For years I was a revved up, starry-eyed, enthusiastic Amway distributor. Drivin’ all over the place, doing meetings, building my “organization” and gunning for Diamond.
Eventually (it took about 5-6 long torturous years; I can be both stupid and stubborn) the rose-colored sunglasses started to shatter. Due in part to scrutiny that the Internet provided, which had formerly been impossible.
I decided to use the web as an anvil to see if the Multi-Level Marketing machine could stand up to scrutiny. To make a long story short, I put up a website asking qualified people to explain some things that appeared to be fairly unethical and no good explanations were forthcoming.
Was there a good reason for the tool systems being the way they were, etc, other than the powerful exploiting the gullible?
In a word, no. I saw very quickly that it crumbled under the weight of hard analysis. (To put it mildly.)
A few years later I found myself putting together this here Coffeehouse Theology website with an eerily similar thing in mind. Point/counterpoint, thesis/antithesis. Let’s get all this out on the table and start hammering on it.
I’d been raised Christian, my dad was a minister, and I thought there was a very real possibility that Christianity might crumble the same way Amway did. (Amway imploded in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s – huge fallout. It would take a major recession with millions of desperate people seeking opportunities, before that trend began to reverse.)
Not only that, atheist websites like Infidels were attracting hundreds of thousands of followers. The arguments were very strong.
I was open to the possibility that the whole Christianity thing might be a sham. And if so, I might as well find out sooner rather than later. Maybe churches would someday be filled with only those people left who couldn’t be bothered to get on the Internet.
By the way I had a deep dark fear of feeling the same way about having been a Christian as I’d felt about being a “naive enthusiastic Ambot.” ie they saw me coming a mile away. I was a gullible idiot. What a horrible fear.
Meanwhile I decided to try my best to defend Christianity based on what I did know. I decided to take all comers. Sort of like I am doing here on this blog, but back then it was via email. All the email autoresponder replies came back to me.
So the convos were private, which helped. It made them deeper and less snarky than what you typically find on blogs. I decided that I was willing to “fight to the death” – someone was going to win. Maybe it was going to be me, maybe it was going to be the atheist that I was talking to.
Sooner or later we would find out. If Christianity was a sham I would give it up.
What happened to me was, I became more and more sure of fewer and fewer things.
There are a lot of things that I would never be interested in trying to defend. There are other things that I think really do stand up to logical, historical, philosophical and scientific scrutiny.
One of those things is Christian God –> resurrected Jesus spiritual belief system. The Judeo-Christian account of the origins of the universe; the case for the resurrection of Jesus; for the remarkable reliability (not utter perfection!) of the gospel texts; for various prophesies coming true, for Christian ideas of equality giving birth to our modern notions of human rights. For developing the philosophical roots for modern science; healings from disease; the case for all these things is much stronger than most people would ever suspect.
In fact I’ll go so far as to say that Judaism and Christianity together laid the foundations for modern colleges and universities and a great deal of the Western intellectual tradition.
By the way I just ran across a fascinating article. David Stove was a brilliant, incisive atheist philosopher from Australia. Wrote “Darwinian Fairytales” and “Rationality of Induction.” I bought both of those books several years ago. I wasn’t aware he had a son.
His son RJ Stove writes this riveting account of converting from atheism to Catholicism.
I think RJ’s story is a shining example of what happens when you put atheism on the anvil and start pounding on it, the same way I pounded on Christianity. I found out it shatters like brittle iron. I doubt many people know the real story of David Stove, I sure didn’t. David Stove’s books are outstanding by the way, and very witty.
I don’t expect you to accept any of this just because I say so. But I think if you page through the various articles, the Q&A in the blog comments, the presentations and MP3′s both here and on my sister website – you will find a reasonable, logical articulation of Christianity as a rational belief system.