Oh, those crazy Christians
A year or so ago I was interacting with an atheist blogger, and after reading his list of objections to faith in God I boldly asserted my intention to answer each of them. Well…it became clear as I worked on my rebuttal to one of his alleged biblical discrepancies that my self-imposed apologetics assignment was going to take more time and effort than I could invest at the time, or even now. It takes me hours just to write one blog post, and that’s without having to study or research, and my multitudinous (love that word) responsibilities make that alone difficult to commit to.
But I am committed to completing my more recent self-imposed assignment to try and remove some specific stumbling blocks to faith in Christ. It may take me awhile but, God-willing, it’ll get done. My list was not exhaustive and did not include one of the most obvious ones…the lack of conviction that God even exists. But as I have addressed that in multiple previous posts, though I don’t presume that my arguments have demolished that boulder, I will refer the reader there for now and not commit to tackling that in this assignment.
Except to address specifically the view that faith and intellect are somehow mutually exclusive. That anyone with the least bit of smarts will reject the notion of God and more specifically Christianity as a needless crutch at best and mind-numbing nonsense at worst. This perception, though certainly nothing new, has grown in influence in the last few decades with the advances in science, as more and more of our world is observed and understood. The greater our knowledge and understanding, the more inclined we are to think ourselves “all that” and assert our independence as masters of our universe. For many, knowledge feeds pride, and pride is insatiable and demanding. The more we feed it the bigger it gets and the more combative when threatened.
Since true faith requires humbly submitting to God as sovereign Lord, pride is the antithesis of faith, not intelligence. One doesn’t need to look very hard to find crazy-smart men and women who believe in the God of the Bible, both in centuries past and this very day. One listen to philosopher-apologists Ravi Zacharias or William Lane Craig, or a quick perusal of any list of scientists who are Christians (as opposed to Christian Scientists, which is a whole ‘nother thing) should put the kibosh on the idea that only mentally inept people believe in God.
So since it can be easily demonstrated that intelligence is not a determining factor in who acknowledges and submits to God, it’s worth considering what underlies the attitude of superiority and derision held by many skeptics and atheists about believers. Could it be that they’re actually quite insecure about their position and feel the need to bolster it by bullying the opposition?
I recently viewed a debate from three years ago between William Lane Craig and well-known atheist Sam Harris. You can see the video or read the transcript here. Harris initially tries to lay down a defense of his contention that the foundation of morality is natural, which was the debate topic. But he quickly resorts to red herrings and an attempt to denigrate Craig and his position with charges that it’s “psychopathic and psychotic” and “completely delusional.” He tries to soften the blow by claiming that he’s “not saying that Dr. Craig, or all religious people, are psychopaths and psychotics,” but then goes on to, in effect, call them “lunatics” as well.
It seems clear to me, as this debate demonstrates and multiple assertions by popular atheists today corroborate, that the failure of atheism to satisfactorily answer life’s greatest questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny weighs on them like a boisterous bully’s sagging sense of self-worth. And just as a playground bully ridicules and derides from an irritating insecurity, the average antitheist today is compelled to seek to establish the validity of his argument by calling into question the sanity of those who disagree with him. To shore up his own shaky foundation by throwing “sticks and stones” at his opponent’s.
Listening to debates is entertaining more than it is educational. Harris and Craig are both moral realists, so the nature of their disagreement is obscure and subtle to begin with. Plus, neither of them is primarily a moral philosopher. Put a timer and a motive to persuade on it, and maybe name-calling and a slash at the Gordian knot with divine command theory are the best that one could expect from their debate.
Accusations of stupidity or depravity are (mostly) political. An individual’s beliefs usually have a variegated structure – some of it strong and well-considered, some of it weak and poorly formed, some of it held dear, and some of it relatively disposable. When a person picks up a flag, cross, or funny hat, that person is denying the cobbled structure of beliefs. We shouldn’t be surprised when trouble ensues.
Preachers and politicians thrive on such. I think that’s why you hear generalized derogatory language from people like Harris, Lennox, Dawkins, and Zacharias. It satisfies their political appetites. It is otherwise a monumental waste of time.
Hi, Keith. I appreciate your comment but I think the contrast between Harris’s and Craig’s viewpoints is certainly stark enough. As the topic summarized it, it’s the difference between natural and supernatural.
And, unsurprisingly, I also disagree with your assessment of John Lennox’s and Ravi Zacharias’s motivations. I’m not sure just how you’re using the descriptor “political,” but from all I’ve heard and read from both men, they are motivated by a love for God and truth, as well as their fellow man. I don’t believe either has a “political appetite.”
But am I right to assume that you at least do not consider Christians to be intellectually inferior?
What would constitute supernatural causes or events? I have never heard Craig or anyone else produce a coherent answer to that question, so I don’t even see a starting point for the argument. It’s a circus, that’s all.
That is a fair question: What do I mean by political? I mean a group identity sustained by a standard set of beliefs.
All those guys are about bolstering the standards of their particular group. They are the sort who gain strength from the strength of their group’s identity. You can tell by the slightly shrill tone: fear and hunger cause that, not love for anything.
I don’t think Christians are any smarter or dumber than anyone else. I think many have not thought through their beliefs in much detail (who really has done a comprehensive, critical inventory of everything that they believe?). That’s OK, on a personal basis. You can’t think everything through – there’s no time, at the very least. Everybody gets a break on that one in my book.
But, I’ve found that most of them, like most religious people of any sort, will subscribe to something like ‘rational fideism’ when backed into a corner. I find that reassuring, because it is a defensible position, a smart position – in fact, the only defensible theistic position that I can see.
You’ve never heard a coherent answer to what constitutes supernatural causes or events. I don’t even know where to go with that. And debates and dialogues about the most fundamental existential questions of life are a “circus.” Lennox and Zacharias are shrill and driven by fear and hunger. And the only rational defense of theism is fideism.
Well…thanks for reading anyway.