Sunday, 29 April 2012

Of hats and horses

It is always amusing to hear some of the language that non-Christians, and especially atheists, use in their assaults on the Christian faith and defenses of their own position.
Thus begins a post by Chris Bolt at Choosing Hats. Interesting to see that “Christianity is a Man-made Religion”— the title of the post — is considered an assault, when it's no more than a statement of belief — an interpretation of reality, based on the available evidence.
Presumably the atheist thinks it is somewhat problematic and perhaps even insulting to the Christian to dismiss his or her position as “man-made.” We can set aside the obvious “problem” with using “man” this way in the current academic climate. We can also set aside that the unbeliever almost always merely asserts without argument that Christianity is man-made. We may then note that the statement as it stands is no insult or argument against Christianity anyway, for there is a sense in which Christianity is man-made. The Bible, for example, was written by men. But it does not follow that it was not also God-breathed.
Presumably? Why presume, when one can ask? I'll save Chris the trouble and state that no, saying Christianity is man-made is not meant as an insult. It is, however, problematic more than somewhat, in that there's a lack of evidence for Christianity being other than man-made. (This is most clearly embodied in the statement, "Man is made in the image and likeness of God," when an impartial observer of Christianity can see that the reverse is obviously the case.) Chris then switches horses to claim that an accusation of being man-made is not, in fact, an insult or an argument anyway, but switches back again to use "man-made" as an argument against atheism. It's all very confusing:
But turn the apparent attempt at an objection around. What is it about unbelief and atheism in particular that is not man-made? Logic is generally considered conventional. It is man-made. Science is one of the greatest tools for advancement that the human race has ever devised. It is, of course, man-made. Morality is often thought to be subjective. It is man-made. And even where different approaches to logic, morality, and science appear in the atheist bag of tricks they are ultimately reducible to the allegedly autonomous subject. Take away autonomy and you do not have atheism anymore. Everything in atheism is made up. By definition.
Most of that could be true, but the last two sentences don't make sense. The definition of atheism I use is "lack of belief in a god or gods". There's nothing to make up there. My atheism does of course imply more than just a lack of god-belief; my worldview, based on lack of such belief, involves founding my beliefs about the real world on what I can reasonably infer to be an accurate representation of that reality. This is the exact opposite of making stuff up.
Of course the immediate response is that the empirical world somehow dictates our logic, science, and morality to us. But the view that the empirical world speaks to us in such a way that our thoroughly theory-laden approaches to knowledge do not come to bear upon our understanding of it is helplessly naïve. Atheists are out to set us back hundreds if not thousands of years with that ridiculous suggestion!
Methinks the godly are too tied up in notions of diktat to appreciate that the empirical world is not in the business of dictating to anyone — in logic, science, morality or anything else. I, on the other hand, do indeed appreciate that I'm a product of my environment, and it behooves me to be mindful of my evolutionary heritage.

Chris's next few paragraphs delve into a series of strained analogies that I can't be bothered to unravel, save to suggest a fable of my own: when Chris and his PA ilk eventually get to Heaven they'll find it's a very small place bounded by an unscalable high wall, which God has built around their particular patch of Paradise to fool them into thinking they're the only ones there.*

*Not a statement of belief.
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