Reason this

by Robert

My excitement over next week’s Reason Rally continues to grow, particularly over the recent news that members of the Westboro Baptist Church will be attending.  As you may not be aware, this is the Christian group famous for picketing the funerals of dearly departed kittens and puppies, usefully informing the world at such events that God hates America, fags, and polyester.

So why am I in such a tizzy? Because other Christian groups besides Westboro plan to attend the rally too.

Curiously, all these Christian visitors have upset some within the atheist/skeptical community.  But where they see only downsides, I see golden opportunity!

You see, Christians disagree with the declaration that atheism is reasonable, and they’re coming to argue it is Christianity that’s reasonable.  I’ve noted before that such a position contradicts their own scriptures, not to mention the teachings of their major theologians.  Nevertheless, I propose we take them at their word and provide them the chance to demonstrate the rationality of their beliefs – demonstrate, that is, to their fellow Christians!

The elephant in the Christian church is its thousands of sects, many of whom hold long-standing, diametrically opposed beliefs which all cannot be true.  Such a situation seems inexplicable for an allegedly reasonable religion like Christianity.  After all, other, far younger enterprises that are based on reason and evidence – science is a good example – for the most part lack this splintering.  So, the Reason Rally is in reality a fantastic opportunity for these Christians to resolve their differences in polite, meaningful, and reasonable exchange.    Does God really hate gays?  Is America irrevocably doomed to damnation?  Will my wearing a cotton shirt, wool shorts, and a silk tie offend the Almighty? I’m sure such contentions questions will be reasonably settled by reasonable Christians who, after all, worship the God of Reason.

The stakes are high.  Christians certainly don’t want to ward off potential converts with contradictory messages.  Besides, does not the Bible warn of other gospels that put us under God’s curse if we were to be misled by them? Dispelling false Christian doctrine once and for all would pay huge dividends in souls saved.  Finally, billions speaking in a unified voice would set Christianity apart from its squabbling cousins and provide powerful evidence of its veracity.

Let the first test of Christianity’s reasonableness be whether it can convince its own adherents to shed incorrect gospels and unite behind a single doctrine.  This achievement seems trivial for a religion that’s truly reasonable, one headed by a deity who is supposedly no author of confusion.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nate March 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Oh, how I wish I could go to the rally! I hope you have an opportunity to engage with some of these Christians. Who knows, there might even be one or two there who do honestly revere reason. I did, when I was a Christian. And it’s why I’m an atheist now. :)

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Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts May 2, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Hi Robert, Thank you for commenting on my blog. I wanted to let you know that I replied in detail to your comments. Please stop back by my blog for the reply.

I wish I had time to reply in full to your own post here, but suffice it to say that you shouldn’t determine the truthfulness of a belief system (like Christianity) by the actions of particular adherents. Any Christian who calls someone a “fag” is not living according to their own supposed beliefs. I don’t judge the reasonableness of atheism by the lives of atheists. I judge it by the belief itself. Jesus would not have called someone a fag. Whether or not homosexuality is a sin is another topic completely. Fag is a derogatory term that would never have been accepted by Jesus. There are Christians who make me ashamed to be a Christian by misrepresenting the beliefs. That doesn’t mean that Christianity is any less true or reasonable.

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Robert May 3, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Hi Natasha, good to hear from you. I don’t think anyone can rightly determine the truthfulness of a theology by the actions of its adherents, but when those adherents are doing harmful things “in the name of” their theology, then I think the rationality of those beliefs can be questioned. And I’m sorry to say, Christians have a very poor track record in this regard. To take just one example, Christians practiced slavery for nearly two millennia – and it wasn’t for wont of biblical justification that they did.

I agree with you that Jesus probably wouldn’t have called homosexuals derogatory names; he would just have sentenced them to death. Recall what Jesus commanded in Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

I sincerely doubt you would ever agree with Jesus that homosexuals should ever be put to death.

Nevertheless, the problem of Christian disagreement is really problematic. More troubling, it’s the cause of so much unnecessary pain and suffering. Yet I’ve never heard a very good explanation from Christians why they have exhibited such profound division over their history. Such division is what you’d expect from a man-made religion, but not one born from an all-powerful, all-loving creator.

I’ll get back to your reply on your blog soon enough :)

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Eric September 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm

No, Jesus wouldn’t have called anyone a Fag, but he wouldn’t have had them killed, either; he would (probably) say something about “he who is without sin cast the first stone”. After that, though, there is the whole “these shall not inherit the Kingdom”, and it lists “abusers of themselves with mankind” and “effeminate”. So, no death right now, but certainly condemnation to hell…but with a smile! :-)

No, a belief system’s adherents can’t be the gauge by which we determine its truthfulness; however, as you say, the fractious nature of it certainly leaves one wondering–they can’t all be right. Which is it–Works or Grace? Protestantism or Catholicism? Baptist or Lutheran? Fundamentalist or Mainstream (read Conservative or Liberal)?

The confusion is understandable, though. I mean, the books of the bible were written over a course of 3000yrs or so, in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, lost, found, sorted (by the early Catholic Church who decided in committee which books to include…so bye-bye Apocrypha and Septuagint), translated into Latin, translated into the Local Language (English, Dutch, Spanish, etc)…and the Strong’s Concordance doesn’t seem to help, either, because is it “the earth WAS without form and void” or “the earth BECAME without form and void”? One word (and acceptance, or not, of the findings of geology and paleontology) is all the difference between Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists.

Yes, it seems reasonable to assume that a God who is “not the author of confusion” is clearly not the author of the book we know of as the Bible.

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