One thing about this blog is that it attracts readers from both sides of the aisle in regards to Christianity and Christian belief.. Many now despise Christianity while others find deep richness in it for their lives. Others are devout believers that also believe in evolution and do not take the Bible as being literal. These folk are disconcerting to both camps. In spite of that, most here have at least found the freedom to use their brain instead of letting others tell them what to believe and how to believe it. I think we all had enough of that!
Someone forwarded me a link tonight to a recent article by Joe Tkach Jr about this very issue. I am curious as to your take on this:
On a flight to Dallas last week, my seatmate was James – a nice fellow in his late twenties. James was somewhat full of his intellectual capacity and thought the world was full of stupid people. Christians, he explained, were exceptionally stupid, because they seemed to be oblivious to the discoveries of science. In his estimation, they were like people who believed the earth was flat. James was obviously proud to consider himself an atheist.
I enjoyed the look on his face when I told him that I was one of those so-called ignorant Christians. I mentioned that he might not have heard of surveys showing that 40% of scientists are agnostics and 40% are Christian. I told him that I knew personally several believing scientists who work on the cutting edge of scientific discovery. I reminded him that Francis Collins, who was the director of the Human Genome Project, is a devout Christian. James seemed interested to hear more.
I told him that I am amused by TV characters like Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his “Bible belt” mother in the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory; and by Alice, the assistant to the vicar in the British sitcom Vicar of Dibley. I also admitted to him that some Christians would benefit from more education. But I told him that I’m annoyed that it is now acceptable to portray Christians as simpletons. These TV characters are definitely not typical of most Christians.
I explained to James that many of the concepts we grow up believing are myths. For example, there is the commonly held idea that even educated people in historic times believed that the earth was flat. However, the historical record does not support this idea. As noted by Jeffrey Russell (professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara) in Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians, the flat-earth theory is a fable used to denigrate pre-modern European civilizations.
The historic fact is that as far back as 330 BC, Aristotle pointed out that the shadow of the earth on the moon is always circular. In 240 BC, Eratosthenes calculated the earth’s spherical circumference. The Venerable Bede, who lived over 700 years before Columbus, explained the varying duration of daylight in terms of the roundness of earth, reasoning from the Bible that spoke of the “circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22).
Some of the most notable scientists through history were Christians. In the sixth century, philosopher and theologian John Philoponus anticipated the modern physics of light and atomic structure based on the doctrines of the Trinity and creation. Galileo was reading Philoponus as he calculated the movement of the stars, laying a foundation for our modern understanding of the cosmos.
Unaware of all this, James was intrigued. I hope I left him less sure that Christianity is only for dummies. I’d like to think I helped him shift in his thinking from being an atheist to an agnostic.
Of course, many assume that atheism and agnosticism are synonymous. They are not. There is a significant difference in the two. It is fashionable today to say you are an atheist. Writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins have made names for themselves by ridiculing religion in general and Christianity in particular. They have suggested that if Christians cannot convincingly demolish the atheist argument and prove God exists, the only sensible default position for an educated person is atheism. But hold on a minute. Atheists claim that God does not exist, so it is up to them to prove their point. They can’t, of course – philosophically you cannot prove a negative. When cornered, most atheists have to admit to really being agnostic. Agnostics say they do not know whether God exists. This is a reasonable position for people who have insufficient evidence (and/or interest!) to make a decision.