The new missionary

So this is how it used to go:

You’d get a stranger appear in your conversation or in your facebook discussion or your Torah chat group. Not much is known about him or her. But then all of a sudden you’d find them quoting the bible but giving an interpretation that is at odds with, or against, the traditional Jewish understanding of the Hebrew Bible – it is their Bible after all. You then see a familiar theme start to occur in their words, either the fact that the Bible points to a certain prophet who happens to be called Muhammed, or it shows that we’re all sinners and need a saviour who happens to be Jesus, or whatever version of his name the stranger is pitching at the time. Someone or a number of people would bring up logical and scriptural reasons why the stranger’s interpretation is fundamentally flawed, but the stranger obliviously and resolutely holds to his or her position, stays for however long, and then disappears apparently exactly the same as when they appeared, oblivious, holding to their faith, thinking their way of thinking refutes all opposition and saying they feel stronger in their belief than when they first appeared.

That’s how it used to be.

But now a new form of preacher appears in the distance, but he says he’s not a preacher. Don’t you dare call him a preacher. He’s just there to interject some “new” thoughts, to enlighten those around him with what he knows. He says he has no religion. Don’t you dare say he has a religion or faith. No, he only comes with facts and what can be observed and tested. And, funnily enough, he finds himself in a seat used previously by others, except this time he’s not quoting scripture. No, he waits for scripture to be quoted and then asks why the hell anyone would believe those words, in that God, in that god. Oh there may have been some creative force that started things going, maybe, but it ain’t in that old book.

With his mind’s eye, he takes you on a trip all over the universe and galaxies, into the incredibly small universe of radioactivity and DNA, through eons and ages of billions of years and time, in his mind’s eye. And it all really happened and originated and developed, just as he imagined. His priests … no, not his priests, don’t you dare call them his priests. No, his scientific experts, the “rational” ones, the “logical ones” – no faith here at all, of course not, never – they have shown him the truth as the ever changing science has shown them. And it’s not the failures that were once called successful scientific theories that we should focus on or the constant succession of such theories. No it’s the “successful” theories of today that we should hold onto as truth. Not Truth. I mean, for this person, there is no Truth with a capital “t”, only the “facts of science” (translate as “the conclusions of a certain group of scientists”) which are supposed to held tentatively. And yet the way he clings to them, advocates them, clings to them …

On this basis, his comments are mainly used to encourage doubt in the veracity of any belief other than his own in the words of his preferred group of scientists. With his staff of empiricism and his rod of philosophical naturalism and his shield of scientism, he asks for “proofs” that the book is from God, that God exists, and claims there is no evidence for anything other than what his pries … sorry, I mean his scientists and his brand of science has told him. In other words, he asks for those who accept God to use the methods of God-rejection to prove God(???) This time fewer people will contradict him, having been born and raised in a culture that doesn’t call his brand of missionizing religious or his stance a religion. And how can you really counter something that is not a religion … supposedly?

So someone or a number of people may bring up logical and scriptural reasons why the stranger’s undermining of the very existence of God is fundamentally flawed, but the stranger obliviously and resolutely holds to his or her position, stays for however long, and then possibly disappears apparently exactly the same as when they appeared, oblivious, holding to their faith, thinking their way of thinking refutes all opposition and maybe even saying they feel stronger in their belief … sorry, their conclusions from their brand of science than when they first appeared.

No, this isn’t meant to describe every single person who thinks any and every religion or religious conception of God is flawed or wrong, or that no such god or God exists, at least it isn’t meant to describe this sort of person with regards to their methods. But a lot of their ways are not much different to any other sort of religious missionary. One fundamental difference is that they may not even know that their stance is just as firmly based on faith, and their hearts are just as bound in their god-rejection (atheism, naturalism) as any missionary’s heart is bound in their god-acceptance. They may say they are only following the evidence, yet remain ignorant of the fact that evidence needs to be interpreted. It’s not about the evidence in the end, but the assumptions and beliefs you approach the evidence with.

So just be careful. Be careful of the man who says he has no faith, no unprovable assumptions, no beliefs or presuppositions. It’ll be difficult to find a man more blind.

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