Sunday, November 26, 2023

Religion not Defined by Factual Claims

Open letter from Richard Dawkins to Ayaan Hirsi-Ali
You are no more a Christian than I am. ...

I have seen a very recent filmed discussion in which you described me as one of the most Christian people you know. This came after you quoted Roger Scruton as saying to you that you act like a Christian, you behave like a Christian, therefore you are a Christian. But Ayaan, that is so wrong. How you, or I, behave is utterly irrelevant. What matters is what you believe. What matters is the truth claims about the world which you think are true.

For that is the whole point. Christianity makes factual claims, truth claims that Christians believe, truth claims that define them as Christian. Christians are theists. They believe in a divine father figure who designed the universe, listens to our prayers, is privy to our every thought. You surely don’t believe that? Do you believe Jesus rose from the grave three days after being placed there? Of course you don’t.

I do not agree that religion is defined by truth claims.

Membership in some religions, like Judaism and Islam, is defined by being born into the religion.

Christianity can be defined by believing in the Nicene Creed, but I don't think that is how most people use the term.

Dawkins almost passes as a Christian. He has Christian cultural values and morals. He likes Christian customs. He grew up with Christian influences.

People become Christian to adopt Christian spiritual values. Many devout Christians have doubts about their faith, but they are still Christians.

I don't think Atheism is defined by factual claims either. When atheists have conferences, they do not spend time examining factual claims. They are more likely to discuss politics.

1 comment:

CFT said...

Full disclosure: I'm not a Christian, as I do not worship humans, ever, inspired as they may be. I do agree with much of what the man Jesus of Nazareth actually taught and talked about through parables, But I do not I do not subscribe to the added Catholic hierarchical hypocrisy of merely replacing one middle man for another between myself and the divine, much less glorified messengers, greek demi-gods, romanticized Roman execution devices, sexually and morally frustrated disciples, so-called virgins, angry warlord prophets claiming benevolence, or martyred saints sporting ridiculous stigmata like porn-star tattoos. To be blunt, If you wish to commune with the divine, cut the shit. You don't get closer to God by adding yet another layer of mediation between you.

The primary utility of Christianity is that instead of telling it's followers vapid things like 'do as they will full speed ahead if it makes you happy', it demands some serious introspection especially in matters of violence, love, truth, law/justice, or family/hierarchy. These are incredibly pivotal and important spheres of endeavor and behavior for people that shouldn't be done without a great deal of consideration. Humanity struggles with introspection and deep meditation, so liturgical contemplative prayer as a proxy substitute seems to almost cover many of the same bases, and is close as many will ever get to deeply thinking about something.

Christianity basically pumps the brakes a great deal on being rash or impulsive, especially where employing good judgement is important. One of the primary reasons the ancient philosophers were highly venerated in Christianity for centuries, was that they stressed careful and measured consideration, moderation, and logical reasoning, this was also why science bloomed and prospered in the western civilizations like no other despite what very uninformed atheists often like to claim.

The biggest structural difference between Christianity and Judaism is that Judaism is at heart tribal, more than religious. It has many rules for how it's followers view themselves versus everyone else who is considered quite differently. Many rules of Judaism do nothing but create distinct separation or cultural barriers between the Jew and Gentile that are difficult to cross. Christianity reverses this, and puts it blatantly that there isn't one set of rules that favors just you, and another set of rules for everyone else that sets them up for mistreatment with God's stamp of approval. Christianity is also one of the first religions where all human hierarchy and power is considered irrelevant before the truth and divine, emperors and peasants alike are considered no differently before their creator. This last ideal was corrupted quite a bit under Emperor Constantine who had nothing but power and control on his mind, but it still manages to shine through here and there between the blatantly inserted authoritarian edicts that deeply scar Catholicism.

Christianity also stresses action as inseparable from thought in forgiveness: You can't just pray the problem away, get punished and call it even, or await another recycled life for improvement in the next go-round, you have to voluntarily take charge and CHANGE your mind AND stop doing the wrong. It's a both or nothing proposition, not just feeling bad or guilty about it and saying a trite novena or mea culpa in confession, or a public modern dance performance as a flagellate.