Thursday, 16 April 2009

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

One criticism I see of the modern atheist movement is that it fails to capture the arguments that modern theologians are arguing. If the modern theological interpretation, the god of the philosophers, were a valid extension of ancient beliefs then I would fully agree with this criticism. But I like many others would argue that the modern theological constructs that surround the god of the philosophers is not the god that they profess. Rather it is a modified version of the god of the bible, dressed up to look like the god of the philosophers. Thus it enables these theologians to push through all the incredulous parts of their dogma as if they became somehow validated through arguments that are by far more diffuse.

The God of The Bible
Yahweh, like many other gods of the age, was born out of human ignorance to give a sense of order in a seemingly chaotic world. While it may seem to do little justice to the concept, it's important to keep in mind what purpose the gods stood for at the time they were invented. It does no disservice to any deity to portray them that way, as it is as far as I can tell the most accurate descriptor available for the supernatural beings that litter the various mythologies and cultures scattered across the globe.

Consider one of the scientific claims out of the bible - the origin of different language. In Genesis, this is explained by the story of the Tower of Babel. Now it's true that different cultures have different languages, but is that story a satisfying explanation? Look at the languages in Western Europe. French, Italian and Spanish are all Latin-derived, but none of them are Latin. We know through history that each started off as a Latin base, but changed over time. This gives us predictive power - that languages evolve as a culture changes. So we should expect to find that while different cultures speak different languages, nearby cultures derivations should be more similar than ones that have been geographically isolated for millennia. And this is exactly what we find: in Australia there are many different languages spoken by the natives yet these languages are similar, and completely different to the languages spoken in Japan or tribal Africa.

This is but one example of the many superseded explanations that once God / The Bible were used to explain but now have a naturalistic cause. With our understanding of cosmology and evolution, the bible simply does not hold as a book on natural history; it fails badly in every respect. Yet this is the idea that Christianity expanded upon, and modern theologians are now mixing modern philosophy with. The god of the philosophers is being used to justify the god of the bible, yet historically and culturally it's hard to see how one could be mistaken for the other except in a rationalisation of beliefs that were previously held for other reasons.

The reconciliation that wasn't there
There are many philosophical arguments for the existence of God, and not being a trained philosopher I don't feel that I could argue against the arguments anywhere near as effectively as others have done. Rather my contention is the diffuse nature of the arguments. Even if the arguments demonstrate the god of the philosophers, calling it the Judeo-Christian deity is a huge leap in logic. Each one of these arguments do not demonstrate any particular properties that are ascribed to god, they do not justify the dogma or explain the disparity between the god of the philosophers and the bronze-age god of the Jews.

If there was a total abandonment of dogma for the sake of philosophy I could understand. Where is the trinity justified in anything other than Christian dogma? Where does original sin come from if not dogma? The god of the philosopher's doesn't even necessitate consciousness or any interest in the human species, yet these are at the core of the Christian doctrine. For all the evidence otherwise, modern theology still largely rests with earth (and specifically us) as the focus of the universe despite all the evidence to the contrary.

It seems that to mix one with the other, it can be done by either demonstrating that the Judeo-Christian construct of God matches the philosophers god and therefore Jesus, or by showing Jesus' divinity and therefore God. Without demonstrating that the philosopher's god has any form of consciousness, intelligence or interest in the human race then there isn't enough of a ground to alleviate the scepticism surrounding the impossibility of the claims surrounding Jesus. And with only eyewitness testimony, the impossibility of the claims surrounding Jesus do not meet the sceptical threshold to justify that the philosopher's god is the Christian one.

This may seem a harsh use of Occam's razor, but to me it is justifiable. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and the weak nature of the evidence surrounding a deistic Jesus combined with the nebulous nature of the god of the philosophers mean that neither are good explanations to justify the other. Even when used together, the impossibility that surrounds each claims means that a cumulative argument where the two are used in conjunction with one another does not bridge the large leap of logic one has to take to get to the other.

The finest dressed pig at the ball
Modern Christianity cannot escape the shaky foundation it is built on. And although they have tried to dress it up to be something else, the shaky foundation is still visible for all to see. It's not only putting lipstick on a pig, but giving it a complete makeover. It has been given a dress, taught to walk upright and even talk. To even be generous, the makeover has even involved radical cosmetic surgery to make it look human. Yet no matter what cosmetic enhancement the pig has undergone, inside it is still a pig. To call it out as such does not need one to take into account that it has been dressed up to look otherwise. A dressed-up pig is still a pig, just as a modern interpretation of God is still the same deity that came about to explain order in the absence of scientific knowledge.


Joshua Stein said...

This is sort of something that I try and get back to, and I'm glad you brought it up.

Personally, I see the need to attack the central religious premise (that of a creating god).

I agree that liberal theology is pretty ridiculous, and this is a very good explanation of how different it is than the initial religious construction.

Danny said...

As for the different languages thing. Suppose God did do as the bible states at the tower of babel. Why wouldn't the languages change over time just as you described. I don't see your description of evolved languages as evidence against God. Though you don't need to prove it to me, I'm just saying.
Also.. I wander why people who speak out against the existence of God always focus in on Jesus. I'm sure everyone has there on reasons, and I will not insult you by ascribing a reason to you.
But as for people like me. Faith in Jesus works. So, either somebody come up with some bad facts, or, they just have not found the right facts yet. Either way makes little difference to me because if faith in Jesus works for me now without evidence that would convince you, then I suppose it would only be better if they come up with something that would convince you. Either way, if faith works now, it will work tommorrow. If faith works without having evidence, it will work while having evidence.
Really though, I believe that faith is the evidence for things we can not see, and the substance for the things we hope for.
Thank you,
ps.. I hope your economy is doing better than ours.

Kel said...

The explanation of the Tower Of Babel was just one example. It may be that language diverges after such an event, but it would be hard pressed to argue that such an idea is conveyed by the text itself. It's the same with those who say that microevolution can happen but not macroevolution - nothing in genesis chapter 1 or 2 even remotely states such a thing, it's a modern interpretation made to better fit the evidence.

The Tower Of Babel myth was only one example, I could have gone through the bible and pulled out story after story whereby the initial story is to give an explanation of the then-unknown and while there are modern theists who try to reconcile those stories with modern science, it's both misrepresenting science and what the original purpose of the story.

Take the story of Noah's Ark. This was based on the notion of a flat earth, something that has long since been falsified! Yet fossils and localised geological aberrations are still used today to say that story really happened. It didn't, neither the fossil record or the geological strata support a global flood, and there are several key points against such an event.

The point I was trying to make is that the stories started out as explanations of the then unknown. This is not unique to Judaism / Christianity, it can be seen in all religions. The Australian aboriginals came up with the myth of a giant rainbow serpent that carved the mountains and valleys. The fact that there are mountains and valleys is not testament to the mythological serpent, there are better explanations using plate tectonics and erosion to explain the non-uniform geology.

As for the mention of faith working, well I think I can expand that out into a full-length post to reply.

Danny said...