Just a humble opinion on the Christian Vs. Atheist debate.
|"The sea of faith was once too at the full and round earth's shore."
This essay will seek to prove that both sides of the religious debate have fundamental misunderstandings of their basic principles. By engaging with each other in bad faith argumentation, the two sides are made equally hypocritical by their own arrogant and shallow positions. This phenomenon is similar to a man putting a hole in his rowboat so that his neighbor might drown. There is very little for the sides to agree on, so any possible dialogues are dead in the water. This essay is a critique of such thinking and encourages people to simply be nicer to each other.
The majority of the people in the United States have resigned themselves to the solemn trench warfare of two camps. The first flies the banner of the atheists who for various reasons, either due to logic or moral squabbles, have given up on the idea of God. The second camp is the heavy-handed evangelists who fight all those different from them with a vitriolic venom that their own God condemns. Then there are those in the middle. Caught in the crossfire of being called "irrational idiots" by one side and "sinners" by the other. They have no camp, being made of a diverse group of people who all believe slightly different, often incompatible ideas.
Thus we have a description of the battlefield. But where is the grail? Where the castle or the princess? There is no prize for winning this contest. The combatants toil on a dead plain, a swamp of empty promises with the only reward being the pain afflicted against another person. The shots fired at the other side are not to gain, but to destroy. Theological combat is the worst type of argument because there can be no compromise between the two sides. The Hegelian Dialectic1 breaks down upon itself as the core identities of the combatants constitute both thesis and antithesis. Even the most rational individuals of any group find themselves forced into the fray if only as an act of self-defense; an act to protect their core identities.
"but now I only hear its melancholy long withdrawing roar."
Faith is by its very nature spiritual, the Christians need not fight on the battlefield at all. Secure in their beliefs, they should offer only the love promised to them by Jesus. The atheists will call them irrational, stupid, "victims of Intellectual Suicide" (to borrow the term from Mr. Camus.)2 The Christians will in response, throw their hands to the heavens and say "blessed are those who speak against me, for they offer the opportunity to share your name." The bible does not require rationality and does not demand it from its followers, it only demands that they follow the final commandment and show love to their God. The only way to do that is to disengage with hateful speech and vitriolic argumentation. How much better the world would be if Christians would live their word rather than speak it at people!
To take the other perspective, atheists have no place in this warfare either. For their primary concern should be the will to power. They only have so much time remaining to them, and that clock pauses for no man or woman. Why do they care what a group of people chooses to believe? When Meursault is confronted by Christians in "the stranger"3 he does not insult them, but accepts their beliefs and informs them that he disagrees. That is the rational response when confronted with a fundamental difference in identity. If the Christian then wants to engage in a mean spirited debate then he betrays himself, why would the atheist find it necessary to fall to his level? By doing so he betrays his core ideas and behaves irrationally.
To answer the predictable argumentation made against the above point, yes, atheists are not one ubiquitous group and I am guilty in this essay of oversimplifying complex problems to a basic set of strawmen principals. Atheists indeed do not all think the same. However, one only needs to visit some of the more famous online communities such as Reddit's r/atheism to understand that hate and bigotry are more human than Christian.
To put the above idea another way, I'm not personally attacking any person. Rather, I am aiming at the communities that individuals are a part of. Yet despite that, I do personally blame and every reader for the current state of affairs (and myself too to be fair, I am an equal opportunity hater of society.) John-Paul Sartre writes "there are no innocent victims"4 in regards to this principle. We are each responsible for the current state of the world. There is no one to blame for the problems plaguing our communities than ourselves.
"Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night."
To fully disclose myself in this essay, I am a Christian. But I dislike those who call themselves my brothers and then behave like animals as if they will make the world better with their hate.
As a Christian, I believe there will come a moment of judgment. The multitudes of Christians will walk forward saying "we have called you lord, we have prophesied in your name and cast out demons." The Lord my God will look at them and reply only "Begone from this place, I do not know you, evildoer." as it is written, so it will be.
When either side of a religious debate engages in base argumentation, they both, by the very nature of their beliefs, betray themselves. The Christians do not live out that most important, final commandment and the Atheists do not live up their core ideal of rationality.
Supposing the above argumentation is true, then a very interesting apparent paradox arises. How can Christians and Atheists defend their beliefs if doing so would compromise their own beliefs? The answer is dependent on the side you're on.
For the Christians; don't be silly. You believe in a God that created in the universe and hung the stars one by one in the sky. A God which formed the world out of the chaos of endless waters. Do you think him so weak as to need your defense? I should hope not, your defense is vain, self-serving aggrandizement. You seek your own glory in defeating the arguments of worldly philosophers as if a God would care how sound your logic is in the face of his omniscient knowledge. Your actions are wholly masturbatory and damaging to the faith you claim to profess and to the God, you claim to serve. Remember the words of Plutarch; "Better to have no opinion of God than one which is unworthy of him." Not jumping to the defense of God is not even compromising yourself. Simply live a good life, and you will make a difference. There is no reason to pick fights with those who disagree with you.
For Atheists: A core belief for many of you is that Christians are somewhat evil. Many people cite events in history to prove this, such as the crusades and the Christian missions to native peoples. These were of course thinly veiled land grabs and attempts to gain obedient slaves among native populations. I see the argument, "The God Delusion"5 which is quite compelling material. However, I disagree with your perspective in terms of uniqueness. I fail to see a reason why evilness is uniquely set to Christians, or even that evil is enhanced in Christians.
Assuming that I'm right on the above argument (a big if I know) then you, as an Atheist have no reason whatsoever to care what a Christian does. Lacking the moral imperative to liberate the world of the Christian menace you have less reason than Christians to engage in bad faith arguments. Christians may be prideful and arrogant when thinking about God but at least they have a correctable reason for doing so. The only excuse you have for argument is to make yourself feel better about your own choices. Which may be the furthest possible position from a rational ubermensch. Be confident in the life you have picked. Be an absurdist, be the ubermensch and give nothing up halfway.
This essay is not to say that people should not talk about religion, but rather to condemn bad-faith arguments. The debate need not be negative we are all working towards truth together, and with a new perspective, one side or the other will find it easier to create converts. Well, not that the Atheist side of the world needs help with new converts. It's the Christians who need to change their ways, so let this essay also be a gentle reminder to remember your calling.
Poem Is "Dover Beach" By Mathew Arnold