Another FB debate with theist friend
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17-08-2013, 11:54 AM
Another FB debate with theist friend
The following is a debate with a young friend of mine who used to attend the last church I was part of before becoming an atheist. We were in a Men's Ministry small group together and met outside of the group to discuss various topics as part of the curriculum. Eventually he and his wife moved back East so he could get a PhD and become a college professor.

The debate began after he posted the following article ("Was Paul For Or Against Women in Ministry" by Craig Keener):

http://seedbed.com/feed/was-paul-for-or-...-ministry/

My initial post:

It seems a shame (scandalous!) that people have to spend so much time and energy trying to make the Bible relevant. Bottom line, it has been used to subordinate women for centuries, not to mention oppress minorities and destroy other cultures. It is time that folks like Craig Keener stopped squandering their abilities and efforts on trying to get us to conform to an ancient book and instead started focusing their talents on finding rational approaches to the world's problems.

His response:

Quote:Erik, the abuse of a thing is not adequate reason to reject it. Otherwise we'd have to forego things like sex, money, friendship, home ownership, capitalism, sugar, art and entertainment, science, government, NASA, etc. Keener's brand of careful textual, historical, and cultural scholarship is an important correction to the kind of narrow-minded tendencies we have to view all history through the lens of the present - the kind of thing that makes irresponsible histories like Dan Brown's attractive but also kind of insane and very self-indulgent.

My reply:

But if the thing itself is hogwash, then it should be rejected. None of the other things you mentioned have a supernatural foundation, and that's what Keener is ultimately trying to justify. Keener can attempt as many machinations as he wants to make the Bible seem "scandalous" and somehow cutting-edge, but frankly he's wasting his time - and ours. Because buying into the idea that all of human history began with a talking snake conning two naked innocents into eating a piece of fruit that in turn automatically condemned humanity to death, suffering, and hell if they don't submit to an invisible sky-god is ludicrous.

My follow-up post (made after another person weighed in with a pithy comment based on the article's final statement):

Encouraging men and women to faithfully learn God's Word and affirming all potential laborers...looks like he stops short of endorsing women as pastors or even leaders. All that "scandalous" scholarship and he still can't seem to transcend the party line. Nice.

His rebuttal:

Quote:Erik, the abuse point was merely logical and doesn't depend on the nature of the thing. But at any rate, I don't think Keener is trying to justify the supernatural - he's writing to people who already have experienced it and who are seeking to understand God better. If you don't accept God in the first place, then yes, you are justified in rejecting claims made with respect to him. Keener's arg't, incidentally, is mostly historical and textual. The only premise that might require some faith in the Bible itself was when he suggested Paul would not contradict himself.

But this is still all at the level of logic, and it seems to me like your reaction concerns the high stakes of spirituality or nonspirituality, which your passion and engagement suggest you don't really believe is entirely a waste of time. I don't know what happened to sour you so much on Christ. I'm sorry if it was anything I did or contributed to, or another Christian in your life (though they're responsible for themselves, too, of course). Maybe you feel like someone was trying to dupe you? I know you never heard that cartoon version of faith at Imago Dei, and there are few (I won't say none) who really believe in what you describe. If you're going to reject Christ, you should reject his message of love, grace, and freedom, not the manipulations of opportunists.

Most Christians I run with totally agree with you that the abuses of the faith (like all abuses, whether sexual, political, social, relational, scientific) are abhorrent and require accurate naming, contrition, and restitution through our own lives. Abuse of any kind operates on the logic of the world, that is, on the logic of power, of competition, survival of the fittest, etc. The gospel just is the message that God did not design the world for this strife but for love, abundance, relationship, joy. And you can't get those things by manipulating others or by trying to define the world according to your own preferences or by projecting all your guilt onto people who are only to blame for some of it or by redefining your shame as true freedom or any of the other things people do (Christians included). You don't have to choose Christ (that's freedom), but the alternative is to locate real power in a much more limited authority.

And I don't want to sound like I'm playing games, here, b/c it is quite serious, but it's possible, philosophically, that you are not actually free to reject God unless something like God make a universe in which real, metaphysical freedom is possible. Otherwise we're just bundles of impulses who claim freedom because it makes them feel good.

My counter:

No, I do not accept God as presented in the Bible. It is a flawed historical document written/rewritten/edited by human beings who had a supernatural view of life. While there are some positive philosophical and moral aspects to the Scriptures, there is also much falsehood and cruelty, not to mention historical inaccuracy and contradictory teachings. Keener's arguments cannot be truly historical and textual if they are used to justify the authority of a supernaturally-inspired book that is held up as the defining document of mankind's destiny. The term "polishing a turd" comes to mind.

Categorizing humans as "bundles of impulses" and thus making us out to be simple automatons if there is no God is a false dilemma. Science, philosophy and ethics show that we are human beings who are self-aware - even if we don't have an eternal soul or spirit (and no, I don't believe we do), we are living creatures trying to make sense of the world. Belief in gods and the supernatural were a pre-scientific means of accomplishing this goal, but it is a system that we should have grown out of as a species once the scientific method was discovered and implemented.

As for being duped? Yes, I believe Xianity is a con, especially when it denies science and rationality in favor of mysticism and spirituality. At its core, the Gospel message boils down to "submit to God/Jesus or you'll be sent to hell." I'm not sure where the qualities of "love, grace, and freedom" are present in that sort of skewed proposal, as one would think a truly loving God would want a relationship that isn't based on threats - indeed, that's the ultimate form of an abusive relationship (one that the Church all too easily replicates), and it's one that I'm glad to be free from.

Also, it is a false dichotomy to try and separate what believers have supposedly done to me with the message they preach. After all, even the Bible says that "you shall know a tree by its fruits." If I'm passionate about my engagement with the topic of religion, it's because I'm ashamed that I bought into this hogwash for so long and allowed myself to be controlled and manipulated by pastors, theologians, and small group leaders who acted like they had a more direct line to God than I did, but instead were just human beings projecting their own views of what a supreme being should be like on laypeople like myself. My goal now, as an atheist and a humanist, is to speak what I believe to be the truth, much like you are doing. In my case, I desire to free people from bondage to men (and it is mostly men) who claim to speak - and judge - for an invisible being.

Finally, I find it disappointing that you ultimately follow the party line and project guilt and shame on my head for rejecting Xianity. That's the kind of manipulative and arrogant "cartoon version of faith" that's actually quite the norm, both at Imago specifically and in evangelical Xianity as a whole, and is one of many evidences exposing the gospel as a human creation used to control people by labeling them as sinners and thus damned. This is a perfect example of a group creating a problem and then offering a solution in order to exert control. In the end, I have no guilt and shame, as I am not a sinner in bondage to a non-existent being, but just another human trying to make his way in a temporal, natural world.
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18-08-2013, 03:04 PM
RE: Another FB debate with theist friend
I like it!

Banned from ChristianChat.com for "Spreading Disbelief"
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18-08-2013, 04:32 PM
RE: Another FB debate with theist friend
His response:

Quote:We're obviously stretching the bounds of what fb can handle, here. I guess I'm not sure if you wanted to talk about this or just to demonstrate that you're angry. If you'd like to reason together, I'd prefer to do it without the dismissiveness and name-calling. Thinking Xns do not deny science or rationality, they only reject the kind of faith in the progress myth that you apparently accept. I think at least the atheist needs to accept that any choice of epistemological authority is a faith-based choice, most basically that b/t the existence of an immaterial world or not (which science cannot comment on).

My reply:

It's funny how Xians always play the anger card when an atheist stands for rationality and points out how the emperor wears no clothes. Anyway, isn't Xianity the belief system that espouses a war footing and angry judgment against those who stand against it? I didn't call anyone names - you were the one slamming me with the guilt and shame labels (which I will call bullshit), but I will certainly dismiss the nonsense that has come out of Xianity and continues to bind and oppress not only those who are infected by its meme, but have to live in a world that is routinely held back by a theological approach to living. Even "thinking Xns" appear to selectively choose what parts of science and rationality to accept or deny, ultimately hobbled by a book that purports to dominate our destiny as a species. As for what science can comment upon? It certainly has the right and ability to comment upon a being from a immaterial world that, according to Xians, routinely invades the material one and eventually plans to destroy and remake it, thus affecting how people live and the choices they make in the present. Finally, the fact that society has managed to progress in science, medicine, cosmology, ethics, biology, and philosophy despite religious resistance is certainly progress in my book. If you want to "reason together", then you have to be reasonable.
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