Riker's Mailbox

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Aaaaaaaaand another post!

There's sort of a trend here... while my blog post scratch pad still exists (call it a rough idea repository, perhaps), I'm not drawing from it lately.  To do so requires a concerted effort and time commitment to Write A Blog Post.  I'm generally busier than what would allow this on a regular basis.

But, I do still take time to read other blogs on related topics, and often enough I find a post or comment that gets my gears turning, and before I realize it I've penned an elaborate response.  A few seconds after I realize I've done it again, I say to myself, "Self, this belongs on Prose Justice."

The original thread was over at Homosecular Gaytheist.

And so it gets pasted here.  Oh well.  It's not mine from scratch, but it's CADAVER.

Here's the comment:

Some helpful clarification in the discussion:

1. Generally, Christians differentiate between Creator and creation. The latter would necessarily have a Creator, while the same would not be said for the former. This would explain why atheists who don’t accept this argument tend to cite the same argument ad nauseum (”Your creator must have been created too! PWN’D!) and why a lot of Christians, rather than showing a little forethought and knowledge of their argument, sit slack-jawed wondering what just happened.

The argument is not stuff comes from other stuff, until you get to the biggest stuffer ever. That is dumb. The argument is simply to highlight the distinction between creation and creator and show that creation highly implies a creator.

2. The second objection is actually one of the most honest objections that I find atheists make in various forms to religion and to God, which is just that in their eyes God is cruel, so why serve him. Christopher Hitchens was never more honest than when he said in his most recent book, that even if God existed, Hitchens would be a part of the devil’s party. And looking at the world and seeing that as how things were designed by God, I can’t say that I disagree with that conclusion, except for one little thing…

My religion, Christianity, teaches that the world is not as it is supposed to be. It is screwed up. People are screwed up. Relationships are screwed up. That is pretty much conceded, though there is some disagreement to the degree that sin has affected the world and not just people. The two views being either we (people) are the problem and the world would be “perfect” without us in the equation, and the view that we are the biggest problem, but sin has affected everything in creation as well (I would put myself in the second camp, by the way). So, the good news is that both atheists and Christians should find some agreement in saying, “Something ain’t right!”

That leads to the second issue in that objection, which is that God is therefore culpable for the misery that is in the world. The good news for believers is that the Bible does have an answer. The bad news is that it really is sin is our fault and not God’s, even though he is all-powerful. If you read the Bible, that is actually what it teaches - man is responsible, God is sovereign. Believe me when I say, Mr. Atheist, I feel your pain. That is a tough pill to swallow, and any sincere Christian should be the first to admit that that is a difficult teaching. It has actually led some to fashion an understanding of God that he is not all-powerful or that man is not a responsible agent, but ultimately the Bible teaches both.

So Christianity is not without its difficulties, but let me say this final thing: taking God out of the equation doesn’t make the situation any better. You still have a screwed up world, you still have evil and violence, but now there is no real solution. That is just the way the world is. At least with God, you have some hope that things will be fixed one day, while without him, you really have no reason to expect things to be any different or better ever. Why should you? Plus, it makes the idea of “better” a moving target, which is a problem in and of itself.

I am not even toying with the idea that this will satisfy everyone, but I do hope it at least allows people on both sides to understand the other a little better.

And here's my reply:

Trey, I'd like to address a couple points you brought up: "The argument is not stuff comes from other stuff, until you get to the biggest stuffer ever. That is dumb. The argument is simply to highlight the distinction between creation and creator and show that creation highly implies a creator." You've probably heard atheists disregard the 'creation requires a creator' argument as tautological and/or circular, but even besides that is the greater issue that when an atheist looks at your analogy and at the world, they conclude that what you call 'creation' most definitely does *not* imply a conscious creator. We can all see the fingerprint of a house's maker in a house because we all have great knowledge of houses, and we can see them being built by people. One can appreciate that houses are logically planned out. When you look at a planet, however, or a body, all the mechanisms at work that yield those end products are documented and understandable, and they show no real signs of intelligent planning. I wear glasses because my eyes are not perfect. People get cancer because their bodies are not perfect. Almost all planets are uninhabitable because their orbits are not perfect. So on and so forth. There's a very clear trail of evidence that explains this... basically everything about us, everything about our solar system is cobbled together by mechanisms that worked just well enough to persist... exactly as science verifies, and exactly not what a perfect creator being would have created. Your answer to this, is sin. But if this entire universe was created by your god, then sin is either a direct manifestation of his, or a creation of one of his creations. I can envision a more perfect god than yours: one that did not allow for imperfection in his creation. Your god is either unable or unwilling. If man is responsible for sin, then God is responsible for creating man with the ability to ruin all God created. That's a pretty complicated and convoluted explanation for the imperfection we all acknowledge as existing in the world. Science does a better job explaining it in far fewer steps, and without requiring any mental acrobatics. In response to your last point, "taking God out of the equation doesn’t make the situation any better. You still have a screwed up world, you still have evil and violence, but now there is no real solution. That is just the way the world is. At least with God, you have some hope that things will be fixed one day" We think it does make things better, because it removes the sense of complacency people have with suffering. Christians may sit around waiting for someone else to fix the problem, or they convince themselves that the problem is unfixable, and simply wait for their heavenly reward where nothing is ever going to go wrong. We atheists realize that there's nobody out there to take care of our problems for us, so it is up to us to do it. We have no overbearing force telling us not to bother. It's only up to us to learn enough about our problems that we can in turn solve them. Rational inquiry, not faith, is the mechanism responsible for every advancement of our society. It gets us 100 year lifespans and air travel and the ability to communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere. It operates far better on far simpler rules. Perhaps most importantly, it makes no such atrocious claim that there is something inherently wrong with being human. We don't waste any time or energy apologizing for ourselves, which leaves us able to spend that time and energy improving the lives of real people all around us, people who just would not survive on faith alone.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


When it rains, it pours.  Or in my case, drizzles... but it's a drizzle in a drought, so don't complain :)

I just read Jerry Coyne's latest article lambasting the National Academy of Sciences and the National Centers for Science Education for their accomodationist standpoints with regard to the harmony of evolutionary theory and religious faith (he must've gotten the idea from me), and I gave myself another opportunity to think about the issue.  Here was my reponse:

I tend to see the posturing of the NAS and the NCSE as more of a logistical matter than anything else; these organizations need money to function, and they have to be sure not to alienate potential sources of funding. But then there's a side issue: they don't need to pander to us as naturalists/rationalists/atheists, because we're already on the same side of the fence. The people for whom those statements were written are those who might be *on* the fence. And the surest way to knock them back to their side is to require them to abandon a component of their belief system before we grant them admission. If a theist comes to the NCSE or NAS website, they're looking for encouraging words, not challenging ones. We should give them to them and let the merits of the science itself argue its cause. The NCSE and NAS have a tough enough job just promoting evolution in this religiously saturated country. But if you want them to take a hard line stance, then you're effectively asking them to incorporate the inordinately larger task of debunking religion. In our non-ideal world, they have to pick their battles. It might offend me that they have to speak disingenuously to do so, but I'm going to have to live with that.

So, I don't like it any more than I disliked it before*... but I acknowledge the rock to their left and the hard place to their right, and will let them play at this mild little version of fighting dirty** to gain a little ground on our tiring uphill battle.

* - I think that's a valid sentence
** - I mean, they're totally lying to their audience.  It's a classic bait-and-switch.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Silly Popes and Slippery Slopes

The last two months have seen me get a year older, get even busier at work, move into a new house, and spend even more time on the car.  Hence, the 'not blogging' thing I've been trying out.  I just wanted to post this link in case it hasn't been seen yet...

If I afford myself some time between projects at the new place, I'll follow up with a critique.

Thanks for your patience!

And, I feel like I owe an apology for not making a 'BLASPHEMY - BIG WORD' title for this post.  It had to happen sooner or later.