Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Will I ever become a Christian?

I was at a discussion board I frequent and in the Atheists forum one poster posed the following question:

Will any of you atheists/agnostics ever consider converting to Christianity in the future? I knew two friends who were atheists but converted to Christianity but did not join any organized religion or church.
I assume the intent of the question was to somehow trap atheists into admitting that we are dogmatic, unthinking nonbelievers, and that our views are as impervious to evidence as any theist's.

Rather than attack this poster as a troll, though, I thought I'd take a shot at answering the question. Feel free to let me know how you think I did.

Absolutely not.

Your question has two aspects. The first is whether we would ever come to believe in the existence of the Christian god. It is pretty much impossible to think that there will ever be evidence sufficient to persuade a rational person that such an entity exists. The evidence in favor of your god's existence is precisely the same as the evidence in favor of the existence of Zeus, Thor, Santa Claus, or any other imaginary entity.

The second aspect may be an even greater hurdle: if we were convinced that the Christian god existed, would we follow him? If we were to posit that most Christians are correct, that the Christian god exists, and that the Bible accurately depicts the nature of this god, we can only conclude that this god is the most evil creature imaginable, worse than Hitler, Stalin, or, yes, your imagined Satan. As you Christians contend, this god created circumstances in which every animal and human was destined for a painful existence and death; furthermore, the Bible recounts that this god has intentionally murdered countless humans by fire, drowning, or by rape and murder at the hands of his "chosen people". And if that were not enough, this god has determined that all humans are deserving of eternal and unimaginable torment, not only during our physical lives, but throughout the existence of the universe.

Why would anyone love and follow such a being?

Oh yes, and one other thing. In a lot of these debates the theists claim that we atheists "hate" god, and my comments just prove it. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can't hate something that doesn't exists; we no more "hate" god than we love Santa Claus. Speaking for myself, though, if an entity with all the stated characteristics of the Christian god existed, then I would think it would be the duty of all moral people to hate it.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

A question for Christians

Adrian Gonzalez, being interviewed after the Red Sox lost tonight to end their season, just said that he believes that God has a plan for us and it wasn't in God's plan for the Red Sox to be in the playoffs.

So what do you think? Does God care who makes it to the World Series, or at least the playoffs?

Why would he?

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Book Review: 36 Arguments for the Existence of God

36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novel stands for the proposition that someone who is very smart, and may have very good and clear philosophical ideas, may yet be unable to write good, believable fiction.

The novel centers on Cass Seltzer, a professor of the psychology of religion who has become famous for writing a best-selling book about religious belief, and his relationships with his academic mentor, his girlfriend, who is also a professor, his university (Brandeis, thinly disguised as "Frankfurter University"), and the Hasidic community his mother abandoned as a young woman.

I freely concede that the author has more inside knowledge of the politics and inner workings of academia, and I have no problem believing the ego and political conflicts present there. What I do have trouble believing is that anyone would take serious Jonas Elijah Klapper, the inflated gasbag Seltzer chooses to be his mentor.

Cass Seltzer, the main character, is well drawn and generally believable. The difficulty I had with him, though, is that until the climactic debate on the question Resolved: God Exists, his life choices and credulity give no hint of the intelligence he displays in the debate. He's supposed to be smart, but it's not good enough for the author to tell us: some evidence would be helpful. The other characters are weak, almost to the point of being props.

There are definite scenes of academic humor, and the god debate is pretty well done, but if Goldstein intended this as a novel of ideas, in which the questions of faith and doubt, religion and disbelief are played out in an engaging and believable way, I'm afraid she's missed the mark.

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