I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What's the difference?

I don't know if anyone is reading, but I think I'll encourage my Sunday School class to post. The question is: What's the difference between Christianity and the Church of the Flying Speghetti Monster, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster.

Here's a news story:

http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/article.html?in_article_id=43272&in_page_id
=2

So, what's the difference? FSM is a satire. Is the only difference that people believe in Christianity?

11 comments:

Matt Dick said...

Cute story, the caption of the photo was funny.

So, what's the difference? FSM is a satire. Is the only difference that people believe in Christianity?

To the atheist, that is the only difference -- that some people believe in Christianity. Saying this out loud is not going to endear the most hated demographic in America any, but it's the truth.

Many Christians, and I recognize that you are not one of these, believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, or at least is His flawless inspiration. There is no evidence for this belief. You can argue that people's feelings are evidence, and you can argue that the large numbers of adherents to this view is a kind of evidence, but both violate any kind of standard we require for even much more credible claims than the nature of God or the existence of an afterlife.

So in the absence of evidence, why should a person believe Christ was the son of the creator of the universe? Why should a person believe there even is a creator of the universe?

Here's an aside as an interesting little study on credibility. I listen to Way of the Master Radio from time to time. This is the radio program of a ministry called Way of the Master. I believe they also have a TV program. Kirk Cameron is one of the founders, I believe, or perhaps he is simply its most famous adherent. On one episode, the radio host and a caller were discussing the Bible and its status as the infallible authority on everything. The caller was challanging the host, Todd Friel, who had said that there was ample proof that the Bible could not have been written by human beings. This assertion speaks pretty directly to your question, I think or at least to the correlated question, "What proof is there for Christianity that doesn't exist for the FSM?"

The caller said, "The Bible has next to nothing to say about science, and we can't learn anything scientific from the Bible that wasn't known at the time by any uninspired person." -- Note here that the quotes indicate who said what, these are not exact quotes, but I stand behind this as having very close to exact fidelity from a meaning standpoint.

Friel said, "Like what, name something."

The caller said, "How about the water cycle? We all know about the water cycle because of Earth sciences these days, but a shephard in the first century would not have."

Friel went on to lots of other discussions, and right before the break, he came back to this question and said, "By the way, the Bible verse we talked about is: "

And I think it was Hebrews 6:7 which talks about the Earth drinking the rains.

Now with this kind of intellectual dishonesty, how is an open-minded atheist supposed to think about the FSM vs. Christ?

And finally, what is the answer from your perspective -- a person who does not blieve the Bible is the literal word of God and answer to all questions?

JimII said...

One of my answers is that Christianity has evovled through thousands of years of human experience. Its rituals and stories have been honed to address the needs of initial Middle-eastern and then Western civilization.

Another answer, is that while God does not exclusive inspire Christians, I believe God does inspire Christians. So, for instance Paul's letter to the Ephesians, and the commentary on the Letter, "Sit, Walk, Stand" by Watchman Nee, can have a transforming affect on my life.

Those are sort of off the top of my head. I still need to forward the link to my Sunday School class because I'd like for them to comment as well. Maybe some of them will convert to FSM. ;)

matt dick said...

Well should your Sunday school class make it over to read this stuff, I want them to read that although I challenge you about this stuff, it's for a variety of reasons:

1) You're one of the four or five smartest people I know,

2) You're a Christian who is very devout, but in a way that doesn't conflict with the way we know the natural world works (unlike the fellows I mentioned in the first comment),

3) Most Christians do make claims about how the natural world works that are pretty plainly false and,

4) Having a degree in Physics, you actually know quite a bit more than I about how the natural world works.

All that having been said, while I am pursuaded that Christianity has more to offer a thinking person than the Flying Sphagetti Monster, given its thousands of years of refinement and distillation, I wonder are its claims about the world any more absurd? Is a talking burning bush more or less believable than a flying ball of sphagetti? The latter sounds crazier, but is that because I've spent my whole life hearing about one and not the other? I suspect the answer may be "yes".

JimII said...

Matt,

Thanks for your comments. Without making this into too much of a love-fest, as an atheist who is devoted to both his family and a generous participant in charity event, who is well-balanced and friendly, and willing to honestly and with an open mind investigate this phenomenom called faith, you are a real resource for me.

So, thank you.

Josh Gentry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Gentry said...

Is a talking burning bush more or less believable than a flying ball of sphagetti?

There are a couple reasons the burning bush is different. As Jim pointed out, the most important is that it is embedded in an extremely rich context. I am an unbeliever and view the Bible as mythology. That does NOT mean I think it is trivial or silly. I think it is full of collective insight into culture, society and psychology, also some collective folly. Here's an important point. Because I do not view the Bible as the word of God, I am free to identify the folly, as opposed to someone who is into Biblical literalism. This is the point where the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a useful tool, in challenging the literalist who is unable to acknowledge the folly.

Here's another way its different. It's a good, effective metaphor. Moses was wondering alone in the desert and encountered God in a burning bush. I wonder alone in the desert, and that's when I experience awe, wonder, and mystery. I've written about that experience, and you resort to metaphor, because its a mystery and so there are no words for it. The burning bush is, for whatever reason, a psychologically effective metaphor for God, where as a flying ball of spaghetti is not.

Luke said...

Matt sayeth:

"3) Most Christians do make claims about how the natural world works that are pretty plainly false and,"

Hmmmm.....Is this true? Is it really "most Christians"? Is it "most vocal Christians"? Is it "uneducated Christians that don't know better"?

Surely there are a lot. But most?

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

I agree with luke except that many christians do make said errors, and unfourtnately these make up a large number of christians:(

Matt Dick said...

Jim,

I've quoted the statistics before, and Jim has a credible answer, but let's go through it.

From a Rasmussen Poll, we learn:

"...a new poll indicates most Americans – 63 percent – believe the Bible is literally true and the Word of God."

and:

"Among Evangelical Christians, 89 percent believe the Bible is literally true and just 4 percent say it is not. Among other Protestants, 70 percent believe the Bible is literally true. That view is shared by 58 percent of Catholics."

Jim has reasonably answered these statistics by pointing out that when asked direct questions about morality/religious topics, people will often represent themselves as more devout/conservative than they really are, the "that one about the Bible, that's me" kind of response.

I get that, I think that makes sense. But let's get into the actual numbers.

A University of Akron study found that 26% of the United States is Evangelical, 22% Catholic and 16% "Mainline protestant".

The US population is almost exactly 300,000,000. So 63% of 300M is 189M Americans saying they believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

If you add Evangelicals, Catholics, and mainline (moderate) Protestants from the above numbers you get 78M, 66M and 48M respectively for a total of 192M Christians in the United States (discounting Mormans who are demi-Christians).

Assuming that of the 63% who self-identify as Biblical literalists, 100% are Christian (hard to argue otherwise), that means that if my numbers are all correct, that 98.5% of Christians self-identify as Biblical literalists. I do not believe the numbers tell the whol story, there are other divisions of Christianity perhaps, and also I do think your point about answering polls is correct, but even cutting that number in half, you are close to a majority of Christians believing in Biblical literalism. You would also have to assume that there is a category of Christians who perhaps would not believe in Biblical literalism, but who still believe in some basic miracle-claims, like the parting of the Red Sea, the speaking burning bush, water-to-wine, transsubstantiation, resurrection, etc.

I think it's hard to argue against my statement, "Most Christians do make claims about how the natural world works that are pretty plainly false ...".

JimII said...

First, a little point. The statistics you quoted don't work. For example, from Rasumussen, the study that you used to arrive at the number of Americans who are Biblical literalist (.63 x 300M)also says:

"Among Evangelical Christians, 89 percent believe the Bible is literally true and just 4 percent say it is not. Among other Protestants, 70 percent believe the Bible is literally true. That view is shared by 58 percent of Catholics."

So, there is no group of Christians for which 98.5% say that the Bible is literally true. Thus, Christians as a whole cannot say the Bible is literally true. When you consider that Catholics are roughly equal to Evangelicals base on the University of Akron study--26% of the United States is Evangelical, 22% Catholic and 16% "Mainline protestant"--splitting the difference between the Catholics and the Evangelicals is a better number.

Your math is not wrong. There is just something that doesn't jive between the studies. Per Akron, 64% of Americans identify with one of these Christian groups. Per Rasumussen 63% of Americans believe the bible is literally true, BUT, about 70% of Christians have this believe. (If you use the % per group from Rasmussen and the % each group represent from Akron, you get 73.59% of Christians believe this.)

There is actually an explaination that seems too crazy to imagine. That is there are people who are non-Christian Biblical literalists. Seriously, that's crazy.

The big point, I'm going to address in a new post. Namely, most Christians are biblical literalists and believe in miracles.