..because: these types of churchians (ex-pastor pictured above):
“I’ve been a deep believer my whole life. 18 years as a Southern Baptist. More than 40 years as a mainline Protestant. I’m an ordained pastor. But it’s just stopped making sense to me. You see people doing terrible things in the name of religion, and you think: ‘Those people believe just as strongly as I do. They’re just as convinced as I am.’ And it just doesn’t make sense anymore… If a plane crashes, and one person survives, everyone thanks God…..God saved her for a reason!’ Do we not realize how cruel that is? Do we not realize how cruel it is to say that if God had a purpose for that person, he also had a purpose in killing everyone else on that plane? And a purpose in starving millions of children? A purpose in slavery and genocide?… You say there is a purpose to their suffering. And that’s just cruel.”
His complete ignorance of key concepts of Christianity, it’s difference to mere churchianity, and of basic philosophical concerns in ethics and morality, which in no small part is why he’s able to readily say what he said, can actually be excused, because, like most everyone else, they are matters of which he knows not a single whit, but it necessarily calls into question the competency of the church, where people like him — who have a kind of faith that is miles wide and yet mere inches deep — can be ‘pastors’ to begin with.
Why should it surprise him that people do terrible things in the name of religion when it has been written that they would? And that they do, how is that an indictment of religion, or of Christianity in particular, and not of the people themselves, or of people in general? On this score, It would — it should — suffice to point out to him that there’s a difference between Christianity and mere churchianity.
He sees an implication where simply none exists, viz. he regards the actions (or the theological ignorance) of the religion’s self-proclaimed adherents as the standard against which the religion (or in this case, Christianity) should be judged.
But that is simply illogical, not to mention, un-biblical, since, contrary to what he surmises, it’s a confirmable fact that religious hypocrisy is one of the more pertinent themes of the bible:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ — Matthew 7 : 23-27
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” — Matthew 23:13
He (as do I, in fact) rightly sees cruelty in someone who pontificates on the nature of a divine plan that involves the death of the innocent. But that the average churchian is too unsophisticated to know any better than to blather on about things of which he has no idea should have been of no surprise, and should have again been, rather than an indictment of Christianity, a testament to the every-man’s ineptitude on matters theological. After all, he is a long-time pastor who ought to have known that theological consistency is not to be expected from your average churchian.
But the salient question is why this ex-pastor saw these things as forming a disproof for the truth of Christianity.
While a more salient one still, is how this man, whose understanding of Christianity barely even rises to the level of Narnia, and who cannot rationally be said to grasp fundamental aspects of Christian theology, was once a pastor.
And it’ll be less useful to call into question the rational basis for his rejection of Christianity than it would be to use him as reminder for the church that they are doing something wrong, but for which the remedy is simple: equip your churchians, and especially your leaders, with knowledge of the relevant philosophy.
Else, it’ll be for you — for us — the way of the dodo.
Unfortunately, it is not the God of classical theism but a demiurge that we find modern atheists most concerned with. A demiurge would not be the source of all existence, but merely a cosmic craftsman, or, as it’s more conventionally understood, a being — an intelligent designer — simply endowed with superhuman powers not unlike the characters inhabiting comicbooks and theaters.
The analogies skeptics use give them away. This god, to them, is no different from the tooth fairy, father christmas, zeus, or any of the other thousands of gods now in the dustbin of history. None of them seem to understand, much less have written about, the God as understood from the scholastic age to Aquinas. And writers like Dawkins, Sam Harris and the Hitch, can only reasonably claim to have laid out arguments against a demiurge, a cosmic and malevolent despot, who has not a whit in common to the God of Aristotle.
Intelligent people rightly find illogical the proposition that such a being (or beings) exists. And the problem is that both the religious and the skeptic have little time to parse through the metaphysical obscurities — or, as Dennet would say, “deepities” — of theology in order to get a better conceptual framework with which to view God. Unsurprisingly they are left ill-prepared to see Him as nothing more than a divine tinkerer, or, more famously, as Paley’s watchmaker. This is why we often see a theology that is more akin to that of Pat Robertson and Kirk Cameron than to that of Alvin Plantinga or Edward Feser; this is why we see intelligent design theorists claiming that irreducible complexity points to divine handiwork; this is why we see Christians and skeptics alike who think Darwin’s theory to be theism’s coup de grace.
The ill-informed religious laymen will keep providing the skeptics with strawmen to burn down, it seems.
I fear it will take a lot to upset this cycle of attack and defense of these army of strawmen. Especially in this age of twitter and facebook, where information must be bite-sized, and therefore almost always ephemeral and useless, to be worth listening to. Scarcely anyone has the time, nor even the aptitude or desire, to read theological treatises on religion that expound on the God of the old scolastics. While much of the abled seem content to resigning themselves to their ivory towers.
I have no doubt that we Christians are at the losing end of a cultural war. And I fear that in a post-Christian era, once the illogic of humanism becomes apparent (since a humanism predicated on naturalism needs to eschew the annoyingly amorphous concept of objective morality, without which the whole humanistic enterprise can be said to be floating on thin air) morality will be Nietzschean in its manifestations.
Which is to say the shit will hit the fan.
Can we, as Christians, really even doubt this? — it has all been written.
But hope springs anew, since it has also been written that every knee shall bow. So perhaps even the most Dawkinsian will, at some point — and whether he desired it or not — bend.
So, perhaps, a less charitable, smug, seemingly juvenile yet inarguably fitting response to the skeptic would be to say, in the words of Vox Day:
‘You can do it now, or you can do it later. But bow, you will.’