On A Christian/ Atheist Dialogue

I don’t usually do this, but I occasionally find it useful to step back and reflect on my goals and purpose with this blog. Even though I have been blogging for about five years now, my attitude towards my blog has always been like that of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride – “Good job today blog, I’ll probably kill you tomorrow“. Of course I never do kill it, and over time it has taken on a life of its own.

As result of having a blog that takes a position on certain issues, the comments in my comboxes regularly seem to line up along predictable lines of cheerleaders and detractors. I don’t necessarily see them this way but given the subject matter, the nature of blogs and the drive-by intellectualism that undergirds most of what is posted on the web, it isn’t suprising.

And to a certain extent I am fine with that. While this blog is often wide-ranging in its scope, there are certain things I have never intended to do with this blog. For example, one thing I rarely do is discuss my personal life unless it is relevant to the idea I am conveying. Though I don’t blog anonymously, I tend not to discuss my work or education or family on this blog; though it informs my posts I prefer to keep the rest of my life separate from the ideas and opinions I express here. I find Facebook to be a better place to have personal conversations with the friends I make here. Frequently discussions lose focus when they become about persons rather than the ideas being discussed. Ideas are either true or not true and can be explored via reason and logic – this doesn’t change based on the person conveying the idea.

Another purpose I am not trying to accomplish is to have a ‘dialogue’ here with atheists. This doesn’t mean dialogues don’t occur here. I actually have many more atheist commenters here than many atheist blogs have Christians commenting. Nor do I think that relationships between believers and unbelievers can’t occur in in ‘real’ life – In fact I have many such friendships. The discussions that happen here are an outgrowth of ideas plainly and openly expressed not because a feigned attempt to cultivate a dialogue based on artificialities.

But I am skeptical of such a dialogue for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is almost impossible to have an actual dialogue between two people who have almost no common ground on what constitutes truth. The effect of New Atheism hasn’t been so much to advance atheism as it been to remove any commonalties Western believers and unbelievers might have once shared historically. It is becoming apparent the only thing ‘New’ about New Atheism is that it is primarily aimed at polarizing the dialogue. That being said, it is also refreshingly honest – they no longer pretend one can be an atheist and share Western ideals like inherent human worth, equality, and that humans are creatures with a conscience and free will. They don’t pretend the universe has any objective purpose and they assure us humans are merely a product of that purposeless universe. They make it clear that they see the religious as dumb, deluded, and dangerous. Such honesty draws a clear distinction between the beliefs of Christians and atheists, but it obviously provides little ground for ‘dialogue’.

So my purpose here is to do three things; the first is to demonstrate that Christian beliefs can be intellectually defended. Next is to provide a resource and encouragement to fellow Christians and finally it is to demonstrate the fundamental weaknesses of atheist beliefs. As I have said before, the latter purpose is actually the easiest thing I do.

What I am not here to do is convert atheists to my position – I don’t think people can be converted by something a stranger writes on the net, and if they can be then their beliefs weren’t that deeply held to begin with. But I also have no intention of providing a comfortable place for the atheists to advocate on behalf of their beliefs. Anyone coming here to espouse skepticism or atheism will be treated with respect, but they will also be challenged. I believe that the veracity of worldviews are best tested through the vigorous back and forth between advocates, which is one of the reasons why Christianity has always flourished in a society where it could be openly discussed and why societies that were overtly atheistic attempted to squash the open practice and discussion of Christianity.

Which brings me to what provoked this post. For a brief time I had a back and forth with one such atheist on this blog. Mike of the A-Unicornist commented on a number of my posts, and I did the same at his blog. As I have done with many New Atheist advocates, I commented on the ideas and facts he advocated on his blog and he commented on what I wrote here. It usually resulted in a vigorous discussion but that is to be expected from two folks advocating completely different worldviews. Again, I am not looking for ‘agreement’ – merely a clear comparison of what both advocates believe an opportunity for readers to see the difference. As one who sees Christians as fundamentally deluded, Mike and I will obviously disagree on most issues. And as one who doesn’t believe reality can be fully comprehended from a materialistic or naturalistic vantage point, obviously I am not going to agree with most of what Mike says. But that is irrelevant to the discussion – as I said my purpose isn’t ‘agreement’ or even ‘dialogue’, but a clear delineation of what both of us believes so observers can make evaluations.

Mike on the other hand finds such discussions frustrating. I can’t evaluate his personal motivations, but in his own words he said his blog, “is not a place for arguing. It is a place for discussion”, an argument he made when banning me from discussing anything there. And I am actually fine with that; my view of blogs is like they are people’s homes – one should be free to set the atmosphere and invite whomever one wants there. In fact I have banned folks here for chronic foul language or personal attacks. So I was not only content to let Mike go on his way and for me to go on mine, but I would have done so even if he merely requested it. In fact I chose not to comment on it at that time because of my view of blogs.

And I don’t mind that he continues to read this blog and talk about me on other people’s blogs – I would be bored with my own blog too if most of my conversations were with people who unthinkingly agreed with me. I don’t even care that I give him ideas for his posts – that is fairly common amongst those of us that blog about similar issues. But if he is going to base entire posts on something I wrote and refer to me by name, the least he can do is step out of his echo-chamber and engage me directly.

After all, as someone once said when someone avoided engaging them, “If you were passionate about the truth, wouldn’t you be interested in opinions that differ from your own? Otherwise, you’re simply trapped in a self-deceiving bubble designed to protect yourself from the possibility that you could actually be wrong.”

Of course we know such things are easier to say than they are to do.

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2 Responses to On A Christian/ Atheist Dialogue

  1. Mike D says:

    Jack,

    I didn’t base my post on anything you wrote. I commented directly on the remarks made in the video itself and appropriately credited you for finding the video, as a common courtesy. I have no interest in engaging you directly in debate, because I think you become antagonistic and dishonest whenever you find yourself backed into a corner by your own folly… which is pretty damn often. Others have had the grace to challenge me with substantive and irenic discussion, so no matter how much you’d like to believe I won’t engage you because of your opinions, rest assured it is solely because I think you’re a dick.

  2. jackhudson says:

    I didn’t base my post on anything you wrote. I commented directly on the remarks made in the video itself and appropriately credited you for finding the video, as a common courtesy.

    I am sure it is purely coincidental that elaborated on the same small part of the 38 minute video that I did.

    I have no interest in engaging you directly in debate, because I think you become antagonistic and dishonest whenever you find yourself backed into a corner by your own folly… which is pretty damn often.

    As I explained, we are both advocates of differing worldviews. It is an inherently antagonistic venture – the difference in understanding between us is that you either naively believe you are an objective commentator merely interested in ‘dialogue’ and discussion, or are pretending to be. The views are inherently antagonistic Mike – once you realize this, you can have an honest conversation instead of projecting divisiveness onto everyone who disagrees with you. As far as ‘honesty’, you consider anyone who doesn’t accept your world as dishonest on some level, since as you have said they are obviously, “trapped in a self-deceiving bubble”. That is just your view of Christians Mike.

    Others have had the grace to challenge me with substantive and irenic discussion…

    As a person who claims to be honest Mike, you somehow turned one person into ‘others’ plural. And you better hang onto that one patient person, or you won’t have anyone but your yes men left. Of course if he doesn’t stick around, I am sure you will accuse him of being “closed off to engaging opposing perspectives.”

    Of course had I known you couldn’t handle a vigorous discussion, I might have been gentler; given your regular personal attacks on Christians, I assumed a tougher skin. Perhaps you should post notice somewhere so no else one threatens your tender sensibilities.

    …so no matter how much you’d like to believe I won’t engage you because of your opinions, rest assured it is solely because I think you’re a dick.

    Yes, one of your typical irenical comments full of grace and substance.

    Thanks for your comments Mike, feel free to stop by and borrow ideas for your blog as necessary.

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