Sunday, June 3, 2012

On Non-Believers...

As a professed Catholic, I believe my faith to be the correct one.  In fact, it would be patently dishonest (in the intellectual and moral sense) for me to believe otherwise (why be one, if I believed that, say, shamanism is the proper religion).

I am also more or less a philosophical realist, ergo, any religion not my own has to necessarily be in error to some degree, and the farther out, the more in error the faith is - i.e. Eastern Orthodoxy is the closest, followed by High Anglicanism, followed by Lutheranism, and so on and so forth down the line.  At the same time, I also acknowledge the truth that is found in each of these Christian faiths, along with non-Christian faiths such as Judaism (without which there is no Christianity), Islam, Hinduism, et cetera.

Atheism, however, is a different animal.

Twitter has been a fascinating thing to behold - 'debates' and discussions in 140 characters or less (mostly less, especially if someone's name has to be mentioned) have been witty and informative to me.  Until I had to deal with the atheist army.

Now, I don't have a problem with atheism, per se.  I believe it to be misguided and (obviously) in error, but I do believe that the overwhelmingly vast majority of those who call identify as atheists operate in good faith.  I think they are on the search for the truth just as people who practice some kind of organized religion.  I also think that most atheists live in absolute fear that they will be shown to be wrong when it comes time for the ultimate end of us all (just a fancy phrasing for death), and thus move to a functioning agnosticism that borders on Deism - the sort of development Stephen Hawking has undergone in the last few years.

However, there is a certain branch of the 'army' that is especially militant about their atheism, to the extent that they are willing to engage in logical warfare not only to defend their atheism, but to positively proselytize to others as well.  I have no problem with that - this is America, and we believe in the marketplace of ideas and whoever is able to convince people with their argumentation and evidence wins the day, so to speak.

Getting back to Twitter - it provides a good spot for the clich├ęs and bumper sticker rhetoric of atheism (and, to be fair, of almost any point of view under the sun), namely "evil happens, therefore God doesn't exist" or "things are great on our own, therefore we don't need God". One particular line of argumentation came on today that bugged the daylights out of me - several on Twitter who made the pronouncement that Jesus does not exist.  

His mere existence.  Not whether he was divine or was born of a virgin or performed miracles or rose from the dead, but whether a man from Nazareth named Jesus is even a historical figure.

I was speechless.

I'll debate with atheists over divinity and miracles and such any day of the week, but this denial of the very existence of Jesus just doesn't register.  The so-called evidence 'disproving' Jesus can be found in nameless 'reputable' history books, because ancient history has all been 'debunked' by moderns.  This particularly movement within atheism is known as 'mythicism', because it says the very existence of Jesus is a myth fabricated out of whole cloth.  

Mentioning ancient (non-Christian) historians such as Josephus, Pliny the Younger, and Tacitus aren't even accepted in this particular line of thought because we moderns are 2,000 years more advanced and intelligent than those ignoramuses of old.  Obviously, if they aren't accepted, none of the writings of Paul or John (just taken as historical references, even) will be either.  

One Tweety-bird college girl even had the gumption to ask me to disprove her contention that Jesus didn't exist.  Makes me wonder what kind of logic they are teaching in the colleges now - with such shameless fallacious reasoning of disproving a negative.  

Let's be clear on one thing - there are more references to the existence of Jesus in antiquity than there are to Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon.  And yet, that's taken for granted.  Come to think of it - if the logic of 'mythicists' is taken to its logical end, we just can't know any history or believe that anybody truly existed prior to the Enlightenment.

I said to a couple of Twitter friends that you don't see these people denying the existence of Muhammad, Moses, Buddha, or Confucius, but they will go to the ends of the earth to deny the existence of Jesus. Is it just me, or is that a curious thing to do? Deep down, I think I know the reason this occurs.

None of those others mentioned (Muhammad, Buddha, et al) were thought to be divine - but Jesus is by his followers.  I mentioned the fear factor above - as my brother has said to his atheist/agnostic friends: "If I'm wrong, nothing happens to me, but if you're wrong, watch out." This kind of movement ('mythicism') possesses the fear factor on steroids, speed, and whatever other drug you can think of.  

They sense something about Jesus that is different and strive to deny his existence.  To acknowledge his existence would mean they would have to confront the claims made about him.  They would then have to figure out where they stand - a denial that takes a much stronger stomach than merely spouting off about fake figure who didn't exist.  They have to confront the possibility that they might be wrong.

And that scares the hell out of them.