I’ve been overwhelmed with a cataclysm of work for the last few days so I’ve been scarce here. So far today, pleas for help have not been forthcoming so I’m optimistically looking forward to the time needed to post an entry. So, with that out of the way, on with the show . . .
I’ve spent a great deal of time watching online debates. The challengers, mostly Christians, seem to have a list of questions that they pass around, undoubtedly part of the underlying meme. Again and again, I am astounded to hear (astounded, I tell you!) the same, tired arguments presented that have been discounted and discredited for thousands of years.
That really wouldn’t be surprising if we atheists were a new thing. But these debaters, most of whom comport themselves as men of reason and learning, never seem to have cracked a book that dealt with logical thinking or reasoning. Although they’ve apparently carried these questions with them throughout their lives, they are ignorant of criticisms to their own arguments. So non-believers of the Dawkins and Hitchens varieties are faced, again and again, with the very same questions. I mean, if you were going to debate someone, wouldn’t it be a good idea to look in on their previous debates and pick up a few pointers?
I’m guessing (sorry, it’s all I’ve got so far) that it’s because of the religious life being lived in a sort of bubble, a mental universe hemmed in by fences posted with signs that say, “Thou shalt not go there.” And each particular debate is another of them bravely going past the fence, always ready to run back at any hint of threat.
The most common of the lame questions is probably, “Where did everything come from if there isn’t a god?” Over and over, this spews from the lips of those who should know better, yet their imagination, or lack of same, never seems to have thought of this before.
Or is it a debating tactic? Is it possible that they know how it’s going to go but use it anyway, and that they think they achieve some gained ground using it? Immediately, the atheist retorts with, “Where did your god come from?” followed by the “God has always been, always will be, and always remains the same,” sort of illogical rebuttal.
Another variation is, “What caused the Big Bang?” or, “Where did everything in the Big Bang come from?” Well, it should be obvious that ‘godidit’ is not the default answer to any question. Personally, I question as to whether the matter/energy in the universe ever didn’t exist. But, assuming there was a non-existence, there were no gods, either. Universe is defined as everything that exists, and exists is defined as something that has mass, and can be found at some point in space.
Another of the most-used challenges is, “You can’t prove god doesn’t exist!” One wonders why proof should be so important to people who have so little use for it. And what would constitute proof? I was in a restaurant and had made some comment involving disbelief and the waitress, walking across the room, remarked loudly, “I know god exists!” One might assume, from her hasty retreat that she was not comfortable having her supposed knowledge questioned.
But there is a difference between knowledge and certitude. Lame rationalizations and misinterpreted events are not knowledge, they are chimera, and all believers have some sort of personal anecdotes that they have added to their repertoire of arguments in support of their belief. They are as reluctant to share these events as they would be to share their new, bright-colored underwear with strangers, because somewhere in their convoluted minds they know that their personal brush with the divine was really a mundane happening with a simpler explanation than the one they wish to give it.
When a lettered and trusted member of the Cambridge faculty steps up to the podium to express his doubt that someone can be an atheist, I expect more from him than a tired and oft-destroyed anthropological argument. In the question-and-answer period following a debate, there are always those who stand up and beg to know where morals come from or how people can be good without divine guidance. It appears to me that most of the people in the world go blindly through their days never questioning their own minds, but when they find themselves in attendance at such a debate they feel incumbent to express their personal incredulity to all and sundry. The question remains, why do so many non-believers self-examine and question everything so faithfully while the rest of the world simply assume (and assert) untested beliefs?
Perhaps with the continuing dissemination of books by atheists more people will begin to understand the questions and the answers and such inane questions will one day disappear from the mainstream, and be replaced with more meaningful dialog between the remaining believers and those who don’t, and I won’t have to groan when some self-effacing evangelical adds himself to the league of the embarrassed.