The March of the Straw Men

I will say that arguing religion is an interesting business, mostly because there really is not enough evidence on either side to actually sway someone to switch sides.  From what I have read, most atheists come to their position because of the lack of evidence for the theist side.  Those that switch to the theist side seem to do so because of a feeling that god does exist.  In the mean time we write and say things and then the “other side” dissects them, each side claiming victory.

For me, I heard and read enough things in my church going days that I felt was nonsense that I pretty much made my own decision.  Along the way I certainly read a few books on the early Christian movement, non-canonical scriptures and philosophy, but at the time I wasn’t looking to be convinced for or against anything, although some of those readings certainly had an effect.

In my earlier days, as a Catholic I felt there was a pretty good balance between religion and secular discussion in the public square.  Also, the anti-intellectualism of most Catholics in the US is not too bad and for the most part the conference of bishops seems very well intentioned and I often agree with their positions.

But then came the “Moral Majority,” the creationist movement and so on and the Middle Ages outlook was particularly apparent.  The Catholic church began to follow suit and finally I dropped out, the contradictions, hypocrisy and anti-intellectualism being too much for me.

I decided to speak (write?) out to in some way counter at least some of the things I hear people say about either people in different faiths or who not religious at all.  I really do get tired of the strawman portrayal that without the influence of the Christian god, people when they are not having drunken orgies are planning mass murders.

Of course that is a ridiculous assertion, plenty of societies existed for many years never having heard of the bible.  Did some non-Christian societies do horrible things?  Yes, but so have Christian societies.  I have not kept exact score, but things look about equal all around.

Another straw man I heard on Irrelevant Radio yesterday was this: “Atheists don’t understand allegory and storytelling.  They say there is no such thing as a talking snake, so the whole thing must be false.”   Oh please.  First of all plenty Christians insist on the literal truth of the talking snake, but atheism doesn’t rise or fall just a story in the bible or even the whole bible.

Because it is not just the Christian god that is being rejected.  It is all supernatural explanations.  In some ways atheists would have more respect for the bible if Christians all insisted most of the stories were allegory or some truth encrusted with legend and myth.  We could at least give you points for honesty for that.

I, like many others, came to see the best explanation for the bible was human authorship with no divine intervention.  I looked around and saw no divine intervention any where.  And there I was.

I think I can honestly say that my rejection of at least the Christian god is not based on a straw man assessment of him.  In fact the maximal picture that I was taught of an all powerful, all good god is a huge part of the problem.  Having such a god preside over a world full of moral and natural evil is a real conundrum.  If I were an all knowing and all powerful god I would not want to admit that to the residents of earth.  How can he allow so much moral and natural evil and still have the gall to send people to hell?

So, it is not “evidence” I need to convince me, it is a completely different picture of god.  Even if Noah’s ark were found and the evidence was perfectly clear that it was in fact genuine, we are then left with a god who because he didn’t like some of his creation, destroyed everything, innocent and guilty alike.  And this all knowing god saves one “upright” man, who immediately afterwards get completely drunk and winds up in a compromising position with his son.

In the same way, if we actually dug up Sodom and Gommorah, we have exactly the same problem again.  Kills both the innocent and the guilty (surely the children there could not have yet been guilty!).  And once again, the one “upright” man soon afterwards ends up drunk and impregnating his daughters.  This all knowing god sure is a lousy judge of character!  And you want me to worship him?

I just heard on Irrelevant Radio radio that these folks are coming to town with a slew of miracles that will give me the evidence I need to be a theist again.  I really don’t think so.  Someone with a stigmata or a crying statue mean nothing to me.  God has time to make a statue cry, but he allows children to get river blindness?  If crying statue is the proof god is real, I will not honor or worship him.  I’d be more impressed by the elimination of cancer.

In fact, if god were real and wanted to impress me with a vision of him, the first thing he would do is say, “I had nothing to with the bible, the q’ran or the book of mormon,  you guys made all that up.”  The second thing is that he could admit that he is not all powerful and all knowing.  OK, that explains a lot, I would have to admit.  He would also have to say that there is no hell, devils, angels or anything else.  “What you see is what you get,” this believable god would say.  “I made the best universe I could so you would have somewhere to be and things to work on.  Take care of each other, I am going back for a nap.”

That is a god I could believe in, one who fits the facts of what we observe and does not seem even less moral than we are.  I could almost respect that.

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