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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sonata For Unaccompanied Atheist: Just Look


The main gist seems to be that if you are open minded and honest (skeptical but fair) then you will see the truth. I agree. But there is a fairly large implication in this essay that there is a certain truth that you should see. If you don't come to the conclusion that Jesus is Lord then you weren't being honest and open minded. I didn't come to that conclusion and yet I believe and feel that I'm being open minded and honest as I know how. So you need to show me where I'm falling down. Certainly you can't argue that I'm not open minded and honest merely *because* I didn't reach that conclusion. You need instead to show that I'm not being open minded and not being honest independently of what conclusion you think I should have reached.

Here are some general thoughts I had while reading this essay, but I think my points in the previous email regarding what it would take for me to believe in Jesus covers many of his points already.

  • I think there is a pretty good chance that the guy who wrote the original question to Glenn is being ironic or sarcastic. I can't prove this but it's a hunch. It would be interesting to see if Glenn's response did anything for him, but since there is no follow up I guess we'll never know.

  • There is a running theme about how good kids are at discerning the truth and judging character and being open and honest investigators. I have to say I'm particularly amused by his example of a 3 or 4 year old and their open minded yet fair common sense about the world. As the proud owner of a 3 to 4 year old I can say that the last thing in the world I would trust is their powers of following evidence and being good judges of character. I spend a lot of time these days around little kids and it's hard to think of anyone who makes *worse* decisions about truth and human character. Unless someone stinks or is wearing a monster suit. They pick up on those clues pretty reliably. I can only imagine that you and Glenn so want Jesus's words about "come like a child" to be true that you would over look something so obvious. I could go on all day on this topic but the fact that all 3 and 4 year olds gladly take the religion of their parents (no matter what religion it is) should give you a little clue on this.

    Even if I *did* go along with the idea that they are good judges of character we would need to verify this somehow. People tend to remember the hits and forget the misses which is likely the source of this misconception about kids. I'll admit I could be wrong and I've somehow been around kids who don't have these infallible facilities for intuiting truth, but in any case we'd need an independent way to verify this.

    There is a good reason kids don't vote, write checks, or make adult decisions. Learning and experience are hard won attributes. Childlike innocence is almost always bad for dealing with reality. That's why parent's work so hard to protect them.

    Furthermore, the one good virtue that kids do have is asking question after question after question. They are very curious (just like me). If we want children to come as they are then we should also welcome the relentless questions as well. The problem with kids is that they are pretty bad at filtering out good answers from bad. As long as you phrase something as an answer they will usually accept it.

  • If I claim that I was open minded and honest and came up with Zen Buddhism as "the answer" then you'd say I was wrong and start showing reasons and arguments, so I'm not even sure what the point of this essay is except to say that there is only one correct answer and any one who comes up with anything else is a liar or impure or closed mined, etc.

  • Have you approached / tried out every religion on the planet with an open child like acceptance or a open minded skepticism? When did you assess Jainism for instance? Or Sufism? Don't you think that would be necessary before you affirm Christianity so strongly?

  • It's a beautiful piece of propaganda to say that the good/pure/open minded can see something that the wise can't. How appealing it is to believe that you have an innate ability that is superior to the hard work and careful scholarship of the so called "wise". It's an especially good way to start an Emperor's New Clothes scam. In any case, if I just trust you then I'll never know. Perhaps you've been scammed and are just passing on your scammed beliefs. I won't know as long I just trust you.

  • Apologists are always pointing out the wise atheists who've studied the word carefully and come to see it's truth. So should I be a trusting child or a demanding fact and logic driven scholar? Seems a bit contradictory to be both of these things. Being a child didn't work for these people either as I understand it.

  • This essay is filled with lots of claims that require a belief that the Bible is true. For each of these you can assume my child like question why or how do you know?

  • Almost everything in this essay could be used to support another belief system (except for specific Christian details).

    • ignore the skeptics and look for your self
    • be open minded
    • trust yourself
    • apparent contradictions can be explained
    • people gave their lives, were transformed,
    • etc

  • If I go with the open minded skepticism and believing the best of people, why should I choose to examine Christianity first? And why should I stop there? How long should I spend with any one religion before I try the next?

    • Clearly most people in the world are really bad at picking the right religion let alone the right denomination
    • The whole reason we are having this conversation is because you think I have a bad spiritual sense. Why is reading the article going to change that?

  • I do have "skeptical mind" but I'm not so sure I have skeptical heart

    • I actually believe most people in most religions are (mostly) doing their best and working hard to know the truth. That's why I have a huge mystery to solve. If I trust everyone to work hard to get the truth but everyone disagrees then clearly something is fundamentally wrong with the way most people approach religion.

    • I'm not sure how else to give the benefit of the doubt other than to have this conversation. If i had a closed heart would I even bother to talk to you about this stuff?

  • "Christianity is most likely answer". Glenn suggests that if you have some obvious clues then you should take the most obvious explanation. I couldn't agree more. But:

    • he doesn't show that these clues are real
    • he doesn't show how it's the most likely explanation (e.g. what are all the different hypotheses (Judaism, Taoism atheism) and how is it better in which ways

    • the word obvious masks a lot of assumptions and possibilities for bias

  • Going with your heart sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. That's why someone always has to do the dirty work and see just how good the heart is doing (e.g. careful, skeptical analysis of the evidence). Obviously you don't think any one in any other religion is doing this correctly or that I have. Just you and your team.

  • Saying that God reveals himself in prophesies, beauty of nature complexity, etc sort of assumes what it's trying to show don't you think? And which God is it showing? What about the joy of family life points to Yahweh and not Shiva? I know many Indians with very happy family lives. And I know many Christians with crappy family lives.

  • I totally agree with his reasonable doubt example. I just think there is more than enough reasons for reasonable doubt in the case of the Bible/Christianity:

    • The example he gives of convicting for a crime is obvious. No one in the world would disagree if things were so clear.
    • Best predictor of whether this is obvious to you is if you were born in a Christian country to a Christian family.
    • He merely states that Christianity is best explanation but doesn't make the actual case.
    • And just to be thorough we'd have to consider the possible but unlikely scenario that this was a very very clever frame job. Common sense will miss the actual occasional frame jobs. Innocent people go to jail sometimes and the guilty walk free sometimes so we need to factor that into the example if we are to be thoroughly honest.

Any way I think you get the picture.

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