offending the law by one single point, and indeed the concept of sin is “missing the mark.”
Yes, God’s standard is perfection (like him) and we all fall short…miss the mark. That’s why he provided a substitutionary sacrifice…a way to impute to us his own righteousness. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:21-24
This post seems to stem from a colossal failure to appreciate the meaning of the word “if.”
The question is: Do we have an independent reason to think that submission to God’s will is necessary or even possible – that is, beyond the threat of an existential beat-down?
Whatever you think about that issue, people’s beliefs are generally more complex that you seem to allow. Many Christians believe in the religion’s narrative because they are afraid of dying and the narrative promises to save them from extinction. However, they often have many other reasons for their belief.
what an utter display of rudeness and arrogance from the Christian debater. that’s no way to have an honest and respectful conversation or debate. -mike
Jon, I believe the perfection comes in heaven.
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