November 30, 2007

Eight Examples of The Christian Mind

What does the public think about atheists and what we believe? Negative attitudes toward atheists have been well-documented, but if they are to change, we must reveal the ignorance beneath them. Case in point is this article (update: link no longer active) by Rev. Steve Cornell in The Morning Call. In his attempt to provide 8 reasons he is not an atheist, he instead serves up priceless examples of the Christian mind you are sure to enjoy.

Let's go through these one-by-one.
1. An atheist assigns himself to life without ultimate purpose.
While Cornell acknowledges that we "enjoy smaller meanings of life," he insists that we "cannot allow for ultimate meaning." Evidently, he would dismiss a desire to leave the world a better place than one found it as "ultimate" enough. But he also thinks atheists have a void where "ultimate meaning" should be. "If the atheist is honest, he will admit to feeling that there is something more to existence, something bigger." Really? And how exactly does he know this? I'm not sure I've ever met an atheist who felt any sort of void in regards to meaning. Many of us recognize ultimate meaning as a trap without real value. We perceive reality for what it is and not through the lens of wish fulfillment. Talk about ultimate meaning!
2. The atheist must suppress the demands of logic.
Yeah, I figured you'd like that one - the person who believes all sorts of things on faith alone criticizing us as insufficiently logical! What Cornell is actually saying here is even funnier - he's claiming that we are illogical in our rejection of intelligent design. Apparently he thinks that basing one's beliefs on reason and the best available evidence requires a suppression of logic. According to Cornell, our "bias against God" does not allow us to accept the "truth" of intelligent design. I guess we are supposed to ignore the evidence for evolution and the lack of evidence for creationism.
3. The atheist has to believe in miracles without believing in God.
Cornell refers to a "law that nature seems to obey" as being that "whatever begins to exist is caused to exist." This is simply the tired old first cause argument. He doesn't seem to understand that this only produces endless question-begging, for what caused his god? More entertaining, he claims that "the atheist knows that the universe began to exist..." Actually, several atheists believe that the universe may have always existed.
4. An atheist must suppress all notions of morality.
You knew this one was coming, as it is a Christian favorite. Atheists cannot be moral because god is required for morality. This claim has been so thoroughly debunked that it needs no further discussion except to note that Cornell goes far beyond what even most Christian extremists would claim. He denies atheists any moral sense whatsoever, saying that we are "not able to declare any quality to be morally superior to another." Does he not realize that the Golden Rule predates his bible or the alleged existence of his Jesus by a considerable margin? He should read this carefully before writing any more on this subject.
5. The atheist must conclude that evil is an illusion.
This is simply a variant of #4. Since Cornell has apparently never heard of secular humanism, he clings to the erroneous notion that we have no standard of right and wrong. Again, this pervasive misconception has been so thoroughly destroyed that it is difficult to imagine any educated person continuing to spout such nonsense.
6. The atheist must also live with the arrogance of his position.
This is the common misconception that atheism requires absolute certainty that no god(s) exist. Because atheism is nothing more than the lack of acceptance of the theistic belief claim, this point is exposed as yet another misunderstanding. Once again, atheism does not mean the conviction that god(s) does not exist.
7. The atheist must also deny the validity of historical proof.
Believe it or not, Cornell actually wants to talk about "the standard rules for testing the truth claims." Of course, he wants to do so only on very limited terms. His claim that there is evidence of Jesus' resurrection shows just how far off base his understanding of logic and reason are, not to mention accepted methods of validating various forms of evidence. There is no reliable evidence for the resurrection of anyone, and there are compelling reasons to question whether Jesus ever lived in the first place.
8. Finally, the atheist must admit that human beings are not importantly different from other animals.
This one sticks in my craw for a couple reasons. First, humans are animals. Of course, we are different in many important ways, but we are fundamentally animals. Second, this is the section where Cornell makes the classic Christian mistake of completely misunderstanding evolution. He claims that we think "we are simply the result of blind chance operating on the primordial ooze," but this is not even close to what evolutionary theory asserts. Evidently Cornell needs to learn what evolution says before attacking it.

Cornell saves the best for last in that his conclusion contains one of the most glaring errors I think I have seen a Christian commit in a long time:
The atheist's problem with belief in God is not the absence of evidence but the suppression of it.
Actually, the problem with theism most atheists have is twofold: (1) it is irrational because it posits a logically incoherent entity and because there is no evidence whatsoever for its veracity, and (2) it is harmful to modern civilization. It isn't about suppressing anything; it is about recognizing that faith is not an acceptable way to verify truth claims or acquire knowledge.