Tony Sharp, in his brief rebuttal to my previous essay, develops four points against religious theism. In this response I will deal with all four points separately.
1) What theists interpret as being the acts or the results of a divine intervention could be nothing more than the results of a natural phenomenon. To know without doubt if something is more than a natural phenomenon, you would need to understand the nature of all natural phenomenons. Only then would you have reason to rule out all natural explanations, and rule in a super-natural one. And until an empirical explanation can be formulated for what we can not explain at this moment, we should not accept our assumptions or beliefs as truth.
I must suggest that this objection may sound good on paper, but in practice it really is quite absurd. Would you honestly suppose that a (completely) dead man could be raised to life by some sort of “natural law”. Of course not, because all of our experience tells us that such does not occur. Similarly, all of our experience tells us that water is formed when two hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom combine. Just because we don’t know if this happens “every time”, it is still reasonable for us to suppose that every time such will occur.
In addition, the issue of religious context is also a factor. Even if it was possible that there is a “natural law” which can cause a dead man to raise, it would be ridiculous to suppose that this “law” just happens to occur in the right time and place in order to allow for the growth of a religion. If it were not for the amazing feats and claims of Jesus Christ, then his raising to life would have been relatively insignificant. Due to his ministry, however, Christ’s raising to life created the Christian religion. If you want to believe that this unidentified “law” happened to occur in such a coincidental way as to create the foundation of the Christian religion, then you may do so. You should not, however, be considered rational in such an analysis.
2) Unlike secular history books, many religious scriptures include stories about supernatural people, worlds, and events that can only be believed and not tested. Freethinkers dismiss religious and “prophetic” scripture as being a historical record because they are written in a subjective language that can not be interpreted objectively, and because they are built around the assumption that a god exists. Anyone with a little spare time and creative writing ability could have written religious scripture. A god is not the only being capable of inspiring or writing books.
Your claim that scripture is written in “subjective language” proves nothing, for ANY writing can be interpreted in a variety of ways- including secular writings. That is why scholars must use context, cultural data, etc. to interpret the text as objectively as possible. Also, it is true that religious tests are built around the assumption that God exists, but this is a strength rather than a weakness considering the evidence for God’s existence. It may be true that “anyone with a little spare time” could have written the Bible, but that proves nothing as I have never made an argument with the assumption that the Bible is obviously the work of God. I think such an assumption is plausible, but that assumption need not be proven in order to develop a strong case for the existence of God or for a particular religious belief.
3) If there are still other possible explanations for what theists interpret as being a violation of a natural law, there is still room for doubt and further investigation. And where there is room for further investigation, there is no absolute knowledge or absolute truth. We should keep our minds free from traditions so that we do not place a bias in our search for knowledge.
It is true that we should keep our minds open to other theories, but this does not mean that we should never arrive at a tentative conclusion. For example, many scientists believe that the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe is correct. Should we advise them to refrain from keeping “tradition”? Of course not; they are justified in believing that the Big Bang theory is correct while still remaining open minded with regard to other theories. Why cannot this approach be used when we determine, given current evidence, that God is likely the cause of some phenomenon?
4) Any philosophy that promotes the use of magical or religious thinking over the use of critical thinking is a hindrance to scientific and intellectual accomplishment. Progress toward objective solutions can not be made through the promotion of subjective thinking alone.
Perhaps so, but the philosophy you speak of is certainly not a good philosophy for Christianity. The Bible promotes rational thinking and informed faith.
I feel that the four points against religious theism are either mistaken or misguided. Many of the objections do not really apply to a mature view of Christianity.