Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Olive Branch

Well, I haven’t been giving too much love to the Christians lately, so this week I’ll take a break from history and berating dead people and send you around the web to some of the big players in atheism who have some things to say that might surprise you. Agnosticism is a scientifically valid stance. The Bible is a worthwhile and even important piece of literature. Name calling is not a good strategy.

Let’s start with Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologists and famous atheist. There is a project to get every verse of the Bible on YouTube. Richard Dawkins was invited to participate. They were surprised at his response.

Bart Erhmann was an early entry into people who write about non-belief in God. In 2011 he received an award for his work. This one is lengthy, you might want to fast forward to the 29 minute mark. He sees himself as a historian who helps to uncover the oppressive uses of the Bible. He says humanism needs to express itself in positive terms.

Back to Dawkins. This is a two part discussion on agnosticism, but you can get the idea in part 1. There have been some recent articles expressing surprise to hear him call himself an agnostic, although he clearly laid out this same argument in The God Delusion, years ago. He says we should apply a temporary form of agnosticism to the god question, until more data is available to make a conclusion. He does not leave the question wide open, most of the evidence is that god does not exist, but to be intellectually honest, you can’t say that with certainty.

Matt Dillahunty can be a lot to handle. He comes across as arrogant to some, strongly convicted to others. He was raised Christian and went to seminary, so he knows what he is talking about. He has done this call in show in Austin, TX for many years. Usually, he gets into arguments that don’t get resolved. In this case, a young caller who has called a few times before is convinced that thinking for himself might be a good idea.

In this 5 minute piece by Matt, he is calling in to other people in the Atheist Community of Austin and relating an email discussion. He responds to a woman who said she didn’t want to live in a world without God. It is a nice little speech on justice and being good, without God.

Michael Dowd is different. He sounds more like a preacher and is speaking at a church in this video. He loves to evangelize about the wonders of the universe. He uses some substitute language for explaining how he sees what religion is. It is rather lengthy, about an hour, so I’ll tell the part that he says he will get to later. For him, God is a conceptualization of reality, that is God is everything. We can’t really grasp the vastness of the universe, so we use God to help conceive it.

I haven’t read this whole article, but it contains one of the most clever analogies to explain fundamentalism that I have ever heard. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a pastor in what is sometimes labeled the “emerging church”. As you can see from her picture, she’s not a typical pastor. In this article, she talks about how some Christians look through the Bible for a checklist of items that they should do or follow, and then try to conform to that list. No matter what they choose, they are not so much following Jesus or accepting him as they are leaving him idling in a van on the corner, waiting until he is needed at the end times, and saying, “Thanks Jesus, we’ll take it from here.”

This one is not for everybody. I would recommend it for any group leaders or anyone wanting to publicly debate difficult issues like religion. Dawkins makes some excellent points about how people’s minds are changed. He discusses using tools like sarcasm appropriately.

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