Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Don-Martin Takudzwa Whande's response - Mmegi

Original here.

Although I do not usually like to respond to a response to my articles, I felt obliged to respond to Harriman's letter of January 22 because he shares some really interesting thoughts.

It's important for the reader to understand that I am not trying to start a Holy War with atheists, but I simply desire to connect with my colleagues and try reach an understanding, if possible, by presentation of facts and ideas. First of all, I do understand when atheists say that there is no God. However, such a belief automatically means that life has no meaning. It simply means everything is permissible because there are no laws and therefore no one is accountable to anyone. However, if that is so,what then is the reason why we now have laws to govern behaviour today unless there was a law giver?

In simple, if life has no meaning then each and every one of us has to live as they please. So Harriman,wouldn't you agree with the fact that we have rules to govern behaviour and conduct in the universe simply because this universe has a meaning? C.S. Lewis, who was once an atheist but is now convinced that there is God, had this to say: "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has an idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this world to when I called it unjust? If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning."

What C.S Lewis was trying to say was that when atheists say this universe is unjust and has no meaning, to what are they comparing it to? How can one say life is unjust and has no meaning unless he or she has an idea of a meaningful and just life? Let me use an everyday example. Is it possible for me to say to a person she is beautiful unless I have an idea of what an ugly person looks like?

This, I believe, is the same trap that many atheists find themselves in. This is the last aspect of reality that atheists should now consider before they can conclude that life has no meaning. A closer analysis of the above question will reveal that this universe has meaning after all because to every bad thing, there is always the good side.

One thing is for sure, Harriman. If a person is truly convinced about his/her religion, then that person should not be afraid to come out in the open about his/her faith. For example, you rightly pointed out that many atheists are afraid of coming out in the open because they fear being rejected by the community. This is the same quandary homosexuals find themselves in.

But surely, if one is sure and confident about his or her faith, why are there a lot of atheists, in this country for that matter, being afraid of coming out and professing their faith? I believe it is because of the lack of absolute truth that makes people do this. It is also because atheists are aware that life is meaningful and therefore cannot afford just to come out in the open. The society has a moral obligation to accept or not to accept Christianity, Atheism, amongst many other religions. But if life has no meaning, as you say, why are some of your people (atheists), just like homosexuals, afraid of coming out in the open? Why do Atheists care about criticism if life is meaningless?

With all due respect, I also think atheists should simply stop trying to behave as if they understand the Bible. I am saying this because of the way Harriman dismally failed to interpret the Bible. In your letter to the Mmegi on January 22, you rightly pointed out that "I don't believe in the Bible", which is evidenced by your saying that the Bible is littered with endorsements of murder, rape, genocide and human sacrifices. Harriman seems to have moved from being a 'non-believer of the Bible' to a 'perfect interpreter of the Bible.'

If you do not believe in the Bible, that is good enough. Do not contradict and embarrass yourself by trying to interpret the Bible that you seem to be so appalled with. If I were to say "I do not believe there is a language called Setswana", is it then 'rational and logical' for me to try and interpret it? Maybe you would like to ponder about that. I am still radically sure and utterly convinced that there is God around us.

However life is a matter of choice. There are good and bad ideas, right and wrong as well as some ideas in between. No one, however, is supposed to be forced into the belief of deity. Each decision we make ultimately has a bearing in our lives and we are all accountable for our actions and choices in life. We are here for a purpose and we are all custodians of our individual lives.

Don-Martin Takudzwa Whande

1 comment:

Peter Brand said...

Don-Martin, discussions with Atheists could not lead to a "holy war"; Atheists have no gods; they have no-one and no cause to wage war for. That is the prerogative of the faithful.
Some atheists say "there is no God", but not all. Some say "there is no evidence that god(s) exists". A subtle, but important difference. Others say "the god that you believe in is impossible" - e.g. he cannot be both omniscient and omnipotent. You may know this already, your article is however limited to considering only the first statement.
You cannot simply assert that an absence of a belief in a god "automatically means that life has no meaning". Does life have to have some external purpose in order to have meaning? If it only has meaning because a god has a purpose for us, what then is the purpose of God? Does another higher god have a purpose for him, or is he just meaningless? There's nothing automatic at all. If you want to make this claim, you need to back it up.
You also cannot assert that an absence of a belief in a god means that "everything is permissible because there are no laws and therefore no one is accountable to anyone". Humans are quite capable of making laws and agreeing on morality without divine intervention; politicians all over the world do so daily. It will not do to claim that a god or your god is behind that since some or most of those politicians either believe in other gods or no gods at all. Yes there are laws because there are law givers - and the law-givers are politicians. Human politicians. No gods required.
C.S. Lewis was an "atheist" in his adolescence. No surprise there, most kids are. He wasn't one-of-them that became one-of-us whilst an adult as you seem to be hinting. It’s irrelevant other than a mere "appeal to authority". By the way, he died in 1963; read about him on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cs_lewis.

Your argument regarding the trap that atheists "fall into" by not having something to compare to, makes no sense at all. We have many examples of what we consider to be just and unjust behavior right here on Earth. Are you saying the religious have privileged access to an alternate universe that allows them to compare and evaluate this one?
Atheists are not "afraid of coming out". Even if they are not "coming out" in sufficient numbers to suit you, does not mean that they are unsure of their views. You presume too much. Some of us, as I have myself at times, simply learned that it is a largely tedious exercise to engage with religious folk who want to share their views but definitely don't want you to share yours.
They also cannot "profess their faith" since they have none. I know some would like to say that atheism is a faith since they don't have absolute knowledge (no-one does). But that is just twisting words like claiming that a person who does not play sports is somehow a sportsman.
You seem to have some issue with homosexuals (no surprises there), and its a cheap shot to try and tar atheism with the same brush.

As soon as someone uses the phrase "with all due respect", one should expect a statement to follow which is nothing but lacking in respect. You did not fail in that expectation. To claim that only the religious can understand and interpret the Bible is arrogant. It is because atheists can understand and interpret the Bible that they can reject it and not believe in it. There is no contradiction between understanding the Bible and not believing it. People read and understand fairy tales and fiction but don't believe in them.
Just because you are "utterly convinced" does not mean that others who do not share your conviction are lacking in understanding and are just pretending.
Your Setswana example is woefully inadequate. A proper analogy is; on hearing Setswana and being able to interpret it, does it necessarily follow that what the Tswana is saying is the truth?