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Description of Episode
- Full Title: Unbelievable? 2 Jun 2007 – Does Christianity enslave? – 02 June 2007 — Are we better off without belief in God?
Duncan Rossiter runs an atheist website. He says that Christinaity enslaves people. Find out why he has a problem with the idea of God and whether Christian evangelist Paul Clarke can persuade him that faith in Christ sets people free.
- Justin Brierley – Christian Moderator
- Paul Clarke – Christian
- Duncan Rossiter – Atheist
- My responses in bold, quotes in italic, and the rest is a paraphrase. I may change this formatting convention as I go through the project in the future.
Duncan – “hard to be an atheist – people are shocked when they hear”. “Primarily belief based on indoctrination at an early age rather than at an age when you can make decisions for yourself.”
Paul – “saying you’re a Christian, as opposed to Muslim or Hindu, you get the same sort of reaction.”
Question to Duncan – “why would we be better off without belief in God?”
Justin – “Do you feel that you’ve lost something? Does it make one sad that this is all we have?”
Duncan – As a race, why are we better off? Middle East, Ireland, obvious issues. Asking people to pray when they could be doing something themselves. You can, as an atheist, investigate any other truth claims.
Paul – the Christian is allowed to investigate anything. “atheism is an absolute truth claim just as the faith claims.” Stalin and Mao connected to their atheism?
Me – What is clear is that dogmatic thinking, whether religious or atheistic, leads to suffering. however, religion by its very structure celebrates dogmatism, whereas modern scientific (i.e. skeptical) thinking abhors it wherever it is seen.
Paul – “what hitler did was not in accord of Christian beliefs”
Me – The bible is a multiple-choice text. You can find anything in it, so it can be used to justify the worst behavior and the best behavior.
Paul – “the 20th century was an experiment in secularism, and the result was secular evil more virulent than what came before.”
Paul – people take belief systems and use them for evil. Christianity is not inherently evil. there is evil in the human heart. the problem is with selfish people who might come along and use christianity or any other belief systems for there end.
Duncan – human beings will do evil.
Paul – why haven’t we evolved out of that?
Me – even asking this question shows a remarkable ignorance about how evolution works. first, we are effectively the same humans now (from an evolution standpoint) as we were when we left africa. so why would we expect to have “evolved out of that?” second, it is clear that a balance of selfish tendencies and societal, non-selfish, tendencies leads to success in social creatures like us. therefore, we are still stuck with those selfish tendencies. I am not convinced that if we were able to eliminate this, that this would necessarily be a good thing overall. it could be that this selfish, competitive, aspect gives us the motivation to find creative solutions to problems about which we might otherwise be complacent.
Paul – second hand belief and disbelief, from parents, community, needs to be scrutinized and figured out yourself.
Paul – atheism has no objective way of determining right from wrong.
Duncan – God supposedly created everything, absolutely everything, knows us, and what we are going to do and yet there are people starving that he could have saved. He must be in control of these things but I have not seen any answers out there from Christianity for “why the evil, why at all?”
Paul – agrees that God knows these things, and that the evil is allowed to happen for a reason. In man-made evil, is not directly caused by God (because of free will). on natural evil, he asks “do you think there is enough food in the world to feed everyone in the world?”
Me – absolutely yes. it’s just not distributed properly. and that doesn’t get God off the hook, because he could easily make the soil more fertile, etc… in the places without enough food currently.
Duncan – if people prayed a little less and do a little more, then things would be improved.
Paul – you can pray and do, as well.
Duncan – prayer is a waste of time.
Paul – prayer is the sort of activity that makes yourself more into the type of person that could help. if prayer is a waste of time, do you do anything that wastes time? Certainly you could do more.
Paul – is there ever a justification for allowing suffering? yes, like a nurse giving a shot, to allow for a higher goal. so, is there a higher goal, to justify the suffering? if there were one, then it would have to be pretty big and pretty important. the christian answer to it is the higher goal in question is the glory of god. somehow, all of these things work together for the glory of god.
Duncan – maybe my brain is not wired right, but I don’t see how people dying people for the glory of god, even if they do not believe or ever heard of “your god”.
Paul – we are seeing the back of the tapestry, not the front. the messy side.
Paul – to strictly be an atheist and to make the absolute truth claim that there is nowhere anywhere in the universe a god you need complete knowledge and ethical perfection.
Me – what a ridiculous straw man. replace “God” in this sentence with “Fairy” or “Unicorn” or “Zeus” and you’ll immediately see why.
Justin – what about the positive impact, when they found christ.
Duncan – what about the positive impact of atheism?
Me – is there anything that you believe in, strongly, for which the only evidence you have are stories in ancient texts?