A couple of years back Hemant Mehta who blogs as The Friendly Atheist read a list of 9 things atheists should stop saying. It was a critique on what the atheist community sometimes says. Clichés are an issue in many parts of faith or non-faith. This is just a response to Hemant’s claims where I state how I agree or disagree with him, or have a different take.
“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course on where you stop your story.”
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
This video, which while dated, showed up in my Youtube feed the other day. I watched it and decided to write about it. For those of you who don’t know Hemant Mehta blogs as The Friendly Atheist. I love to read and follow his blog as he has given me material to work with in the past. Anyhow getting back to the topic Hement addressed the issue of “9 Things Atheists Should Stop Saying.” I am going to respond to what Hemant says from a Christian perspective, and mine will have a twist to it. I just think very differently. I encourage you to jump in below, and as always I encourage push back.
1. I Lost My Faith
I think this is a complex statement that has deep issues. For example I think some people can grow out of religion and its wrong to say that “they lost their faith.” For some people I think they put thought into what they believe. So I agree with Hemant on part of his take. Yet here is the other problem with this claim. I would suggest that there are some people are atheist, secularist, or other who went through something spiritually traumatic who can say, “I lost my faith.” This is going to create some problems for some people because how is he atheist community going to respond to such individuals? If I break this down even farther I think you can find people all over the spectrum who can say that “they lost their faith” and then I think you can find others who would disagree and might say something along the lines of “well I grew up or it didn’t make sense to me anymore.” Life is very complex and the answers are as well.
2. Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence
Here is the problem that I see from my point of view. What will be accepted as evidence? Hemant states that even if they had some slight evidence that is all they need. My question is this…is that all it would take? For example let me draw upon my faith crisis and the number of years I pushed back and walked. I went back and forth on so many different topics and issues I bounced around. One day I was driven by one issue, a couple of days later I couldn’t stop thinking about another issue. So if I got the answer to one topic or the evidence I needed would that have helped me? No…I don’t believe so because I had so many issues going on. Yet for some people they might have that one issue…that one problem or claim they need to have answered. Would this help them? In some ways it could. Again in this situation we are speaking about a topic from a diverse perspective and its going to be different for many people.
3. Everyone is Born an Atheist
I agree with Hemant on this issue and think this can be insulting to atheists and skeptics. However while some people conclude that religion and faith is false some go through a crisis which is how they arrive where they are at. But the problem with saying that a person is born an atheist is that at a young age people haven’t had a chance to express themselves or think things through. The same goes for Christians…I have honestly wondered at times if many Christians when they are young understand the faith or what they are agreeing to. I am not trying to be difficult…I am just trying to ask some difficult questions. If someone does know what they are getting into and what they believe…that is fine. But for the record while I have heard some of these other saying from time to time…I really have not heard this one stated.
4. We Can Be Good Without God
This statement almost implies that God exists in a way. Let me boldly say something that will be at odds with some people in the Christian faith. The fact of the matter is that you do not need God to be good. There can and will be many atheists, skeptics and others who can be moral, have great integrity and impeccable character…and they don’t believe in a deity at all. There are some people who have taught that you need God to be good and I firmly reject that as problematic. Not only that but lets flip that around and pose the question…what about those Christians who believe in God who commit crimes? What about those Christians who sexually assault, embezzle, fraud, cheat their neighbor, traffic narcotics and more. Yes that happens on a regular basis…I think of the news from time to time of a pastor who was sexually abusing someone in his care. How many financial scandals do we hear about…someone misused church credit cards and/or stole money from the congregation? These are real issues that happen..some of these people claim to have Christian faith…if so why the illegal activity? (HINT Christian pastors sin! 😛 )
5. I Trust Science and not Some 2,000 Year Old Book
Here’s my response to this claim which I have heard a few times in my life. I trust both science and the Bible. My interpretation of the Bible is greatly different and is not fundamentalist at all. One thing I believe strongly which needs to be hammered is the following…you can believe both in evolution and scripture simultaneously. While I believe the earth was created, I also don’t believe it was done in a literal six day creation period. If you disagree with me and subscribe to that belief system my response is to encourage it because I do not believe this is a primary issue relevant to salvation. However…let me also state this…I also believe that science was created by God. I believe going into a scientific career can be a way to worship God. I believe that nature suggest a deity in many ways. Science is not something to be feared…its something to be cherished, celebrated, embraced and be grateful about. What needs to take place is that the evangelical Church needs to learn to live with science and evolution. Plus for some of the ridiculous statements Ken Ham says one of these days I would like to start a gofundme account and buy Ken a one way plane ticket to Australia. 😛
6. You Can’t Reason Someone Out of Something they Were Never Reasoned Into in the First Place
Discussions are good that is what this entire blog is about…to build bridges and discuss things with people. Its my goal here at this blog to go places where other blogs will not and to open doors hat many churches, ministries can not or will not. One of those areas is with the atheist or secular community. People can’t be reasoned out of something but they can be influenced and discussions exist for a reason. If a person is afraid to have a discussion what that shows in the end is insecurity and fear. I don’t want either party to feel like that at all. What I want is to create a rich and diverse community together. And yet in other situations some people come to he conclusion on their own through a book, blog, or just musing on the topic themselves. Beliefs are powerful, depending on where you fall on the spectrum.
7. I Don’t Believe in God
When I hear this phrase for me this is almost like an atheist tipping their hat and To not acknowledging that God exists. Does it not? There are a lot of things people don’t believe in and that is fine. Where I disagree with Hemant is that I think many Christians do get offended when you tell them you don’t believe in God. I think that is part of the reason why evangelicals honestly struggle with discussing, and relating to atheists and non-theists. Many people like to stay within their tribe and avoid such statements because it makes them deeply uncomfortable in many ways. Its not something many can think about or try.
8. Religion Doesn’t Make Sense
Can I be honest there are a lot of things that don’t make sense in life. Yes there are parts of religion that don’t make sense but there is so much more. Statistics in college didn’t make sense to me. Actually can I share something? Statistics in college is the only course I failed in my academic career. But there are a lot of things that doesn’t make sense because of abstract concepts, or principles. If something doesn’t make sense that can be logical at times. For example I can respect trigonometry, or calculus even if I don’t understand it. I can see its weight , importance and know why its crucial to both science and education. I can respect that from a far. Sometimes with faith it may be something similar, depending on the outcome.
9. You Can’t Just Pick and Choose What You Want to Believe
Here’s the deal on this last and final point. To some degree we all pick and choose what you want to believe. I do it, as much as John Piper, Matt Chandler or Hemant Mehta, and David Silverman. Its a part of life, and a part of being human. Human beings are complex and they all makes choices. Evangelicals do it with the Bible while atheists do it as well in their own unique way. Its how you have everyone from moderates to fundamentalists and every one in between. This is a hard situation for all sides because the truth is we can’t admit that we do this at all. We each want to say we respect scripture, philosophy or what ever dogma we cling to. In the end we are all weak in many ways and our beliefs hold fallacies at times. This is true and why I choose to live in the grey of life. Its harder but I think its healthier. Wherever you end up you will find positives and minuses for your belief system.
I hope all this gave you something to think about. As always I invite differing points of view and correction. Feel free to let me know what you think. Again I love you guys!