Thursday, May 31, 2012

Let's Play 20 Questions

Here's an intriguing post that I found over at BadBlue.

20 Questions that Atheists Need to be Able to Answer.

It just so happens that I and the Moron Horde briefly touched on this the other day. As you know, I consider myself a Christian, whether or not The Big Guy does remains to be seen. Fingers are crossed.

I'm drawn to discussion and exploration of the idea, the more analytical, the better. This is easier said than done, because few things arouse the passions more than religion. I try to approach these discussions from a scientific angle, testing the author's assertions against my own experience and what I know to be true. A big part of this comes from my years in manufacturing and my daily dealings with the laws of physics. This experience has given me an appreciation for how things get made, so it's a simple matter to scale up that appreciation to the size of Reality.

I don't think that science and religion are mutually exclusive of each other. The urge and effort to make sense of the universe tends to answer just one question: What is it?

Religion asks: Why is it?

Here is where the difference in the scale of the complexity of the answer approaches infinity. Anything you can possibly imagine has been considered as the basis for what we call Creation. I mean anything, regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

To paraphrase Han Solo, "I can imagine quite a bit."

Rather than waste a lifetime making guesses about things, logic would dictate that you begin at the beginning. Science does this. It's a baseline, or rather The Baseline, for what we see all around us. We call this Reality.

Observe, test, observe some more, test some more, ad infinitum, seeking accuracy at all times. And always trying to ask the right questions.

Which brings us back, oddly enough, to 20 Questions.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: this is not a dig against atheists. Your personal belief are yours, and because I wouldn't want to be judged for mine, I won't judge you for yours. And I'm certainly not going to try to "convert" you. That's just rude. The whole point of religion is that it originates from inside you, a true introspection. This is intended as a friendly conversation, much as we would discuss sports.

I really mean that.

And just so you know, I was agnostic at one time.

So, this question is pretty important:

And here's my take:

You have so many years to find what you should be looking for, which is a spiritual union with God. This union softens the heart, and allows for the qualities of forgiveness, compassion and empathy. It also imparts great strength of character and enables you to see what is true, and especially what isn't. This is the driving force behind my conservatism.

Only man stands on the edge of two worlds, one spiritual, the other material. We are born into the material, separate from God and Heaven: hence the phrase "born in sin." We must find our way back home in this life, much like the Prodigal Son. It isn't easy, and there are many detours and roadblocks along the way, but if we're grounded in Reality and Truth, we're always shown which way to go thanks to that spiritual union.
And here are a few of the 20 Questions:
1. What caused the universe to exist?
3. Why is the universe rational?
9. How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?
10. How do we account for self-awareness?
11. How is free will possible in a material universe?
12. How do we account for conscience?
13. On what basis can we make moral judgements?
15. Why do human beings matter?
18. How do we know the supernatural does not exist?
19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?
20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?
21. What's a henway?

I may have added that last one.

The author continues, and makes a point that I've been pondering for a few months now: Is it Time to make a decision? To choose sides? Will this question be asked of everyone sooner than we think?

So here’s the deal. It seems to me that there we can either search for and find answers to these questions, and then adjust our behavior to fit even if we will be less happy and fulfilled, or we can make our happiness and personal autonomy in this life the most important thing, and invent answers to these questions that are speculative. Either we live consistently with the evidence we have now, or we live how we want and hope for future evidence that will overturn the evidence we have now.

I think that this is the choice that we are facing as humans. Either we make truth the top priority, and let our lives change in order to respond to the evidence we have right now or we make our happiness the top priority and speculate that the universe is other than the way it is so that we can pursue happiness unencumbered by the obligation to know the Creator and Designer of the universe.

Everyone always talks about “the meaning of life”. I’ll tell you what the meaning of life is. It’s to puzzle about the questions above and get into an intimate, loving, self-sacrificial relationship with the Creator and Designer of the universe – a relationship bounded by facts, not feelings. What is so objectionable with the idea that there might be a Person out there who has a claim on us? So long as his intentions are good, why are we so unwilling to be his friend and to take his character into account when we decide what we will do with our lives?

Very well put indeed.

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