Archives For Daniel Taylor

Skeptical BelieverLast week I solicited responses from you, asking you to give me your best case for NOT believing in God.

One of the responses I received was brief but cutting:

“Rather than insisting (with no evidence to support it) that God exists, doesn’t it seem much more reasonable that humans simply needed a ‘god’ to give their lives meaning and morality?

And doesn’t it make sense that as society increasingly needs ‘god’ less for meaning and morality that people would believe in him less?

And isn’t that exactly what we see happening in modern, scientific cultures?”

Whether the writer here did so purposefully I don’t know, but he’s channeling Sigmund Freud’s primary critique of religion.

Say what you will about Freud’s bona fides as a psychoanalyst, his analysis of both religion and literature remains incisive and compelling.

I remember the first time I read Freud’s The Future of an Illusion and Moses and Monotheism, both as a second year at UVA. I’d only been a Christian for a few years, and after read those two books I was pissed off for weeks.

On the one hand, Freud’s critiques of religion were wild, sweeping speculations, made with very little ‘hard’ evidence to support them and demanding of readers precisely the very thing he’d set out to dismiss: faith.

On the other hand, I’d been a Christian long enough- and I’d been an atheist long enough before that- to know that Freud’s arguments were not without merit.

Indeed they were true when considered against a great many strains of Christianity and religion in general.

Religion, Freud argued, is, at root, an expression of our underlying psychological neuroses. In the two books I mentioned and in others, Freud asserts that religion is an attempt to control the Oedipal complex, it’s a means of giving structure (meaning moral and ethical boundaries) to social groups, it’s a form of wish fulfillment, it’s an infantile delusion born out of our need for a Father figure, and it’s an attempt to control the outside world.

Dismiss Freud at your peril.

Just think, many fundamentalists, Christian and Muslim, make Freud’s very argument but in reverse: Without God, there’s no moral foundation to the world; there’s no rubric for what constitutes the ‘good.’ Religion is just an artifice then for a certain vision of traditional society.

It’s also true for many Christians ‘Christianity’ is but another label, a way to distinguish us from other tribes. It’s but a baptized form of nationalism.

And we all know that for many religion IS an escape or cover to which people turn to cope with psychological wounds- or, even worse, religion becomes the way people refuse to cope, or even confront, the wounds and painful realities in their life.

And then there’s Freud’s ‘wish fulfillment’ critique. While critiques of certain manifestations of religion are not indictments of religion in sum nor does such a critique even logically approach the existence of a transcendent God, still…there’s enough substance to the argument to give believers pause.

Fact is, Freud is right. A good deal of religion, at least the Christian sphere I know, is actually just human projection and wish fulfillment, reducing the great ‘I AM’ to a god ‘up there’ who answers my prayers, blesses me, and grants my wishes.

Or doesn’t…at which point I get angry and no longer ‘believe’ in him.

The great ‘I Am’ reduced to a magic genie in a celestial lamp.

People often ask me why I have such a problem Joel Osteen.

Honestly, my problems are too many to number, but really they all boil down to this:

Joel Osteen reminds me that Freud was, if not right, not entirely wrong. images

Skeptical BelieverThis weekend we’re kicking off a new sermon series, The Skeptical Believer: Making Peace with Your Inner Atheist.

Last week I solicited best-shot arguments for why we should NOT believe.

I’ll give a free copy of Daniel Taylor’s The Skeptical Believer to what I think is the best argument for doubt/disbelief…there’s still time. Lemme know.

I have received a lot of responses so far, some predictable, some ancient and intractable and others truly, profoundly (dare I say…Christianly?) moral.

Here’s an argument that echoes an experience I had in my first theology class at UVA. It was a small class and our TA had been slicing and dicing Thomas Aquinas’ proof for the existence of God on the chalkboard when a classmate spoke up, like he was talking to himself:

“That all makes sense, logically, but why is it that some people have an actual experience of God but I never have?”

A reader of the blog put a similar point this way:

“I’ve never had an experience that’s even remotely close to anything described by other believers….no miracles, no healings, no “encounters with the risen Christ,” etc. All I’ve had is the vague sense of rightness in the world (this world screams “I love you”) while walking through the woods while the sun is going down. Stuff like that.

Without an experience of God of any kind, how can I believe on the same level that others do?

And why would I be expected to? And why would the God who created the human brain reward me for essentially silencing it?”

It’s a good rebuttal, if not of God then definitely how religious people so often speak of God. If there is a God, then why is it that so many haven’t experienced God’s presence or reality? And why have others?

Does the fact that so many people never experience God for themselves ‘personally’ call those people into question? Or God?

Is it more likely that religious people who claim to have experienced God are actually deluding themselves? Attaching the ‘G’ word to their own psychological experience?

Or does God simply keep his people, actively or passively, from experiencing him?

And thus keep people from believing in him?

And if so, even if God is real is such a God worth believing worshipping?

I suppose you could say its’ their fault, that such people have allowed their doubt or cynicism or rationalism or apathy to close them off to the possibility or presence of God (and I’m sure in some cases that’s exactly the problem).

But then isn’t that not a little like blaming the victim? Is big enough to take the blame?

A Reason to Doubt God

Jason Micheli —  September 30, 2013 — 4 Comments

Skeptical BelieverThis weekend we’re kicking off a new sermon series, The Skeptical Believer: Making Peace with Your Inner Atheist.

Last week I solicited best-shot arguments for why we should NOT believe.

I’ll give a free copy of Daniel Taylor’s The Skeptical Believer to what I think is the best argument for doubt/disbelief…there’s still time. Lemme know.

I have received a lot of responses so far, some predictable, some ancient and intractable and others truly, profoundly (dare I say…Christianly?) moral.

This is an example of the third- and what I take to be the most compelling- kind:

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“Why someone wouldn’t believe in God?

My sister is profoundly mentally retarded.

She was born with a clef lip and palette.

She is 44 years old and still has trouble walking.

She still wears diapers.

And she is deaf.

And mute.

 

And she gets mad.

When she gets mad, she smashes her head into a corner.

And busts it open.

And it bleeds like mad.

Having known her, I know what I wouldn’t have known otherwise:

That there are multitudes of other people with similar conditions.

Nobody talks about caring for the retarded.

We all have sympathy for the sick child (and with good reason), but people like my sister are forgotten about by the mainstream (by God?).

People like my sister are made into jokes by callous people (“What are you, retarded or something?”).

My sister is cared for by an underpaid, overworked, and understaffed group of huge hearted people.

But, that’s an example, at least in my mind, of why someone would challenge the belief in God.

I’ve gotten over it, but it’s mostly by saying that I simply don’t get it.”

Jason talking:

I wish I didn’t need to make the point, but my time in ministry tells me I can’t repeat it enough:

If you feel the need to ‘explain’ this woman’s disability, ‘justify’ God’s purposes in it or, for that matter, say anything pious at all (eg: ‘God is with her in her suffering’)…

Then you’ve just made this ‘Reason for Doubt’ a ‘Reason for Disbelief.’

Next weekend, we’ll begin a 3 part sermon series called The Skeptical Believer: Making Peace with Your Inner Atheist.

I get to kick-off the series, and I thought I would do so by tackling Doubt and Disbelief as seriously as I possibly can.

And I’d like your help.

What do you think is the best, most compelling reason not to believe in God?

It can be an intellectual argument or it can be a moral argument. Your choice.

If you’re a believer, what’s that nagging doubt in the back of your mind?

If you’re a believer without any nagging doubts, first get real and then put yourself in the shoes of a skeptic and give me a reason not to believe.

If you don’t believe in God at all, give me your best case.

I’ll give/send a free copy of Daniel Taylor’s book, The Skeptical Believer, to the person who gives the best argument.

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