Where I Cram My Ideas


Saturday, January 19, 2008

John Loftus - Rejecting Christianity

"The Christian faith should be rejected by modern civilized scientifically literate people."

I'm not too familiar with John Loftus' writings. However, the above claim is one he advances at his blog, and I must disagree on several grounds.

If he wants to debate me on the matter, I don't think it would be a waste of time - although there may be more important matters for people to spend time debating.

How I interpret the statement

Loftus seems to be saying that all shades of Christian faith (where it differs from other beliefs) should be rejected. This is the problem. The Christian faith is very broad.

Some branches are quite modern.

Some branches are quite civilized.

Some branches are quite scientifically literate.

Loftus would make a better argument if he argued for rejecting the elements of the Christian faith that are different. He could argue for rejecting the aspects of Christianity that are ancient, uncivilized and incompatible with science.

The nature of "should"

My key disagreement with Loftus' statement regards his choice of the word "should." Since he has this phrase highlighted in red text in a permanent "challenge" section on his blog, I assume he did a lot of thinking when he chose his words. As I see it, there are two possible meanings.

First, there is a *practical* use of the word. If you want to win a game of chess, you *should* try to put your opponent's king in checkmate.

Second, there is a *moral* use of the word. If people want to be modern, civilized and scientifically literate (all "good" things), they should reject the Christian faith.

In a practical sense, Loftus would have to (and would inevitably fail, I believe) to establish that those aspiring to be modern, civilized and scientifically literate - in order to do so - must reject the Christian faith. This is evidently incorrect.

It should be noted - there are elements, some specific to the Christian faith, that should definitely be rejected by modern, civilized, scientifically literate people. Just not all.

We are left with the moral element. Loftus may be claiming that modern, civilized, scientifically literate people have a moral obligation to abandon Christianity. For simple reasons, I disagree. If people are modern, civilized and scientifically literate - and Christian - what moral reason is there for such people to reject their Christian faith? It clearly is not obstructing them. Such a claim would also imply that adherence to the Christian faith (and thus, all Christians) are either incapable of being modern, civilized and scientifically literate, or are severely lacking in those areas. This amounts to bigotry and is not to be tolerated.

Conclusion

Doubtless, Loftus wrote his challenge to instigate discussion with Christians. His view is probably shared by many people who have not considered the actual implications of that sort of claim. My post is simply to express my disagreement with his argument, pending clarification.

4 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

The Christian faith is very broad. Some branches are quite modern. Some branches are quite civilized. Some branches are quite scientifically literate.

All of them are false, although I would not be so interested in debating mystic versions in which there is little difference between them and Buddhism.

He could argue for rejecting the aspects of Christianity that are ancient, uncivilized and incompatible with science.

I am arguing against all of those aspects that "modern civilized scientifically literate people" reject. Since the list would be long if I enumerated all of them, I prefer to simply state "the Christian faith."

The nature of "should"

They should reject it because by not doing so they are being inconsistent with what makes makes them "modern civilized scientifically literate people" in the first place.

My post is simply to express my disagreement with his argument, pending clarification.

Unless you want a debate proposition to be several pages long using precise lawyer type language, we must compact it to a manageable sentence, which the debaters can hash out the terms involved in the debate itself.

Cheers.

G-man said...

A response in person! I'm flattered.

There is always a potential problem when one decides not to elaborate, but to "simply" apply one label.

It is a fact that the Bible, when interpreted by literalists and fundamentalists, is full of things that contradict modernity, civility and science.

However, it is precisely those things that more liberal Christians say are not part of the Christian faith.

I will agree with you to an extent - all branches of Christianity are wrong about some things. (Then again, the same is certainly true of the scientific profession).

Proportionately, we should apply our argumentation and study to those topics where Christians (or anybody else, for that matter) are wrong in ancient, uncivilized and unscientific ways.

Many liberal Christians, once again, are modern. They have accepted more civilized codes of tolerance. They have come to terms with scientific knowledge. The only leg you or I have from which to criticize them is that they are wrong about one or two things. Surely the same is true for us.

"I am arguing against all of those aspects that "modern civilized scientifically literate people" reject."

There is an abundance of Christians who argue against those very aspects. This is the problem you face when you associate these ignorant arguments with "the Christian faith" as a whole.

I understand the risk of having to draw out a multi-page argument of precise language... however, I would point out that a one-paragraph summary of what you wrote here would clarify your challenge. On a site as influential and widely read as yours, I think some obligation rests on your shoulders to be as precise as you can, without being boring.

If I am correct - the Christian faith held by some people is modern, civilized and scientifically literate - then you should seriously consider rewording your challenge.

John W. Loftus said...

If I am correct - the Christian faith held by some people is modern, civilized and scientifically literate - then you should seriously consider rewording your challenge.

I take aim at evangelical Christianity in order to move them off center. That's the purpose of my Blog as you read in the header.

But I would also argue that people claiming to be modern who embrace liberalism are not being consistent.

Cheers.

G-man said...

Well that's what happens when I don't read the FAQ :)

Thanks John - in the context of that header, your statement is more sound. I would also tend to agree with the other part of what you wrote. People claiming to be hold a more modern faith are not consistent.