Friday, September 14, 2007

What's In A Name?

Christians hate leprechauns! Did that get your attention? Most likely it did. While most would not find this to be an offensive claim against the fervently pious, how is the claim that atheists hate God, Jesus, Christians and the bible any different? The common Christian reply would be, "Well, leprechauns are fictional characters and God is real!" to which I could easily reply with, "Just like unicorns, satyrs, behemoths, talking serpents, burning bushes and immaculate conceptions are real?"; but we won't go down that path.

Instead, I'd like to focus on defining a few key terms, explaining how adding value judgments and connotations to a simple word can make it much more divisive than if used by its denotation. To do this, I will draw from Todd Friel as an example.

Todd loves nothing more than... God. Second to his love of God is his love of deceit. He habitually deceives his listeners into believing that atheists abhor God, that we absolutely cannot stomach the thought of God because if we were to do anything but hate him, the light of His truth would shine down on our iniquities. Can you tell I used to be a fervent believer? I'm going to show you how it is impossible for atheists to hate God.

Referring back to my leprechaun illustration, it is easy to see that Christians don't truly hate leprechauns. They don't hate them because they don't believe in them or, to put it into the form of a positive statement, they believe them to be non-existent. Here comes a blustering Christian, "I know leprechauns don't exist!". Do you really? Todd likes to probe atheists by questioning their stock of knowledge; do we know everything? No way! No one knows everything. Therefore, it is disingenuous of anyone to say that something absolutely, positively, unequivocally does not exist simply because they have not seen, experienced or interacted with it. For that reason, the vast majority of atheists (myself included) do not say there is no God like Todd would like people to believe. Atheists have a lack of belief in God... much in the same way our Christian in the example does not believe in leprechauns... or psychics, UFOs, holistic medicine, trepanation, etc.

Ask yourself this question: "What is theism?"

If you are being honest with yourself (why wouldn't you be?), you would say that theism is "the belief in god (being a higher power). What is a "theist"? A person who believes in a higher or divine being. What is an "atheist"? An individual who does not believe in a supreme being. Do you see the path of logic? The atheist simply does not believe.

Contrary to Todd's frequent and dishonest claim that atheists "shake their puny little fists at God in rebellion and hatred", we simply don't believe there is a god to shake our fist at. Would you, Mr. or Mrs. Christian, curse a centaur? No.

One major difference that may be the root of the atheist's perceived anger must be addressed: all of the fictional characters I have mentioned in this entry don't have throngs of people devoted to converting the world so they can escape the torture of eternal damnation. God does.


BoxerShorts said...

It all comes down to frame of reference, really. We all have one, and no two are alike. The composite total of our knowledge, memories, and experiences leads us to make conclusions about the world. These conclusions can and inevitably do differ greatly.

The incorrect belief that atheists really do believe in God somewhere deep down inside is annoyingly common among evangelicals, and I understand where it comes from. It is very difficult to grasp someone else's frame of reference. My own experiences and knowledge have led to my quite naturally concluding that there is no such thing as "God," and I quite honestly have trouble understanding how anyone could possibly believe something I find so absurd.

So the phenomenon works both ways. The difference is that I extend theists the courtesy of believing that they really do believe what they say they believe, even while I have difficulty understanding why they believe it.

henwli said...

Actually, given that Friel is talking to the right person, he just might be convinced of any of the creatures Follier mentioned.

It's utterly disheartening to listen to a person with such a lack of critical faculties. September 12th he talked about out-of-body experiences with a guest, and lapped up every word, including things like "demons who know the dead taking over people's vocal chords in seances".

I'm pretty sure if Ken Ham got on the show and somehow through some interpretation of scripture "proved" these creatures existed, Friel would gladly accept them as fact.

I'm worried about his listeners, and saddened that probably a large part of them see Friel as an authority figure of some stature and follow right up into the land of nonsense. The happiest moments with my iPod are those when I hear a devout WotM listener call in and actually hear them "see" that most of what Todd says, makes no sense.

I'm ranting again... I've listened to the show for about a year now, 2 hours every working day, it's starting to take its toll.

Hats up to Follier again.