Thursday, May 31, 2012

Well, they are right, says Michael Jensen, to a  certain point. See Jensen's interesting and challenging post at the Bible Society webpage, The Atheists Are Right. I think Jensen is right and in his post he makes numerous insightful points about listening to the critics of Christianity. He draws his lines quite sharply at the beginning:

I should like to propose a thesis that may seem somewhat unlikely for a Christian theologian: namely, that the atheists are right.
Or, at least some of them are. Insofar as they contend against the existence of God, or attack the authenticity of the Bible, or pit faith against reason, I would say they are badly mistaken.
So, in what way are they right? Jensen points to the incisive critiques of Freud, Marx, Nietschze and others as bearing much truth, what he calls the "atheism of suspicion." Here is a sampling:

The followers of Charles Darwin, such as Richard Dawkins, have pointed to the evolutionary advantages of the religious sense. Religion has offered a sense of cohesion and unity for tribes and nations which was to their advantage in developing as cultures. Furthermore, recent studies of the human brain have shown how we are naturally receptive to religious ideas at the level of our physiology. If we are religious, then, it is because we have evolved to be so.
The best response to the atheism of suspicion is actually to acknowledge that much of what they say is exactly true. We don’t have to be expert historians to recognise that Christianity has been used as an instrument of exploitative social control, a means for justifying greed and imperial expansion and the excuse for maintaining social privilege. It has been the cloak for nefarious sexual activity on a mass scale. It has been the faith of warmongers. It has been the religion of comfortable decency, and a screen from reality. People have lined their pockets in the name of Jesus Christ.
Make certain to read the whole post here. Jensen, ultimately, does not believe such critiques are decisive in the determination of religious faith, but perhaps essential in keeping the faithful honest. Though he also points out that such criticism cuts both ways, and atheists, too, must allow themselves to be formed by the honest challenges of others.

UPDATED: With more in this vein, see the HuffPost Religion Blog for yesterday's (May 30, 2012) entry
What Believers and Atheists Can Learn From Each Other ; especially significant for me are the discussions of power and authority and certainty and uncertainty in knowing.

John W. Martens

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