February 2005

Went to Safi’s birthday party, which included a ceidlidh by the marvelous Karl Sandeman, who seems to have cornered the market in this town. Much fun was had.

I had a random encounter with an evangelical Christian, who we shall call R, who it turns out I recognised from my StAG days. Found myself wishing for hyperlinks in conversation, since a lot of it covered ground I’ve been over before. Along with another atheist, who we shall call A, we talked about what basis there was for morality without God. R felt that any atheistic morality would eventually come down to “might makes right”. While that’s true in the sense that if a very large number of people believe something, it’s hard for people who don’t to make any headway (and perhaps even for them to survive), I hope intelligent people see the need for co-operation and that a civilised society is better than Mad Max. In any case, evangelical Christianity also comes down to might making right: it’s just in their case, it’s God who will impose his will by force one day.

Interestingly, R didn’t think that the reason why God doesn’t show himself much was to avoid overwhelming our free will (which is an argument I’ve heard before), but rather that it was up to God to decide how much to reveal of himself, and that he’d revealed enough that non-believers were without excuse. She made reference to the line at the end of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” So it was arrogant of people to insist on more evidence. I think that’s something of a cop-out, myself. Although I can see that it’d make sense if you were already committed to the idea that what God says goes, it isn’t particularly useful for evangelism.

Got onto how well attested the New Testament was from other sources, which really becomes an argument about how much the Gospel writers made up, and whether there are later Christian modifications to people like Josephus. I attempted to short circuit this discussion by saying that nobody is asking me to bet my eternal destiny on whether Julius Caesar existed, but if I’m to choose between EvangelicalChristianGod, Allah, and whoever, I’d better have a bit more evidence because those deities’ followers tell me the stakes are rather high.

We then got on to whether creation provides evidence of a God. It went like this:

R: The Bible says that God is clearly seen in creation, so that unbelievers are without excuse.
Me: aha, but science and God of the gaps.
R: aha, but Just Six Numbers.
A: aha, but Weak Anthropic Principle.
Me: and deism isn’t Christianity, right? All this is just a plausibility argument.

Thence to the fate of us unbelievers. Like nlj21 (see recent discussion), R was clear that A and I are pretty much doomed, as we’ve heard the evangelical Christian gospel and rejected it. A was not worried by this as he thinks it’s all a lie anyway, but was was more interested in R’s opinion on the fate of people who haven’t heard. Somewhat surprisingly, R thought that they might be doomed too. Her reasoning was that God was justified in condemning everyone, and so whoever was saved should thank God for his grace and favour. A seemed somewhat shocked by this. Felt compelled to defend Christianity and point out that not all Christians believe this.

Again, there’s that disconnect between what evangelical Christians think they and others are guilty of and what most people think of as justice. As I’ve said elsewhere, I find it hard to comprehend the mentality that believes itself to be deserving of Hell. It seems a common tactic among evangelical Christians to say things like “I know how sinful I am”, presumably in an attempt to show that they don’t think they’re better than non-Christians. The problem is, the people saying this are generally the nice personable ones (such as the anonymous commenter who’s been talking to me about my essay, on this entry). It makes me want to shake them, sometimes. In non-Christian love, of course.

Then we talked about the evangelical way of reading the Bible, of which I’ve said a lot already, so I won’t rehearse it all here.

Then the party ended and I went home, after delivering a very dense amp back to Homerton. There isn’t a conclusion, other than that people don’t really seem to reach conclusions in arguments like this. Still, they’re quite fun to have, anyhow.

It seems someone from CICCU (or at least, someone from a Cambridge IP address) posted an advert for this year’s CICCU Convert-a-thon to my last entry. You’ve got to admire the brass neck of that: it seems vaguely reminiscent of something old JC himself might have done. I replied in kind, and so The Great God Debate thread was begun. It’s mostly me and robhu vs nlj21 right now. Feel free to join us, as long as you can spell and punctuate and are not any sort of nutter.