Mark 9:24

With trembling hands, bear the sacred

In Lay Meditations on January 2, 2012 at 9:11 am

Fascinating exchanges have taken up the bulk of my writing lately, and I think it’s well worth at least my time to debrief. This first point involves the question of the two sorts of theist-atheist arguments — first, there’s the popular one which posits shiny Evangelical treacle of mammon against slick Freedom from Religion Foundation trickle of mammon, where the War on Christmas rages on and the causalities are always far fewer than reported.

It is no boastfulness to talk of men as swine, for we must always approach our fellow men as fellow sinners.

Darrow vs. Bryan, reads yesterday’s banner; Dawkins vs. Craig, reads tomorrow’s; and boy, in my twisted imagination do the atheists always get the top billing, because man, they do not always win.

I am utterly uninterested in this hysteria. Clearer arguments come from surprising corners, which is to say between that endangered creature, the real atheist who yet is polite, and we the backwards relics of the Dark Ages, we lockstep sheep and papist throwbacks. We are not utterly opposed: We both, for example, submit to actual science on the question of evolution. Leah of Unequally Yoked, admirably, takes the tack of our latter route, but, dissenting, here writes an atheist with the earnest name of Heartfout, a reader over at a much better blog than mine.

The main reason I tend not to get into the “other kind of fight” is that, quite frankly, often there is no point. I don’t mean there’s no point like we all agree with each other or anything like that, but rather just that chances for me to argue it as an atheist rarely come up, since the arguments are generally based on their terms; assuming that a God exists, which sort of defeats the point of being an atheist.

Rather, I am asked to become a sort of temporary theist, assuming that God exists just long enough to question this bit of theology, before dropping back off and not discussing the fact that I don’t believe that God exists and if you want me to start debating the Trinity in a proper way, you have to first convince me there is a God to be a Trinity of three beings.

Do you think atheists don’t ask Christians to try on the atheist shoes to see if they fit better?

I have no issues “trying on Christian shoes,” [but the] Sunday best. Full disclosure: I paraphrased this last comment, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he means.

To which I think the best answer is as from Jesus: pearls before swine. Making no comment about his worth as a person — doubt not my sincerity — but say this about his ability to in any sense appreciate what we present. You may get your feet wet splashing in puddles, but are you thereby prepared to swim the Channel?

If you are set on discussing Christianity but have already decided firmly to remain an atheist, you are going to be dissatisfied, and it is useless to you. Know that you aren’t going to refute Christianity by means of an “internal inconsistency,” and certainly not without a great deal of instruction. If something is mysterious, we admit it. For that matter, we spend enough time in doubt, believe me on at least that, so your objections early on are likely the common ones. If we say confidently that there are answers to your questions, it is because we know that what is best in us is rational, we are not incapable of grappling with tough issues, and all of our own, most beloved pet heresies have been better phrased and more solidly rebutted a thousand years ago.

So many atheists seem flabbergasted at our adoration of Love, the jealous husband of a faithless wife, that they forget or ignore that we further identify this radical charity with Logos, towards which right human reason is oriented. To wit, between an Evangelical pop star, Hitchens the Greater and Pope Benedict XVI, guess who comes out ahead? Perhaps a better illustration: XKCD, perhaps hostile to the supernatural — our linked comic is probably a false dichotomy — still featured comic no. 675. That last one could have a few key phrases changed and be something from our side of our question.

Entry-level, low-commitment explorations of Christianity — the oyster, if we’re talking about preparing the swine for pearls; the shoes, if we’re busy putting on Christ — do not begin with the deep mysteries of faith. This narrowest door must always begin with deciding if this Jesus guy has any authority. From there, the rest follows, and suddenly dressing up is a lot more important. Until then, men without pants shouldn’t mess with cummerbunds, and men wearing jeans shouldn’t complain that it would look funny.


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