Friday, March 21, 2014

Emotions cloud reason

I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.  Adolf Hitler

The purpose of this post is to try and clarify one of if not the main reason why fundamentalist Christians don't respond to skepticism or reason. I've seen atheists who have never experienced fundamentalism or even been believers claim that theists who don't respond to reason are either stupid or just plain gullible. As a former fundamentalist Pentecostal believer and evangelist myself I can attest to the power of faith over reason.

From 1990-1994 I believed that the spirit of the Lord resided in me. I felt it's power surge through me in the form of electrical surges in my being. At times I perceived answers to difficult situations and or had them pop up in my mind instantly and unexpectedly. Sometimes it was a verse of scripture as I was reading the Bible that would speak to a particular situation I was dealing with. When I preached at church revivals etc. I watched people pass out with my speaking words or simply looking or pointing at them from a distance! Others claimed that they had been healed of some ailment after I had laid my hands upon them in prayer. Finally, I apparently expelled demons from peoples bodies through prayer and fasting. I spoke in tongues, prophesied, had prophetic dreams, visions, and even at times believed I felt the presence of evil forces ( discernment of spirits).

It was these experiences and not so much reason that led me to believe that my faith was in the right place and that it was true and that it was real. In fact, upon backward reflection I came to my faith in Christ during a time of weakness and emotional instability. The first time I came to Christ  I was a heartbroken 14 year old kid who had just come out of a bad breakup with a girl I was crazy about. I fell into a deep depression and didn't leave my room for three months! When I finally surfaced and resumed attending my first year in high school I met a believer who happened to catch me at just the right time. After attending service at his home church I forgot all about my depression and found hope in Christ. I turned all of my attention to the church and to getting closer to God through Christ and edifying my spirit. That time I only lasted a year and was soon back to my old ways living life as if the church and my former beliefs never existed. I went about my daily living and studies at school without a hitch.

The second and last time I gave my life to Christ was again during a low point in my life. But on that occasion I was around 20 years old and as before quite in need of some hope in other words I was entirely open and receptive to Christ in my life once again. It was during this time that I grew in the church by leaps and bounds. I read the Bible often and in its entirety at least three times as a believer and once after I left the church. During those days there was no amount of reasoning that would have gotten through to me since I knew that God was "real" and Christ was alive and well in me! But it wasn't reason that brought me to these beliefs, instead it was my many subjective experiences that led me to these conclusions.

Objective: based on facts rather than feelings or opinions : not influenced by feelings

Subjective: based on feelings or opinions rather than facts

The difference between a fundamentalist theist and a nonbeliever is that we think in two very different modes. For the most part nonbelievers and skeptics think in a more objective manner and demand evidence or proofs for any and all claims. On the other hand theists think for the most part in a subjective manner and take their personal experiences themselves as proof or evidence of what they believe. Even William Lane Craig Christianity's foremost apologist who at times appears to be thinking and reasoning in an objective manner is also a victim to subjective thinking and apparent although fallacious reasoning.

Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa. [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.]

At times objective and subjective reasoning can work together and aid greatly in helping to clarify some ideas or beliefs, but in my opinion this does not work out so well when it comes to fundamentalist religious beliefs based entirely on experience. The main reason for this is that fundamentalists for the most part are slaves to what is known as confirmation bias. This is the outright rejection of ideas that contradict what one has already believed and has become convinced to be true. 

Confirmation bias: a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.

Based on my experiences as a former believer apparently this is done for the most part unconsciously and without knowledge of the believer that he is doing it. The lines of facts and truth are blurred by emotions based entirely on faith. When I was a believer we were often warned against reading too much secular information because the devil might use it against us and eventually lead us away from Christ and into perdition. The words of WLC as cited above are evidence of this mentality coming from an otherwise learned theologian and apologist in his respective field. As he states, faith surpasses arguments based on evidence. 

It's that simple! Faith for the most part is based on subjective reasoning which is gained through the application of ones own personal feelings and experiences. Faith are reason in reality and in my own opinion are two very different methods of thought that in truth are incompatible and tend to repel one another when applied to religious beliefs. Finally, confirmation bias hinders one from seeking honestly and obtaining the necessary knowledge that can break the chains of subjective superstitious beliefs. This is why even otherwise intellectual individuals like Craig and others are mentally incapable of seeing reason, and because of their own personal bias are not receptive to criticism of their beliefs. No amount of objective evidence or argumentation can convince such a person of the falsity of their beliefs. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Christian demand

The definition of the word 'demand' has been taken from the online Merriam Webster dictionary. The first definition is the one that is most relevant to the topic and theme of this post. I have often stated that in order to be a Christian one had to first be a hypocrite, and I believe that believers have demonstrated this fact over and over again both in their private lives and in the public forum. In their private lives they tend to try to live against their natures in search of so called spiritual oneness with their god. They seek to draw closer to him by trying to alter their lifestyles according to how they interpret the scriptures regarding how they should live in order to please God.

So called "true" Christianity as taught in the New Testament is seldom practiced and rarely seen these days. There are many today that are calling themselves Christians who in their words and deeds often betray the very thing that they proclaim themselves to be! Let's take a look at some of the things that theists do today that are clearly outlined in the scriptures as conduct unbecoming of a believer or so called follower of the teachings of their savior Jesus Christ.

16There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.     Proverbs 6:18-19

Let's start with the first one by defining the word haughty and demonstrating how it relates to theists. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary online haughty is defined as : 'having or showing the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people.'

Many believers that I have encountered whether knowingly or unknowingly demonstrate the opposite of humility when they speak about their beliefs with non-believers. Often when their beliefs are challenged they take a combative stance and resort to insults or threats of eternal damnation. The opposite of this and most insulting is the hypocritical display of pity and so called concern for our souls. They will say things like: "I will pray for you that the Lord may reveal his truth to you and that you may be saved before it's too late."Others will associate their beliefs with patriotism by stating that if you don't believe in God then you are not a true American. These are all obvious examples of condescending behavior and give the impression that you think of yourselves better than anyone who is not a believer. 

The next thing that the Lord hates is a lying tongue. I will state right here and right now from the outset that all apologists are guilty of being blatant and outright liars. In their many efforts to defend their beliefs they twist all manner of learning to suit their conclusions based on their beliefs. The most common examples are Creationism, ID, and apologetics. The first two are the theistic version or interpretation of what they call science and what real scientists and anyone with some knowledge about the scientific method would quickly recognize as not actual science but pseudoscience. The last is an example of the theistic version of philosophy. Theists even set out to reinterpret the common usage of language as well by playing what I like to call the semantics game. They basically take a  word that is in common usage and change its meaning to conform to what they are trying to convey regarding what they believe. All of these so called methods of defending the faith are nothing more than different ways to proselytize through the clever use of lies and deception. 

The next one is obvious so I wont go into that one. This refers to the murder of an innocent which ironically there is plenty of it in the Old Testament often performed by God himself or by his henchmen the ancient Hebrews aka as his chosen and beloved people amongst all the nations. The next one refers to a heart that devises wicked schemes. In defense of their faith theists have often had to rely on many devious means in order to continue propagating their faith. In the past those means have come in the form of forcing people to believe or be tried and executed as seen throughout their history in the various inquisitions. Today at least here in the states they try to manipulate government officials into making laws that support their beliefs such as the ban on stem cell research, abortion, gay marriages, etc. Their only claim to legitimacy for these laws that they so demand is that it is against God's law and thus immoral. 

As individuals we tend to take our beliefs to different extremes. Some theists are fundamentalist (extreme), others are in the middle, and then there are liberals. One of the biggest problems I have with Christianity is that they want to force their beliefs and ideologies on the rest of society. You see them preaching on the street corners as I once did. They are all over the place handing out biblical tracts about salvation,  they knock on doors to propagate their faith. They lobby for the government to support their beliefs and sometimes go as far as protesting events that they feel threatens their faith. The most extreme believers have gone on to bomb abortion clinics and even have gone to the extremes of public book burnings of the Koran. Theists demand that others respect their beliefs but apparently this only works one way; it does not apply to the contrary beliefs of others. This in my opinion is the most blatant display of hypocrisy that they could ever perpetuate. These are the people whose feet are quick "to rush into evil."

The next thing that the Lord hates is a false witness. Today's Christians demonstrate this in two ways in particular. They say one thing with their mouths and even feign piety towards those that they seek to convert. The other thing that they do is that they invent lies about those with opposing views; particularly atheists. From the absurd accusation that we eat babies to the idea that without God we are incapable of being moral human beings or even being happy with our lives. Many theists here in the states have got it in their heads that atheists are waging a war against theism and are out to destroy Christianity and all forms of religious beliefs! Nothing could be further from the truth! As an atheist and I think I speak for many of us we just want the right to live God free without being discriminated against. Why should our children have to be subject to prayer in our public schools or taught that creationism is an alternative theory to evolution (which it isn't)?

The last point about a person who stirs up conflict in the community refers to some of the things I spoke of in the last paragraph. Why should our society be divided along the lines of religious beliefs or the lack of beliefs? Why can't we just respect each others beliefs and opinions and keep religion in the churches or mosques where they belong? If I want to seek God I will go to a church of my choosing. I don't feel the need to have the church and its beliefs forced upon me through means of trickery and deceit. I have a live and let live policy as long as what you believe and what you are doing privately or publicly is within the parameters of the laws of our society and no other parties are being hurt by your actions. 

Christians in this nation demand respect of their beliefs but they themselves give none to those who don't believe as they do. Like the early church during the inquisitions they want to force their beliefs and way of life on the rest of us and expect us to just throw our hands in the air and say nothing! When we do say something in an attempt to defend our rights as citizens of the U.S. to live as we choose free from religion they cry persecution! Religious beliefs are a personal matter between the believer and his/her god or gods. I have no problem with prayer and proselytizing but I don't want it in my public schools nor do I want to be discriminated against for refusing to accept your beliefs as my own. When you cross the line and try to force your beliefs on me utilizing some of the methods I've outlined in this post then know that I will be standing there ready to defend my right to be free from religion!

Note: All biblical quotations are taken from the New International version of the scriptures and word definitions are taken from the online Merriam Webster dictionary which I have linked to in the text.