Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What do Theologians and Pokeologists have in common?

Response to: http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/fundamentalist-theologian-asks-%E2%80%9Cwhy-won%E2%80%99t-god-heal-amputees%E2%80%9D-and-%E2%80%9Cwhy-does-god-hate-amputee

In this article, Mr. "FreeThinker" declares the author of Why Won't God Heal Amputees a theologian. It always amuses me when religious people use terms like "Religion", "Faith", or "Theologian" in a derogatory sense. I recommend a diet higher in irony.

First, a theologian is merely one who is trained in theology.

Just as someone studying Pokemon cannot study actual Pokemon (because they don't exist), the theologian studies written stories about God, the history of such pursuits, and philosophies (written or oral) about the presumed nature of God (all things which DO exist). As far as I am aware nobody has actually studied God directly. Many theologians, as a result of this study, find that the claims are simply too weak to support a belief in said 'god'. So being a theologian, in no way, implies belief in the claims - any more than studying Pokemon would imply a belief in actual Pokemon.

Some people claim to experience God. This is a more difficult case because it deals with facts that we simply cannot know for certain with our level of technology (although things like fMRI are starting to address that problem).

But what we do know is that some of those people murder their own children in their earnest belief that God commanded it, some end up in psychiatric wards (hopefully getting much needed rest and care), and others just tell their stories. Some of those stories are wonderful and happy and blissful and some of those stories tell of horrible places of darkness and suffering. Perhaps interestingly, these are EXACTLY the same stories Shamans and users of psychedelic substances have been telling for millennia.

Our primary problem here is that we have no way of knowing which of these are real. How do you KNOW that God didn't tell Andrea Yates to drown her children? The only reason you reject it a priori is probably because you don't like it but you likely excuse it as the epitome of greatness when God commands Abraham to murder his own child or when God commands the utter genocide of the Amalekites (including their beasts).

But the coincidence of these facts, along with Dreams, False Memory, Confirmation Bias (and other cognitive biases) draws very strong suspicion from myself and many others as to the ontological validity of the remaining claims. It becomes vastly more probable that such events exist only in the brain of the subject.

So I find your determination to characterize the author as a 'theologian' to be a cheap rhetorical device. But I agree that this test presumes essentially the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God as described in the Torah/Bible/Koran rather than all possible abstract gods.

Secondly, you seem willing to quote James 1:27 as prima facie evidence supporting your position.

Why do you then fail to quote and inform the reader of passages such as:

Matthew 18:19
Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven

Is this not a simple a plain statement from the Bible supported by many other passages?

John 15:7
But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted

Mark 11:24
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours

Psalm 34:17
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

The reasons prayer might be denied are listed as well.

• Disobedience - Deuteronomy 1:45; 1 Samuel 14:37
• Sin - Psalm 66:18
• Indifference - Proverbs 1:28
• Neglect of mercy - Proverbs 21:13
• Despising the Law - Proverbs 28:9
• Bloodguiltiness - Isaiah 1:15
• Iniquity - Isaiah 59:2; Micah 3:4
• Stubbornness - Zechariah 7:13
• Instability or Doubt - James 1:6-7
• Self-indulgence - James 4:3

Jesus doesn't hem and haw about prayer, mountains will hurl themselves into the sea on your command.

Mark 11:23
Amen I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed and be cast into the sea, and shall not stagger in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done; it shall be done unto him

Don't these passages support the position of “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?”

And I'm sure you are aware that a large part of the impetus behind that question is the fact that the vast majority of believers, believe that God DOES answer prayers. The real point of the question, which I doubt actually escaped you although you declined to comment on it, is why does God only seem to operate when there are Naturalist explanations but never when the outcome would be truly miraculous (and observable)? This smacks of Confirmation Bias - something the average person is probably unfamiliar with but someone of your stature is undoubtedly knowledgeable about what that is.

It is dishonest scholarship to exclude evidence as our "FreeThinker" has done. These passages and their meaning are well known and should be addressed. Theists are well aware of the failure of prayers to do anything significant, that why is why must peacock every questionable 'miracle' claim based on a lack of evidence rather than demanding the same level of positive evidence as they demand of science.

* note: I used a variety of translations here, at random. ALWAYS look up the texts in multiple translations, and at least look at an interlinear and study the original Koine to try to better understand their context and usage.

No comments:

Post a Comment