Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Trouble With Literal Reading

During my years as a Christian, particularly during the late 1990's and early 2000's where I was as Christian as I could make myself to be, I studied and read up on Christian apologetics in order to be able to defend my faith. I wanted to be a good Christian!

One theme I remember seeing throughout the apologetic literature was that the Bible is meant to be taken as literally as possible, and anything that isn't or couldn't be literally true was meant to be taken as myth or metaphor (though there was no true and proper demarcation, except for personal incredulity - if you personally thought there was no way a Bible passage made sense literally, particularly from a scientific viewpoint, then the passage was obviously meant to be figurative or poetic!).

So if the Bible says the world was created in six days, well, science obviously puts paid to the notion that the earth took 6 days to form, so what the Bible writers really meant when they wrote the world was created in six days was that they meant six time periods, not six literal days (this is what is now referred to Day-Age Creationism).

And how do you explain the diversity of life we see on planet Earth? Well, God made all the animals according to their kind - we have the dog kind, the cat kind, the fish kind, and so on, so there was no need for devilutio...I mean, evolution!


In short, there was always an answer. No matter how hard you have to contrive and needle for one, there was always an answer.

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Now that I am reading through The Case For Christ (long after I stopped being a Christian) I am reminded a lot of the apologetics materials of my youth, because just like Lee Strobel is doing, Fundamentalist apologetics is not trying to give a fair and dispassionate account of the available evidence (despite what Lee Strobel says). Far from it.

The mentality with Christian apologetics is "God wins at all costs", no matter what the battleground, be it science, philosophy, history or morality. 
And as I have found when challenging Christians with the numerous atrocities (such as genocide, slavery, sexism and execution for thought crimes) that God commanded in the Bible, sometimes that cost is humanity and decency.

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So Lee Strobel, in interviewing a PhD scholar, is attempting to portray the four gospels in the Bible as reliable, eyewitness testimonials that could not possibly have any errors or falsehoods in them.

What Lee Strobel doesn't (seem to or want to) realise is that rationalist apologetics can fight back and is fighting back. And is fighting back hard.

Rationalist apologetics is not only winning the science battle. Rationalist apologetics is not only winning the philosophy battle. 
Rationalist apologetics is not only winning the history and archaeology battle, but most importantly of all, rationalist apologetics is winning the morality battle.

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What we have come to realise in this age of emerging rationality is that you don't need to be religious to be a good person. You just need to be a good person to be a good person.

And on the contrary, we find:

1) the more religious a society is, the lower is scores on various criteria, and most telling of all, highly religious societies score lower on Human Development Index scores than nominally religious or atheistic societies.

2) years ago when we trusted the church (in general) with our children and our money, they abused both, covered up the crimes, demonised the victims and shielded the perpetrators from justice.

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Until next time, stay rational!

-Damien

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