14 October, 2007

Taking the Bait

Some time ago, Tom Goodfellow baited me with a post on what you could call the antitheist movement. How do I know he was baiting me? Well the post was entitled “ADHD comment bait”. This was his position:

I've been loving the atheist/anti-religion movement stuff thats been going on recently. My hero in the, ahem, crusade, is the splendidly cantankerous Christopher Hitchens. Indeed he has converted me from being an atheist into being an antitheist.
In essence, this means that not only does God not exist but I am glad he doesn't. God is a tyrannical figure who knows not only my action but my every thought, who judges me on those actions and thoughts, and who condemns me to an eternity of unimaginable torture and misery if those actions and thoughts do not accord with his arbitrary wishes...but he loves me. Hmm.
By contrast, the wonderful Richard Dawkins is something of a Professor Yaffle figure (to use Charlie Brooker's hilarious comparison) but I love this uncharacteristically startling moment from the interesting Beyond Belief symposium:

Well, let me start by saying that I like what he has to say. Despite being a theist myself I am always questioning they whys and the whatthehells, so the fact that others ask questions is to me a good thing. In fact I find I have more in common with an antitheist who has arrived at their conclusion with thought and consideration (or perhaps even fear and trembling) than with someone who sticks a fish sticker on their bumper bar but has in fact invested minimal time and/or effort into actually thinking about why they call themselves Christian and what they actually believe about God(s).
I can understand something more of the antitheist position, the hatred of God (if he exists) because there is an awful lot in this world to be unhappy with and there is an awful lot in the Bible which seems to be completely and utterly at odds with logical, companionate or even rational thinking.
Let me therefore say that I am not (nor ever have been) a traditional, fundamental, unquestioning or otherwise stiff necked Christian.
I don’t like Paul and I don’t like his writing (although sometimes I think what I don't like is what people have done with his writings).
I am not sure that the current cannon of scripture is infallible or even complete.
I don’t believe that the Bible is literal. (well not all of it)
I don’t accept that the gospels are necessarily (100% accurate/complete) eyewitness accounts.
I don’t believe in an interventionist God.
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Whoops, I lost my train of thought there for a minute.

What I think though is that there is enough in there to make me convinced that I shouldn’t dismiss the idea of a deity. Plus as an added bonus, I like that Jesus guy and what he had to say (or at least as much of what he had to say as filtered down through history by a lot of old men with a particular agenda they wanted to push).

I don’t accept a literal seven day creation (although I don’t care enough to argue about it anymore). I’m happy to accept scientific rationalism in relation to the size of the universe, the evolution of life, the psychology of the human mind…
But that still doesn’t convince me that we can ever understand everything or quantify everything. Mayhap it is fuzzy thinking, but there are more things on heaven and earth Tom than are dreamt of in your philosophy. There is enough in the writings of Paul Tillich and Soren Kierkegaard (and their contemporary counterparts) to keep me tied to my theistic ways and to make me see hope for the future of critical Christian thinking outside the pull of the ridiculous American Christian Right and their political agendas masquerading as Christianity.

Well, I'm loosing my train of thought at the moment,
so I will end this rambling post in pre-conclusion mode and see about amending it later.

1 comment:

Tom Goodfellow said...

Any post that references both Hamlet and Nick Cave is alright with me. "Into My Arms" was M&I's first dance at our wedding. Sigh.

In fact, I agree with virtually all of what you've written here. This is largely because you spend most of it listing what you don't believe in, all of which I don't believe in either.

I also concur that in many ways it is the process of thinking is more important than the conclusions reached. "It's not what you think, it's how you think" to quote...Christopher Hitchens.

You say “But that still doesn’t convince me that we can ever understand everything or quantify everything”. Probably true, but I think it is a noble thing to try and that is where humanity really fulfils itself. I find it wondrous that we have discovered some of the truth about evolution, cosmology, music etc. Surely it is more awe-inspiring to understand something of the processes that bring these phenomena about and try to discover more than to simply shrug and say “God did it”.

Ultimately this always comes down to a simple First Cause argument – if God created everything, what created God? You may be able to take his existence on faith, whereas I accept nothing on faith. I demand empirical evidence, as I do for any other assertion of fact.

Kisses x