Frank Schaeffer Admits Madness – Or Something Like That

I am reluctant to review this post because I suspect Frank Schaeffer knows what he says to be nonsense, but says it anyway. How else could he say with a straight face that he’s an ‘atheist who believes in God’? But I’m doing this for myself. This is the first post I’ve been interested and motivated enough to write in a long time. Let’s get to it, then.

All the public debates between celebrity atheists and evangelical pastors are as meaningless as literary awards and Oscar night

Strangely, I don’t think any of the above are meaningless. Square Circles are meaningless. Literary awards might be boring or pointless, but they certainly mean something. At least he doesn’t say debates between educated atheists and Christian Apologists are meaningless. Peter Millican isn’t a celebrity and Frank Turek isn’t a pastor (as far as I know). So we should be good to go there.

They are meaningless because participants lack the objectivity to admit that our beliefs have less to do with facts than with our personal needs and cultural backgrounds.

That’s a strange thing to say. Frank had better be willing to admit that his beliefs are sufficiently based on facts or it will be outrageous to expect us to listen to him. But if he says his beliefs are sufficiently factual and not based on needs and backgrounds, he’ll be engaging in special pleading. He’s damned if he does and if he doesn’t. Perhaps then he should have made that ridiculous statement.

The words we use to label ourselves are just as empty.

What exactly is a “believer?” And for that matter what is an “atheist?” Who is the objective observer to define these terms?

Now, Frank, unless you want to call every single word we use meaningless, you really shouldn’t say that. The fact that no single observer has the right to define any word doesn’t make the word empty. Words are defined by common usage and consensus. To insist on one person’s definition is to tempt us all to beat you to a pulp. It will also invalidate everything you say. “How dare you define those words?! I say ‘cheese’ means to have two legs. What makes your definition any more valid than mine?”

Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account.

Take me, I am an atheist who believes in God.

Why would we need a definition that takes idiocy into account? You pick a word that already has one meaning, give it the exact opposite meaning, and insist we take you seriously? Being an atheist who believes in God is about as paradoxical as a square circle. To allow a definition that takes into account square circles is to tolerate stupidity. I, personally, am strongly against stupidity in any form.

Let me explain.

This I have to see.

I believe that life evolved by natural selection. I believe that evolutionary psychology explains away altruism and debunks love, and that brain chemistry undermines the illusion of free will and personhood.

I also believe that a spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my creator.

OK, so you’re a materialist. That doesn’t make you an atheist who believes in God, dolt. It makes you a theistic materialist. It’s hard to see why someone would hold such inconsistent views, but there’s no reason to demean yourself by claiming madness. We have ways of helping people like you: reading, college, therapy, etc.

It seems to me that there is an offstage and an onstage quality to my existence. I live onstage, but I sense another crew working offstage. Sometimes I hear their voices “singing” in a way that’s as eerily beautiful as the offstage chorus in an opera.

That’s OK. You know why? Because both onstage and offstage exist! You’re not crazy for thinking there’s something behind it all. The lights, curtains, and sound effects come from somewhere. I promise. Once again, there’s no need to claim madness.

My youngest grandchildren Lucy (5) and Jack (3) are still comfortable with this paradoxical way of seeing reality.

Most grownups don’t have the transparent humility to deal with the fact that unknowing is OK. But Lucy and Jack seem to accept that something may never have happened but can still be true.

*snort*. You seem to be using your poor grandkids to justify illogical views. No, Lucy and Jack probably aren’t as illogical as that, but even if they are, they’re babies. That they believe something contradictory (again, not paradoxical) isn’t a sign that they are somehow more mature than adults. It’s usually a sign that they’re not.

For instance they take Bible stories we read at face value, and yet I see a flicker in their eyes that tells me that they already know the stories are not true in the same way boiling water is true and can be tested—it’s hot!

I’ll take your word for it that the flicker in their eyes say they believe but also don’t believe the Bible stories. Ok, actually, I won’t. They either believe the thing or they don’t. It’s possible they suffer from some form of schizophrenia (God forbid), but it’s easier to believe you’re wrong. And even if you’re not, that’ll just make your grandkids illogical. Like your article.

It’s like that mind-bending discovery from quantum mechanics that tiny objects like electrons can actually be in two places at once and act simultaneously like a particle and a wave.

Well, intelligent people usually don’t believe anything scientists say, especially since said ‘discovery’ is flat out inconceivable and a good portion of the scientific community thinks that it’s sensationalist nonsense. It won’t do to start believing nonsense in the name of science. In any case, there’s a clear difference between flat out impossibilities like something being true and not true at the same time; and things that just don’t make sense.

Maybe my grandchildren will embrace quantum theory, and won’t look for ways to make the irrational rational by hiding behind words like “mystery” in order to sustain their faith in science or God.

If quantum theory is irrational, so is any scientist who believes it. In that case, they should be fired before they completely undermine the entire operation. Once again: “I can’t conceive it” does not necessarily equal “it’s irrational”.

Or maybe they’ll embrace apophatic theology, the theology of not knowing.

And know that they don’t know? Possibly.

Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide

But it’s not the easiest thing to do.

Our brains are not highly evolved enough to reconcile our hunger for both absolute certainty and transcendent, inexplicable experiences.

Yes, they are. I do it all the time. Watch: I do not know what makes scientists think particles can be in two places at once, but I am certain they’re not all lying.

Nor can I reconcile these ideas: “I know that the only thing that exists is this material universe,” and “I know that my redeemer liveth.”

Because that’s not just inexplicable. It’s impossible for P and not-P to be true in the same way at the same time. Irrational. Nonsense. I’m tired of telling you that there’s a difference between being unable to understand something and the thing’s being impossible.

Depending on the day you ask me, both statements seem true. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Yeah, well, sometimes it seems to me that everybody else is nuts, but I’m slightly certain that’s not true.

Behold, the six types of atheists

We’re all in the closet, so to speak. We barely come out to ourselves and never completely to others. I have met people who claim a label –evangelical or atheist – until you get to know them well enough.

So, you want another name for people who believe something, but are inconsistent in their actions? How about ‘Inconsistent’?

Then, things get more complicated.

Many of us, even the devout, have many more questions than answers about God and religion.

In other words, people just like me: atheists who pray and eloquent preachers who secretly harbor doubts.

Kind of like scientists who believe in quantum mechanics, but don’t understand it?

I believe that we’re all of at least two minds. We play a role and define that role as “me” because labels and membership in a tribe make the world feel a little safer.

When I was raising my children, I pretended to be grownup daddy. But alone with my thoughts, I was still just me. I’m older now, and some younger people may think I know something.

I do: I know how much I can never know.

In other words, you were not a grown up daddy, but you pretended to be. You weren’t of two minds. You were pretending to be other than you were. If you learned nothing in more than 18 years, well, accept my sympathy.

Many Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians inherited their faith because of where they were born. If you are an atheist, you hold those beliefs because of a book or two you read, or who your parents were and the century in which you were born.

Don’t insult us. Perhaps you think yourself stupid, but some of us cried and prayed and studied for years and got where we are by the sweat of our brows. Some of us saw our parents believing things that we figured out were false – by thinking – and chose differently. Some of us have read more than one or two books, spent years studying our beliefs – in school and out of it. We don’t subscribe to the idiotic kind of faith you seem to have in everything.

Don’t delude yourself: There are no ultimate reasons for anything, just circumstances.

I can understand you not having any reason for writing this nonsensical piece, but I assure you that the rest of the world is different.

If you want to be sure you have “the truth” about yourself and our universe, then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular.

You will always be more than one person. You will always embody contradiction.

You—like some sort of quantum mechanicals physics experiment—will always be in two places at once.

We’re in agreement, then. You think you know the truth about why you believe what you believe. You must be mad. We sympathize.


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I’m Tracy

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