Philosophy with Attitude

From [email protected]
Sat Jul 5 16:22:23 1997
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 1996 12:21:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: Jan A Nielsen < [email protected]>
To: [email protected]
Subject: Forum piece for Friday in response to Dunhom's piece

Stephen Dunhom says that he likes facts. And yes, there were some facts in his Forum piece, some of which were even substantiated. But there is one "fact" that, although accepted by approximately one-third to one-fourth of the world's population*, has only one source, and a dubious one at that. I'll address that in a moment; first, a little background.

My name is Jan Andrea (though some may remember me as Jan Nielsen, before I was married). I am 22 years old, a graduate student in secondary science education, a violinist, and I, too, enjoy facts. The facts that I like the most, however, are the ones that are testable, substanciable, reliable, and rational. That is one of the reasons that I am an atheist, and why I must take exception to Mr. Dunhom's claim to "proof" of his statement that "Jesus loves you."

Mr. Dunhom (and others who make this claim) cites the Christian bible as his source, to which, of course, he has every right. What is not logically correct, however, is to assume that since a statement is printed -- even in the most revered of texts -- that it must be true. I spent a year as a Christian, back when the Campus Crusade for Christ was still around, so I've heard all the supposed arguments as to why the Christian bible must be correct. Unfortunately, the fact is that these "arguments" -- particularly those by popular apologist Josh MacDowell -- break down very quickly when exposed to even moderate scrutiny.

The frequent claim that the Christian bible must be true because its God says that it is true, and also says that He never lies, is clearly a circular argument. If I were to claim that the Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) really exists and that she is pink, merely because it was written that she exists and she wouldn't lie about being pink, I would be laughed out of Beginning Logic, let alone the world of rational discourse. This "argument" about the Christian bible is accepted because of its stature in Western society; the same courtesy is, of course, not generally applied to other holy books -- naturally, their writers were lying about their gods! Without this "fact" about the Christian bible, however, many (if not all) of its claims about the Christian god fall into question.

I am not writing this piece with the intent of weakening or destroying the sincere beliefs of my cohorts, nor of pulling the moral carpet from beneath them. What I would like to make clear, however, is that Stephen Dunhom's "fact" rests entirely on faith -- that is, the faith that the printed words of the Christian bible can be taken as truth -- and is not, as such, really a fact at all. It is a conclusion based upon an assumption, which does not fact make. You are free to believe it if you so choose, but for the sake of internal logical consistency, don't delude yourself into thinking of it as a fact.

For those who wish to point out any potential errors in this piece, or for that matter, in my choice of belief systems, please understand first that I have, in fact, read the Christian bible and understood its principles and implications; I have spent countless hours researching its claims and the claims made of it; and having studied it both from the perspective of a Fundamentalist Christian and an atheist, I have concluded for myself that the assumption above cannot be made.

If you wish substantiation on any of these points, please feel free to email me at [email protected] I would appreciate it if ad hominem attacks, prostyletization [sp?], or threats of hellfire and damnation not be sent; if you truly believe the writings of the Christian bible, you will recall that Jesus is credited with saying that you should turn the other cheek. (And the point of the Forum in TNH is, I believe, rational discourse, not flame attacks.) I will be happy to send the appropriate literature on each point, or, if you have Web access, the address of many topical sites. Again, please understand that I realize that lack of religion is not for everyone; I am not suggesting to anyone that they give up their beliefs, merely that they examine them critically, instead of blindly accepting that what they are told is the truth. Peace to you all, and happy thinking!

 

* On 23 August, 2001, I received a rebuttal to this statement from J.M. Verville. In the interest of free time and fair play, here is his message:

You made an erroneous statement concerning the acceptance of a certain truth by 'one third or one fourth' of the world. This is incorrect being that Islam also accepts the truth that Jesus Christ's prophecy and divinity; in chapter two, verse sixty-two of the Qu'ran it is stated that all followers of Christ, Judaism, and Sabianism would be saved.

It would be more appropriate for you to up it to about one-half of the world believes in the divinity of Christ (although most Islamic people found this and attempted to say that it is only temporary that Christ is a pathway to the Kingdom of Heaven and that Islam has usurped that gateway; more accurately you could state that about half of the world believes that belief in Christ is legitimate).

My thanks to J.M. for pointing this out.

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