Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The God Wars

Last night I got in a bit of a theological debate. Normally I like that kind of thing, but last night I was working, and I had other duties, so I couldn't really commit to the discussion.

My conversational counterpart was a co-worker, a woman a couple years older than me who went to college, majored in religious studies. This is the kind of person I like to discuss religion with: mature, informed, and confident. Unfortunately, her studies didn't prepare her very well for a conversation with a nonbeliver who was well informed.

She said, "You say you were raised Lutheran, but it didn't take. What do you mean?"

So I explained to her that I had no hostility toward religion, but I had never experienced anything that would lead me to believe that a god exists--the Judeo-Christian one or any other.

She said, "You're here, aren't you?" As though that should alleviate all my concerns. I existed, and that should prove the existence not only of a supreme being, but of the one she endorsed. As though I had never thought this thing through, and that was the key to my finding common sense.

I said, "That's true whether there's a god or not."

Then she rambled about having children and how complex their little lives are. She said, "I just know that in order to be as complex as we are, someone needed to design us." Note the heavy reliance on emotional appeal here. Oh, aren't children miracles?


I said, "Suppose we're so complex we require a creator. Is that then a rule that complex things require a more complex creator? If it is, you haven't proven God. You've either subordinated him or you've rendered him useless. If God is so complex he needs a more complex designer, too. If complex things require designers, that is." Okay, that was a paraphrase.

I keep saying, I'm not hostile to religion. I just wish someone would try to present me with reasons I should believe, rather than insist I believe.

I'll cover the belief-as-choice fallacy later.


Jerry said...

I love when it comes up in conversation that I consider myself to be an athiest and the person I am talking to thinks that this is something they need to fix. It's not like I have a broken bone or something. I just choose to not believe in their fairy tale.

Sean Gilman said...

My answer to:
"I just wish someone would try to present me with reasons I should believe, rather than insist I believe."
is that people need religion because they need something to explain the unknown part of the universe. Most people latch on to an existing established religion because it is safer to believe what lots of other people believe than trying to figure out what you truly believe for yourself. So, the only reasons that these people can present to you is that it takes faith to believe and when you believe you get faith. Catch 22? Yes, but that's how most people explain the unexplainable. Since you have informed yourself very well on other people's religion and you are not falling in for that faith catch 22 you will never come across someone to present you with reasons to believe in their faith. But you can have fun along the way having disscussions with them! ;-)