Monday, April 1, 2013

Responding to Jeff Paschal

In today's News-Record, Jeff Paschal took on "new atheism" and is so often the case, offered no support the claims he makes in defense of religion.

Here are a few of his points:

"Talk-show host Bill Maher produced an entire movie, “Religulous,” devoted to deriding religious faith of any kind. During a “Tonight Show” appearance with Jay Leno, Maher proclaimed, “Faith is the lack of critical thinking.” This haughty assertion was not challenged by Leno or the studio audience, and television viewers were simply left with Maher’s final words."
So challenge it.  How does believing something without evidence constitute critical thinking?  We don't know, because Paschal, given an opportunity to defend that idea, chooses not to.

"While decrying the dogma of religions, these new atheists themselves demand rigid adherence to their own dogma that, as Haught summarizes, “there is no God, no soul, and no life beyond death, ... nature is self-originating, ... the universe has no overall point ... and all causes are purely natural and can be understood only by science. ... Faith is the cause of innumerable evils and should be rejected on moral grounds. ... Morality does not require belief in God, and people behave better without faith than with it.”"
These are, of course, not atheist dogmas.  While individual atheists may or may not believe any point mentioned, there is nothing in the definition of atheism that requires such.

"The new atheists reduce and define faith as mere credulity, rather than a direction of the heart, the commitment of one’s being to the Holy. They seem to be ignorant of any scholarly criteria for the interpretation of the Bible or other holy texts."
Great, so what are they?  Again, Paschal fails to tell us.  He criticizes atheists for missing things but then can't articulate what those things are.

"But they establish their own criteria for how something must be judged to be truthful or not, namely it must be something provable by science."
Not really.  We'd just to see evidence that any gods exist.

"But can you scientifically prove such things as love, beauty, wisdom and eternity?"
There's evidence that those things exist.  Except maybe eternity; Paschal fails to explain what he means by that one.

"And while ostensibly discarding God, the new atheists unwittingly retrieve God as they lift up their own “absolutes” and notions of what is “right” and “wrong.”"
Support for this idea?  None given.

"But if we are going to judge all religion by its misuse by some, then we should also judge all atheism by its abuses as well, e.g., Communist Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Stalin in the Soviet Union, etc."
I don't judge religion by its misuse.  But if Paschal wants to count bodies, I'm game; I don't think he'll like the results.

"The answer to faith practiced oppressively is faith practiced with its true intent: love of God, people and God’s world."
Ah, so those people are not TRUE Christians.  This is the definition of the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy.

"Many Christians, for example, believe that in Jesus, God experiences suffering, evil and death, and ultimately overcomes them all to redeem the universe. The resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday is evidence of that."
No it isn't, since there's no evidence that the resurrection happened.

"Nobody can prove the existence of God, and nobody can disprove the existence of God, either."
Right, which is why we reject the idea until evidence supporting it can be provided.  The default position is skepticism.  I can't prove Odin exists.  You can't prove that he doesn't.  So we reject the idea, pending evidence.

"But atheism has other questions to answer. A core one is: Why is there something rather than nothing?"
Atheism makes no claim about something and nothing.  But invoking God to answer that question doesn't answer anything; it merely changes the question:  Where did God come from?

"“Just as believers in a beneficent deity should be haunted by the problem of natural evil, so agnostics, atheists, pessimists and nihilists should be haunted by the problem of friendship, love, beauty, truth, humor, compassion, fun. Never forget the problem of fun.”"
Why are those things problems?  Atheism doesn't postulate a god who hates fun, and it isn't accurate to lump them in with pessimists and nihilists.  Also, he quote arrogantly assumes that Christians have cornered the market on these things (just like they did back in the Middle Ages, huh? Wooooooooo!)

"Atheism must also be puzzled by people such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose commitment to justice flowed from his knowledge of Jesus and the prophets of the Bible."
King was also heavily influenced by Ghandi.  Are you suggesting the Hindu gods exist as well?

"Faith has an answer: God."
It just offers no reason for that answer.  If it did, it wouldn't require faith.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice, hopefully some kind of rational dialogue will be forthcoming from Jeff Paschal on these issues.

    I'll get the popcorn ready.