Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

I wish more Atheists were like this one

Penn Jillette is well-known comedian and magician known from TV along with his collegue, Teller. I have to admit that I don’t know these guys very well, though I’ve seen a couple of episodes of the “Bullshit” show. Apparently, Jillette is an outspoken Atheist (he believes there is no god). But what I really like about him is that he welcomes religious people and show a kind of understanding that is rarely find among Atheists as far as I’ve experienced.

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But if you had lived in Saudi-Arabia…

I once talked to one of my friend’s parents about Christianity. She asked me a question I’ve heard several times other places, and it used to freak me out (not so much anymore).

Is it not true that if you had lived in Saudi-Arabia, you would’ve most likely have been a Muslim? And is it not true that if you had lived in India, you would probably have been either Muslim or Hindu? How can you be so sure that your religion is true and that you don’t just believe this stuff because you grew up in a Christian culture?

Now, I still haven’t figured out what are the exact assumptions underlying this question, nor where it’s heading. Was it originally meant to be an attempt at defending relativism? Is it an attempt to accuse Christians of being simply ethnocentric? Is it even fair to argue from such completely hypothetical situations in which everything would be different? Assuming I grew up in another country, would it even be me? Does that not entail different parents, different genes, different abilities, different interests, different worries? The question, simple as it might have seemed at first, is quite vague and unspecified.

However, this is the kind of question I was confronted with, and the person asking me wanted to hear an answer, I assumed, rather than a deconstruction of her question, even if this would’ve been justified. I tried answering by making a few reasonable suggestions as to how I would still have been able to know that Christianity is true, even if I had grown up in a country where other beliefs were dominating.

First, I suggested that if God had revealed himself to humans, it would be in a way that most people would’ve heard about. This makes sense, kind of. Surely, if God wanted all of Creation to know him by name, he would not limit himself to a tiny cult in the mountains that most people would never hear about. So I guess that if there is a God, it must be one of the most famous ones. It is therefore reasonable to assume that one of the three monotheistic religions are right, simply because these are the dominating world religions.

Now you have three religious views, and they can’t all be true. It really comes down to which view is more reasonable. Fortunately, these three religions actually seem to agree on some things. For instance, they agree that God is “one” (whatever that means). In this way, we can get a long way to establish what’s true about the world. What I find particularly significant is the fact that they all claim to be based on the faith of a man named Abraham. (Unfortunately, the woman I was talking to didn’t know him.) So the fact of the matter is that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in Abraham.

What must then be considered is, who seems to have the more accurate account about this man Abraham? On the Muslim side, we have the Qur’an all of which was written in the 7th century. On the Judaic-Christian side, we have the Old Testament (or the Torah), more specifically the Book of Genesis. According to Wikipedia, “Scholars believe that it reached its final form in the 5th century BC, with a previous history of composition reaching back possibly to the 10th century.” In any case, it’s much closer to the actual events of Abraham than the Qur’an is. That simply leaves Islam out of the picture as a credible contributer concerning the faith of Abraham.

At this point we only have Judaism and Christianity left. I guess we could find lots of reasons to pick Christianity rather than Judaism. One is the fact that God has obviously left his “chosen” people. History shows that they are no longer in a covenant relationship with the Creator.  Honest research would prove that Judaism is not what Judaism ought to be in this respect. Another way of arguing would be by establishing the historical evidence concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Or perhaps, one could argue from the Torah that they prophecied about the coming of Jesus, and the majority of the Jews simply rejected it.

Obviously, this is just one of many ways to get around the “If you lived in Saudi-Arabia” argument. I used to wonder if I was really this lucky just to grow up in the right church, or if I was just playing tricks on myself, and perhaps the Calvinists were right. Today, I’m confident that my church is full of mistakes just like other churches, but I’m also confident that Christianity is generally true, and Jesus is the Truth.

Growing up in Christianity does not prove it wrong or right, it doesn’t even make it more or less plausible, but God has obviously revealed his true character in a way that would make most people find him, that is, if they actually went looking for him with an honest and open mind. There’s a rational way of figuring it out, and this is not limited by culture since all humans have some basic rational abilities. It’s available to them.

I’ll sum up the argument for you.

1. The real God is probably one of the most famous ones. (A lot of people will agree with that after a short moment of reflection. It’s a good assumption.) That means that God—if he’s really real–is either the God of Judaism, Islam or Christianity.

2. This means that what these three religions agree on, that’s probably true. They all agree that Abraham knew God as he really is. Therefore, if we want to know who God really is, we should find out what Abraham really believed. Islam’s opinion on this particular matter, however, is questionable compared to Judaism and Christianity.

3. That means that Yahweh, in any case, is the true God. All we need to figure out now is if Judaism or Christianity is more plausible. Again, we find the common ground as we did before: The Old Testament. And an honest investigation of this piece of literature will show that Christianity the more reasonable option (sorry, Jews).