Thursday, July 28, 2011

Information is bad

The other night, courtesy of debunkingchristianity, I read this article from Christian arch-apologist Josh McDowell. In a case of almost frantic paranoia, McDowell claims, “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have... whether you like it or not.” Of course, McDowell is correct, and his complaining that the “abundance of knowledge and information” online is as good as an admission that his apologetics books and arguments have lost the intellectual battle. I had never heard of Christian apologetics before about 1990, when my church pastor recommended his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict to me. I bought volume 1 from our church bookstore – which contains such apologetic chestnuts as “Die for a Lie” and “Lord Liar Lunatic”. I was never given counter-arguments at the time, and I was flatly told from out pastor that there were NO credible counter-arguments, so I bought the whole apologetic program. I also bought volume 2, but only browsed that since it delved into such esoterica as “debunking” something called the Documentary Hypothesis. Something about J, E, P and D made my eyes glaze over, so I never bothered with volume 2. Besides, I figured, Volume 1 pretty much wraps up the whole Case for Christ! You would have to be mad to reject the obvious truth of Jesus.

Of course, this was years before I owned a computer and could access rejoinders freely online. What McDowell is doing by warning his followers of the dangers of information, is nothing new. They never needed to warn me about the dangers of information in the pre-internet age, because that information was not readily available. There were no blogs, no online articles, no dissenting opinions or information, just the reassuring words of Pastor Skip and his invited speakers. There were no online bookstores and open source book archives, just our highly selective church bookstore and sermon-on-tape archive. I had no i-Tunes U, podcasts or internet radio, just TBN, the 700 Club and Family Life Radio. There was no need for McDowell to tell us about the dangers of information back then. It existed, but it was just well-hidden and inaccessible.

Those days are gone. The world has shrunk, and the Church can no longer pretend that dissent does not exist.

My local library played a small part, but I am an ex-Christian and an atheist primarily because of the free information on the Internet. I can now recognize dogma for what it is, shed myself of it, and free my life of those mental shackles. I have come to believe that information combined with critical thinking skills is crucial for growth and maturity. McDowell has every reason in the world to fear for his Christian beliefs.

I showed RoseMary the article from McDowell the other evening. She had never heard of him, and only familiar with apologetics because of my exposure to the subject. So I had to explain who he was, explain the unfortunate influence his, and similar, books had on my life, and once again remind her what Christian apologetics were. I became more emotional as I spoke, remembering the lying and manipulation that McDowell and others engage in when they declare victory with bad arguments and no counter-arguments. I guess I will always have those emotional scars, that feeling that I cannot get over being hoodwinked for so many years, and I just have to remember to be grateful that I am finally free of that mindset. But I guess my emotions also spill out when I think of so many of my friends who are similarly blinded by these crooks and charlatans, and I admit it does anger me that they are able to get away with it. I was recently advised by a workmate to read Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ if I wanted my doubts answered. I nearly gagged. I am also frustrated that even in this online age, many Fundamentalists already share McDowell’s fear of information. I can loan my workmate any book of my own choosing in return to reading Strobel, and I know full well, from experience, that any book I loan him will remain unopened and unread. Dogma can stand no dissenting information. McDowell is flat out lying when he says that today’s Christian says, “There is no truth apart from myself”. Baloney. Anybody who has gotten any kind of education certainly understands that the more they learn, the more ignorant they feel. The more I learned about pulsars as a graduate student in astronomy the more questions sprang up; the more I learn about the Bible, the Christian religion and Christian history the less I feel I understand it; and the more I learn about Life in general, the more uncertain I feel (which is not a bad thing by the way). But Christians know this and are terrified of it. Faith requires certainty, and if information brings uncertainty, then Faith must require Ignorance. I can loan my friend The Cat in the Hat, but as long as it comes from the godless atheist, that book will remain to the Christian an evil influence to be avoided at all costs.

I was going to write a blog article about McDowell after my emotional rant to RoseMary, but I saw that I was already late to the game. Several others had already written articles, and I did not want to just repeat what had already been said, and I did not want to be just an emotional rant. That is the strange thing about blogs – when I want to write about something that interests me, it seems somebody has already written about it, only much better than I ever could – so I lose motivation and end up not writing anything. So I will leave this article about Josh McDowell stand here where it is.


D'Ma said...

I read all those apologetics books as well, never considering counter-arguments because I had insulated myself in my little Christian world where I didn't need to look at the other side of the coin. Besides, I was told, the other side of the coin was dark and evil and I should pay no attention to it. It is the latter days and counter arguments are only the slippery slope to the Great Deception that will cause many to fall away. So I cheerfully dismissed any counter-arguments as Satanic and evil. Little did I know the great deception was already upon me.

Anonymous said...

Like you, I found the Internet was a great source of information when I began seeking answers about my beliefs. That is clearly why atheism/nontheism is on the rise, especially among younger people. It used to be difficult to get information and counterarguments. Hell, they used to kill atheists. Now the cat is out of the bag.

I, too, am angry sometimes at being lied to for so many years. I still feel resentful that what I was taught (particularly about the afterlife) turned out to be so much baloney. Maybe I would have made different life choices had I known this was my only life.

Vinny said...

I bought ETDAV after becoming a born again Christian in my late teens circa 1975. I had converted for emotional reasons but I wanted to know what all the evidence was so I could convince my friends and family. I was quite disappointed. I wanted to believe Josh, but I didn't think that anyone I knew would buy his arguments.

Lorena said...

Your rant is awesome. I agree with it at every level. If it weren't for the Internet, I would still be a believer. The information is there for everyone to see, and it's fabulous.

You're right, too, that McDowell and his kind are liars. They come up with incredible stories.

I never bought his books, but I picked one up at the church library once. Opened it up and found a justification for something that went something like this: In ancient Palestine this-or-that was found at hilltops; therefore, it isn't a contradiction because it is talking about this-or-that on those terms.

Even though I was still a Christian, I remember thinking, "What a bunch of bullshit, this stuff doesn't hold any water."

Then put the book down and shortly after I left the church.

Anonymous said...

Do you think all the Christians believe that faith requires absolute certainty, and are terrified of knowledge?

It does seem to me that there is going to be a counter-argument for every proposition out there. It just goes with the territory.

Part of the reason I don't continually study all the counter arguments out there against the Christian faith is that it seems to me this may not be the most productive use of my time.

I mean after studying comparative religion at a secular university, and a progressive seminary, it began to appear to me personally that all the counter arguments begin to sound repetitive. Is there anything new under the sun?

Right now I'm more into ways that I can walk out my faith in Jesus Christ, and make a positive difference in the world. I would rather study the Book of Common Prayer.

We are just at different places, HeIs Sailing, but not all people of faith are coming from a place of fear.

Personally I can't see how any Christian believer can suppose that they have all the answers.

Doesn't the Scripture itself clearly state that we know only in part, that "we see through a glass darkly."