Monday, March 25, 2013

Bad Reasons to Abandon Christianity

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I saw this “Top 15 Reasons Why People Are Leaving Christianity” article while surfing the net. Lots could be said about this list; item (1) isn’t quite right since there is the moral argument and the Leibnizian cosmological argument; item (7) claims, “According to the Bible, the world is only 6,000 years old” when the Bible never says how old the world is; item (11) says that contrary to Biblical teaching, people are inherently good when a little reflection shows that we are the depraved; and so on.

I won’t go through the whole list, and some of the items are admittedly understandable (if God never seems to answer your prayers) but some are just plain awful so as to illustrate how blind people can be to bad reasons when such reasons support their cause. To quote the really awful reasons for leaving Christianity (and the numbers associated with them):
  1. They see no difference in attitude and behavior between Christians and Non-Christians. Non-Christians are equally capable of living a moral life as Christians.
  2. They have had several bad experiences in churches. (i.e. corruption, abuse, coercion, greed, gossip)
  1. They realize that all religions claim to be the only true religion, and only one can be right. This causes them to doubt that out of all of the religions in the world, Christianity would be the only way.
  1. They see more harm than good being done in the name of Jesus. (i.e. The Crusades)
To illustrate how horrible these reasons are, suppose that some ignorant theist put forth the following, not as a parody, but as a list of sincere reasons for why some people abandon atheism:
  1. They see no difference in attitude and behavior between atheists and non-atheists. Non-atheists are equally capable of living a moral life as atheists. This gives them logical grounds to question whether atheism is in fact true.
  2. They have had several bad experiences in atheist organizations (i.e. corruption, abuse, coercion, greed, gossip). They quite naturally conclude that maybe God exists after all.
  1. They realize that with all propositions about gods that are logically inconsistent with each other (no gods exist, only the Christian God exists, only the Muslim God exists etc.), each such proposition claims to be the only true one, and only one can be right. This causes them to doubt that out of all of such propositions in the world, atheism would be the only true one.
  1. They see more harm than good being done in the name of atheism, so they conclude there is reason to doubt the truth of atheism. How can a belief be reasonable to believe when so many of its adherents are great big jerks?
Atheists would immediately see these as lousy reasons to abandon atheism, but some of these very same atheists would also be curiously blind to the lousiness of the reasons-for-leaving-Christianity counterparts. To be fair, sometimes it’s easy to forget things like, “You can’t judge the truth of a belief by its adherents being bastards” when such fallacious thought would support your view. So while the internet atheist may be an admittedly easy target, we should remember that just because our own cherished belief is true, doesn’t mean that every reason given for it will be a good one, and that all of us are capable of overlooking this fact.

5 comments:

  1. I must say, your attempt at...I'm not quite sure what...was astonishingly pathetic. No one is saying that people must be atheist to be good, are they? Yet plenty of Christians claim that they, via their religion, have cornered the market on goodness and morality. There is no "code" of atheism; there is no organized atheism; atheists do not proselytize. By trying to flip the scenario by substituting "atheist" for "Christian" or some similarly lame switcheroo, you simply show your abysmal ignorance and inability to comprehend, well, much of anything.

    I was raised Christian and left it. I'm now an atheist. And I can tell you that those 15 reasons ring true. You obviously can't understand because you're on THAT side of the fence, and you are so closed-minded/narrow-minded and lacking in creativity that it is apparently beyond your capabilities to even imagine how someone who does not share your beliefs might feel or how your belief system might look to those who do not belong to it.

    Look: Atheism is the *lack* of belief. It's not a belief system, as there are no tenets, no doctrines, and no principles. It means we don't believe that gods exist. Full stop. That is the *only* thing we have in common with each other. There is no set of rules or guidelines. No book we hold special. Are you capable of understanding *any* of this? It means that noting that Christians routinely reject the teachings of the jesus they say they hold so dear is not something that can be turned around on atheists just by substituting "atheist" for "Christian." Let's see - not judging, loving, forgiving, giving to the poor, giving without expectation of payback, not accumulating wealth, giving away all possessions, etc. etc. etc. - these are rules Jesus supposedly set out for Christians to follow. Do you? I doubt it. Regardless, atheists have no such rules, so pointing out that atheists are judgmental is irrelevant, because only Christians are ordered to not be judgmental. See how this works? YOU are the one who supposedly embraces this "code" set out by your supposed godman, so when (not if) you fail to live up to it, it is perfectly reasonable for us non-Christians to point that out. But you can't turn that around on us - it's not *OUR* code to live up to, now is it?

    For example, I'm sure you enjoy bacon, pork chops, and the Easter ham. But Judaism states that eating pork is absolutely forbidden! It's a TERRIBLE sin! But that doesn't bother YOU, does it? Because YOU aren't Jewish, right? Well, then, why should WE who are not Christians concern ourselves with Christianity's rules, when these ONLY apply to Christians? I'm afraid I'm talking way over your head here - are you able to grasp these concepts even a little? Forget it.

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    1. I must say, your attempt at...I'm not quite sure what...was astonishingly pathetic.

      My attempt was to illustrate that certain reasons to leave Christianity are bad. Do you really think reasons 3, 4, 8 and 12 are good reasons? It seems clear that such reasons are fallacious when applied for atheism, right? (In this context, by “atheism” I mean the doctrine that gods do not exist.) It seems if we are to be consistent rational thinkers, we ought to also recognize that these reasons are bad when used against Christianity.

      No one is saying that people must be atheist to be good, are they? Yet plenty of Christians claim that they, via their religion, have cornered the market on goodness and morality. There is no "code" of atheism; there is no organized atheism; atheists do not proselytize. By trying to flip the scenario by substituting "atheist" for "Christian" or some similarly lame switcheroo, you simply show your abysmal ignorance and inability to comprehend, well, much of anything..

      Suppose what you say about Christians and atheists are true. None of this this justifies fallacious reasoning of the sort displayed in e.g. reason 3. Even if some Christians falsely claim that Christians have cornered the market on goodness and morality (for the record, I’m a Christian and I believe atheists can be nice people), and that there is no organized atheism, and that atheists do not proselytize, etc. none of this would imply that e.g. God didn’t raise Jesus from the dead. Reason 3 would still be a lousy reason to reject Christianity. The point about the “switcheroo” was to illustrate reasons 3, 4, 8, and 12 are bad reasons.

      I was raised Christian and left it. I'm now an atheist. And I can tell you that those 15 reasons ring true. You obviously can't understand because you're on THAT side of the fence, and you are so closed-minded/narrow-minded and lacking in creativity that it is apparently beyond your capabilities to even imagine how someone who does not share your beliefs might feel or how your belief system might look to those who do not belong to it.

      Sure I can imagine it, but the fact remains that reasons 3, 4, 8, and 12 are bad reasons. Again, the “switcheroo” was to illustrate those reasons being bad; clearly they are fallacious when used against atheism, but then if we are to be consistent logical thinkers, we ought to also recognize those sorts of reasons are also fallacious when applied against Christianity.

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    2. Hi MC, you kept close to the issues, good logical approach. Your criticisms of points 4, 8 and 12 are valid. The hypocrisy of some Christians, a plurality of religions, or evil done in Christianity's name, do not show that Christianity is false. They do not exclude the possibility that Christianity could be true.

      Still I think Anon has a point with regards to how point 3 can, at least at face value, be a convincing reason to think Christianity is false. Christians are supposed to have the spirit of God which manifests itself by the fruits of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23 "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". When a non-Christian does not see those qualities in any of the Christians he knows, he has been denied this piece of evidence of the Holy Spirit.

      Notice I would use the word "convincing" rather than "good", because there are Christians who are world famous for displaying those virtues: Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, (Jesus?) etc. By knowledge of these people through reports, a non-believer at least has testimonial evidence of the fruits of the Spirit. It's just that by not living up to these standards, say by quenching the Spirit or grieving him (as I understand these things to work-I'm a quasi-committed Christian myself), Christians around the non believer deny him the more powerful first-hand evidence that God works in the lives of his followers.

      Anon is right to say that it is our religion not atheism that claims it changes people for the better. Therefore point 3 legitimately raises the question of why many Christians do not seem to act more morally than non-believers. While point 3 does not show that Christianity is false (some Christians are well-known for displaying the virtues) it suggests the evidence for the fruits is scarce and less powerful than it could be.

      As said, I am very grateful to find your blog which seems to be a rich resource of thoughts. If Christianity is true, you are doing much work for the kingdom. Even if it's not, thank you for your thoughts.

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    3. Hi Anon, you seem really upset and taking what MC said too harshly. I know it's not my conversation, but if I might suggest something. If you were hurt by Christians or the church, it is not fair to direct that anger than other Christians who have not treated you harshly (I assume you do not have a history with MC). I was hurt by Christians too, so I understand to some extent what you might feel.

      I think that MC is directing his criticisms primarily at atheist arguments, not atheist persons. Also he was fair to admit that the bias towards any argument for one's own side is something everyone has to fight. So it is unfair if you use an angry tone or make the discussion personal (words like "YOU"). That said, I don't know how to deal with past hurt from Christians. I suppose it's in meeting Christian people who are reasonable and loving that I hope to overcome it. In the meantime, I try to be as moral and loving as I can be too, and try to let go of the hurt.

      I hope that helped. All the best Anon.

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