Monday, May 7, 2012
Hey! I Found a Sensible Atheist!
My YouTube videos that elicit the most comments are the ones that deal with atheism. Most of the comments from atheists are not even up to a level that resembles rational thought. For example, there's this one, which advocates not only genocide but Genocide for Peace: "religionists must be gassed and turned to petroleum immediately. Once we euthanize the 5 billion failed fallen subhuman religionists then Humans can get their planet back and We can finally progress peacefully." I am not making this up. Click on the link above and scroll down to read it.
Typically, then, responding to YouTube comments from atheists isn't worth the time. Even if they're right and there is no God, it isn't worth the time.
Today, however, I noticed a comment from someone calling himself or herself "Friend of Daishonin" - meaning, it seems Nichiren Daishonin, a 13th Century Buddhist monk. "Friend's" comment was actually sensible. I can't really reply to him at YouTube because you're not given much room there to post (his remarks below are actually three comments strung together), so I figured I'd try to move the discussion here, and hope "Friend" hops on over.
Friend of Daishonin writes ...
I became an Atheist DUE to reading a lot of material. I also read and studied the Bible as well as most other religions. The simple fact is that all of the apologeticist material I read to explain away the contradictions in the Bible was for the most part insulting to my intelligence. It all sounded like the cop outs and excuses you would hear at an Amway seminar as to how it's not "really" a pyramid scheme-it only "looks" like one. I find it baffling how Christians actually buy into it.
I will go onto say how it baffles me that Christians give cop outs as to how the Levitical laws somehow are to guide us towards repentence leading us to Jesus and just flat out ignore or minimize the atrocities that they advocate. Never ceases to amaze me. I don't claim that as proof for the non existence of god, but if that is why I believed in god and it is obviously inconsistent and immoral, why would I continue to keep believing in god? They don't have a problem with that which baffles me
Furthermore, if I call one story from a different religion than Christianity-myth, yet the story looks almost indistinguishable from the story I claim as fact, isn't that hypocritical of me? How can I live with myself knowingly lying that I accept something as true that is indistinguishable from myth? Yet point these other stories out to Christians and they make excuses. That also baffles me because it really is not that hard to understand. I suppose they are grasping for straws so to speak.
My reply would be ...
First, thank you, Friend of Daishonin, for posting something that makes sense, that puts forth a rational argument, that has only a few spelling errors, and that does not advocating killing over half of the human population for "peace".
Second, if Christianity is no different from Amway, then bring some torches and I'll join you in burning down every single church we can find. If this whole "Christ is God Thing" really is a scam and a fraud, then it's much more offensive than Amway and other multi-level marketing gimmicks which I rightly criticize here.
So you and I agree on the most important thing: truth is what we're seeking. If God is a Delusion, then the whole system built around this Delusion is at best a mistake and at worst a lie; it is horrific and shameful and atheists should become anti-evangelizers, shouting from the rooftops that there is no God and Mohammed is not his prophet (that last bit might get you killed, but truth is truth and if Christians are in error because there is no God, so are all other theists).
As to the points you make, the apologetic material you read must have been pretty weak or sub-standard, since you seem to be a person who has enough sense to think about what you read. For good apologetics, try the compilation of C. S. Lewis' writings, God in the Dock, and if you can handle them, Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton.
You make an interesting point regarding the Levitical Laws, some of which advocate what you call "atrocities". Apparently you've been told that the Jewish Laws lead to repentance and ultimately to Jesus, which is correct in a way, but this isn't really an answer to your objection, which is a good one. My suggestion: read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7), in which Jesus confronts the whole question of what the Law is and what significance it holds for us. Ask yourself if you agree with what Jesus says about morality in the Sermon on the Mount. If you do, then the question becomes is Jesus focusing and fulfilling the Law as He claimed He was? Also, if Christ is the culmination of the Law, then why do Christ and His followers not follow the Law to the letter, something which infuriated His contemporaries? Why does Jesus say that the Law is really only two things - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself"? If there is a God, would you agree with this statement? Even if there is no God, how on earth can Jesus present the modern Law of Love as the culmination of what you see as the Law of Atrocities?
So in the New Testament alone a thoughtful reader will see that the Jewish Law is more complex than he might have suspected from a quick reading of it in the Old Testament. For either of two things are possible ...
1. You are correct in your reading of the Jewish Law, that it advocates atrocities and is a horrendous thing, and Jesus was entirely deluded when he advocated Love and said that the Jewish Law was all about Love.
2. Jesus and His followers, who were, if nothing else, devout Jews, understood something about the Law that a cursive reading of it has not yet revealed to you.
For if the Law is nothing but hate-mongering, how do you explain Psalm 119?
As to the relation of myth to Scripture, it seems no one has told you that quite a bit of Scriptural material is indeed myth - or fiction. Unlike Protestants, Catholics have always taught that the creation account in Genesis, for example, is not to be taken literally. It is a creation myth, but a myth that conveys an essential truth. The book of Job is probably a work of fiction - it certainly reads like one - but it is a story that conveys the most profound truth of human existence. Many parts of Daniel in the Greek Old Testament sound much more like myth than history, as does the Greek Old Testament book of Tobit. The Bible makes use of every literary form imaginable - myth, poetry, history, lamentation, even modern internet-style essays, like Ecclesiastes. So, yes, a lot of it is myth, but myth can be more effective in conveying truth than other forms of literature (see my YouTube video about that here).
However, the life of Jesus is not a myth. Speaking from the point of view of Literary Criticism, nothing in the Gospels has the ring of myth. It all reads as if the writers were utterly surprised and baffled by what they are conveying. It sounds anything but contrived - as the apocryphal gospels often do (which is one reason the Church rejected them). You claim other myths are indistinguishable from the Christian narrative, which is a claim you would simply not make if you read the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles side-by-side with mythological literature. A Freshman in Literary Criticism 101 would see the difference.
And, anyway, if it's all just a myth, well then, you've got us. Very early on St. Paul said, "If Christ be not raised, then is our faith in vain" - and we of all men are most to be pitied.
Now, the books I recommended above deal with the claim that the Gospels are indistinguishable from myth. So, Friend of Daishonin, take the gifts you've been given and exercise them. I was an atheist because I was searching for truth - you seem to be the same kind of atheist. Most of your atheist compatriots today don't give a fig for truth, but you do. So use your generous and analytical mind and read. Learn how to read with heart and sensitivity. Read good apologetics. Read good atheists. Read the three books I recommended. Above all read the Scriptures, and ask yourself what you think of Jesus. It all comes down to that. I'll grant you that religion and "religionists" can often be a mess, but Who is this Jesus and does what He says speak to you? That is the question.
If He is speaking truth, then we cannot ignore what He says about God. If His life is a life of integrity, then we cannot write off the Jews as hate-mongers. If the book of Acts is historical (and nothing about Acts sounds legendary), then who were these apostles and what did they think they were doing?
Those are the questions that a mind like yours could indeed ask itself.
God bless your search.