This is a re-post from my other blog
where I do most of my writing (mostly aimed directly at some of my Christian friends), but I wanted to share it here to get some other thoughts on its subject matter. Here it is.
I need to take a moment of silence in honor of StumbleUpon
for guiding me toward a website that encapsulates the problem with Christianity so well that I almost feel like never mentioning any thoughts on the subject ever again. (Note to my Christian friends: I only said "almost", so you still aren't off the hook. I'm writing this blog, aren't I?)
is organized as a set of a 153-item questionnaire (which is mind-numbingly long, I realize) for non-believers to give to would-be Christian proselytizers. Seeing that I was a Christian for most of my life thus far, I have never had the pleasure of someone attempting to save my soul via active witnessing or rigorous debate. And even now I make no claims that Christians are pushy or have ever tried to win me back to their ranks. Not that they would have any success, though, for as this questionnaire demonstrates in a painfully long and semi-sarcastic wall of text, we non-believers have just too many questions that would have to be satisfied before we would even consider coming or returning to faith in Jesus. But I wanted to write this post for those Christians who don't realize the sheer amount of internal thought, argument, and study atheists like myself have gone through to arrive at our positions. Like I said, I've never been "witnessed" to, but I enjoy a bit of satire when I see it, and wanted to shout in support of any of my non-religious friends that might get flack from their Christian family members, friends, or institutions simply because they don't believe in an invisible god.
Now before anyone starts calling me close-minded, let me remind readers that the burden of proof is on Christians to provide evidence for their claims. My position of skepticism is the default one by the nature of logic. If I were to say "I can read your mind", there are a few ways you could respond, and each instance would show me something different:
- You highly doubt my claim and thoroughly ask me to prove it, or you don't care enough about my claim to waste time thinking about it.
- You like the idea that I could read minds (because hey! maybe that means you can too!) and so you don't question my claim, pretending to believe in its truth.
- You blindly believe I can read minds and don't need any proof.
- You have always been able to read minds yourself and so you have all the proof you need.
In the first instance, you hold the default position of non-belief in my mind-reading ability in exactly the same way I hold skepticism about all religious claims. If I can't really read your mind but opt not to demonstrate either way, you're in the dark; but seeing that no evidence in real life has been provided for ESP, etc., it's probably safe to tell me "you're full of shit" and walk away. If I COULD read your mind and was willing to show proof, evidence would be easily provided and indeed expected of me. If I could read your mind and didn't tell you, we're back where we were when I couldn't read minds and you have no basis for believing me. Consequently, I cannot hold you accountable for your ignorance of my mind-reading.
In the second instance, you show your fear of finding out that I might not be able to support my claims if they were to go under-fire, and leave yourself open to confirmation bias since you want to believe that maybe one day you'll be able to read minds too if you try hard enough.
In the third instance, you believe without evidence and I therefore have no problem calling this position irrational and illogical, and I'm sure you'd agree.
In the last instance it would be safe to say you are delusional - unless of course you can read minds, in which case you should be able to demonstrate this to me.
If we can agree that instance #1 is the most reasonable, logical, and intellectually honest position to find ourselves in, I never again want to hear that non-belief in god is a close-minded position. If my example was a bit too convoluted, maybe this example from Carl Sagan's book "The Demon Haunted World" is a bit more precise.
"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage" Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!
"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.
"Where's the dragon?" you ask.
"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."
You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.
"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floates in the air."
Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.
"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."
You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.
"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."
And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.
His next paragraph is what sums everything up quite nicely for me.
Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.
If you've read this far, you must be either very interested or very bored. In either case, I would refer you again to the link posted before the fold so that you can take a look at the questionnaire. It is a perfect representation of why Christianity and religion just doesn't hold water for those of us who, by the very nature of our minds, find ourselves firmly planted in healthy, rational skepticism. Granted that God exists and all minds are made as a reflection of his personality, what a cruel, cruel joke for us evidence seekers.