Friday, July 23, 2010


Imagine that Japanese Americans in the early 1950s decided to build a shrine right next to the American military base at Pearl Harbor in honor of their Japanese heritage.

Imagine that Catholic missionaries, representatives of the religion which killed thousands of Muslims during the crusades, tried to build a church in the sacred city of Mecca.

Imagine that Germans wishing to celebrate their glorious past decided to construct a monument to their military to be placed within a few yards of a camp in which tens of thousands of Jews were murdered.

If you find these projects at best a bit insensitive and at worst deeply offensive to the people who hold those places sacred then you will understand why the attempt to build a huge Muslim facility adjacent to the site of the World Trade Towers is opposed by so many Americans.


Debunking Christianity (Pt. II)

This post continues some thoughts, begun yesterday, on John Loftus' arguments against theism in general and Christian belief in particular.

Loftus writes:

But let's say the Christian faith is true and Jesus did arise from the dead. Let's say that even though Christianity must punt to mystery and retreat into the realm of mere possibilities to explain itself that it is still true, contrary to what my (God given?) mind leads me to believe. Then what would it take to convince me?

Well, I don't wish to sound cheeky, but if it's stipulated that something is true that should be enough to grant that it is true, but maybe what Loftus is getting at here is something other than logical or epistemic assent to a proposition. Perhaps he's asking what it would take to get him to really live a life of love and gratitude toward God when there are certain facts about the nature of God that he finds repugnant. He continues:

I would need sufficient reasons to overcome my objections, and I would need sufficient evidence to lead me to believe. By "sufficient" here, I mean reasons and evidence that would overcome my skepticism. I am predisposed to reject the Christian faith and the resurrection of Jesus (just as Christians are predisposed to reject atheism). So I need sufficient reasons and evidence to overcome my skeptical predisposition.

Well, here we've struck close to what is perhaps the chief reason for his unbelief. Loftus simply doesn't want Christianity to be true. He's predisposed, we may even say biased, against it. If that's so, then no amount of evidence will be dispositive. Indeed, this was Jesus' very point in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31). Belief, for one who is determined to find reasons not to believe, is like the horizon. No matter how much ground one covers, no matter how much evidence one adduces, it keeps receding into the distance.

When it comes to sufficient reasons, I need to be able to understand more of the mysteries of Christianity in order to believe it. If everything about Christianity makes rational sense to an omniscient God, then God could've created human beings with more intelligence so that the problems of Christianity are much more intellectually solvable than they are. I would need to have a better way of understanding such things as the trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, and why a good God allows so much intense suffering even to the point of casting human beings into hell.

I don't wish to minimize the problems to which Loftus refers here, but this strikes me as an odd complaint. What if these problems, like perhaps the nature of the cosmos itself, are like the peels of an onion. As soon as we think we understand something we find that a whole new set of questions presents itself. If that's so, then no level of understanding short of that possessed by God Himself would ever satisfy Loftus' precondition for belief. To understand these matters fully may require us to have the mind of God, to actually be God.

All of us would like answers to the questions Loftus asks, but perhaps those answers would just raise more questions and then, as Kierkegaard says, we find ourselves never able to arrive at the point of commitment. Like a man who refuses to marry a woman until he is satisfied that he knows every single fact about her, no amount of knowledge or time would ever satisfy the demands of one who really doesn't want to commit himself.

Belief, after all, is not just a matter of convincing the intellect, it's a matter of persuading the will. As the old aphorism has it, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." A man who wills to disbelieve, who does not want to marry the woman, will never be lacking in reasons to postpone the wedding.

Perhaps if Loftus would simply and sincerely open himself up to God and invite Him into his heart he would find what Pascal discovered: The heart has reasons that reason can never know.


Letting the Days Go By

Pretty funny:

Thanks to Hot Air.