Aug 19 2011

Movie Friday: A personal relationship

One of the things that Christians (particularly Protestants) like to brag about is how they have a ‘personal relationship’ with the divine. Of course, ask 100 Christians about what God wants, and you’ll get 200 different answers.

NonStampCollector points this out in his usual hilarious way:

The problem with everyone claiming to have a personal relationship is that there’s no consistency to the claims made. If Jesus was a real entity (which is a central Christian claim), and is accessible through prayer (another Christian claim), and responds to the faithful through the intercession of the Holy Spirit (another Christian claim), then we’d see a convergence of ideas. What we see instead is that the several religions of the world can’t split off of each other fast enough.

What I posit is that the only person you’re in contact with when you pray is the inside of your own head. It’s certainly easy to confuse your own conscience with the machinations of a disembodied force, especially if you’ve been brought up to accept revelation as a kind of evidence. I used to think that the voice inside my head that told me all this God stuff is bullshit was the devil – true story. I used to actively tamp down the voice of “the devil” while I was in church. It took me years to realize that what I was actually hearing was the rational part of my brain. It’s served me quite well since then.

The tragedy is that there are billions of people out there with whom one could conceivably have a personal relationship with, but who are of a different religious background. I’ve heard dozens of stories of people who are shunned from a friendship or romantic involvement because of religious differences. Entire countries have been split apart because of religious differences. Wars have been fought over religious differences.

All because we can’t get a straight answer out of our personal imaginary friend.

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  1. 1

    You have inadvertently brought to light a very important point. A number of individuals claiming to know the president and having spoke to him earlier, yet having conflicting reports as to what his stance is on various issues, at no time brings into question whether or not the President exists. It does make clear, however, that 2 or even 3 of these individuals purporting to know the president actually don’t. Now imagine if one of them had some old writings from the President to back-up their claims.

  2. 2

    You’re absolutely right that this video in no way casts any doubt on whether the President actually exists. I don’t think it’s trying to though. Its explicit goal is to debunk the idea that the testimony of those claiming a personal relationship with him is reliable. My extrapolation from that is that if all of those claims (existence; accessibility; involvement) were true, then we’d see a very different phenomenon. Since what we observe is not consistent with what is claimed, we can logically conclude that at least one of those claims is false. I have, at many points elsewhere, explained my reasons for why I think the first claim is the false one (the others being also false by necessity from the first).

    You say that 2 or possibly 3 don’t know the President. Absolutely. How would you go about determining which one had the real claim? How would you explain the conviction of the other 2 who claim they know him? Are they lying? Are they deluded? Are they simply confused about what the term ‘personal relationship’ means?

    If one had some old writings from the President that would indeed be powerful evidence. It would be far less powerful if, for example, they had a biography of the President written by someone who never knew him personally, but instead collected accounts from those that claimed to have known him. It would be less powerful still if the accounts didn’t agree with each other in many details. It would be even less powerful if they made claims about the President that are historically or scientifically impossible (e.g., the President was born when Ben Franklin was the king of Mexico). If someone brought such a book to me, I’d have very good reasons to doubt its accuracy.

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