Monday, April 18, 2011

Christians Say Interesting Things Part One: Epistemology and Reality

I was recently followed on twitter by a preacher who runs a twenty-something ministry I won't name here. His website/blog advertises itself as "intellectual/spiritual wanderings from a reform(ing)ed, emerging, gen-X-er..."

That's all fine and good, but what I found particularly interesting was his short twitter bio which simply says:

"I preach the gospel out of an unshakable need for it to be true."

For reasons you may well imagine, this bothers me a great deal. No belief should be held to, espoused, or preached for such a meritless reason as the need you have for it to be true. Reality must be pursued beyond our petty biases and needs.

As an atheist I am often accused of turning away from god because I want to live a particular life of sin, debauchery and hedonism. The idea here is that I may know or suspect that God exists, but it wouldn't flatter my wants and needs and therefore I reject it. Atheism is what I want and therefore it is true to me.

Well, this is partially true and partially false. It's true because, as far as I've read, the god of historical Christianity is a capricious megalomaniac and it would likely be man's worst nightmare if such a god existed. While I am open to any verifiable evidence of the existence of such a god, I am happy that none yet exists. It's false because swallowing the mortality of myself and the ones I love and cherish is a bitter pill indeed. I'd like to believe that somehow I and the ones I love might survive death and that we may live together in communion for a long, long time. I'd like to believe that my body won't decay or that my prostate won't become swollen or that my mind won't weaken. I'd like to believe that the sun will not explode in five billion years destroying Earth and and every living thing on it.

In some dark moments I may even feel the need for these things to be true.

However, this changes nothing about observable reality. Simply needing something to be true does not make it so. Nor does finding current evidence unpalatable make a claim untrue.

I've heard people say, "Well, I simply cannot imagine not existing."

Really? It's actually not that hard. To people in Paris right now, you don't exist. You didn't exist for 14 billion years before you were born. There are a million thought experiments you can do to prove this point.

If you believe in Jesus or Zeus or L. Ron Hubbard or Santa Claus....I honestly don't care. But when you proselytize on the basis that you NEED it to be true...well that's when I get fired up enough to spend ten minutes writing a blog that no one reads.


In Reason,

Clint Wells


Robert said...

I couldn't agree more. True is transcendent. It is wholly independent of our needs.

Kimf said...

I can certainly understand why the comment bothered about, about the "need for the gospel to be true" but quite frankly, I found it refreshingly honest.

Clint Wells said...

Kimf - I'm not trying to be offensive when I say this...but if this dude refreshed you then it sounds like you need more honest people in your life.

Clint Wells said...

Robert - Well said. That should have been my entire blog post actually.

Bret Pemelton said...

Having been a christian my whole life, I've found myself on a journey as of late that has me questioning a lot things. Fellow christians get real ruffled when you question the Bible and what we have been taught (or brain washed) to believe. I, like you, want to live the truth. I had tweeted to you earlier about Rob Bells book "Love wins" which has caused a firestorm in the Christendom, and really exposes a lot of ugliness that lies out there. However, to quote the great prophets, Depeche Mode, People are people. I too use to look upon athiest with that description you gave. But I've discoverd that I was way off. I have several athiest friends and they are some of the most loving and caring people I know.

Thanks for writing this!