Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, May 27, 2005

Evangelizing to Christians

To me, the main thing that this blog so far has been highlighting is the giant gap between Christians and atheists in terms of ability to understand order.

As I discussed before, I divide explanations of order in three main types - type 1 is divine creation (the simplest - "God did it"), type 2 is self-directed order, type 3 is emergentism (the most complex). My hypothesis is that, probably because they were never taught, most Christians are unable to grasp any kind of explanation except type 1, and that this is a severe limit on their capacity to understand science, evolution, morality, and that this is a major obstacle to evangelism.

The thing is that presuppositionalism illustrates this perfectly. Because what we have in presuppositionalism is a Christian saying "type 1 is necessary" as a premise. Which is as clear a proof as you could ever have, that they are utterly unable to understand other types of explanations.

Well what I think we should discuss on this blog, since our presup friends are not going to give us anything new, is how we can break through to them, and to Christians in general, that reductionist/emergentist explanations are more powerful and emotionally uplifting than theirs (as well as rational and true - but that is less likely to convert anyone committed to emotionalism - which is what Christianity is).

Creationists and Intelligent Design scammers have been quite successful so far in taking down a type 3 explanatory scheme (Neo-Darwinism) and making people believe that it is a competing type 1 explanation ("just another religion"). They can do this because everyone can understand creationist-type explanations but few people understand natural law. So we have a big problem of assymetry here.

We've seen Manata and his supporters refuse to acknowledge that their type 1 position is really type 2 (through contingency, subjectivity, and Cartoon Universe). It's obvious that Manata himself is incapable of accepting type 3 explanations, because they make him profoundly uneasy, as he demonstrated on his post where he laughed nervously at materialist quotes. This is obviously a common unease amongst Christians.

Why is there this underlying fear ? How can we break it ? My think on this topic right now is that we could try to emotionally show the invalidity of Christian solutions (afterlife without a brain, divine plan we can't understand, religious utilitarian morality, etc) and the validity of materialist solutions (the power of science to solve problems, taking control of one's own life and purpose, reality-based morality, etc). But I'd like to hear from other atheists on this and try to get this topic going on the blog.

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At 5/27/2005 7:07 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...


This is really interesting. But what confounds me is the emotional appeal. I see that as one of the huge triumphs of theistic worldviews- the acceptance of an incorporeal, omniscient parent, who- at least for the faithful- has only the best intentions. Sure, theism has the potential (and often realizes it) to numb the mind to science, morality, and reason, but isn't it the ultimate metaphysical pacifier?

How can atheism compete with that?

At 5/27/2005 7:26 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

As I discussed on the show "Witnessing to Nonbelief part 1", the emotional appeal of Christianity is based on misrepresentation and lies. This "pacification" of our mind is based on indoctrination starting from childhood to ignore all its evil and obvious untruths. On the next parts of this show, we'll discuss how to appeal to a theist's emotions specifically and reach out to their desires.

The point, though, is that "atheism" is not competing with it. It is not atheism that is competing but the worldview you are opposing to it... whether you call it materialism, humanism, emergentism, scientism, Objectivism, the goal is generally the same (mental/moral freedom and responsibility, social liberation and progress, supremacy of logic and reason over authority and dogma).

At 5/27/2005 10:19 AM, Blogger mrtruth declaimed...

Zach said:

"but isn't it the ultimate metaphysical pacifier?"

I think this really nails it. I have to admit, I've been waffling in the past month about what I believe. Leaving behind 30+ years of Christianity hasn't been an easy task for me, and I do still find myself wondering "What if its right?" thing that DEFINITELY turns me off of Christianity is the 'emotional appeal,' because I do not like that as my main reason for wanting to believe.

I listen to a lot of talk radio while driving around for work, and as I'm listening to the local 'Christian talk radio shows. It bugs me to no end to hear 'mood music' playing soulfully in the background as the pastor drones on and on...its totally designed to numb the mind, and appeal to a person's desire to be 'taken care of,' rather than stimulating their 'itelleuctual belif,' if there is such a thing.

If Christianity is 'real,' why does it have to appeal to a person's emotions, and not their brain? Can one seperate the two?

At 5/27/2005 11:44 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Christianity definitely has an ace up its sleeve, in the form of emotional appeal.

Its not that hard to get humans to feel guilty just for being human. Most people are very susceptible to the yoke of "original sin" and a "guilty until proven innocent" mentality.

Fear and insecurity play a big part in accepting this unearned guilt of worthlessness that religion offers. Religion provides an escape hatch of sorts by promising worthiness to the one who submits all self-esteem to the religion instead.

"Admit your worthlessness to God and then you will be worth something!" Is the call of the theist. When revealed plain to see, it is quite disgusting. But when wrapped in a fancy package, it looks appealing obviously.

Atheism is not designed by itself to compete with religion's emotional appeal, for atheism is the realm of technicality and material eviences, not the realm of emotion. There needs to be a pro-human, pro-self-esteem philosophy that is paired up with atheism in order to add an emotional draw. What should it be called? What should its tenets be?

I like the term "individualism" personally. I like the ideas of self-esteem (instead of God esteem), self-responsibility (instead of God-responsibility), "original innocence" (as opposed to original sin), materialism, and putting this existence above all others.

At 5/27/2005 12:59 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...


I'm not terribly familiar with it, but does Humanism provide this kind of positive philosophy?

At 5/27/2005 1:10 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

In the book that I am writing, I propose a simple form of materialism - called "emergentism" - as a positive worldview that can be opposed to presuppositionalism.

Personally I am a moral Objectivist - David Kelley's book on values and virtues, to me, is THE work on morality everyone should read. Individualism and responsibility are part of this. Self-esteem, I prefer pride. "original innocence" ? We're not born innocent.

At 5/27/2005 2:37 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Aaron: ""Admit your worthlessness to God and then you will be worth something!"

Pet exhortations like this only capture a part of the paradox in Christianity. Another component is the idea that the Christian god "loves the world" (Jn 3:16), which is supposed to be worthless (because they're all depraved sinners). This love of something worthless models holding that which is said to have no value as if it had value, which is a lie. Or, worse, it simply divorces love from value altogether, making love a stolen concept which is crucial to Christian morality. This horrid and perverse mindset finds expression throughout Christianity. The believer loves his god, not because he finds that god to be a value of any kind, but because he's commanded to. And backing the commands is the threat of force - in the form of an afterlife in hell. That he responds to threats that he takes seriously only proves that in the end value is selfish in nature, only the believer is taught not to admit this. But indeed, he's concerned with saving his own bacon, and he'll lower himself to the level of a farm animal in order to quench is fears, which are informed by imagination, not with data from reality. Divorcing love from values makes it all the easier for believers to accept the view that might makes right. Look how easily Christian apologists dismiss the murder, raping and mayhem that the OT attributes to its god. And the believer supposes he's going to spend eternity in heavenly bliss. But what if his family members don't make it? Could he really be happy knowing that his wife and children are burning in hell for eternity? I couldn't, but that's because I have a conscience. The Christian view of love simply short-circuits the believer's conscience. Is that a love based on values? No it is not.

At 5/27/2005 6:49 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

BB, excellent points.

Zach, I am a bit at odds with the term "humanism" because I consider myself pro-human first and foremost, and I like the word "humanism" because it defines this to me, but the humanist groups in America tend to have views that I dont agree with polticially and socially. Humanist societies in America tend to flip flop between individualism and collectivism.

At 6/05/2005 10:53 PM, Blogger John the Atheist declaimed...

Just a reminder guys. It's hard to talk to an intoxicated person. religious intoxication cause partial brain death (lol)

Nice blog.

At 6/10/2005 6:27 PM, Anonymous boywonder declaimed...

Wondeful blog folks! I'm surprised no one mentioned one big factor. The average intelligence of the individual. Most people seem to agree there is a huge gap between your average 90 to 110 IQ, and your 140 and above crowd. A person of average intelligence doesn't have the critical thinking skills necessary to understand most of what you guys are talking about on this blog. I bet there is around 20 % of the WORLD'S population (discounting language barriers)that can grasp the basic concepts that would lead to mental freedom from religion. Perhaps that number is larger in Europe and Asia, but we certainly balance it out here in the United States and Mexico.



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