Statesboro, GA, USA
you wrote: "Based on that quote, Bertrand Russell's full of it. "
You know that I agree with you here. But my question remains as to why, supposing that his worldview of atheism is true, should I not believe also his logical conclusion of nihilism? Given an impersonal / irrational origin of the universe, everything is necessarily matter in motion. This unavoidably issues in meaninglessness, in the sense that all real purpose is arbitrarily invented just to make us feel better while we await annihilation. Even our debate here in this forum is reduced to the exchange of molecular "white noise". And even someone's choice to become an axe murderer, or a philanthropist (and such choices are really made, both ways) becomes trivial. One just happens to be an outplay of atoms that we "hate", and the other, one that we "admire". But don't you see that even "hate" and "admire" become mere outplays of atomic energy in the cranium, with each really having nothing by which to commend itself over the other?
I happen to feel very strongly that the nihilists are examples of the most logically coherent and honest of the atheist mindsets, concerning their worldview. I don't feel, however, the same adherence to honesty and logic were followed in their choice of worldviews. For they use universal standards and uniformities which their creed cannot account for, in order to defend it. Borrowing from one worldview (Theism) in order to refute it. No offense here but you'll have to do more than just say that Bertrand Russell was "full of it." Given atheism, why is his nihilism an unreasonable conclusion?
"I said that the Bible doesn't dictate reality; rather, reality dictates the Bible (and all toher religious texts). I still stand by that."
No disagreement here. It is not the Bible which Christians believe dictate reality, but the God whom the Bible is about. It is his revelation, and the circumstances of reality and history which dictated the writing of biblical texts. Nor have I found sufficient evidence that reality itself, in a historical, psychological, or spiritual way, contradicts what is written in the Bible. Rather, it confirms the Bible. An example of this is Greenleaf's book mentioned by Jim, among many others. I admit I do not base my faith on these works soley, but upon my own relationship with God, and his revelation to me. I never liked imaginary friends, especially ones which pursued me and made me aware of their omnipotence ... My salvation experience with God was not a desire for religion, or self-improvement, I literally could not shake his persistence in my life to show me that he is the Lord. It is nice however that these works and those like them show that what I know to be true comports with reality ... historically and philosophically. In contrast, reality contradicts atheism at every turn. The way we think, reason, argue, and live, are counterpoised with the atheistic worldview. Because we don't and can't live life in the full implications of what atheists like Bertrand Russell so eloquently and frightfully express. The reason we can't now (even in unbelief) is because of the restraining grace of God to everyone. But even grace has a limit.
"I was raised in a very secular household. I was not assailed with dogmas and beliefs. So when I learn about Christianity and the Bible, it is with the same mindset with which I learned Greek and Roman myths. The only difference is that everyone around me believes in these myths. What should make me think this is anything more than a social conditioning, the same type that led Greeks and Romans to believe in their Gods? "
Secular, meaning without a belief in God? I think, then you were constantly though perhaps subtley "assailed" with positive dogma and belief, though few will call it that. We cannot escape presuppositions no matter which view we hold. The atheist worldview, which I am assuming your parents held before you, holds naturalism in an a priori fashion. It is firmly established that ANY cause beyond nature herself cannot be used as an explanation for nature. Isn't it interesting though that this "dogma" was not aquired through any empirical means? Who said that a cause beyond nature must be ruled out and why? What if there IS a cause beyond nature which is the cause of all things? Then this a priori assumption will always lead to the wrong answer. It will always lead to the acceptance of conclusions based on the fact that the others are not even allowed. A prime example in my opinion is the teaching of macro-evolution, where gaping holes are slurred over because after all it "has to be true". If naturalism is presupposed, there is simply no other explanation on the shelf. Certain things must be believed despite apparent absurdities or inconsistencies, because naturalism cries "Foul" if we seek outside of an autonomous nature for answers. So no, I don't believe that your secular upbringing was free of dogma and belief. Sure it wasn't taught in sunday school, but it was taught. Is this not also social conditioning?
Admittedly a belief (or a tendency for belief) in God involves presuppositions also. The Judeo-Christian worldview is founded upon, "In the beginning, God..." And the whole teaching of Bible is that it is correct and proper to assume the existence of God. It is actually presented in such a way that suggests it is normalcy to believe this. Anything else must bear the burden of proof. That's why scripture says things like, "A fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'". This isn't base name calling. It's the assertion that any world view that is not founded upon the reality of God himself leads to absurdity and futility of thinking. (remember Russell?) Views that reject the foundation stone of the existence and rule of God, end up either plauged with internal inconsistencies (as in the hopeful humanistic view), or fallen into distasteful pessimism and nihilism. The former holding on to the "goodies" of theistic reality while denying their source, the latter abandoning these to the logical conclusions of atheism. So there is no question of presuppositions... They are unavoidably on both sides of the argument. No one can really in this sense prove anything. I cannot prove God. He is presupposed for me. He is the glass through which I view reality. My assertion is that God proves himself incessantly everyday and cannot fail to do so. This is evident to the atheist whether he or she accepts it or not. He will prove himself further in the consummation, the second coming of Christ. So the question is not which view is presupposed, but which presupposition, if accepted, will give a coherent view of reality.
"And if Gandhi's wrong, and you're right- if Heaven is an exclusive club for people who do the right stuff- then I'm probably out"
Take some time to study apostolic Christian doctrine concerning Heaven and salvation and you will see that it is not a "club" for those who do the right stuff. It is a matter of being, not merely doing. In fact salvation is for those who are humbled to know that they can't do enough of the right stuff to make it. Those who trust in Christ recieve his free gift and then his nature through being sanctified internally. It is hardly a works club. Heaven is more comparable to those who love the outdoors. Where will you usually find them? In the mountains, on the rivers, in the forests, in God's world. Heaven is just God's renewed world. It sounds like you have ethical problems with the narrowness of certain religious situations and don't want to be a cookie cutter christian. I think this is a noble view. I want to avoid the same myself. But everyone is different and beautiful in God's Kingdom. I think ultimately this is no reason not to trust Christ. What he creates you to be will be more thrilling and more acceptable to even you, than what you now are... the same goes for me and for us all.
"I think that there is "something" to life- whether that something is an outside element of God, or an inner element of "soul," I don't know. But I feel that the only way to get to it is to follow what you feel ,think, and believe."
You are right that there is "something" to life. But does the atheistic worldview really have the capacity for such an ideal "something"? Does it allow in philosophic sense any real ideals? If someone says "yes", it rings hollow next to the yawning abyss of naturalism.
As to your assertion that you don't feel compelled to live like a Christian. This is commendable if you are not yet a Christian. It would be hypocritical to play the part without the heart. I believe that all people follow a general morality based upon God's revelation in the heart. And I see very well that you have moral values and follow them. But I agree, how could you live as a Christian if you are not one? I am not even suggesting that. I vehemently opposed this when I was not yet a Christian. That would be mere religious conformity. And like you, I never did have the stomach for it.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (11-13-2002 03:53 PM).]