I stumbled across a Christian apologetics website devoted to sharing the love of Christ with “seekers, agnostics, fence-sitters, non-Christians and lapsed Christians.”
Why not atheists, or for that matter general non-believers, I wonder?
At any rate, there is a list of 100 questions which the apologists posit–hoping that it might, I quote, “nag at your atheism.”
I read all of them, laughed at the majority of them, and I can honestly say after a thorough read through my unbelief is unshaken.
[Pedant observation: On the website they call the non-believing position “disbelief,” but this is categorically wrong.]
Many of the questions seemed to be cut and pasted from other apologetic sources, as many seemed to be redundant, or were asking relatively the same question just dressed up in a different metaphor. Additionally, some of the questions seemed sophist, such as, “In an all-natural, all-material world, how did ‘oughts’ evolve from physical matter?”
Referring to my notes, I have scribbled, “Does the questioner even understand the question they are asking?”
Although it’s not fair for me to judge, many of the questions rank pretty low on the intellectual meter of, well, anything that has thoughts. Sure, I could spend time trying to explain why that question is insufficient because it shows that the person asking it fails to understand the nature of the question–but that would be a waste of my time. As such, I tend to ignore these sorts of questions because they don’t dignify a response.
If it was asked by somebody who knew what they were talking about, they would have phrased it differently–such as, “If metaphysical naturalism is true, does deriving ‘oughts’ from meta-ethical considerations imply an underlying objective morality?”
Other questions didn’t make any sense to me. Such as the following, “Do you believe that the Universe expanded from a primordial hot and dense initial condition at some finite time in the past and continues to expand to this day?”
I mean, why is this even a question? My personal answer is simply, “The evidence confirms it, so yes.”
However, I would highly doubt that the person who asked this sort of question would be aware of the evidence which I am referring to. Maybe this just means that I take for granted that things like cosmic microwave background radiation and redshift are general knowledge, or it could simply mean the person asking the questions is scientifically ignorant.
It may be general, regular, everyday ignorance though, as seemingly revealed in another question, which asks, “Is belief in God a byproduct of ignoring science? Why?”
I laughed out loud when I read this, as it doesn’t seem to me that anyone in today’s world, at least anyone with Internet access, can willfully “ignore” science.
Just to posit that question and post it online they would be using the very fruits of science! To be unaware of the fact that they were, in point of fact, using a form of technology, i.e. technological scientific advancement, would mean they were either insane or mentally handicapped.
After I chortled for a bit, I switched out “ignoring science” for the more accurate term “scientific ignorance,” which I presume is what they are getting at here. At least the apologetic line of reasoning eludes to it–in more ways than one–and I sorely want to give them the benefit of the doubt. They simply could have made a malapropism. After all, the person sounds sincere in their questioning–so it would be somewhat ironic if they did turn out to be insane or retarded.
Again, I think you’ll find that my answer is concise. “Scientific ignorance, it seems to me, may play a bigger role in lending to a person’s credulity than is often thought. This credulity, in turn, sponsors an unhealthy tendency to relinquish scientific reasoning and accept supernatural assumptions/explanations instead.”
Other questions were vague, like, “What happens after we die?”
It sort of makes me wonder what kind of answer the questioner expects. Does he want the literal or philosophical approach?
Again, I laughed at this question, not because it’s vague, but because I was taken back to a scene on television where Richard Dawkins was being interviewed and was asked this very same question. Dawkins’ reply, albeit literal, is the same reply I would likely give. His retort, “You get buried. Although some are cremated, I suppose.”
The audience erupted into laughter, and Dawkins’ eyebrows went up on his forehead. He was caught off guard by the unexpected audience reaction–as he wasn’t intending to be funny–he was merely providing an honest answer to a poorly phrased question.
Then there were questions which just didn’t make any logical sense.
“If God does exist as Biblically revealed, would hindsight on Judgment Day render Christians inappropriately prejudiced or gullible?”
I have no clue what the above question is asking. I even tried putting on my “Christian thinking cap” from the days when I was still a devout Christian, filled with faith and conviction, and I still had no idea how to wrap my mind around it. There’s no making sense of it. It’s merely “Christian-speak” mixed up with bad grammar as far as I can tell.
Finally, we come to the most shocking and grotesque question in the lot. I feel I must warn you that you will likely be offended by this question–either because of the low brow content or because of the inane stupidity of it. Either way, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Our happy Christian apologists, on their merry webpage of, well, stuff I consider to be pretty senseless, posit to us a hypothetical:
“Immediately after marrying, you and your wife attempted to get pregnant. You tried conceiving for two years with no success. Requiring surgery, your wife [went to the doctor] and was put under anesthesia nine months before your first child was born. While unconscious, the doctor decided to have his way with your wife. His male staff assistant watched, waiting his turn. Each unleashed their gift of procreation in her prior to completing the minor surgical procedure. That night, the two of you took full advantage of the fact she was ovulating. Unbeknownst to either of you, the doctor’s sperm out swam yours. Your wife never knew she was raped while unconscious, nor did you, and no other human being ever found out–there were no consequences to this act except the celebrated arrival of a beautiful, baby boy named after his father. QUESTION: Was it absolutely wrong for the doctor and his assistant to gang-rape your wife? Why?”
If your reaction was like mine, you’re probably busy picking your jaw up off the floor. Next you’ll probably feel revulsion and disgust for whoever thought up such a wicked hypothetical scenario. Finally, you will wonder if they need to see a psychologist to deal with some seedy sexually repressed issues, or what not.
Anyway, never mind that our author couldn’t figure out a better example to ask whether or not it is moral for a lumber jack to cut down a tree which can feel pain–if there is no one in the woods to hear it scream (if you’ll accept the mixed metaphors). After we get over our initial shock–we go back over it–only to find it mind numbingly STUPID!
Why would the Cortical reaction favor the doctor over the mate? It doesn’t seem that our author has factored in sperm competition. But never-mind, let’s take off our thinking-caps and accept the scientifically strained hypothetical, and for the sake of argument, assume the it’s the doctor’s baby. What does this detail have to do with the question of whether or not the initial rape is ethically wrong? We are left scratching our heads why this useless information is added. It seems to me, the only reason to include such a detail is to sensationalize the hypothetical even more than it already is.
Moving on, the hidden intention of this religious bred smut is meant to get us to admit to the fact that their is such a thing as right and wrong–therefore an objective moral law–and predictably–the theist would then have us consider a moral law giver.
What the author of this fantastically absurd rape story neglects to understand, however, is that the issue at hand is not strictly a moral one, but instead, an ethical one–specifically: a human rights issue.
We could rephrase to question to accurately address the issue: “Does the woman have the right to her own life and safety, without the threat of violence and harm, such as rape or being murdered?”
In all cases the answer is: yes. Not because rape is “morally wrong,” but because we are lawfully obliged to respect her basic human rights. Therefore, it is wrong to attack her even if she is unaware, because then the attacker is not properly respecting the woman’s individual rights.
Rape will always be deemed morally wrong for this reason. We don’t need objective morality to determine that there are ethical constraints as well as consequences to any act, good or bad, and that those acts which seek to cause harm should be limited. Either by seeking stricter laws or else stricter regulations against such harmful behavior.
A trickier question would be, “Is viewing child pornography morally wrong?”
It would seem, on the surface, that yes–child pornography is morally reprehensible–no matter the situation. But then we find that viewing child pornography and sexual assault of underage children are not necessarily related. Additionally, some studies have found that child pornography can assist pedophiles and child molesters focus their sexual energies on the video content instead of inflicting it on real life children and thereby helping to prevent potential harm from falling on minors.
Likewise, pornography’s overall effect on society seems to make us safer–especially women–where the proliferation of pornographic materials almost always equates to a decrease in sexual assault (also see here). Meanwhile, the viewing of pornography by legal adults is an ethical consideration about the right of an individual’s choice.
If allowing pedophiles to watch child pornography, perhaps on a prescription basis (sort of like registered medical marijuana users), has the potential to save hundreds, if not thousands, of children from being sexually assaulted, in a situation like this it would be difficult to claim absolutely that viewing child pornography is strictly immoral. Controversial as it is, child pornography could be morally beneficial to society–as a way to safeguard and protect the well being of countless innocent children.
Understand, however, that this question is different than asking whether or not it is morally wrong to produce child pornography–or bank a buck in the sexual exploitation of minors–in which case I would have to say, yes. It is undeniably wrong to make and distribute child pornography. It is always immoral to force a child against their will to engage in an adult activity that would cause the child both psychological and physical harm. I feel the same way about religion, however (e.g., doctrine of hell, circumcision, etc.) Child abuse is child abuse–period.
Questions like the above tend to puzzle me, probably more than they should. I tend to over think them. Even as it appears that Christian apologetics is void of intellectual reasoning, I’m always willing to consider other points of view–which is why I continue to go back. I sometimes think, maybe, just maybe… they have finally found some evidence. Nope.
What I typically find is reasoning so godawful that it’s borderline offensive. As with the above questions–these very formulaic, unthinking thoughts do a disservice to the human race and tarnish all things reasonable with the mediocrity of half baked religious nonsense.
If these are the types of questions and ideas we can expect from theists, then I am happy to report my atheism is firmly secured. But as I have stated elsewhere, I do not think apologetics equate to a valid justification of faith. Apologetics is not a proper justification for faith based claims because, more often than not, the apologist does not usually test their claims against the evidence; and when they do they never admit falsification–and you can’t begin with the statement that your beliefs/claims are justified prior to actually having justified them.
Knowing that the burden is not on me to justify whether or not a god exists, since I don’t believe in any, it seems a huge waste of time to answer any theistic challenges to atheism. But, at least now, nobody can say I wasn’t at least trying to be fair about it.