This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/david-buller-on-how-curiosity-builds-bridges-between-christians-and-skeptics
While I’m certainly fascinated by the discussions atheists employ when engaging BioLogos, I feel honor-bound to point out that BioLogos-centered volunteers and writers are not likely to improve our engagement with Atheists without weakening our rapport with Creationists.
I am inclined to think that any robust adjustment to open up to atheists is a “bridge too far” - - and will only harm our ability to intuitively comprehend the YEC view of the universe.
I’m not sure about this, George. You’re picturing this as a linear continuum with atheists on one far end, YECs on the opposite extreme, and hapless ECs in the middle having to decide in which direction they are going to reach.
I think I could make a case that there is at least one other way to picture this situation. Imagine wrapping that linear continuum into a circle putting the atheists and YECs right next to each other. In some ways they are very similar because they both privilege science as a way to demonstrate God’s presence or absence respectively. And I think this is demonstrated by how easily people seem to migrate between those two groups. So reaching out to one may in the end be not so far afield from reaching out to the other.
Interesting thought, and analogous to how you can visualize the the left and right of political leanings as being next to one another.
I can see no scenario of dialogue with an Atheist, with Creationists also in the audience reading along, where we can retain the interest or trust of Creationists while saying how clever the Atheist is.
But I look forward to hearing about a real live example.
It’s like trying to arrange an “understanding” with your non-marital girlfriend, while your wife is also sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee.
Before getting on too far here, I don’t want to forget to thank David for his observation about curiosity and the importance of engaging and encouraging curiosity to all who are scientists, theologians, or both. To me this provokes a further self-reflection: Is there any point at which I stop being curious about something – and furthermore: is there any point at which that would be defensibly appropriate? This could be asked as a Christian or an atheist I should think. To me there isn’t an obvious slam-dunk answer. More on this later perhaps … On to George’s challenge…
George, YECs draw heavily from New Atheists like Dawkins to get fuel for their fires. Such folks are their evidence of how contrary evolution must be to the biblical faith. They are “birds of a feather” we might say – even if they understandably don’t care for the polemic tone, it may be still be a necessary reminder nonetheless. And one gets the feeling in any case that they reserve the greater hostilities for people they see as Christian “compromisers” than they do for outright militant atheists. This is sort of parallel to situations I remember growing up around in which going to a Christian college whose values were suspected to be more liberal was deemed a worse choice than just heading off to a state university. I.e. we get along better with self-perceived polar counter-parts than we do with those who we ought to be nearest, but still have that irritatingly significant difference. And so some fraternize the more easily with the former than the latter.
But all that still doesn’t really address your point – isn’t anything that we do to attempt to appeal to an atheist going to be just used as more fuel by YECs? If we abandon our faith just to make friends, then yes – and rightly so. But I don’t see ECs doing that here.
Probably more to be said, but I need to get back to other work…
I agree with everything you wrote that I have quoted above.
So how does having more of what I might call BioLogos “murmurs of love” to Atheists accomplish anything?
I once got “big points” from a foreign-born foreign policy professor at Rice University when he asked the class:
“Based on what you know of the Canadian emotional response to American culture, what would be the worst way to advertising a deluxe automobile to the Canadian market?”
There was a variety of student answers, which apparently were not yet what he was looking for. I raised my hand and suggested: “The worst way would to advertise the luxury vehicle would be to emphasize how popular that vehicle is in the USA.”
The professor threw his hands up and said: “Exactly!”
It does seem we’ve worked hard here in the U.S. to make ourselves poster children for how not to do things. I get worried if my views are very much in line with what I see in popular culture. One could do worse than just concluding “whatever the majority of the U.S. populace has been enticed to (by their corporate marketer overlords) can be counted on to be a stupid idea.” But one can do a lot better than such reactionary thinking too.
ECs aren’t just trying to make new friends; they’re soldiering the lonely ramparts of the few left who are still interested in truth. All the others have been more interested in moving into jihad mode, leaving behind whatever pursuit of truth in which they may have once engaged. Reaching out to people is part of being Christ to the world. And atheists need that right now. YECs (presumably?) don’t.
But do we need to make friends with Everyone?
When I first arrived at these boards, I was stunned to see Atheists walking the halls (figuratively of course), helping themselves to the free coffee mocha frappe de la almonde tutti fruiti, and poking their heads into rooms, inciting people to argue over randomness!
It took forever to get at least one busy atheist to remember we talk about God around here … and for a reason … and that his laughing at me because I suggested that God could use cosmic rays (among a million other things) to guide and specify a whole catalog of required mutations - - by coordinating all natural processes or by divine proclamation - - was a bit “troll-some” !
(My favorite question is still to ask a person whether he/she thinks God arranged for the dinosaur killing asteroid from the moment of the creation of the Universe, or if he “poofed” the asteroid into existence, nudging it at a sacred angle to do the work of eliminating the giant carnivores that would adorn dino dinner plates! You are right - - it’s a trick question! Because both answers are Correct!)
In the end, that atheist had a pretty big meltdown when he realized that some of us were pretty serious about having God looking over our shoulder at our term paper for “Evolution: The Divine Plan”. Is there anyone in the science community that doubts BioLogos bona fides ? Are we really worried about a current science establishment that thinks academics going to church “is just goofy” or (this is one of my favorite back-handed remarks, google it sometime >) that church attendance is going “halfway to crazy town!”
We have 4 (or even 8?) solid Trump years where going to Church is not something we have to get complicated about… if anything, our Church affiliations will be a help in our defense against what could be some of the nuttiest governmental policy shifts we have yet seen.
I really don’t think we need to worry about the Atheists. If they want help with the Creationists, we are here to provide it. But to try some sort of “charm offensive” where we should mumble the words “God of Abraham” doesn’t seem like the best idea for the foreseeable White House administration!
George, you are fantastic. That is all.
OK, one more thing. I’m really struggling to understand what you’re actually concerned about here, and how it applies to the video clip linked at the top. Can you help me out? From what I see of your posts here, you are severely misunderstanding what David was saying, and how it relates to the mission of BioLogos.
Okay… I’ll go back and read again …It’s worth it to get it right.
Hey… I’d hate to think I just flew off the handle…
" asking some kind of skeptical question about something he was being told, and being really discouraged from doing that. He saw the exact opposite in the scientific world–being curious and asking questions is rewarded."
I think most of us have been in similar settings, where asking questions in church leads to an awkward silence, followed by some muttering about unity or mystery or such. That is one of the things I enjoy about the forum here, and Biologos in general: the attitude that truth can stand questioning and perhaps painful examination. It is a quality lacking in many other creationist organizations as evidenced by the lack of a public forum for discussion on their sites.
I owe you and the list a humble apology. I re-read the introductory comments, and I waited for everyone to leave the office so I could watch the video. Timing is everything!
I thought the topic was going to be “skeptics aka atheists”. In fact, David Buller’s good commentary was really not about those most difficult people - atheists.
No. The bridge between “Christians and Skeptics” is about bridging between Creationist Christians and Pro-Evolution Christians!
In fact, the video was a pretty inspirational discussion about how BioLogos, just by existing … just by operating in its modest ways … is helping to give hope and a sanity-check to English-speaking Christians all around the world!
I salute you all in your work.
Next time you meet an Atheist, ask him how he likes his coffee !!!
First rule of comment boards: don’t comment until you’ve read the article we’re supposed to be commenting on! I’ll let you off this time, George…
Hey… I assure you, I did read the article… but I didn’t have the ability to see the video during working hours. I had allowed myself to “jump to a conclusion” about the comparison in the title:
“Between Christians and Skeptics”
It never occurred to me that the “Skeptics” were not Atheists. Though a title like that in a YEC publication would refer to us!
But I’ll be more careful in the future.
The article is literally just a transcription of the video, but whatever…
Brad, I would hate for you not to believe something I say when I say that something… so now I feel honor-bound to more fully explain the context of my (erroneous) expectations for the article and video:
Since I was looking for a “collision of worlds” (i.e. Christians vs. Atheists), I found the text of the article to be not particularly “pointed” at any such collision. I concluded that there must be more to it on the video (which I could not yet watch, since I was at the office in a cubicle next to my manager).
In fact, if I had realized that the text was simply a transcript, I wouldn’t have even had to wait for the video. . .and would have realized that the term “Skeptics” really had nothing to do with skeptical Atheists …
But was intended to mean “skeptical Christians” - - aka, Christians who are skeptical of the 6 day Creation. This may have been my first encounter with the phrase “skeptical Christians” as a moniker for BioLogos folks.
I will try to do better.
The title indeed referenced “skeptics” as a way of referencing the “atheist” in David’s story. Again, I don’t think you were reading very closely at all. Which is OK, but please, read a little more carefully next time and try to formulate your critique more carefully.