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.