Each morning I like to read blogs as I drink my first cup of coffee. This has been my habit for around six years. Feedly.com makes it super easy because they collect all the blogs for me and put them together like a newspaper. The number of blogs I read is always changing. Right now Feedly searches 153 different blogs for new content for me each morning. Some of the blogs are written by friends. Some are about leadership. Some are about writing. Some are about Baltimore. Some are church focused. And some are about atheism.
“Why,” you ask, “would a hard-core Jesus dude like yourself, Jeff, be reading atheism blogs?”
Good question. It’s not because I want to fight with them. Nor is it that I believe I will be able to change their minds over the interweb. I read them because I love to learn, and I believe that learning demands I grapple with perspectives different than my own. If I only read people who see the world as I do, my current understandings are simply entrenched, a fortress of agreement is built around my mind. If I want to stretch and grow, if I want to expand my mental territory, then I need to be constantly working through ideas and arguments different than my own. (Quick plug – my favorite atheism focused blog right now is The Friendly Atheist, because he really is. He is very friendly, with a side of snark, which I enjoy very much.)
Absorbing perspectives opposite from mine isn’t always easy. Often their commentary on Christians and the modern church is painfully true. The Church’s behavior routinely makes me sad. When they are at their best, questions or challenges atheist writers pose will send me internally spinning for days. In moments of empty time, I’ll find my mind processing through arguments they’ve posed. It hurts, but I press on. Like growing pains, these moments of struggle are necessary if I’m going to mature. I wrestle with opposing perspectives because I believe the occasional ankle sprain and mat burn is worth it. It is better than never stepping into the ring – as if that is even possible in our post-modern, post-Christendom world. We live in a polytheistic, multicultural, discussion-rich society. There is no use hiding from it. As I see it, we might as well put on our big boy pants and wade out into the rushing stream. I have faith that God will keep me tethered. He might let me drift down the river a bit, but he’ll reel me back in when I start drowning in water over my head.
OVERVIEW OF THE SERIES
In this series my plan is to share with you some of the tough questions/statements I’ve wrestled with. Here are the eight I plan to discuss:
1) The Bible is a relic of old world thinking. Humanity’s understanding of the universe has outgrown it. It should not be used to build a worldview upon.
2) There are contradictions in the Bible and historical inaccuracies, therefore it is not a reliable source of truth.
3) Christians only follow some of the Bible. They pick and choose what laws to follow and what laws to ignore according to their cultural preference. They make the Bible say whatever they want it to.
4) A loving god cannot be real because evil exists.
5) If God is a god of love, why does he order his followers to do so many horrific things (like genocide and killing babies) or why does he do so much horrific stuff himself.
6) The historic evils of the church mark it as a failed institution used by leaders to manipulate the masses.
7) There is no room for debate, discourse, or opposing view points in Christianity. There is only doctrine and uniformity.
8) Faith is an emotional choice, not one based on reason. Religion is a security blanket people cling to so they don’t have to grow up and live in reality.
Before I jump in allow me to set some expectations for the series.
1) I am not a scientist. I have a deep respect for science. I was pre-med in college, so I have taken some advanced science stuff like Human Anatomy Physiology and Organic Chemistry. I even interned in a Hopkins lab or two, but all of that was a long time ago. If you were hoping I would be bringing deep scientific discussion to the table, you will be highly disappointed. I will not be debating the merits of scientific theories in this series. Scientific theories will be taken and discussed at face value.
2) I am not an apologist. I do not speak for all of Christianity. I’m not a good debater because I find myself often saying, “Yeah, that’s a good point. Give me a week to process that.” It is not my goal with this series to defend Christianity against a hoard of angry atheists (if such a thing even exists – I hung out with two atheists this morning. They were both very pleasant). This series is not intended to fight against anything.
3) I know many of you (my readers) do not see the Bible as authoritative, therefore I will not use it as such. I will refer to when appropriate because my worldview is based on it, but I will not use it as proof of a idea or as a definitive point in an argument. No wielding Bible verses as swords, I promise.
4) I will do my best to keep my arguments based on logic. My goal is for this series to be an exercise in philosophical thinking. And yes, I do believe Jesus followers can respond to all of the challenges above with logical thought.
5) My thoughts will be raw. I’m a master of nothing. I am not coming to you as an expert. These are simply my persona reflections on difficult questions. I therefore maintain the right to change my mind and abandon an argument at any moment.
6) It is not my intention to change your mind. My assumption is that most of us also struggle with these questions and have not made up our minds on them. My hope is my processing will help you on your journey.
7) I am not well read. It is extremely possible an argument I share has been covered and dismounted by thinkers much smarter than myself in a book somewhere. I don’t read apologetics. If you are looking for me to site and work from the deep well of already existing thought on these subjects, you will again be disappointed. This series is simply one guy’s struggle with tough questions.
8) I expect to upset everyone. If you feel you are an average American Christian who holds mainline views (whatever those might be), my arguments are probably going to upset you. If you are a philosopher who has thought intensely over these topics and has devoted your life to the study of historic arguments, I’m going to make you angry with my ignorance. If you are a scientist who holds superior knowledge of scientific timey-whimy theories, I’m going to make you sad.
9) I will no longer use the word “atheist.” Most people I know never sit under one label for long. They are constantly drifting in and out of categories. Also, I really don’t want this series to feel like it’s targeting a specific group of thinkers. I’ve used the title in this introduction because the statements I plan to struggle with have all come to me from my engagement with people who own the title. From now on I will use the phrase “cynic” because that is what I call the opposing voice in my head.
10) If you disagree, have a question, or want to challenge something I say, I expect you to let me know. You can leave a comment here, on Facebook, or email me (my email address is on the About Our Blog page). No fair getting angry, yelling at your computer screen, but not sharing.
At the end of the series, if there are other statements you want me to deal with, I’d be more than happy to do my best to struggle with them as well.
Now that I have set the bar incredibly low, let’s jump in. Look for the first argument next week!