Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Philosophy on Apologetics (Part V) - Death by a Thousand Suppressions

But again, I have been too generous in my assessment of the situation. Not only do critics regularly use a very harsh double standard, and not only do they basically concede enough information to become Christians anyway, many of them actually don’t want it to be true. It’s not just that a small group doesn’t want it to be true. On the contrary a very large segment of the world population doesn’t want it to be true. And it’s not just from one religion or belief system. Persons from all belief systems seem to have a desire for this to be untrue. Not only that, this desire for it to be untrue is found in all places and in all social strata, Finally, this desire for it to be false is found in every level of education about the subject, in persons least familiar with the evidence, all the way up to those opponents familiar with every argument Christian apologetics has to offer. And it’s not just a minor dislike. On the contrary, it’s often a very intense dislike that is very difficult to dislodge, and often involves very heated emotions.

This is not to say that Christians themselves want alternative viewpoints to be true. On the contrary, they most certainly don’t want other viewpoints to be true, and voices become raised and arguments heated. However, I will explain why it is so peculiar that opponents of Christianity have such a strong dislike for it, a dislike that is represented in every social strata.

Winning the Lottery
The message of Christianity rotates around the death for sins and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. The original proclamation states that by believing this message, one has forgiveness of all sins from God, and eternal life as well. This is akin to someone offering me a billion bucks, and all I have to do is sign a paper to get the billion bucks and I’ll receive it. Now at first we may laugh with incredulity at such a wild situation, chalking it up to a get rich quick scheme or something else too good to be true. However, what if we started mounting serious evidence that such a situation was actually true? What if, after the course of our investigation, we came to a percentage that it was true, such as something even as low as 75%? Wouldn’t we do whatever we could to get the million bucks, even if there was a full one in four chance we wouldn’t get it? Wouldn’t we get really excited and perhaps even expend great amounts of time and energy to make sure we got it? (The evidence for Christianity is much higher than 75%, but that just enhances the point even further.)

Apparently not, since many people who hear about Christianity tend to react negatively, even to its core message. They react so negatively that they deeply don’t want it to be true, seek arguments against it, and get frustrated that someone is even trying to spread such a message. This seems incredibly peculiar. And as we shall see, not only do they resist it, but they come up with a thousand alternative theories with no evidence in order to escape what we do in fact have evidence for. Not only do they do that, but as we will see they show no hesitation in their hate for the message itself, going so far as to make fun of it for no good reason at all.

The Un-evangelized
This suppression is evident among all education levels about the evidence.. First, suppression of the truth is evident among the un-evangelized. Romans 1 actually provides a rather sound critique of polytheism and the worship of images. Essentially, many of these un-evangelized groups are aware of the extreme amount of design all around them all in nature. Some of them do in fact postulate a creator deity of some kind to account for the overwhelming evidence of design around them. However, instead of worshiping this creator, they instead create images and build statues of gods of their own making and worship and serve them instead. Instead of worshiping the creator, who gave them everything, they not only refuse to give him thanks, but create these absurd and lifeless images to worship in his place. This may seem normal to us, due to our familiarity with other cultures who do this. Nevertheless, when examined, this behavior can be quickly exposed as particularly perverse.

Willful Ignorance about Jesus on the Popular Level
This suppression is evident among lay people in Western culture as well. Although people challenge the New Testament and the information about Jesus, they are rather quick to embrace wild speculations about Jesus, insofar as they are unfavorable to Christianity. One popular idea is that Jesus was a homosexual. The UK’s “The Guardian” newspaper even posts articles about this immediately prior to Easter, in an unprecedented act of malice against a religious figure. The idea that Jesus was a practicing homosexual has such slim evidence that to apply such a standard to everyone, it would entail all men who have close male friends would be homosexual as well. But, to the popular culture, such an idea isn’t foolish. However, Christians are regarded as ignorant and blind when they regard Jesus as the resurrected Son of God, consistent with the written evidence. All sorts of other beliefs about Jesus are circulated, either as attempts to discredit Christianity, or to make Jesus in our own image. Some people make bold assertions that Jesus was married or even a socialist. Again, such a standard would make all persons with female friends married, and everyone who cares for the poor a socialist. Others concede that Jesus miracles are possible, but posit aliens as an explanation for his ability to do miracles. Still others say that Jesus didn’t die but instead went on international travels. My point is not to refute these specifically at length, but to show the efforts people will go to in order to invent wild and foolish speculations about Jesus, while rejecting the available textual evidence in the New Testament. For surely the “unreliable” New Testament text is more reliable than wild speculations or no textual evidence at all! All this goes to show that, even in popular circles, suppression of the truth is quite evident.

Western Scholarship
The situation doesn’t get a whole lot better when dealing with educated persons or scholarly persons. Once the scholars realize the eyewitness testimony to Jesus after his death, they should come to believe in it themselves, or at least speak favorably of the religion? Apparently not. Those scholars above who concede the death of Jesus and his appearances to his disciples, are often those people who strongly disagree with Christianity. Bart Ehrman writes books and participates in debates opposing the Christian faith, as likeable and friendly he is as a person. The Jesus Seminar aims to overthrow what it calls “fundamentalist Christianity,” their definition of which seems not to be historical American fundamentalism at all, but actually refers to beliefs that all orthodox Christians have. They don’t say “well we don’t believe this, but feel free to do so and we hope you are right.” On the contrary, they oppose the belief system and try to disprove it, regardless of the fact that their own research is used by Christians to prove that the disciples were eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

Islamic Objections
But perhaps this is only evident in skeptical Western historical scholarship? Perhaps people are more favorable to the evidence in other religions, perhaps Islam. This doesn’t seem to be the case either. In fact, the resistance seems to be even more staunch. Historically speaking, Muslims believe that Jesus didn’t really die, but instead God replaced him with Judas last minute on the cross, and took Jesus to heaven. Unfortunately, virtually all Western scholarship rejects the idea that Jesus didn’t really die. However, I must be careful to be too dismissive. Simply because someone holds an unpopular position doesn’t make them incorrect. However, Western scholarship doesn’t seem to be consciously resisting Muslim beliefs, but seems more preoccupied with undermining Christianity, of which the death of Jesus is central. So it would behoove us to trust them, since they are more interested in refuting Christianity than Islam. Furthermore, the sources for Jesus death are all written within 70 years of his death, whereas the Quran’s suggestion that he didn’t really die, is found in a source over 500 years after the events.

In addition, Muslims apologists regularly concede, for sake of debate, that Jesus said “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” They also concede that “Father” refers to God in this point. This is very significant, since they consider Jesus to be a prophet of God. However, as startling as this concession is, they don’t merely disagree, but actually bristle at the idea that Jesus is God, and sometimes think Christians are stupid for thinking so.

"New Atheists"
Perhaps Western atheists and agnostics want Christianity to be true? Perhaps the “New Atheists,” in all their self-congratulatory praise for being so rational, will at least hope we are right, despite making sure to share their skeptical reservations with us, so that we don’t jump to conclusions? On the contrary! The stereotype of the “angry atheist” is known all too well. Many of the New Atheist movement are known for being derisive to Christianity itself, and somewhat abrasive when discussing religion. So not even they, in all their self-proclaimed rationality, even want it to be true. (This certainly doesn’t apply to every atheist, and surely not even most of them in history, and especially not in philosophical circles. I am simply being polemical of the New Atheist movement and the behaviors of its members).

But at least, they are devoid of wild speculations, since they are so rational? On the contrary! If something seems designed, and there is no way out, perhaps we ought to postulate, unobservable, ad hoc, multiverses simply to account for the fact that the universe seems designed. Because if something seems designed or rigged, the number one rule they taught you in school is that you should always postulate a multi-verse, making your situation probable simply by the infinity of other universes. Perhaps this really is the universe where the dog ate my homework and left no traces of it to be shown to the teacher?

One could postulate that these opponents of Christianity do not want to associate themselves with persons responsible for things such as the Inquisition, or to associate themselves with the stereotype of being Catholic, or fundamentalist, or what have you. But why not express your anger from the inside? Why not reform the system, and be the next Martin Luther and be a hero? Furthermore, why not be ashamed of the murders of atheist regimes, which are far worse than any Christian regime? What could possibly be so offensive that God himself became a man, sacrificed himself for our sins, and resurrected from the dead, appearing to many witnesses?

All of this is not primarily aimed at providing a refutation of certain arguments, though I did summarize a few. My main contention is that despite all of the evidence, people of all social backgrounds, of all education levels, of every ideological system, seem to have an intense and peculiar desire for Christianity to be false. This is akin to someone rather intensely wishing they won’t win the lottery.

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