Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scattered Ramblings on an Atheist Podcast and Believing in God

I was listening to an atheist podcast yesterday.  I was initially hesitant to do so.  Why?  Was it fear that they might persuade me to abandon my belief in God?  It’s not as if I hadn’t heard their sorts of arguments before, in some way, shape, or form.  Was it because I did not want to be nagged with spiritual doubt?  Maybe I feel that I have enough on my plate, so why be nagged with spiritual doubt?  Did I simply not want to feed my mind with that sort of stuff?  Could be.

Anyway, I listened to it.  I got a chuckle out of something one of the counter-apologists said.  She said that she talks to Christians and they tell her that the universe is so fine-tuned for life, and so there must be a God.  She responds that actually there is not that much life in the universe.  Christians then say that it is such a miracle that there is life on earth, amidst a largely hostile, lifeless universe, and so that shows there is a God!  My hunch is that there is something wrong with how she was laying out the Christian arguments, but I cannot really point out what.  The fine-tuning argument, as I understand it, says that the universe is finely-tuned for life on earth.  The question would then be why God would create life on only one planet, amidst a vast, apparently lifeless universe of other planets, stars, black holes, etc.  (“Apparently” may be too strong a word here, for perhaps there is life on other planets.)  That Matt Papa book that I recently read, Look and Live, said that God did so to teach us about his own vastness.  Could be.  The church tradition in which I grew up said that Christians as spirit beings would create life on those planets and rule them after Christ’s second coming!

I got a laugh out of what the counter-apologist said on the atheist podcast because, at first, she sounded spot on!  She actually was spot on when she made a similar point in discussing how Christians point to the good things in the universe and say that demonstrates there is a God, but, when someone points out to them the bad things in the universe, they blame that on the Fall.

Of course, we cannot stereotype what Christians say.  The people on the show were speaking about their own interactions with Christians and Christian apologists, and there are many Christians who believe as they say.  But I was listening to the radio program, Unbelievable, recently (for the first time in a long time), and it had a debate on animal suffering.  Is God’s existence and benevolence incompatible with animal suffering?  Why would God allow animals to suffer?  I got mad when I heard a clip of Christian apologist William Lane Craig saying (as I understood him) that animals technically do not feel pain.  But the guest on the show who was speaking from a Christian perspective said that animal suffering was part of the order of nature.  He also seemed to dismiss that it was the result of the Fall.

But back to the atheist podcast!  The counter-apologist made another point: that answered prayer is totally subjective.  There is no objective way to say that God answers our prayers.  It’s all based on how we interpret what happens.  We are the ones deciding if what happened counts as God’s answer to our prayer.  For some reason, I actually like that point.  She, of course, was making it to dismiss religion, and that soured the point a bit for me.  But I still liked the point, for some reason.  Maybe it has to do with liking the concept of interpreting circumstances positively.

The atheist podcast also made me think about reasons that I believe.  A lot of it has to do with fear: I am afraid of life.  The counter-apologist was saying that religions prey on that.  Not long ago, I was browsing through the library, and I saw a book by Hans Kung on the existence of God.  He interacts with Freud, Nietzsche—-you know, critics of Christianity who saw it as immature and as relying on a crutch—-and I did not want to read that book.  I just figured that I already knew, at a basic level, what Freud and Nietzsche said, that I did not feel a need to justify my faith to others, and that, therefore, I was not interested in rehashing those debates.  But the podcast yesterday helped me realize that maybe those debates are more important to me than I think.  When does believing in God discourage me from taking action myself?  Yet, I can’t do everything, and there are things outside of my control, so when should I trust in God?  And is it wrong to rely on something?  I wouldn’t be surprised if even atheists rely on something or someone—-family, a social network, maybe some take medication.

Of course, my usual response to those who say that Christianity is a crutch for the weak is for me to acknowledge that, yes, I am weak.  But I think that faith should be about more than looking for a security blanket.

Anyway, those are some scattered ramblings.


  1. see web site of steven dutch who deals with these issues in this essay and in the related essays on his web site

  2. Oh, I'm sure there is a host of things to read about this topic. There usually is about most topics! I'll check out his web site.

  3. Hi James,

    I appreciate your vulnerability in this post. I could relate to your hesitation to entertain atheistic ideas for the same reasons. A few years ago I fearfully went to hear Richard Dawkins speak, thinking he was going to pull the carpet out from under me. Mostly he just ridiculed people of faith, but said nothing persuasive or of any substance, so I left there encouraged. But I still feel inadequate to fully engage someone in debate, or even deep conversation.

    You may be familiar with it; your concluding paragraph reminds me of Matt Chandler's handling of Christianity as a crutch (which I think is awesome):

    "... when I hear someone say that Christianity is a crutch, I agree. I’m a guy whose legs are broken. I need that crutch. When I hear someone say Christianity is for the feeble-minded, I agree. I have a feeble mind. I need the gospel to give me a right mind. When I hear someone say Christianity is something that weak people need, I agree. Weak people need it. I’m weak, and so are you. You just don't know you're weak.

    This is the message of Romans 5:6: "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly."

  4. That is a good quote.

    So are you a Messianic Jew? My impression, from reading your blog, was that you were a traditional Jew, or orthodox, since you discussed in depth a lot of traditional sources.

    I've thought of times of blogging through the Mishnah, myself. Not sure if that will ever happen, though!


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