Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Response to a Commentary by Tim Wildmon

Today on "Today's Issues with Tim Wildmon" on American Family Radio, Tim Wildmon was interviewing Sallie Hite McDaniel. During their discussion about McDaniel's new book Jesus is My Thesis, Wildmon asked some interesting questions. Paraphrasing: "Why are some atheists so militant about debunking the beliefs of Christians given that they do not believe in God and the set of morals given by Him? If there are no absolute morals, why would an atheist care what other people believe?" McDaniel's answer was the typical one. Atheists do not want to be burdened with a lifestyle mandated by God. They want to be able to do what pleases them without any restrictions.

I believe it is true that some atheists oppose religion simply because they do not want other people telling them how to live their lives. But for most of them I believe it only becomes a problem when certain behaviors are banned by law. In other words, I believe most atheists don't really have a problem with religious people expressing an opinion about what is moral and what is not as long as it remains an opinion. But if religious people are able to get a certain behavior banned by law where getting caught results in punishment, the atheist would then object. But even atheists would be opposed to such things as murder, rape, theft, etc., and would want them outlawed. What's the difference? Well, these latter activities involve using force against other people, which essentially everyone agrees should be punishable by law. It's those consensual activities such as homosexuality, premarital sex, and so on, that the atheist believes should remain outside the courtroom.

That being said, I realize that there are also some atheists that are trying to bring religion to its knees. They want religion destroyed. But if they truly believe that no set of morals is any better than another, then indeed this doesn't make any sense. How can a person justify trying to destroy other people's beliefs in the name of protecting his own? Even so, it seems that the justification for these atheists' animosity is that they believe religion as a whole is detrimental to society as a whole. And indeed, this is something I have pondered myself. History and my own observations show that many people do many good things in the name of their religion. But it is also true that much evil has been done in the name of religion. So, does the good outweigh the bad? To me, that is not an easy question to answer. In an overarching sense, I tend to believe it balances itself out. Good people will do good with or without religion. Bad people will do bad with or without religion. It is more a mental issue than a religious issue.

I was glad to hear Wildmon say that he could respect an honest agnostic more than a militant atheist. That is because I am personally an honest agnostic. And not just any ole agnostic. I am a theistic leaning agnostic. By that I mean that I more believe there is a God than not. Specifically, it's 75.314159% theist and 24.685841% atheist. ;>) What I do not believe is that God intervenes in our natural world. Why? Because I have not personally experienced him doing so or seen any credible evidence of him doing so. And yes, I understand that just because I haven't seen any evidence doesn't necessarily make me right. Then why do I still lean toward believing in God? Because our Universe does not appear to be eternal, but cannot explain its own existence. The deeper physicists dig into the nature of the cosmos, the more questions there seem to be about its existence. Given our current state of knowledge, it makes more sense to me that a being outside our natural realm is responsible for creating the Universe than the Universe somehow created itself. Science seems to be good at learning how the Universe works, but not so good at learning why the Universe works.

So, if God exists, which one is it? Which religion got it right? I personally don't think any religion got it right. All religions appear to be based on the writings and thoughts of men. And as we all know, men are fallible and oftentimes believe things that simply aren't true. Since I grew up in a society that is mostly Christian, it was only natural that I spent most of my time reading the Bible. Being in agreement with apologists like Josh McDowell, I realized that my beliefs could not be based purely on faith since any religion can be believed by faith alone. Reasoned evidence must accompany my belief. After becoming a Christian in 1980, I began reading the Bible in earnest. After much study, I concluded that the God of the Bible was not real and that Jesus was not divine. The thought that finally allowed me to say without fear that I was no longer a Christian was, "What if God exists and Jesus was just a man, as the evidence indicates? Would God approve of me worshipping a fellow human being as though he were God himself?" To remain honest with myself, I had to de-convert.

So, based on my many years of study and observation, I have concluded, as did Thomas Paine, that God is only knowable by what he created, not by any revelation given to select individuals.

It is only in the Creation that all our ideas and conceptions of a word of God can unite. The Creation speaketh an universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they may be. It is an ever-existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this word of God reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, p. 32)
This is a very insightful statement; one that I quote in my most recent book. If you want to learn more about my study of the Bible and the conclusions I drew, please read my book God Is: Exploring the Nature of the Biblical God.

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