A few days ago I wrote an article entitled “Three Questions”. One of the three questions was addressed to those who do not share my views about faith. Today I got a thoughtful response from “Bear”. He or she (Bear is gender neutral, isn’t it?) seemed surprised by one of the questions I asked.
Q: I am genuinely interested if you (atheists/agnostics) think that all believers are delusional or intellectually inferior? … Are you at all unsettled by the successful and intelligent people who endorse faith in God completely?
A: The short answer to the first question is “no.” Certainly not intellectually inferior. There are too many believers, and I’ve met too many brilliant ones, to take that statement seriously for even a moment.
Not everyone agrees with you based on many of the responses I had received prior to asking this question. Those responders clearly thought that I am intellectually inferior. I have been called a knuckle-dragging, flat-earth moron by some who clearly have some hot sports opinions about Christians. I rejected that accusation because I have been walking upright for a couple of years now. I am pleased to report that since I posed that question a number of civil and kind people have responded to my question. I knew you were out there. That is why I asked an over the top question just to test that belief. Back to today’s response.
As to delusional, that’s more complicated. My handy desktop dictionary defines “delusion” as “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument.” Clearly belief in God isn’t idiosyncratic, so we could just go with “no” on this answer too, but that would be letting me off the hook too easily.
The rub, for me, comes at the point at which religion and science intersect. One aspect of intelligence, and a rather important one, I think, is the ability to update one’s beliefs based on new evidence. For the most part this doesn’t really cut one way or another on the religion question, since faith is all about belief in the absence of proof. But when there’s a substantial body of evidence to suggest that some aspect of one’s religious belief system is mistaken in the particulars (let’s say, evidence that diseases evolve to become resistant to antibiotics, contra the belief that evolution just doesn’t happen at all), I confess that I do end up wondering how an apparently large number of people are comfortable ignoring or discounting that evidence. I don’t mean to touch off a debate on the subject, and I hope I don’t. I’m just trying to answer the questions above as candidly as I can.
I do want to qualify one aspect of Bear’s response. I think that most thoughtful Christians understand that changes can and do occur in a species over time. Clearly a virus can change and become resistant to antibiotics. I don’t deny that at all. What I question is whether one species can become another species over time. I think we have become so polarized that we have ceased to communicate at all. I suspect we would have much more in common than you suspect if we could sit down and debate these issues.
As to being unsettled by successful and intelligent people who endorse faith in God completely, no, doesn’t faze me a bit. In matters of faith, it would be very surprising if reasonable (and very intelligent) people didn’t disagree. The more I think about it, the more that seems like an odd question. Do you mind if I ask whether you’re unsettled by the successful and intelligent people who DON’T endorse faith in God completely?
Nope. Don’t mind at all. I am not unsettled by the people who don’t endorse faith. I am a bit perplexed at how flippantly some reject faith. I have not flippantly disregarded the arguments of agnostics and atheists. And I never call them names, question their morals, or wish eternal harm for them.
There is a lot of anger directed toward Christians. A lot of it is deserved. But a lot of it is not. My desire is to create a place where civil and graceful debate can happen. There are more than enough of the other sites available. I often visit websites of those who have issues with Christians. Here are some titles from blogs and websites (my comments in italics).
- Stupid Christians index – Didn’t make the list…note to self…must try harder
- All Christians are idiots – Wow. Apparently the law of averages doesn’t apply to Christians.
- Amazingly Stupid Christians – Premiering next week on Fox!
- I am sick and tired of stupid Christians – Me too.
- Stupid Christians are ruining the world – Don’t look now but they are getting lots of help from stupid secularists and stupid people of other faiths
- 101 Reasons to Hate Those Stupid Christians – My favorite. This guy is calling Christians stupid and he has 12 reasons on his site.
Not a lot of communication is going on at most of these sites. Here is a typical “debate”.
“You are a stupid Christian!”
“Well I may be stupid but at least I am not going to hell.”
That is some helpful interchange going on there!
But not much has really changed. The great preacher Charles M. Spurgeon wrote in the 19th century that “if you follow Christ, all the hounds of the world will yelp at your heels. Count on this, if you live for Jesus Christ, the world will not speak well of you.”
I wish that was not true. I wish I could discuss my faith with civility and grace with everyone. I wish that those who disagree would view my attempts and desire to communicate my faith as genuine and caring. I wish that when you speak of me you would speak well. But if you don’t it won’t change my hope of communicating the message of Christ to you. This other kind of communication has, unfortunately, been going on for a while.
So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time. The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. I John 3 The Message
I hope you don’t hate me. I hope you don’t think I’m stupid. I certainly don’t think you are stupid (at least until I get to know you and I can confirm that first hand). Perhaps if I can implement the words of Jesus I can convince a few to at least consider the possibility of faith.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does.” Matthew 5 The Message
Christians (including this writer) have not done a really good job with that directive. We may choose to disagree. We may disagree completely. But my prayer is that all communication on this site will be full of grace, truth, and love. Paul was a brilliant apologist. But he recognized a very important truth that all Christians need to understand.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.