11 April 2007

Gospel of Christian Atheism

OK, I haven't been terribly active on the old blog lately, but I thought I'd better at least lay out the old stall with regard to what Christian Atheism is about. No, it's not a contradiction in terms - if anything, atheism is the logical consequence of Christianity. Many atheists would view themselves as post-Christian, rather than non-Christian.

I'm going to have to clarify a few points.
  1. The Bible is NOT the Word of God
  2. Jesus was NOT the Son of God
  3. We CAN pick and choose what we want from the Bible, viewing it as part of our cultural heritage
There is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical about this - it is a consequence of the simple fact that the Bible contains a miscellaneous selection of writings revealing the views of the people who wrote them. How closely the "Gospels" follow the actual life and preaching of Jesus of Nazareth is a matter of debate - they certainly got his birth and death wrong.

Add to that the complete screwball mess made by Saul of Tarsus, and you end up with the difficulties we have today. Was Jesus special? No. Was he unique? No. Can we learn from him? Well, yes, but in the sense that we can learn from everyone. His story (and the myths that have arisen around it) carry a certain resonance, and we can certainly learn from that.

We can of course learn from other people, be they Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Thomas Jefferson, whoever. But for me, as a "Christian Atheist", I regard Christianity as a human cultural creation, not something that requires "belief".


  1. Hi Amenhotep,

    This is DD from the Will Crawley Blog, if are interested on this site under http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/03/the_dawkins_debate_continues.html#commentsanchor

    PB is printing some interesting creationist propoganda, I like your style and know that you have a background in science and I am just a humble layman-if you want to join in would be good to see you there!



  2. Hi DD, thanks for keeping the science end up on William's blog (great, isn't it?). OK then - I'll keep an eye, and stand ready to defend science against the continual nibbles of creationist twits. Perhaps they think that "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" is part of the Old Covenant, and doesn't apply to creationists telling lies against science.


  3. Hi A,

    Thanks for your input, I personally do not have a science background and it is a lonely "battle" against PB at times(he has managed to exasperate a lot of posters including myself on occasion). Will blog is great!

    Anyway good to see you there...


  4. Hi Amenhotep,

    I was wondering if you are following my debate with Stephen G on the 'The alliance party welcomes Dawkins', as you are an independent 3rd party are my ideas so hard to follow? any input would be greatly appreciated!

    Haven't got into such a heavy deabte for awhile and wonder if I am rusty.



  5. interesting discussion Amenhotep!

    I never cease to be amazed at the panic and discussion my humble postings cause on athiestic websites!


    BYW Would Prof Nevin be one of those twits you are talking about?

    No hard feelings, I have enjoyed our discussions and have challenged me to look at new questions. But when people of the calibre of Prof FF Bruce and CS Lewis have done so much work on the gospels, I feel quite happy about their veracity.

    Not that I depend on their opinions, BTW



  6. Sorry to change the subject ;-)
    But how is this christian athiesm different from the ordinary kind?

    Surely people with any belief structure can choose to learn from other traditions? Why does that need a special name?

  7. `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe


  8. PB

    Prof Nevin is a bit of a twit!

    PB it's because you print the same old creationist claptrap I thought that I would ask someone with a background in science to talk to you-rather than you constantly referring to the frauds at AIG.

    PB why not look at other writers rather than Bruce and Lewis, because the consensus is that the gospels were not eye-witness accounts and they just get so much wrong!

    I would hope that you would not entirely depend on their opinions then you do constantly refer to AIG!?



  9. Ah, this is the life. I'm surprised at seeing some comments finally coming on this humble blogette, after it being idle for so long ;-)

    PB, you are falling back on the old argument from authority - CS Lewis and FF Bruce are clever people, but they're wrong too. The fact that CS Lewis may have said something is not an argument.

    As for Prof Norman Nevin, on the issue of Truth In Science, yes, he is a twit. There are other issues on which he is not a twit. I hope that his comments are merely a reflection of ignorance of the topic, and a bunny-in-the-headlights bamboozlement when faced with the ID-promo brigade.


  10. Paul,
    You're quite right - it doesn't *need* a special name at all. I just think that there may be a need for Christianity to be interpreted in an atheistic context, in a similar way to the way some Jews are doing for Judaism.

    One of the chief barriers to Christians-who-no-longer-believe is the feeling that they would need to leave all the good stuff (community etc) behind, and find a new one. I don't think that's necessary, and it may be helpful to lessen the slope a little.


  11. Amenhotep

    I do believe you recently faced not a few comments on W&T that you were arguing highly dogmatically outside your field without establishing your assertions.

    One example I brought up was where you confidently announce that Jesus is definitely not the Son of God.

    I have never seen the research paper where you proved this.

    Dont just dismiss authorities that I quote because you dont like them, attack their arguments.

    If I let you design the rules of the game we play to suit you then of course you will win.

    You have a phd in genetics and no qualifications in theology or authenticing ancient manuscripts, remember?

    Prof FF Bruce is well qualified in his field; he says the number of gospel manuscripts and period from over which they date dwarf that of many other documents of the period which are never contested. These facts attest to their authenticity, he states and he is very well qualified to say so.

    CS Lewis says that as an historian of literature, in his view the gospels are too original and contain too many mundane details of life to be anything but authentic.

    DD - why do you have to use derogatory language when describing professional scientists who hold creationist beliefs?

    As you concede you are a layman in science, do you not think they are actually qualified to speak with authority on science where you are not, except as a layman like myself.

    However I never call any evolutionists by derogatory terms in comparison, having regard for their professionalism, views and integrity.

    Remember the conversation we had where Nigel Calder was pointing out the turbulent politics of science and how it can impact on "truth"?

    You have no first hand experience of this either remember.

    And you slagged of Josh McDowell because he sources from conservative scholars? That is no different from you sourcing all your information on Christianity from liberal scholars, lets be honest.

    And you make me smile when you ask me to look at scholars other than Bruce, Lewis etc.

    Are they too qualified for you? does it hurt when I mention them?

    Look, I dont depend on Lewis, Bruce, McDowell or Nevin, but you guys constantly through out the "most scholars" line, so your bluff has to be called.

    What you really mean is most liberal scholars. That leaves any awful lot of other dissenters if we are going to be honest here.

    Amenhotep, a would make a similar point to you. How many more times is Prof Nevin qualified in genetics than you?

    I understand he is known throughout the world for his expertise in the field.

    How do you stack up in comparison?

    He is many times more qualified than you in your own field and perhaps, just perhaps, he may actually know more than you about evolution and creationism than you do.

    At least he has the guts to come out in the open and put his name to his beliefs without stabbing people in the back from behind masks.

    On the face of hit he has you beaten hands down in terms of scientific qualifications and integrity.

    So who should I trust first, him or you?


  12. Hi there PB, me old chum!

    The reason I know that Jesus is not the Son of God is because *I* am. So as soon as you disprove that fact, I will set about seeing if I can address your point.

    You have a phd in genetics and no qualifications in theology or authenticing ancient manuscripts, remember?

    I don't rely on my genetics to make my arguments. The arguments stand or fall on their own basis. Haven't you been listening to the discussions with Stephen over on W&T? The argument from authority is invalid. Qualifications just mean you're a bit more likely to understand some of the evidence, but you can still be wrong...

    Prof Bruce is WRONG - the number of manuscripts is NOT evidence of their truthfulness. Such a claim is just stupid (and weak). It just proves that they were *popular*. Incidentally, ALL the gospel fragments that exist are long long after Jesus died.

    CS Lewis's points about the gospels are frankly irrelevant. Of course they are ancient documents - so much is obvious. The question is: are the miraculous stories depictions of real events? There is no evidence to suggest this *at all*.

    I actually do have experience in assessing ancient documents, and one of my favourite books at the moment is a compendium of Ancient Near-Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament (Pritchard, 1969) - do you know it? It's jolly interesting. I also continue to read my bible, my Herodotus, my Suetonius, my Josephus, etc. You're the one who needs to broaden their reading, rather than take everyone's arguments at face value because they fit your prejudice.

    Amenhotep, a would make a similar point to you. How many more times is Prof Nevin qualified in genetics than you?

    Well, other than years in the field, which he clearly has over me, he's not more qualified in genetics than me at all. He doesn't have a degree in genetics, actually. But that's not the point.

    I understand he is known throughout the world for his expertise in the field.

    So are lots of people; it is safe to say that there are no other creationist clinical geneticists in the UK. Having said that, Prof Nevin has not been entirely forthcoming about whether he espouses "young earth" creationism or its whitewashed-sepuchre-facade Intelligent Design.

    I don't see where I have stabbed Prof Nevin behind his back. I have a lot of respect for him in fact. I have no respect whatsoever for creationism and ID, and in these areas (if he does indeed espouse them), then I am sad to say he has made some monumental errors in basic understanding.

    So who should I trust first, him or you?

    Neither. Look at the arguments and the evidence. I'm not asking you to *trust* me - I simply happen to be right on this issue, and he (if he is really backing these Truth in Science people) is wrong. It's not complicated, and it's not personal.

    Ah, it's lovely being able to do this on my own wee blog! :-)

  13. PB,

    I use that type of language because creationist "scientists" are not worthy of any respect. It has been pointed out to you that creationism is complete and utter twaddle, it has no evidence to back it up, it is followed by religious fanatics that reach a conclusion before assessing the evidence. I could go on and on but is is utter guff, sorry if you don't like that but that is the way it is. Remember I have asked you repeatedly to back up your assertions with evidence that is objective, credible and verifiable and so far I have got zilch, because that is what you have ie., nothing.

    You seem to like Prof Nevin and take him as an argument from authority yet by that way of thinking I can name the world scientific community, Nobel prize winners, national science academies etc

    For an eg on how science and faith(creationism works) see:

    Asses the evidence rather than the person making the claim.

    As for McDowell I gave another eg of another extreme from the other side, I do try to be fair.

    It does not "hurt" me at all when you mention them, rather it makes me smile!

    All I am pointing out is the consensus and the wiki article that you loved so much backed this up ie., the gospels are not eyewitness accounts. Of course people can argue differently but in my experience they do so for theological reasons rather than historic.

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