Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible

Writers Warning: The following post will be very “pro-Bible” and “pro-Christian”. Being the understanding author I am, I recognize this will cause some in today’s society to launch into hysterics. As such, I ask those hysteric prone individuals to skip this post. I will have a new one in a few days, and will be happy to debate less hysterical issues with you then.

There is an old argument that rears its head between Christians and Atheist from time to time. It goes along this line: If the Atheist is right, when the Christian dies, he (or she) will have had a good life, but will simply cease to exist. If the Christian is right, the Atheist will be totally unprepared for what they find. Think about that as you read this post.

I just finished the The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible (Politically Incorrect Guides) . This is the latest in the P.I.G series to come across my reading list. It has also been the most fascinating, and the easiest to read. It is very difficult to come away from this book thinking the Bible is wrong. Robert Hutchinson writes the following in the first chapter:

It wouldn’t be so bad if these attacks on the Bible represented something genuinely new…but instead they are merely repetitions of allegations made for about 1,800 years. They are as original as dirt – and about as interesting. The problem is, many of these new champions of enlightened reason, standing on high from the pinnacles of academia, don’t appear to be aware that their ideas are literally millennia old.

This thought is something Mr. Hutchinson comes back to time and time again through the course of the book. Some of the topics are likely to really inflame those who equate Christianity and Judaism with fanatical evil. There is a chapter devoted to Sodom and Gomorrah as well as the freedoms that have been inspired by the Bible. And while many of the arguments found in this book could be ripped from today’s headlines, yet they are often cited from sources that are 100’s of years old or more.

Back to the argument from the beginning: if the Atheist is wrong, what happens? If you fall into this boat, are you really willing to gamble without putting a little homework in? If many of today’s arguments have been around for hundreds of years, shouldn’t you look at a few of the answers?


David said...

Feel free to delete this if you meant this post wasn't intended for discussion. Your only expressed concern was that I not get hysterical, though I did consider the former implication. On the other hand, the argument doesn't sound addressed to those who already agree with you, but to those who don't completely.

Some people do know how old their arguments are and don't mention it. Same with some theists. Just a few minutes ago I read a version of Pascal's wager by someone who didn't mention Pascal!

What happens if we consider the possibility of a diety who damns those who are willing to worship someone who sends people who evaluate the evidence to the best of their ability, with no apple polishing, to Hades?

Should someone who doesn't believe a loving creator would do so convert to a darker religion, just in case? He reads the Bible, and is so moved by the love shown by the son of man that he concludes the parable of the rich man and Abraham is no more literal than the parable of the sower, then he considers Pascal's argument and worships a less loving being so he can be safe either way.

The funny thing is, I've read writing by Christians so filled with joy it's hard not to feel they've genuinely experienced the presence of God somehow. Read the early Hal Lindsey, before he became a generic Republican. Read C.S. Lewis. Sometimes G.K. Chesterton too. Yet how could such a closeness be transmitted via a calculation of expected value? I wonder what would happen to someone who accepted Pascal's argument, and tried hard to believe. It turns out he's right, but he hasn't truly allowed the spirit into his heart, having mercenary motives. By your premises he's doomed, though the one who persuaded him might be saved 'so as by fire'.

familyman said...

Do you consider me hysterical?

familyman said...

I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure—that is all that agnosticism means.

Clarence Darrow:

Andy D said...

I don't consider you hysterical. I also draw a very big difference between agnostic and atheist. The quote you provide is a great definition of agnosticism. Atheism traditionally says there is absolutely no divine presence and there is nothing after we die. Agnosticism says we don't know what is out there, but there could be a divine presence.

familyman said...

The mere fact that the arguments against Christianity are old and original as dirt don't make the arguments wrong.

You could say the same thing about Christianity itself.

Anonymous said...

I am convinced that religion can deeply enrich life. (Though it sometimes, in some forms, really distorts life, too.)

I am Christian and believe Christianity to be the most "true" way of being I have encountered. It is the most important thing in my life.

I find it baffling and frightening when "Christians" frame Christianity as being about people being tortured forever after death, which is how Andy's post began. I won't get hysterical about it, but if somebody suggests, offhand, that you (as an atheist) will be tortured *forever* for not believing something, wouldn't you find that person's warning a bit, yes, "hysterical"?

familyman said...

OK Andy, so let's talk about this argument you bring up which as David noted is commonly referred to as "Pascal's wager." It basically says that you're better off betting that there is a God because the end benefit is much better than if you bet on not believing.

So, let's look at the options.

If you bet on God and I bet on No God and it turns out there is no God, then we both end up with the same thing. Except you've spent your life bowing to and begging forgiveness from someone who isn't there.

If it turns out there is a God then presumably you will go to Heaven and I will go to Hell. But wait. If I've lived a moral life and truly tried my best, using the feeble mind that God himself gave me, to determine what the truth is, will your loving God really damn me to an eternity of hellfire? I mean, I am being completely honest with him and everyone around me when I say I just can't convince myself that the God of the Bible is real as depicted therein. Don't you think he would appreciate my honesty? Don't you think he would appreciate me being honest instead of me pretending to be a believer just to hedge my bets? So if God exists, and I get called to judgment and he asks why I wasn't in Church - Why wasn't I on my knees praising him my whole life, I think I'll say, "I'm sorry God, I'm only human. I'm imperfect - the way you made me."

But let's say that it's all or nothing. If there is a God, I'm toast if there's no God I'm worm food. Let's look at our respective odds on this bet. I've got a 50/50 chance. There are 2 possibilities for me. Either he's real or he's not. But your odds are a lot slimmer. Not only are you betting that God is real, you're betting that YOUR God is real. There are 837 Million Hindus in the world betting that their God is the real one. And they are just as certain about theirs as you are about yours. There are about 1.5 billion Muslims. A lot of them probably think you've got it wrong too.