A friend of mine is a pretty die-hard Christian (shock horror, both of his parents are missionaries/vicars) and he often posts little sayings of some kind or another on Facebook, which I usually ignore. However, today he posted something that really irritated me for some reason:
"The more I look at science, the more in awe of God I become."
And just to make that worse, one of his Christian friends commented "Boom" as if he had made some kind of infallible argument. Somehow, I feel as though nothing I say will make any difference because they must be incredibly deluded already to believe that God just "invented" science. Basically, this is the guy who thinks he's a "modern and intelligent" Christian by saying that things like Noah's Ark are "just stories and aren't meant to be taken seriously by Christians". But if that is true, then why take ANY of the Bible seriously and where does he draw the line between stories and (what he believes is) the truth?
In the past I asked him and his friend where the evidence was. He claimed science (yes, seriously) helped prove Christianity and that Christianity was about "opening yourself" to it and believing, and then you "feel God" or whatever. How do you argue with someone like that??
What do you all say to religious people (not necessarily just Christians) who claim that science is just an invention of God? Is there a specific way to argue with someone who twists everything to awkwardly suit modern day thinking?
Christianity had an important impact on every step of the road to modern science. Let me now summarise exactly what they were:
The preservation of literacy in the Dark Ages
Because it is a literary religion based on sacred texts and informed by the writings of the early church fathers, Christianity was exclusively responsible for the preservation of literacy and learning after the fall of the Western Empire. This meant not only that the Latin classics were preserved but also that their were sufficient men of learning to take Greek thought forward when it was rediscovered.
The doctrine of the lawfulness of of nature
As they believed in a law abiding creator God, even before the rediscovery of Greek thought, twelfth century Christians felt they could investigate the natural world for secondary causes rather than put everything down to fate (like the ancients) or the will of Allah (like Moslems). Although we see a respect for the powers of reason by Arab scholars they did not seem to make the step of looking for universal laws of nature.
The need to examine the real world rather than rely on pure reason
Christians insisted that God could have created the world any way he like and so Aristotle's insistence that the world was the way it was because it had to be was successfully challenged. This meant that his ideas started to be tested and abandoned if they did not measure up.
The belief that science was a sacred duty
This is not so much covered in this essay, but features again and again in scientific writing. The early modern scientists were inspired by their faith to make their discoveries and saw studying the creation of God as a form of worship. This led to a respect for nature and the attempt to find simple, economical solutions to problems. Hence Copernicus felt he could propose a heliocentric model for no better reason that it seemed more elegant.
Not all these factors were unique to Christianity but they all came together in Western Europe to give the world its only case of scientific take off which has since seen its ideas spread to the rest of the world. An learned examination of why other civilisations failed to make the leap forward can be found here.
For the anti Christians desperate not to give credit for their own faith of scientism to the religion they hate, two questions must be answered. First, if the dominant world view of medieval Europe was as hostile to reason as they would like to suppose, why was it here rather than anywhere else that science arose? And secondly, given that nearly every one of the founders and pre founders of science were unusually devout (although not always entirely orthodox) even by the standards of their own time, why did they make the scientific breakthroughs rather than their less religiously minded contemporaries? I wonder if I will receive any answers.
That's a really interesting link. I've perused about half of it so far. I will say though, that while religion played a part in history through the advancement and restriction of scientific though, I think the author is greatly overlooking the political and environmental factors as well as other social factors in the different regions and times. For a much longer and more celebrated read on why the west has come to dominate the world in the last almost 6 centuries, I recommend Guns Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.
The Vatican - by law, the only game in town - was singlehandedly responsible for the advent of Europe's Dark Ages. How much further ahead in science would we have been, if not for those thousand years of darkness?
Personally, I don't hate your religion, Richard, I find belief in it to be so infantile and childish that it really doesn't merit much of my consideration. In other words, when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
Also, consider that the Dark Ages would have been much darker if the Protestants had been in charge. At least Catholicism has an intellectual tradition (Anselm & Aquinas on up to Friar Copleston). The Protestants are actively anti-intellectual by contrast.
protecting western knowledge during the Dark Ages?
You are actually incorrect. The Greek and Romans texts were mostly all burned by the Catholic Church during the Dark Ages. It was actually Islamic conquest of Spain that brought in all the Greek texts with them into Christian Europe.
"Arab logicians had inherited Greek ideas after their invasion of southern portions of the Byzantine Empire. Their translations and commentaries on these ideas worked their way through the Arab West into Spain and Sicily, which became important centers for this transmission of ideas. This work of translation from Islamic culture, though largely unplanned and disorganized, constituted one of the greatest transmissions of ideas in history"
Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, Marvin Perry, Myrna Chase, Margaret C. Jacob, James R. Jacob, 2008, 903 pages, p.261/262
In 500 CE, the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages. In 600 CE, the Catholic Church forbade, upon penalty of death, the writing and/or publication of any Bibles in any language other than Latin, leaving in the hands of the Vatican all of the power to interpret the Bible as it chose, with none able to contradict. This Papal edict remained in place for over a thousand years, actually bringing about the European Dark Ages.
Adam is correct, it was during this time that the Islamic empire, which encouraged scientific endeavors, became the cultural leaders of the world.
Civil rights and political reform in the modern age has a strong argument for it in some cases. MLK Jr. and Ghandi come to mind, but at the same time there are places all around the Middle East and Africa where civil rights are still repressed and people are murdered because of religious doctrine. It can also be argued that "Civil Rights" as we think of them didn't even take hold until the Enlightenment thinkers of Europe, many of whom were either deists or agnostics, brought their particular philosophy to the fore, a philosophy that traces its inspiration at times (depending on the thinker) to Christian philosophers like Thomas Aquinas and at times (again depending on the thinker) farther back to ancient Athens and the likes of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. Slavery was both argued for and against, at least here in America (I couldn't tell you about other places like the British Empire or the Dutch territories), by religious people. Each had arguments from the Bible to support their decisions. Ultimately, slavery still existed in the south in all but name for almost a generation after the Civil War. (Google search for the Slave Narratives for more info. It's a collection of first hand accounts of former slaves and the children of former slaves as collected during the Great Depression.)
As far as the Dark Ages go... eh, they're called the Dark Ages for a reason. While some pieces of knowledge were preserved, really important ones were lost like concrete and indoor plumbing which the Romans had. Most of what we know of the world before the Dark Ages comes from texts that have been found by archeologists. If the Catholic Church of that time would have preserved the knowledge, it would still be in their archives in the Vatican today.
I'd also add that our numbers and many advancements in mathematics and astronomy once came from Muslim dominated regions in Medieval times. The seat of knowledge in the world was in the Caliphate up until one man turned everything on it's head. There had been a strong Hellenistic influence in the Middle East dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. The works of Greek Philosophers and mathematicians were still taught there in universities. Almost single-handedly, the Muslim theologian, Al-Ghazali ended all of that. He decided that the rationality of the Greeks was anathema and called out those who used their philosophies as unbelievers, and from that point on Arabic contributions to science and discovery became non-existent.
It's interesting that you mention trade unions. I'm guessing that you mean worker's unions and not trade agreements? While they do have a history that dates back to the guilds of old, I don't know that those old guilds are strictly a religious by-product and not just a product of a feudal economy transitioning to mercantilism. Worker's Unions of the modern era have more to do with the rise of Communism/Socialism in Europe and economic conditions in the early industrial age then with religion as far as I know. If you know something I don't about how the history of trade unions are connected to Christianity, then by all means share it.
Richard, my start would be to take on this verse Romans 1, because I think it has to be dealt with, since I feel it contributes greatly to Christians practicing confirmation bias and dishonest thinking.
(So this will be a bit like how many angels can dance on a pinhead for many Atheist readers. But sometimes playing "How many angels" helps, because you can better see how to get them from point A where they are to point B which is more reasonable. People's beliefs in Christianity are based on inductive reasoning, and taking care of certain misconceptions will help people be easier to work with. Certain ideas are just hurdles that are hard to get over without giving them a challenge. Engaging people according to their perceptions is the best way to get to common ground.)
So anyway, Richard, I think it is important to say that Koine greek had no quotation marks. You just have to figure out from the quotation marks what the author is quoting and what to which the author is responding. A lot of people don't know that.
If you get out that bible, and look at the tone of Romans 1:18-32, and then look at 2, you can tell that we have way different tones going on. And remember like the Matrix, where there is no spoon, there is no Romans 1, and Romans 2. Those breaks are put in there for reference only. We are looking at a piece of mail from the 1st century. My evangelical Christian biblical professor said that scholars have had a problem with 1 and 2 over the years because they just don't flow together like a well-written Roman era mailing, like all of Paul's letters are structured. (Paul follows very high ettiquite, as we have discovered from looking at similar letters found in the Alexandria trash heap).
Anyway, Such pronouncements of why "the chosen were better than the fallen" like those in Romans 1:18-32 are present in 1st century Judiasm. They appear in apocryphal literature as well. But is what we call Romans 1:18-32 really actually Paul's tone? No, the tone of Romans 2, is critical of Romans 1:18-32.
Let's pretend for a moment that the bible is true, and just look at the reasonability of this interpretation that Paul is teaching Romans 1:18-32, as opposed to presenting some words for critique in chapter 2.
Well 1:18-32 claims man is without excuse because God is evident therefore they will meet their destruction. Any proof of anything on that scale that God is evident could only be possible with either deductive proof, or spiritual gnostic revelation.
The first possibility, Reason-based proof, needs deductive logic. The reason why is that inductive logic, made from piecing what is true on just probability, would always provide room for an honest person to doubt any claim about anything, especially when other evidences support the idea. Having confidence instead of it being "plainly evident so that we are without excuse" works. Confidence wouldn't be dishonest in that case, but surety that the claim is true would definitely be dishonest.
And the second possiblity, that nature proves God in a gnostic manner of enlightenment, is just absurd. The reason I will give is that any time someone says "Why do you believe in God" to a Christian, they give a reason. They don't act like gnostics and say "this is a truth that passes everything that makes sense and is undeniable internal knowledge like instinct." Nah, they give reasons. And they give a lot of bad reasons.
But I am going to go back and just argue that Paul didn't care about the point in Romans 1:20. He was actually talking about why the smug superior attitude of holier than thou, was fundamentally flawed and hypocritical. When I first heard this in my Romans class, I verbally disputed it with the professor. But honestly, looking at the two chapters, this conclusion makes the most sense. I just wish he had have given me the name of the scholar who proposed the reading. Chapters 1 and 2 of Romans flow the best when 1:18-32 is being critiqued by 2.
Essentially, that "nature proves God" isn't a possibly reasonable interpretation. People's knowledge of God lacks this kind of gnostic intensity, and logic just is so structural, that deductive logic is incapable of permitting a conclusion that nature definitely proves God. There is no way to lock that down on God.
Instead, it is pretty plain that nature is attributed to God, and the behavior used to attribute things to God is the same one used to attribute things to ancestors watching over their offspring, or organic herbs being miracle cures.
Now, but even if you are pretty sure you have the right interpretation of Romans 1:18-32, you can't prove the interpretation I passed on to you is wrong. Even if you think it is likely not to be true, there always is a possibility that it is true.
The real thing that killed my faith is that if God/The Word/Logos is truth, then it has to be possible to come to God without intellectual dishonesty. But you will find that almost all reasons for conversion require a misunderstanding of the facts, or just blatant fallacious thinking. You will find most reasons for conversion require dishonesty or being deceived.
Glad to see you are back around here, John. I was wondering where you where you had been!
Yeah, I have ADD plus school is a bad mix for me. I have to stay away from here otherwise my brain-fogged days get even worse knowing there is something a lot more stimulating out there. Hopefully if I ever finish school, I can be around more.