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Apr 16 2012

Sophisticated Theology vs A Child’s Belief

When I was young, the God I knew,
A child could understand;
His evidence was everywhere—
The world was in his hand.
I needed no theology
I needn’t pass a test;
I simply was a Christian kid,
And so were all the rest.

I left that God behind me, when
I learned a thing or two;
And picking up another seemed
A foolish thing to do.
Apologists have told me, though,
I couldn’t be more wrong—
My view of God was lacking, and
It had been all along!

The faith I had, so long ago,
They say, is not enough;
Sophisticated evidence,
Philosophy and stuff—
A list of things I’d tell you now,
But brevity forbids.
The reasons I believed? All wrong!
So… who will tell the kids?

So, yeah, it seems god has changed a lot since I was a kid. To reject god now, you have to recognize that no one can prove a negative, that there had to be a first cause, that maybe god is the reason that “nothing” is unstable, and “spontaneously” (if you do it right, nobody knows you did anything) produces matter-antimatter pairs, yadda yadda… But to accept god, as a child, you don’t need to know any of this.

I was a born-again, duly baptized full-faith member of a church, without knowing a damned thing about the sophisticated theology that I need to refute in order to reasonably not believe in a god. Something is very wrong here.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    OverlappingMagisteria

    From a theist perspective, all you have to know is that there is a god to be a believer. But to be an unbeliever you have to know everything.

    Adam Lee of “Daylight Atheism” called this the Apologist’s Turnstile. It’s incredibly easy to travel one way, but it takes great difficulty to go the other.

  2. 2
    Anthony K

    Adam Lee of “Daylight Atheism” called this the Apologist’s Turnstile. It’s incredibly easy to travel one way, but it takes great difficulty to go the other.

    Thanks for that link. I think most of us apostates here at FtB have been through that. Though I’ve had the Catholicism I was raised in described as “childish” and “simplistic”, those criticisms were never advanced to support the idea that maybe children shouldn’t be indoctrinated to begin with if their faith can only ever be superficial and silly, only to question beg that if I am an atheist now I must never have been a good, reasonable Christian in the first place. QED.

  3. 3
    reasonbeing

    Great article by Adam Lee. Cuttlefish you bring up a great point. I like to view it as nothing more than desperation on the part of theists. They will cling to any shred of an argument that seems like it may work on an atheist. With that in mind, we need to be prepared for all sorts of nonsense. I agree, in previous times, it was just not that complicated…religions were not in the same size struggle that they currently possess.

  4. 4
    Inflection

    It’s a question I always want to ask theologians: if fools and children are saved — and not just saved, but in fact especially saved, by many accounts — what good is all the theology?

  5. 5
    grumpyoldfart

    …no one can prove a negative…

    That’s a negative (thus unprovable?)
    -

    The earth is not the centre of the solar system. Is that a negative that cannot be proved?

  6. 6
    dukeofomnium

    It is astounding how often you will get the Courtier’s Reply. If the cloth is imaginary, the weave is irrelevant.

  7. 7
    Tony! The Queer Shoop


    grumpyoldfart:

    …no one can prove a negative…

    That’s a negative (thus unprovable?)
    -

    The earth is not the centre of the solar system. Is that a negative that cannot be proved?

    -Perhaps it should have read:
    …no one can prove that something *doesn’t* exist… ?

  8. 8
    cowalker

    You highlight an excellent point with delightful poetry.

    Here is the argument I have heard to counter this point. When we teach things like science to children, we simplify it to the point where it could be considered a lie. For example, a teacher might display a model of the solar system in the classroom that is not done to scale, showing all the planets in circular orbits in the same plane. As the child matures, more complex facts are gradually introduced. Of course some people won’t take science, and will be stuck with the primitive impressions gained early in life. They will get along fine as long as they don’t have to calculate an interplanetary satellite’s path. On the other hand, they may be vulnerable to propaganda or scams that feed off people who don’t understand how science really works. The big problem with this analogy is that the more complex science comes with evidence and applications. “Advanced” theology is just theoretical argument. The five proofs are basically word games.

    Believers complain that atheists like Dawkins target the religious equivalent of the faulty model of the solar system. I think there’s truth to that, and that Dawkins has a good reason for doing this. The majority of believers aren’t even aware of “advanced” theology, and there is no reason to require them to master it before proceeding to the rational position that we have no evidence for a supernatural dimension to the cosmos.

  9. 9
    Lugh

    It greatly depends on what you are trying to do. Are you deciding to be an atheist? Then you don’t need to prove anything, and you certainly don’t need the permission of the apologists. Are you attempting to demonstrate that atheism is a better or more truthful world view, on an absolute level? Then you’d better be prepared to engage in some serious debate.

  10. 10
    Cuttlefish

    Excellent points. I suppose my observation is simply that, while we would never label some kid who just finished her high school physics class (even if it was an advanced class) a “physicist”, it is perfectly acceptable for a much younger kid, with the equivalent of much less learning, to be a full “christian”, a member of the church. When we count the number of scientists in the world, we don’t include undergraduates, let alone high schoolers, let alone younger. So the simpler view of science comes with an acknowledgement that there is more to be learned; many (not all, unless I am much mistaken) denominations teach that being “saved” is the sole requirement for being a true christian… and a viewing of Jesus Camp can show you how young kids can be powerfully convinced.

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