The Tenuous Relationship Between Atheism and Theism

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Engaging in the Christian practice of apologetics definitely makes life interesting. It should, at least, drive a believer to be thoughtful, considerate, and more consistent both theologically and philosophically, it should also drive us to see just how other religions deal with objections.

In this article, a former atheist turned Mormon takes time to discuss the importance of the criticism that atheists often bring to the table, a point definitely worthy of consideration, because it can definitely be informative. So, I guess the question is, what kinds of criticism does she refer to, and give responses to, such as:

-You cannot prove that God exists. None of your faith-based experiences about God are real scientific “proof.” Stop trying to argue about this.

Of course, but no one can “prove” that they exist as well. Atheism, likewise, cannot be “scientifically” proven either since it is a philosophical position. All that we can do is reason to the best explanation when we do science.

-Look at the money. If your religion is enriching a very small population at the top of the religion, it’s not a religion — it’s a Ponzi scheme.

That’s just good advice for anything that deals with money.

-What is your religion doing to help people in real life, not just in the after-life? Are you actually doing what it takes to make the world a better place here and now for the poor, for the disenfranchised, for everyone?

All great questions that even atheists have to answer, as well as demonstrate how the answers flow logically from their worldview.

-The history of your religion is suspect. There is a bunch of weird crapola in the history of just about every religion, including founders and other religious leaders who are just plain whacko, crazy, or conmen. Stop trying to hide this and find a way to deal with it.

That’s just more good advice. Of course we have to keep it in mind that the person writing the article is a Mormon, and anyone making this objection has to deal with their own history as well.

-When your religion operates to enable abuse by those in power, there is something seriously wrong with your religion and possibly with your God.

Seeing that the objection is directed towards Mormonism, it doesn’t really effect Christians because, most of us anyway, use the exegesis of Scripture to determine such issues, but it should definitely cause one to pause and examine whether or not the positions are coherent with Scripture. However, ultimately it is a non sequitur argument.

-When your religion is about telling people to be obedient, to follow others in lock-step, to ignore their own doubts or questions, then perhaps it is more a cult than a religion.

There’s a lot of questions posed by this objection, especially from a Christian perspective, like,

-“obedient” to whom?

-“follow” whom?

– ignore what doubts and what questions?

I will agree that depending on how one answers those questions can determine whether or not one is in a “cult” or not.

-If your religion gives you permission (or encouragement) to force your beliefs or practices on others or to refuse to listen to their complaints of not being heard, then consider that your religion is just an excuse to be a jackass.

This objection is double-edged, especially when it comes to the definition of “religion“. There’s so many undefined terms here that it’s hard to find a place to begin to respond, especially from a Christian perspective.

-Does your God favor certain groups over other groups (racial groups or gendered groups or any groups)? Is part of your religion about being superior to others? Again, consider that this isn’t a religion, but a social club and not a very nice one.

Let’s just get this objection straight: it’s perfectly okay for people to be persnickety about who they associate with, but not for God? Double standards anyone?

-If your God denies science and science-based education, my question is: what is He afraid of people learning?

How is “science” being defined here? That’s the question that needs to be answered. This seems to be dependant on god-of-the-gaps reasoning.

-Is your religion about punishment or about living better every day? Is it about pointing fingers or about making up reasons that people are suffering or is it about digging in and stopping the suffering?

This is actually a repeat of a previous objection that the atheist also has to answer and demonstrate how the answer flows from that worldview.

It’s actually the writer’s statement that is most disturbing,

-All of these questions can be painful. Almost every religion looks bad when forced to deal with the criticism of atheists. And almost every religion can be improved by taking these criticisms seriously.

As a believer in Christ, I don’t find these questions or objections “painful”, rather I find them to be telling of the thinking of the person making them, namely what they are assuming and what they need to prove from their own worldview. Personally, these questions or objections, as they are presented, are simplistic at best and insulting at worst. I do believe that criticism, justified and constructive criticism needs to be taken seriously and considered thoughtfully.

Most of her points from there on out are personal in nature, however it is this remark that actually undoes her argument,

-For me personally, letting go of the defensiveness of my religion has freed up a lot of energy to actually live it more fully. I am no longer interested in trying to proclaim the truth of the Mormon gospel to others.

Even though, as a Christian, I believe that Mormons are in need of a clear presentation of the Gospel, if I was a Mormon, as a community of believers who were built in intense missionary work, I would find this statement insulting and completely opposed to my beliefs. She has surrendered her faith. If this lady claimed to be a Christian, claimed to believe the truth of the Gospel and said this, I would have to tell her that she is deceiving herself.

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