I have occasionally had to defend Christians and religion in general from a sometimes overzealous attack by some atheists. Just as with any belief system there are varieties of atheists. Some are strongly anti-religion and believe religion and Christianity to be evil and doing nothing but harm in the world and its adherents being ignorant and lying fools.
These atheists delight in portraying Christians as illogical, irrational, and often as liars. I have usually tried to refute those portrayals, with limited success. This is another attempt by me to show that there are Christians, even among the religious right, who do value honesty and rationality; at least on some issues.
This is from a review of a book that I plan to read very, very soon – “Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History Vol. 1. This is from a review of that book on Amazon.com.
This review is from: Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History Vol. 1 (Paperback)
“First, let me say that we in the Religious Right are far less powerful than some believe. Yes we’re strong, and of course we have influence over the laws of the land, just like everyone else. But relax. We cannot re-establish a theocracy, and we do not control any branch of government.
Rodda’s volume, as well as her anti-Barton writings and media, are a necessary resource for anyone interested in the question of how much of the U.S. heritage, Constitution, and governmental system are Christian, and how these issues pertain to the relation between Church and State.
A sad reality is that most of us in the Christian Right believe anything conservative Christians tell us. I am of a small minority in this community, in that I try to verify whether what I’m told is true. Good grief, the Church is “the pillar and ground of truth,” and yet we don’t put forth the slightest effort to verify the truth of what we say! Maybe half or so of our political spokepeople’s assertions pass the tests of scrutiny, and the rest are false. This is a shame, because the portion that is true is compelling enough to impact our society, but because the truth is mixed with so much idiocy, the impact of the Christian Right is muted.
If I may pretend to read people’s minds, most of these right-wing leaders do not mean to lie. They’re either lazy with the truth, or in cases such as David Barton, more biased than Ms. Rodda may think possible. I have seen how people–not Christians or conservatives only–often choose to believe what suits their taste, without investigating the veracity of their beliefs. This disease is by no means exclusive to the Religious Right, but it is more manifest in that community, because we’re vocal, and because both Protestant Christianity and far-right conservatism intrinsically are non-conformist and deviate from much of mainstream thought. So our biased modes of thinking of course are more conspicuous.
I have only read portions of Rodda’s volume. The work is detailed and arduous enough to discourage one from reading more than is necessary for the issue at hand. But Rodda’s extensive level of detail is critically necessary, and I wish Rodda would include even more detail than she does. Rodda does what Religious Right political spokespeople never do: provides a comprehensive, detailed context of both history and the original documents, so as to rigorously show what really happened. Most of the Religious Right cite no documents at all, except maybe the Constitution. Sometimes they cite other Religious Right material, vaguely referenced sources, or bad secondary sources. David Barton cites original documents, but when he does, he quotes them out of context so as to distort their meaning. Rodda shines in that regard, showing the greater context of the quotes Barton takes out of context.
Most conservative Christians won’t read Rodda’s book, because it comes across as anti-Christian. That’s a shame.
Thank you, Ms. Rodda, for defending the truth.
Now while I undoubtedly disagree with Ms. Curtains on many issues – such as the existence of God and divinity of Jesus, probably evolution, and probably on abortion and other social issues – on this issue we both agree. I especially like how Ms. Curtains states that she “try to verify whether what I am told it true.” Isn’t that what skepticism is all about?
What this brings home to me is that people are not irrational in all their beliefs. Nor is everyone rational in all their beliefs. I am not, Ms. Curtains is not. No one. We always have some biases, prejudices, and assumptions that create blind spots for us when examining the issues and questions of our time. Even atheists.
Even when there is not blind spot, people can be rational and try to deal with the evidence in a reasonable way and still come to different conclusions on some important questions. The existence of God is one of these.
Yes, there are many bad reasons for believing in God, many illogical and unreasoning ones (the same is true for atheism). There are some concepts of how God works in the world that are flat out wrong (creationism). However there are some concepts of God that can be rationally defended, even if I disagree with those who do so.
I don’t know if everyone has noticed it or not, but the world is rarely black and white. It does not always lend itself to clear and simple answers. We live in an analogue world and not a digital one.
Let us take a look at an example that is not so murky – creationism and science.
I would imagine that Ms. Curtains is a creationist given what she has said about herself, although it is possible that she is not. I do know that there are conservative Christians who do acknowledge that evolution is true. In which case she is still goal of verifying what she has been true and looking at the evidence honestly.
However, say she is a creationist. Does this mean that she is unintelligent? No. She has proven her intelligence and ability to be skeptical in the book review quoted above. In regards to the history of our country she has done very well.
Does this mean that she is a liar? No. I see no reason to conclude that.
It does though mean one of three things.
1) She is listening to those very few scientists who creationists (I include Intelligent Design in this) and how they respond to criticism. Without a background in science it can sound very convincing. So if she does not have a strong science background, listens to what some scientists are saying that fits in with her own literalist (my assumption here) beliefs and sticking with them.
2) She is so wedded to her belief in a literal Genesis (again my assumption) that she literally cannot see the evidence. We all have a tendency to ignore evidence that contradicts what we believe, and that includes atheists.
3) She acknowledges that evolution has the evidence to support it today and is truly science, but has faith that science will discover something in the future – some new evidence or physical process or law, or come up with a new way of putting together the evidence we have now to come to a different conclusion.
I have known of some creationists like that. In fact, one was a scientist who has been looking for just such a scientific breakthrough. He acknowledges that he has not found it yet, but has faith that it is there. By the way, all of the creationists of this type that I know of have no problem with teaching evolution in the schools – after all it is the best science we have – for now.
I bring this up to show that we all need to be careful in the assumptions we make about those we disagree with. Just because we think them wrong on this issue does not mean that they are illogical, unreasoning liars. We also need to realize that sometime reason and evidence does not point clearly and unequivocally in one direction.
Having been so often on the receiving end of it, we, as atheists, should be careful in how we portray those we disagree with and take care to make sure that we are disagreeing only with a particular belief and then why. Yes, there are time when people are being idiots and liars. Nor do I have a problem with calling them on it (It is one reason I am looking forwards to reading “Liars for Jesus as I think it is going to be just such a calling to account for Barton and his ilk). However those times are not as common as many like to think. In other words we need to practice a bit of humility at times.