Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bad apologetics

(The incorrect use of science and faith to defend atheism/theism that seems to strengthen each's arguments but instead greatly undermines it. )

I thought I should write on some of the Earth-shattering and very heated (as heated as text can get) conversations on Facebook I sometimes find myself engaged in.

Many of these conversations usually start with an atheist or theist (usually a Christian) making bold claims in defense of their belief. Ideally, I prefer to not get involved with them. Ideally.

The issue arises when an apologetic uses (either on purpose or blatantly) unsupported claims to attack the other belief or defend one's own. In many a debates between Christians and atheists, I find myself hopping between the two parties when I find that the side I have chosen uses bad apologetics.

One Facebook encounter occurred a few hours before I started writing this column and this friend of mine is a self-proclaimed atheist whom I met during a science communication competition in Grahamstown. Now, he shared a status updated by a friend of his:

The reality is, Jesus was a mythical figure. It was the political establishment that sought to historize the Jesus figure for social control…. thus began a long history of Christian bloodshed and spiritual fraud.
And for the next 1600 years, the Vatican maintained a political stranglehold on all of Europe, leading to such joyous periods as the
Dark Ages, along with enlightening events such as the Crusades, and the Inquisition….Christianity, along with all other theistic belief systems, is the fraud of the age.

This statement is riddled with misinformation which should render the argument against Christianity devoid of any true substance. There are many flaws here but I will mention a few.

The most obvious flaw is the utterance that Jesus Christ was a "mythical figure". While one cannot divulge on the divinity of the Christ, his existence is almost a certainty as far as the Bible's historical integrity is concerned.

The Dark Ages (formally Middle Ages) are marked by the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 4th century and considered "dark" by historians due to the decline of historical records from the period, and not so much Christian violence as the statement may suggest.

Petrarch, an Italian scholar and historian who coined the term "dark ages" saw the post-Roman centuries as "dark" compared to the light of the Age of Classical Antiquity. He also considered the Age he lived dark from the "lack of cultural achievements" as compared to the previous age.

Now, Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries considered the Middle Ages as a period of Catholic (not Christian) corruption. Like Petrarch, who did not attack Christianity per se, the protestants were seeking a restoration of biblical Christianity. [Emphasis mine].

British historian, Gilbert Burnet, at the last quarter of the 17th century in one of his earliest works: The Epistle of Dedicatory to Volume I of The History of Reformation of the Church of England said,

The design of the reformation [the Protestant movement] was to restore Christianity to what it was at first, and to purge it of those corruptions, with which it was overrun in the later and darker ages.

The purported evidence of the violent nature of Christianity ( sometimes considered a vehicle of many wars) is in many ways flawed as the mentioned periods of conflict are not in fact attributed to the ideals of Christianity but are the result of some individuals in authority who saw Christianity as a means to dominate and rule the masses.

My stating these facts is not to discredit atheism or support Christianity, but to try to do away with the use of unsupported assumptions and unchecked information to push forward a belief in an attempt to defend as this has the effect of working against the apologetic in the case that he is debating with people who are less inclined to ignorance (and happen to own a smartphone).

Atheists and theists alike should refrain from making arguments and stating facts from the top of their heads and using information they have not checked themselves, to defend their beliefs.

Also of great importance is the personal slander and insults thrown by either side when the facts run out. I say let the facts speak for themselves and defend your belief by doing a little Googling and actually reading the bible before attacking or defending Christianity.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu once said, "Don't raise your voice. Improve your argument." Let us check our facts, people.

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