The Question: Can you agree with Christians that questions about God are of the upmost importance?
Once again, this may be a bit wordy. I may consider cutting these down, or perhaps splitting them into two parts per question, if they continue to be of this length.
An obvious starting point, yes? How could one not believe that it is important to establish whether or not there is an all-knowing figure hidden in the clouds?
Such questions only carry any sense of importance as long as people still believe that there is some all-knowing figure squatting on a cloud. Yes, I am very aware that such an image is a massive simplification of the beliefs of Christians, and one I may not necessarily like to make, but the fact remains that, without people claiming that such a creature as Jehovah exists, there would be no questions to consider important or unimportant.
Note, if you will, the format of the question does not ask about the importance of God’s existence, in the writer’s mind, this is a fact and is not even up for debate. It seems that the question itself is designed to convince the reader that God exists, even whilst adopting a neutral tone. An innocent question, of course, but by answering ‘yes’, the reader automatically admits the existence of God. By answering ‘no’, one reveals oneself to be a fool, destined to be swayed by the simple arguments in the following answer.
The writer reveals himself in this early stage to be something of an idealist, when he states that ‘Without a Creator, it is impossible to have absolute standards of right and wrong’. Well, I agree with him there; the only disagreement I would have is that he seems to think that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. There is no good, there is no evil, as absolute concepts at any rate. In fact, if we were to say that there was actually a good and evil, then surely anyone with any understanding of logic must agree that it is relative?
What is good for me might be terrible for someone else; if I took someone’s job then that would good for me, however I would be evil to them, a foul creature designed to steal their livelihood and reduce them to the jobseeker’s line? And, yet, I do not think I am evil.
Anyway, the argument that the masses only disbelieve the ‘truth’ of Christ because the liberal atheist (and I imagine that word filled with quite an incredibly sense of spite, but that is just me) media has ‘brainwashed’ innocents against religion, and that this lack of knowledge about religion is accompanied by a deep antagonism actually has some merit.
I do not think anyone can argue the fact that, currently, the large proportion of the mainstream British media is liberal and atheist, perhaps with the exception of certain newspapers and, yes, I do think that very few people actually know that much about the bible. What surprises me, however, is that this entire book seems to bear the assumption that the ONLY reason that people do not believe in Christianity is because of a lack of religious education. Well, I know a fair bit about religion, I’d say; at least more than the general populace of this country.
I’ve read the bible, I’ve been in churches, I went to a protestant primary school and a catholic college; I’ve studied history and I have researched quite a lot about other religions, about the arguments for and against them, about the differences between religious beliefs and the horrible/wonderful things these beliefs have done for the progression of humanity into the species we are today (though I would hardly say that who we are today, as a species, is a particularly good thing).
The author lists several benefits of becoming Christian, claiming that it turns their lives around and encourages a more spiritual kind of life, so that they are able to enjoy eternal life et cetera. There are, of course, examples of people really starting to believe in God and their lives becoming better as a result. I have seen no evidence, however that it has anything to do with the existence of Jehovah. Instead, it is out of fear of eternal damnation, lust for the heavenly pleasures the religion promises (which seem horrible to me; I don’t really want to spend eternity with some of history’s vilest people, and the modern trend of paedophilia, but anyway) or the fact that Christianity hits people when they are at their lowest. It forgives them for their imagined sins, reminds them that it isn’t really their fault, that they can be washed clean in the forgiveness of the Lord et cetera.
It acts, essentially, as a crutch for the weak-minded, for people who are plagued by their own consciences or by their society. Religion has been discussed as the Opiate of the Masses (thank you Marx for that brilliant, if massively over-used quotation) and there is certainly a great deal of merit to that idea.
The writer quotes Verna Wright, a medical professor at the University of Leeds, whose first response to the benefits of belief were that it ‘Gives comfort to a dying man’. That is not a good reason. It is incredibly patronising to make something up just so somebody isn’t afraid of dying. People, to a degree, should be afraid of dying! It is what has driven humanity for hundreds of years. Of course, the fact that death is an inevitability should remove the fear, but it doesn’t really. Everybody thinks they’re immortal and if they believe that a white-bearded figure in the sky can lead them to that immortality, of which they have already convinced themselves, most would be a fool not to agree.
If that’s the truth, then I’m proud to be a fool.
The writer finishes chapter 1, the first question, with an overlong quote from a Daily Mail article (hmm, not off to a great start there with the backing information, really), which you can read here.
I began to write a rebuttal to this article as well, though there are several points within it that I just couldn’t argue without continuously repeating myself. There is a point around halfway through the article, where the ‘journalist’, A N Wilson, begins a long ramble about Easter, saying essentially that he doesn’t need proof or evidence, or even logic, because he has faith. He lists the people whom shared his belief, such as Dostoyevsky and T.S. Eliot, famous people with fantastic literary careers, the mention of whose very name should send ‘literary’ ‘atheistic’ ‘liberals’ like myself into a hushed kind of silence.
How could we, after all, hope to contend with such renowned names?
This is a part of religion I hate. The whole ‘These people believed what I do, so I must be right!’ shtick.
At no point should the fact that other people believe something affect your own beliefs. Thought is the single greatest thing that humanity has, not belief; whatever history would then have us ‘believe’.
Are questions about God of the upmost importance? No; because religious people have no answers, simply vague motions towards the sky and the history books and traditions which started as political messages or as ways of earning money for the select group of people at the top of the spiritual chain.
It fascinates me that irreligious people are the ones looking for answers, whilst religious people mutter the same obscene prayers to the great silence and mutter about tradition and their morality.