Conversation with an Atheist Friend (06)

30 04 2009
The repute and reality of being a Roman emperor
Image by howard_riches via Flickr

And further….

Me: give me some references

Friend: isn’t that your job?

Me: Nothing like this comes to mind.

Friend: but my point is that he was supposedly performing lots of miracles, and had crowds.

Me: We have the discovery at Oxyrhynchus of thousands of letter if this is what you mean but that’s in Egypt. I don’t know of such records for Judea. Besides the letters were pretty sporadic. The guys who wrote these records down almost certainly wrote at a time when people who were there were alive. Your point is also a good one about the Romans. What they were obsessive about was good history. SO… if four (and possibly more) different records are circulated to people who are still alive and then the movement gains momentum to the point where the empire is Christianized, this says something. How does it take root in a history obsessed society if it is historically crappy?

Friend: but it didn’t take root until the 4th or 5th century!

Me: Rome wasn’t built in the day.

Friend: it just looks like a political movement.

Me: We know for sure that several Roman Emperors tried to kill people off on mass – that’s got to slow things down a little. Nero for one. There must have been a significant number of Christians to feed the hungry lions. And still regroup after. The problem in all this – and I’m not trying to be smart in saying this – is that the Kuhnian discussion I began with about enlightenment optimism is very important. I am not anti-science in the least. There just has to be level headed realization that no one is objective as they think and questions must be asked like this – if God really wanted to prove he existed what might he do? Put his fingerprints all over the world in terms of order… yes but this will be dismissed as rubbish… no proof at all… you just think this because you have an un-evolved sense of complexity and probability. But why does evidence look good to one person and bad to another? It is because they are functioning within a paradigm to look for what fits and to discard what doesn’t – you and me both. Like the broad generality about religion being evil and causing evil. The evidence doesn’t stack up. I heard a statistic the other day (from an official source) that conservative Christians give more money to the poor than their counterparts and that if everyone in the US gave as much blood as these people they’d be turning people away. Sure when it becomes an ideology in the hands of divisive or greedy people it gets distorted, but the same could be said of any ideology throughout history – whether political systems or football supporters, or whatever. All this proves is that we have evolved follow a pack mentality – Kuhn again!

Friend: I find it hilarious that evangelicals are now in bed with post-modernists. You are so far out on a subjectivist limb, that you can’t climb down. You know, it’s fine to admit that you can’t ARGUE about this stuff. You can just throw your hands up and say, “You just gotta believe me, because I just believe it, OK?” And I can say, “Huh?” As Dennett says, there are many reasons why people SAY they are christian.

Posted by Bruce Lowe

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]



3 responses

30 04 2009

In similar conversations I’ve often struggled trying to keep the other person on task. It looks like you have the same problem in this conversation.

You say: Do you believe in God?
He says: No…science says…extraordinary claims…
You say: Scientific Paradigms and Enlightenment Optimism
He says: I don’t believe in God or the tooth fairy
You say: I believe in leprechauns…now back on topic…optimism and paradigms
He says: “God of the gaps”
You say: Not at all…optimism and paradigms
He says: But what about ancient historiography?
You say: Ancient historiography supports my claim (and thus lets get back to Kuhn)
He says: You’re a post-modern subjectivist

I think this conversation (as well as many that I’ve had which followed similar patterns) are a good example of all of the baggage that our culture brings to the discussion (and discussions in general).

His argument is full of cliche and simplistic arguments, yet when those simplistic arguments are placed together they seem to present a coherent comprehensive argument to the person holding them. The problem is that when these arguments are pressed, they fall apart and the person holding them must jump to the next topic.

I only expect more and more of this as the internet makes our knowledge base wider and wider with less and less depth. We struggle concentrating and struggle reasoning through prolongued arguments on the whole. This

30 04 2009

By the way,
I’ve recently been reading Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven and Van Til and they would reframe a discussion in terms of axioms or presuppositions and press the foundation of those axioms with the atheist (or Catholic, Arminian, etc.). Since you teach at RTS, I’m sure you’re familiar in this type of reasoning (and it’s kind of what you’re doing with Kuhn here), but what are your thoughts on Reformed arguments in general?

2 05 2009
Adam Fites

What you need here is a good review of Sam Harris’s neurophilosphy work. What a postmodern subjectivist, that Harris guy!

Besides, it’s not like you’re skeptical of knowledge, you’re skeptical of his way of knowing. Unless you share the same epistemological framework, how does that make you a subjectivist?

Further, following Dennett, he has a problem with multiple/varied reasons for belief. Why? That’s not a problem in a Christian theory of knowledge, as we’re derrivative from God, subjected to Him, and He has a history of impacting individuals and nations in a variety of ways. In this discussion, it’s only a problem for the student of Popper who has to deal with Kuhn.

I sent you an email about Popper and Kuhn. I think revisiting the problem of induction (a la Van Til) is helpful, as Popper set out to solve it and ended up recasting the question to make it work.

%d bloggers like this: