Faith vs Reason


I’ve been having a discussion with some believers that all started a few days ago when a post appeared that was drawn to my attention. The article, here by Bob Kellemen, claimed that we all secretly believe and are atheists because we are angry with god. Well, it was too provocative to ignore, so I jumped in and blogged a reply here.

You can of course guess how it plays out … Bob replies to my reply, I then respond … and so a game of “faith” vs “reason” table tennis developed. Others also piled in with some great comments as well … and yes, one or two other believers also piled in.

One of Bob’s big complaints was that we (the non-believers) are anti-intellectual

When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are more anti-intellectual than the Christians they accuse of being anti-intellectual. In personal conversation I’ll sometimes ask, “What books by thinking, loving Christians have you read in the last year? The last decade?” Almost universally the answer is, “None!” The exclamation mark indicating pride in their refusal to read Christian material.

Appropriate responses were indeed made, but Bob holds to this thinking. In fact, he has compiled a list of 100 “intellectual” Christian books here, and when faced with reason, simply asserts …”there is credibly evidence to belief”, its off somewhere in that list of books, you just need to go read it and if you don’t you are not being “intellectual”.

Sigh! … side note, take a look and let me know if you have read any. I have in the past read a couple and did not manage to find any credible evidence as you or I would understand it, just the usual religious hand-waving.

OK, that’s the context, now on to a few thoughts.

Is it really necessary to sift through 100 books looking for evidence? In a word … no. Think of it this way, would you charge off to read 100 astrology texts in order to work out that its bunk? In answer to the question, “Why is this both reasonable and rational?”, it should be possible to articulate a credible answer, but apparently it’s not and you have to go read a list of 100 books instead.

The other discovery is that such discussions are very prone to wander all over the place and whenever presented with a rational argument you find a jump to something else. For example, one other believer, not Bob,but a chap called Andrew  asserted …

There is overwhelming historical evidence Yeshua lived and died in Israel 2000 years ago. Prominent1st century Roman writers,such as Tacitus, Joshephus,and Suetonius wrote about Yeshua

I politely explained …

Tacitus wrote in 116 … long after the events, he describes events in Rome and what happened to members the cult and describes it as a “most mischievous superstition”
Joshephus born in 37 … also writing long after the events, has one passage that scholars deem to be a fake. Read it in context and you can clearly see it is completely out of the context of all the words around it.
Suetonius born in 67 … so also writing long after the events, he writes about what was going on in Rome and what motivated those events. He says nothing to confirm any historical facts about jesus.

So despite all the claims regarding miracles, not one single contemporary writer appears to have noticed. All you have are a couple of rather vague indirect references that are highly dubious and talk about beliefs of a cult, and do not establish any facts.

He comes back with some cut and paste on Joshephus. As I started to reply, I suddenly clicked … and asked …

if I did indeed take you though the concerns regarding the rather famous and oft quoted paragraph attributed to Josephus, and if I managed to persuade you that it was indeed rather dubious and not reliable, then would that make any difference to your belief?

Bob chipped in with … “if someone disproved something from Josephus, that would not break my faith”, and then went on to explain, “I do not believe my faith is a blind faith. It is a reasonable faith. And I continually examine and ponder the evidence.”. Andrew has not answered, but has instead started making supernatural claims instead.

However, a chap calling himself “PinkUnicorn” in the comments nails it with this …

I do not see the point in quibbling over the historicity of a person named Jesus. There is plenty of evidence of the existence of Joseph Smith, but that doesn’t cause hordes of people to believe in LDS’s version of Christianity. OTOH there are plenty of historical inaccuracies in the Bible and that also does not seem matter to the faithful.

Personally I just try to understand why someone believes what they do.

He is right … when dealing with “faith” which is not founded in reason, attempting to deploy reason is pointless. A far better and more appropriate dialog is indeed to nurture some critical thinking with questions such as, “Why do you believe X” or “why are you sure that Y is actually true?” and perhaps gently nudge folks into asking themselves the important questions that really matter.

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