Saturday, December 02, 2006

Seeking a Better Way

This post is part of an ongoing dialog between my friend Ernie and me about the validity of Christian belief. It is a response to Wanna Bet?.


Thanks for continuing to take the time to try to explain yourself. While I am sorry that I have not satisfied your desire for a "solid, bullet-pointed position", this post may not be the answer to all your desires either. I will, however, endeavor to improve in this regard.

We agree, you and I, that some things are better than others. Love is better than hate, truth is better than falsehood, and much more. And I appreciate that you take seriously the failings of Christianity (as we know it) and seek to improve it, even while defending it.

The primary empirical evidence on which you rest your belief, it seems, is the beneficial effect that Christianity has had on our world and on individuals, both now and throughout history (or at least the past two thousand years). While acknowledging that Christians have at times been culpable for great evil, the balance sheet in your estimation is very definitely in the black, enough so that Christianity must really be on to something.

You have said that you believe the Bible because "it explains the divinity [you] observe" and you have attributed to divinity the moral purpose (or nature) of the universe. Similarly, you have stated several times that you believe in Love. So I feel fairly comfortable in concluding that you place high importance on how people treat each other and that some things really are better than others in this regard. And toward the end of your last post you said:

Sure, "Love thy neighbor" and "forgive your enemies" may not have the "accuracy and precision" of E = mc2, but whoever said that was the ultimate test of truth? The ultimate test -- at least for me -- is whether something works. It may not work perfectly (does anything?), but at least it works better than whatever has come before. And anyone who wants to improve upon it (and believe me, I do!) needs to understand both why it worked and why it failed if they hope to do better. And be willing to bet their life on finding a better way.

I wonder if you might consider some possibilities. Perhaps loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemies and many other moral precepts advanced by Christianity really are good things, even while a number of its other propositions are false. Perhaps Christianity has encouraged those things more than other religions and so has been more successful, even while those false propositions have led people to commit evil in its name and limited its success. Perhaps the way to improve Christianity is to keep the good stuff and drop the bad stuff, the false stuff. Sure, it might not be Christianity any more when you are done, but what results may be that thing that you are looking for, a still better way of living.

You wanted to know what I believe, what I am willing to bet my life on, to bet all of Western civilization on (and I'll throw in the rest of the world). That's it. There is a better way, and the most important thing we can do to find it is to let go of the things that are holding us back, while holding on to the good we already have.


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