Friday, July 24, 2009

The Atheist Test: The Final Exam

This post will serve as the "final exam" in my series of The Atheist Test posts.

If you'd like to see a copy of the test yourself, you may visit the following link: The Atheist Test pamphlet

To review any of the previous posts in this series, follow any of the links below:

The Atheist Test
The Atheist Test: Test One
The Atheist Test: Test Two & Three
The Atheist Test: Test Four & Five

Where is Your Faith?

The author has presented arguments intermingled with the various tests as I have discussed in previous posts. Now, the author makes a final appeal to the reader by asking his audience to consider the nature of faith.

In one of his final analogies, the author parallels faith with the unseen workings of a television. Despite not being able to see television signals, we can know they are there. The average television viewer may not understand the workings of a TV set, but viewers still turn it on and trust that it works. Faith in God is similar. We may not understand, but we can know and trust that faith in God will work.

The author then suggests that in the same way a television receives signals, people must turn on their personal receiver in order to perceive God.

If you love God and keep his commandments, that is the moment God will manifest himself to you. Only after you believe, will you have proof that God exists within your heart. God will make himself known once you give faith a try. (Um . . . you mean, like a placebo effect?)

Just like the first time you turned on a television, you should turn on your faith and try God for yourself. If it works, enjoy it. If it doesn't, forget it.

Actually . . . this argument here isn't too bad. Faith appeals to the emotions. That's the nature of religion in my opinion. I think this is the only place where the pamphlet becomes honest and respectable.

I personally feel that if the tract only had these last few pages within it, I wouldn't be so critical about this whole thing.

Even so, I still have issues with his television analogy.

Wonderful . . . Digital Television is Here.

For starters . . .

A television will not pick up the channels if the signal doesn't exist.

The author obviously doesn't know about the signal switch-over from analog to digital television.

I cannot simply turn on my television and get channels because my television only receives analog. Faith will not work here. Sorry. I tried. Got nothing but snow.

I ended up having to connect (and fumble with for about 30 minutes) a digital converter box that now only gives me three channels-- PBS, PBS wide screen, and ABC.

Television signals are invisible, but they are measurable and testable. My digital converter box didn't work until my antenna found the location of the strongest signal. My converter box happened to have a meter that told me when the signal was stronger or weaker (that's why I fumbled with the box for so long-- looking for a signal).

I ultimately had to tape my antenna high above my TV and up against the wall just to pick up the few channels that I do receive.

You can't quite measure God like that. A lot of agnostics and atheists would become very interested if someone could conjure a valid "God meter" that worked like the digital signal meter on my converter box.

While one doesn't need complete understanding of TV signals to enjoy a television, one does need to know a few facts. You need power. You need the right kind of television, or a converter box to accommodate your outdated television's shortcomings, to name a few.

Or, you will need to have wherewithal to order cable, satellite, or Netflix with a Roku set top box. (can you tell which option I picked?)

So, the author's analogy of faith being likened to turning on a television is flawed in my view.

Besides, a lot of science went into making the television work.

Someone had to figure that stuff out. Someone had to know how to wire your home for electricity. Someone had to know how to build your television. And you have to have enough knowledge to make sure it's plugged in and hooked up to a digital converter box, cable box, or your Roku set to box that streams Netflix over your private wireless network (that you set up yourself).

Faith isn't simply believing in the invisible. Science acknowledges that invisible things exist, too. Invisible doesn't mean that it cannot be measured.

Faith is trusting in someone or something without any evidence beyond the evidence you have within your heart. Perhaps for some, faith rests within the words of a religious text. And I would be remiss if I didn't also mention one's own personal experiences which can fuel faith.

Those sources of faith make religion quite personal and may account for why we have so many religions in the world.

Is faith bad?

I don't mean to say such. Faith can be bad. People can laps when too dependent upon faith. In such moments, very bad things can happen because faith alone was chosen over much needed action. But faith has help many people survive their darkest hours and cope with some serious hurts and fears.

Nevertheless, we certainly cannot look down on someone who doesn't feel comfortable with walking by faith in God.

Come to Jesus

Note that this portion of the tract that I will discuss does not appear in the Atheist Test link that I posted. My copy of the tract seems revised.

Now the author begins to ease his way into the classic assertions of Christianity.

If you're an atheist, do you disbelieve in God because you don't want to be accountable? Much like a thief who cannot find a policeman?

Are you running from God because you love your sin too much?

The author of the tract hints that atheists and agnostics don't have any sense of morality. I won't even go there. You can check out my thoughts about that argument here: So, now I can be an Axe Murderer, Right?

You know-- that link is only if you just can't get enough of reading my stuff.
(As if . . .)

I won't post the sixth and final test here. But what the test does is challenge the reader to contemplate whether or not he or she is guilty of sin. Each question in test six ask you if you've committed certain acts or neglected certain observances which are typically considered part of God's law.

Are you guilty of breaking any of his commandments?

Of course, you are. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So, you automatically fail the last test.

As a result, you must decide to become a Christian today or you will face eternal judgment.

This scare tactic is typical of many religions: Turn to God now, or feel the wrath later.

Fear tactics concerning hell don't work so well at keeping Christians in line. How much less will such a fear tactic work towards an atheist who doesn't even believe God exists?

Oh, so close-- yet so far!

The Final Exam

I want to express here that I take no issue with someone who wishes to share religious faith. We have freedom of expression and religion in the United States. I have no issues with people passing out religious tracts or pamphlets. I am not critical of this tract simply because it makes an invitation to become a Christian.

I have a very low opinion of The Atheist Test because I believe the pamphlet is filled with intellectual dishonesty. A test is supposed to be an assessment of knowledge or skill. This series of tests are only designed to influence someone's opinion largely by misrepresenting information. As a result, the author of this pamphlet will probably only accomplish reinforcing current believers with this literature. This pamphlet could reach someone who is unsure of his or her religious outlook. After all, some atheists and agnostics have not really thought through the inner workings of their doubts. And sometimes their non-belief may be emotionally founded in feelings such as anger, hurt, or a personal sense of worthlessness. This pamphlet may attract such non-believers since faith can make a strong appeal to one's emotions.

But for someone who has thought long and hard about leaving faith, The Atheist Test plainly and simply comes across as a sham rather than a compelling appeal for the Christian faith.

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