July 30, 2018

Andy Bratton, a Senior Minister Where I Formerly Served as His Youth Minister, Asks Why We No Longer Believe

On Facebook I wrote this post:
Andy Bratton is now the Senior Minister of a Church of Christ in Kalkaska, Michigan. I knew him as his Youth Minister of that same church, when his father was the Senior Minister before him. He recently asked something of those of us who now doubt. Help him. Be courteous please, as he's a super great guy!

"So here is an honest question, not for judgment but for research sake. For the atheists or agnostics out there, what exactly is it about Christianity that cause you to reject it as a belief system? Is it personal research? Is it too outlandish to believe? Has the church hurt you in some way? Do you feel that there can't be a God because your life hasn't gone so well? I am simply curious. I am preaching a sermon series right now and it would help to understand. Thanks ahead of time for your answers."
Answers flooded in. Then Andy responded and I took him to task.

Andy Bratton tells us why he believes, and my response:
Andy: I will explain the best that I can about why I believe. I can't speak for anyone else about why they believe, just like I can't speak to why so many of you don't believe. I look at the human body and all of creation and say, "There has to be a creator." Life is so complex that it can't be a cosmic belch that just started forming everything. Also, when I look at someone who is hurting in some way and want to help, I think, "why do I care?" Where does my desire for compassion for others as opposed to just wanting to look out for myself come from? My explanation is because a loving and yes just God, created me and wants me to love and care for those He created. But my biggest reason for belief is simply hope. I can't imagine my life thinking that all that awaits me is becoming worm food some day. I know those reasons don't meet the logical standards that many who have written here have. And I know it doesn't speak to any proof that would satisfy anyone who has replied. But the fact is that none of us were there in the beginning to know. And scientific proof breaks down eventually and the proof we have for God obviously doesn't satisfy everyone. There will be only one right answer in the end and only one answer gives hope. And so I pursue that one. I want to make it clear that I love each and every person that has responded here. I don't have hate in my heart. I know people reject Christianity for many different reasons. I am not asking or answering questions in order to convert anyone. We are all grown adults and get to make that decision. Yes, my desire, like Jesus, is for all to come to know Him as Lord. But it is a decision that each person has to come to on their own, not from someone else trying to push it on them or persuade them with flowery words. I am confident I haven't satisfied your question, but it is what I got. Blessings to you.
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My response:
Andy Bratton, thanks for your response. Your three rationalizations for believing you were raised in the one and only correct religion are utterly bogus, sorry. I'm not surprized though, since we know the brain lies to us. Just look up and study cognitive biases. When you do, the only conclusion you can reasonably come to is that you must force your brain, against its evolved tendencies, to only accept sound reasoning based on sufficient objective evidence for your beliefs.

Regarding rationalization #1:

Creationism has been shown to lack sufficient objective evidence for it.

Quit reading the books and essays by believers who are experts in obfuscation based on a slew of unbridled cognitive biases, and read the ones written by scientists like Abby Hafer, Jerry Coyne, and Richard Dawkins instead.

The kicker is that even if there is a creator you have not established your religion out of the myriads of them out there, including billions of believers, even theists, who reject the resurrection of Jesus. Plus, there are several other possible scenarios. A creator god could've died in creation as his last act, or he's an evil god deceiving you into believing he's good when he's not, or he merely created the quantum wave fluctuation that started it all but has been uninvolved ever since. Or that god is a she...a goddess.

Regarding rationalization #2:

Why you and I care is irrelevant to the existence or nonexistence of any specific god.

A multitude of other gods can be the source of caring. Even as atheists we care because we have no other choice but to care if we want to have genuine friends and family we can count on. We also have plenty of objective evidence that many species of animals care for each other. However, even if evolution leads to the conclusion we don't have to care, this doesn't undermine the sufficient objective evidence for evolution.

Regarding rationalization #3:

I maintain your hope is a misplaced one. There is no objective evidence that your god, or any other god, does anything in the world to help us. So hoping for heaven produces believers who are too heavenly minded to be much earthly good.

The kicker is that given evolution we are all animals so we all die and that's it, like it or not. Otherwise, non-human animals, all of them, have been created to suffer and die brutal deaths at our hands, and live in a kill or be killed natural world, that's blood red in tooth and claw, without any hope for any reward in heaven. If instead they go to heaven, any heaven that included animals like parasites, scorpions, sharks and spiders would require the right habitat necessary to sustain them, which would make heaven look exactly like earth, not any heaven I would imagine. Would these animals have the same diet? How would that be different? Animals would eat each other in heaven too. If not, then why wait for heaven to introduce it?

Animals were created for the express purpose of suffering. That's it. This doesn't say much about a perfectly loving omnipotent creator. Any thinking person can come up with better ways an omnipotent god could have created the world, where animals didn't exist at all, or where all creatures, including humans, were fed by photosynthesis, or where we were all vegans with no other choice available.
Andy Bratton:
What allows you to call my rationalizations or beliefs "bogus?" They are my rationalizations and beliefs. I can base it on whatever I want to. All of yours are bogus by your standard because you have been skewed to want to pursue proving Christianity wrong. The guy asked and I answered. I don't agree with all of the comments I have read, but I see them as real feelings that people have and no doubt real reasons they have read about and believe. I didn't say that the human body was my rationalization for why I believe in the God I do. I said it causes me to believe in a Creator. Secondly, feelings are not irrelevant. Why do you want friends and neighbors? Why do you care if people like you? There has to be something about creation that causes human beings to desire community and friendship. I don't know if this thought belongs here, but I think the fact that you are spending so much time trying to convince people there is no God proves there is one. If you truly believed there was no God and that there was no eternity, why would you waste any time at all doing anything but enjoying life to its absolute fullest before you die? Maybe arguing or convincing people of your beliefs brings you pleasure, I don't know. (by the way I obviously don't know how to start new paragraphs on facebook. not usually this long winded). Third, regardless if my proof is objective or subjective, it is my proof. I do believe I have witnessed God working in this world. As far as God doing good, He gives us air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink, a spouse to love, kids to dote on, and a church community in which to worship and praise Him. I know you don't like those answers, but they work for me. I don't know what or if any animals will be in Heaven. And I believe Heaven will come down and dwell on earth when Jesus comes again. But it will be the earth He created in the beginning. A perfect one. With no more tears or pain. As for those authors you advised me to read, I think they all have biases just like you and I do. I don't think you can find a neutral source on the topic. NONE OF US WERE THERE IN THE BEGINNING. Nobody can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt their beliefs. Despite what many on this thread have shared, the Bible does have credibility from the documents found from hundreds of years ago. People outside of Christianity and Judaism have referenced Jesus. Archaeology has backed up Biblical accounts with various discoveries. Christianity holds up better than most in my opinion. But it is just that; my opinion. While I don't agree, I don't mind you or anyone else sharing their opinions, and I did ask and got several from your facebook friends. And quite frankly, some of it was eye opening, but most were predictable. But don't minimize my beliefs or thoughts or feelings just because they don't measure up to your standard of research, science, or thought. Just simply say, "I appreciate how you feel. I disagree. Maybe consider the following..." I love Jesus. And I believe He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And I'm all in with Him. Does it mean I'm perfect? Nope. But I am trying to be like Him. To show compassion. To serve the community in which He placed me. And to glorify God in all I do. Not because of any laws. But because of what He did for me through Jesus on the cross. He deserves my love, adoration, and worship. People can say all they want about the God of the Bible, but because I love Him, I believe there is rationale for any and all actions He took. Call me blind or misguided, and call my rationale "bogus," but it works for me. And yes, it gives me hope.

I responded to him in several different comments:

Loftus:
I edited a huge book on the harms of Christianity. I care because of the harms it does to us as human beings, to animals and to the environment. If you only knew what it has done, and is doing to us all, you would rise up with us an condemn it, Christianity is Not Great.
Andy Bratton wrote: "I do believe I have witnessed God working in this world. As far as God doing good, He gives us air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink, a spouse to love, kids to dote on, and a church community in which to worship and praise Him."

Every believer on the planet says the same exact thing of their own sect-specific god, except for the names and the places. They all promise an afterlife of bliss too.

Tell me what your god does in today's world that isn't claimed by others, with objective evidence that can convince others, and I'll be impressed with your god.
Andy Bratton wrote: "Nobody can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt their beliefs."

I do think you're correct here. But look at the high standard you're forcing everyone to provide: Proof. No one needs provide prove of anything. All they have to do is show it's more probable than not. You aren't even close to that standard.

In fact, this is MY LINE, not yours. I'm the one asking for sufficient objective evidence of the strange things you claim happened in the ancient superstitious pre-scientific past. It isn't me claiming to know what happened. It's me saying I doubt your claims. I'm arguing you have not shouldered your epistemic burden. You cannot hide behind the "Nobody can prove beyond a shadow of doubt" standard, when I'm not claiming to know what happened, only that what you claim falls way below the standard of evidence required to believe it.

I can reject a claim without being forced to say what happened, just as one historian can reject another historian's claim of what happened at Custer's last stand without proposing a different theory of what happened, you see. You make extraordinary claims and point to evidence which doesn't hold up. I'm merely the one arguing what you say does not hold up.
Andy Bratton: "Archaeology has backed up Biblical accounts with various discoveries."

When it comes to archaeology I have a whole section on it in this book of mine, Christianity in the Light of Science.
Andy Bratton: "But don't minimize my beliefs or thoughts or feelings just because they don't measure up to your standard of research, science, or thought. Just simply say, 'I appreciate how you feel. I disagree.'"

It's not my standard. It's the standard of evidence Christian apologists themselves claim. Believe me, I know their tricks as I was one of them and wrote an expose of them, in How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist.
Andy Bratton wrote: "Maybe consider the following..."

Been there, done that, and even said that before your were born. I was indoctrinated to believe just as you were, just as Hindu's are, just as Orthodox Jews are, just as Mormons are, just as Muslims are....

If you really want to know which religion is true, if there is one, you should consider your inherited religion as an outsider does.

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