There are growing multitudes of atheists in our world, and the first priority for them must be that they are shown real love, direct from the heart. Their huge powers of logic and reasoning proven by the scientific method must actually be fully credited when discussing our respective worldviews with them.
A new book by Peter Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists, (Durham, North Carolina: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013) is climbing the bestseller lists. Now, atheists tired of pushy Christian proselytizing and put downs are pushing back and pushing back hard. Boghossian lays out precisely how we all can become street epistemologists and push Christians out of their fairy tales and silly, non-logical reasoning that faith in a god provides them. Not since Richard Dawkins powerful work, The God Delusion has there been such a well-researched and solidly science based smack down of people who believe in God.
So let’s examine some of the main hits believers are going to take as millions of us go out in daily life and when encountering anyone who believes in any religion whatsoever proselytizes them retributively in return even harder than that which has previously been done by believers. Perhaps we can save Christians from themselves and avoid the collision, and as Boghossian tells readers creating a world filled with love, and a greater humanity of the common good of all.
One of the first observations made in the book in the forward by Michael Shermer is that God has never, ever shown himself to anyone we would meet in our present world, and that the fairly-tales of the ancient past are just that—pure fiction. This logic and rationality of reason cannot be gainsaid, it is truth. And it is fact.
Another, is that all of the great Christian thinker’s such as Augustine and Aquinas and the whole lot of them have since been shown scientifically to be wrong and their proofs all huge failures. For me this might be real good news. I was named after Saint Thomas Aquinas for I was born in a small Chicago Catholic hospital on the feast day of that Saint. I have a copy of his Summa Theologica and to my embarrassment have found it rather hard going. Perhaps now I am relieved of that burden to know and understand my namesake.
Another, is that no one who has died has ever returned to tell us that the promise of eternal life given in the most common American faith tradition, the Judao-Christian one, is true. Therefore, through lack of direct evidence so necessary to logic, rationality and science it is demonstrably false.
Then there is a list of dangerous faith beliefs that is the core reason for the need for worldwide conversion from faith belief to that of the totality of rationality, reason, logic, science, and the human brain’s connection to a greater humanity. These faith beliefs are:
“…abstinence-only sex education, prohibitions against gay marriage, bans on death with dignity, corporal punishment in schools, failure to fund international family planning organizations, and promoting the teaching of Creationism and other pseudoscience’s are but a few of the many misguided conclusions wrought by irrationality.”
Here at least the author of the manual to create atheists and any atheists who would at this point nod their heads in approval must confront the scientific and epistemological fact and truth that in the world at this moment exist in reality and in the flesh to be seen and experienced and measured by anyone via the human senses, and even scientific analysis, are millions upon millions of believers of many faiths who while they hold to that faith do not hold with ANY of those views.
These would be what we could variously identify through rational, logical and scientific reasoning, direct observation, and science as those Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus’ who are liberal, progressive, inclusive via love or science of others, social justice oriented believers who stress that common love for a greater humanity that atheists do. They exist only so much as atheists exist under the same terms. That too cannot be gainsaid. It is truth. It is fact. And that challenges much of what the author and his ilk posit in books like this one.
So Boghassian must say that this proof offered in his book is just as demonstrably false as is that of Augustine or Aquinas. They now are in the very same position together with a major failure in their logic, reasoning, and rational behavior.
And if we are to have that greater good via a common humanity, whether based on human empathy however it comes to us biologically and scientifically, the means and method Boghassian proposes are so filled with resentment, anger, and aggression at believers that the very method to be used to convert those who have faith to not having any faith, however beneficial it is, is demonstrably and evidentially the wrong methodology. Using the same Dawkins and Shermer and Boghassian- like science, ironically enough is the very same method of conversion seen from the completely opposite worldview of those that yet have faith in religious belief.
Atheists must be helped to use some other, more rational approach, to convert the faithful from their dangerous and silly—nay absurd delusionary views. The tone and tenor of Boghassian’s book, the very cognitive linguistic framing of his book, which Daniel Kahneman a Nobel Prize winning scientist calls “reflexive” or “system 1 thinking,” owes more to a sense of atheist’s primal need of revenging themselves upon religious believers the world over.
Kahneman’s “System 2 Thinking” is Cartesian reasoning common to the Enlightenment’s full embrace of science, logic, rationality, and logic atheists tell us they value. The work of Cognitive Linguist George Lakoff is also applicable here as he too has studied and fully utilizes what the burgeoning field of brain or neuroscience is now telling us so emphatically. System 2 thinking is much more deeply reflective and rational. Yet Dawkins, and Hitchens, and especially now Boghassian in different measures divert themselves from their own assertions in their belief in non-belief.
In effect, when we make science our god we too must be ever careful of its dangerous effects when tied to the neural pathways of our brains and what is evolutionary biology, to divert us from rationality, logical reasoning, direct evidence, and science.
The very crucible atheists construct so well for us—and which all humans are bound to consult, is that faith and hope are things that some humans pretend to know and that this knowledge is purely imaginary. In large measure this believer acknowledges here they are right. Believers in religion will never, ever be able to marshal the necessary direct evidence submitted to full scientific analysis using the now well -worn and polished and infinitely proven “scientific methodology.” It is a fully proven logic based and scientific impossibility.
Atheists place no value on either faith, nor hope as it does not scientifically exist. And atheists do not value what many might refer to as the “human soul.” It too cannot be found via any direct evidence to exist.
There is no doubt a large area of the human brain that is from an evolutionary standpoint provided to us biologically to better allow our species to adapt itself and survive and thrive. This is what is fully connected to faith and hope and religion. It is as simple as that.
Another way of putting the same point across would be to say that faith and hope on the one hand, and science, logic, and rationality on the other, simply do not meet. It is almost like our childhood worries provided via both science and science fiction about matter and anti-matter in physics.
It would be no exaggeration to say that religion, and rational, scientific, logical reasoning could not be more disconnected from each other. Christ taught us that belief in him was almost entirely for mortal humans who were not in his immediate circle, or when compared to the fraction of humanity who knew his miracles, power, goodness and mercy in their lives something real and tangible. Our common Christian faith is largely based on what is unheard and unseen.
What we demonstrate to our God when we are faithful is the willingness to believe what we have not seen. The story of Christ’s encounter with a Roman Centurion whose beloved servant, no doubt a slave, was deathly ill and who Jesus of Nazareth, for us the Christ, restored to life and full health is most illustrative of this. The Centurion was content to hear from Jesus his pledge that his servant would be healed on the basis only of the Roman Sergeant’s long observation that subordinates obeyed him that “I tell a man to go and he goes,” he says. Jesus responded with incredulity that such a man could show such strong faith as to amaze the Son of God. He told those within his hearing that he had not seen any stronger faith in all of Israel in his frame of experience. That’s a lot.
And it too demonstrates how very fragile and a miracle in itself faith is. It is a large part no doubt of why God herself shows mere mortal humans such mercy and encompassing and total grace to protect us from our otherwise mortal condition. Members of the faith community in all religious traditions worldwide have the concept of mercy and compassion. A favorite saying of Muslims, no doubt from their holy book the Quran, is that Allah is compassionate and merciful. Truer words were never spoken.
Jesus of Nazareth, said to be pure historical fiction despite what the Jewish Historian Josephus or the Roman Tacitus might mention, taught someone to write down in scrolls biblical scholars who use science have recovered in physical form that this Jesus fellow was “not of this world.” And that those who would follow him as disciples would become “not of this world.” Nothing could more clearly describe the natural ground for confrontation between religious belief of any kind and scientific rationality.
For this reason alone, atheists should be fully respected by believers in a faith tradition for the scientific, demonstrably shown, direct evidentiary foundation for Atheism itself.
And finally, there is the historical fact of the past that shows us how religion has been the birthing ground for most of our wars, killing, hate and worse going back as far as recorded history itself. That too cannot be gainsaid by believers.
Yet. . . yet if there were something in all the recently uncovered universes and untold number of infinite galaxies employing the field of particle physics and its greatest particle accelerators, such as the one just built and used in Europe, (just within the last decade) that transcends all of that humanity and attendant science in all forms and throughout the full expression of time and even beyond, the entire set of proofs submitted to us by atheism would collapse like a house of cards.
I am a disciple of Jesus the Christ (Messiah). My Christian sect is called “Lutheranism” and it is main-line traditional Christianity. But it is most decidedly liberal, progressive, all- encompassing and inclusive so far as a common and greater humanity are concerned, with social justice opposed to every form of hate, anger, fear and injustice paramount to what I try to do and how I try to act in the spec of human existence allotted to me. I often fail at this. I admit it openly.
In the old days this was called “sin.” It also includes a human tendency to see ourselves as a kind of god. Our turning our backs on the great entity known variously, historically, as God, the Greek expression the “Alpha and Omega” meaning the beginning and end of everything, or just the flat out assertion in the scriptures that God says he is or she is or it is—for God is beyond any particular form–the great “I Am.”
My faith and hope is what I believe was in Christ, and is now what is provided by an aspect of God, common to all humanity, known as the ”comforter,” “guide,” or most commonly the Holy Spirit.
It is a belief system that like the atheist, looks at the folly presented by all of human history to date recorded, and that in turn requires me to know that there must be something, an entity of some kind that transcends all of time and what is known or can ever be known by any of the sciences.
It tells me most emphatically that what is broadest out there is greater than any mortal human can be. My innermost being screams at me daily and will not stop. It says to me that we humans make the most serious mistake we can make when we consider ourselves and the scientific world as transcending everything. This belief is just pure instinct. It is a relic somewhere of a common existential and biological direct experience of my most distant ancestors.
It is not rational. That’s right. It is fully irrational and illogical to believe in God. They got that right. Yet it does not erode my belief and assertion made to a candid world with all that is in me that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that what God promises in the Scriptures is true, and that God in whatever form or existence “it” or the “entity” provides, has always told the truth with unvarying and infinite fidelity. This veracity is well beyond any human that has ever existed. Even Christ or the man from Nazareth we are told was both real and human, the very Son of God, yet another expression of that omniscient and highest power that directs everything.
I even believe instinctively, that what created nothing is that same God. What looks to us factually as a pure cosmic accident might very well be something beyond human ability to use science to prove or know. The entity uses humans and our experiences in life to tell us the truth when varying aspects of God are shown to us in a multitude of ways to life forms everywhere over untold billions of our years.
That’s why both Shermer’s and Boghassian’s assertion that no one in our time can come back from death and tell us about God really is a way of limiting the great “I AM” to mortal and human means of understanding and of being. Logic alone would tell all of us that IF we posit that God exists somehow, yet not revealed to us in any method we might choose, THEN that being or entity is going to be greater than us.
The entity is going to also not be limited to human concepts of time and space. That means Dawkins’ Shermer’s, and Boghassian’s assertion that no god exists must now add also by that same logic, that the evidence of the non-existence of God is not all in yet and it won’t be in for a perhaps infinite future—unless or until this God chooses to reveal itself to all of us fully, such as in the Christian promise of a Second Coming of Christ and eternal life with God.
And most importantly and emphatically I must tell atheists that since this entity created the physics of time itself, of nothingness itself, and physical matter in all forms over all that time expressed in the greatest physicists mathematical chalkboard equations, most not yet revealed—God simply exists or could very well exist however anyone reading this wishes to frame it.
Christians acknowledge to ourselves and among ourselves that our faith and experience of the Holy Spirit and ability to more easily comprehend the Holy Bible, roughly half of which Jews hold in common with us, and partially accepted by Muslims who see Jesus as one among many of the great prophets connecting all of us with the biblical Abraham, “passeth all understanding.” Translated for my friends, the atheists of the world, it simply means God is so huge and what he teaches us is so profound that we cannot express it to anyone beyond a common sense with other believers that we all know this as truth somehow and benefit from that sense beyond our full understanding.
It might be like saying we know something for a certainty yet we do not or are not able to know how we know it. What a conundrum that is. This expression of God and experiential history we have in common with other believers cannot be reduced to science, logic, reason and rationality because faith and hope are words and ideas that do not meet at all with science.
The Holy Spirit in my direct experience has provided me with this “I know it but I do not know precisely how I know it” experience, and that it is promised in scriptures. And what is promised is what I am in point of fact experiencing. From science we would get logic that would say that the holy writing of believers which exists by documentary direct evidence is a record of this irrationality and tendency of believers to seem to know instinctually that God exists and benefits them in tangible ways to them but not to those who choose not to believe.
In fact in the Pauline letters of the Bible there is the clear observation that the lowly and foolish will be lifted up while the most favored with knowledge and reason will be made by God to be fools. And that observation made two-thousands of our Earth years ago! The evidence required for testing that truth is not in yet.
Even this God thing gives us the free will to choose to avoid it. That cannot provide to those who do not or refuse to believe the understanding of believers. It is yet another reminder to believers and atheists to respect each other and to show and act with empathy, compassion, and dare I say love for each other to build that commonly sought but so difficult to achieve greater and common humanity so essential to human survival and a better world.
That human interference with the God concept over time has left many—I would suspect all atheists, with that traumatic, forced, and hated past experience in their lives that showed them people of faith not living up to it or using it to harm others. This is such a common thing that believers had better know that we all are as a pastor said to me less than a fortnight ago “wounded warriors.” The experience of faith or the lack thereof has a common ground of experience that is problematic for all; yet it links us all together as no common bond could do.
That is precisely where believers in a faith and unbelievers must compassionately and with the fullest respect and empathy meet each other on equal and common terms of brotherhood and sisterhood.
Christian believers must act with the logic, reason, and rationality of atheists within their religious experience or we all are sunk. Conservative Christians indeed must embrace science. That is real. We may find in some distant unknowable future that in point of fact God created the basis for our ability to discover ways to illuminate what he or she or it has created and set in motion. And it proves somehow that all faith traditions—if they can include logic, science, reason and empathic behaviors, and they can, are all directly linked to God.
I sense that Christ’s assertion in his teaching, perhaps the greatest of all, that we must “love one another” and beyond even that teaching another linked teaching that commands (not mere suggestion) believers to “love your enemies,” is the most powerful thing Christians could have in their bag of tricks to do what is ethical and most human and good within our species. We all know that this is the most commonly avoided teaching of Christ to the detriment of all humankind since the proclamation of that teaching around two thousand years ago.
Ignored too is God’s and Christ’s common injunction not to “judge lest ye be judged.” Christ told and does continue to tell believers in the clearest terms that it is no virtue to simply love your dearest friends, who sometimes even like a mere sycophant gives you what you want and who agree with you and who hold your worldview. Loving them is really a form of selfishness in that sense. The real achievement of living Christ’s teaching is to love our worst hated enemies—even those who are trying or wish to destroy us.
Now that is hard—very hard– because it runs counter to biological human extinct that is closely connected with the fight for our survival. Yet my fellow believers it is in point of fact what is taught directly in the Holy Bible. How many of us are living up to that?
If atheists are to permit us to live and to continue in our lifetimes our Christian or any form of religious belief that includes a system of humanistic ethics; the killing, the hate, the fear, the most base forms of irrationality must cease. In that one sense Atheism and Christianity, my belief and faith tradition, must find a common ground. The very survival of humanity demands it just as Christ’s very core teachings demand the very same thing.
Before laying my pen down I would tell the many atheists I love in my life (including my very marriage partner) that there are Christians out there who though their faith in God may seem so silly, are at least capable of and enjoy showing human empathy for all others, and a desire to love others not like ourselves. Some of us are actually getting the faith thing done and done fairly well. We fail sometimes but we achieve it more than many know. That may be a prescription for our common existence together that deserves both faith and scientific examination of the first order.
Blessings, love, and respect for all,
Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
Disciple of Christ and Believer in Science,
for Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”