11/24/99

Hi,

The basic definition of a Christian is a follower (or disciple) of Christ. I'm not arguing that some people aren't Christian because they don't meet some doctrinal standard. I'm arguing that I suspect that there are a lot of pretend Christians because, from what I hear from polls, they don't meet the common everyday standard of the word "follower". The definition of the word "follower" is the same whether I am talking about being a follower of Christ or a follower of Shakespeare. If you are able to discern, in a secular setting, whether a person truly is a "follower/disciple", then you will be able to make an evaluation in the spiritual realm also. I may not be sure I have all my Christian doctine straight, but I can know for sure that I am a follower.

It matters not a bit what I say, what matters is what drives me from deep inside. The atheist lives his or her life without regard to God. If someone lives his or her life without regard to God, that person is an atheist, no matter what words come out of the mouth. I have met people who tell me they're Christian, but clearly don't want to even remotely face what that means. My sense is that, at all costs, they want to avoid looking into the mirror; they want to keep from knowing. Meanwhile, they live their lives without regard to God.

Now on to cause-and-effect. Science studies nature and deals only with cause-and-effect. Every effect has a cause. Everything that your brain effects has a cause/effect chain that eventually traces to causes external to you. Under the view that nature is everything, there is no place for self. There is no place for internal creation; everything is externally caused. To truly create anything would be supernatural. Under the view that nature is everything, your idea that you create anything must be an illusion. Enlisting evolution, I would say that this "illusion of creativity" of yours must have some survival benefit.

I just happen to be reading a series of essays by Leo Tolstoy (written about 1879), who wrestled with this same problem. He writes about it so clearly, I think. A few lines of his: "But the only answer this branch of knowledge (exact science) provided to my question concerning the meaning of life was this: you are what you call your life; you are a temporary, incidental accumulation of particles. The mutual interaction and alternation of these particles produces in you something you refer to as your life. . . . You are a randomly united lump of something. This lump decomposes and the fermentation is called your life. The lump will disintegrate and the fermentation will end, together with all your questions. This is the answer given by the exact side of knowledge, and if it adheres strictly to its principles, it cannot answer otherwise." I think Tolstoy would call your illusion of creativity to be a product of fermentation. Of course, Tolstoy eventually had a change of heart and became a Christian.

Cheers and have a good Thanksgiving,
Lynn

11/30/99

Hi,

Sorry for the delay, long weekend. I hope you had a nice holiday.

Where do you find the polls that say whether or not Christians meet the standard of "follower"? Maybe some people are out there claiming to be one thing while practicing another (although I haven't seen any evidence of this). Of course, many Christians are not what you purport to be the definition of a Christian. If they were, there would be very few Christians. But I'm not particularly fond of your claim that because these people do not adhere to your stringent definition of who a follower of Christ should be, they are therefore atheists. These imposters may very well be Christians, they just aren't very good ones. Furthermore, if you admit that you're not sure you have all of your Christian doctrine straight, then you can't know for sure that you're a follower. You might not be following just quite right. After all, a follower of Shakespeare may be actually following a completely different person.

You say that "The atheist lives his or her life without regard to God." But you continue to incorrectly suppose that I believe there is a god to disregard in the first place. Rather, I live my life in disbelief of any deities. Perhaps the Christians that you know are living their lives without regard to God, but this certainly has nothing to do with how an atheist lives his or her life.

Why is your assessment of the feats of science so pessimistic? While I do not agree with you, let me ask you this: If I believe that every effect can be traced to an external cause, and you believe that this external cause is your god, what is the difference? What creativity do you have? What impression of 'self' do you have? From what you wrote, I must assume that you lack as much 'self' (if I have your definition of 'self' right) as you suppose I do.

I can't say for sure, but it sounds as if your claim that the "illusions of creativity" relates to evolution is a negative statement. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Instead, it affirms the fact that I am a human being directly connected to the natural world. I'm not sure of how you define 'creative' and 'self', but all humans on this planet, even the Christian ones, exhibit creativity and selfhood. I do so without appeal to any deities.

If I have interpreted your writings correctly, it appears that you are dissatisfied with the conclusions of science. Does belief in the supernatural help answer the questions that science cannot and therefore quell any fears? Many aspects of life are decidedly dissatisfying, but I do not appeal to any deities - possibly the only reality I have - to make me feel good about myself and life in general. I fess up to reality and get on with it.

You often use examples of famous people who converted to Christianity, spoke of the greatness of your religion and it's holy book to justify your claims. If I may be so bold, two great scientists and writers, Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov both died atheists. Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, two great philosophers, also died atheists. Of course, truth is not democratic. You appear to believe it is, and so I would be happy to provide a much longer list of atheists and non-Christians who were brilliant minds on this planet.

Finally, I agree with you that you are a follower. But I wouldn't find this to be much of a compliment and wouldn't admit it myself. You give everything over to Jesus Christ and his god -- as fictional a deity as Tlaloc - and I give everything over to myself. Is this selfish? Maybe, but then so is your god.

Meretricula

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