Today’s Times has a (possibly unwittingly) amusing article on apps designed for iPhones by Christian publishers attempting to fight “what they view as a new strain of strident atheism.” Nonbelievers are, naturally, responding.
Here is an example of the level of debate:
“Say someone calls you narrow-minded because you think Jesus is the only way to God,” says one top-selling application introduced in March by a Christian publishing company. “Your first answer should be: ‘What do you mean by narrow-minded?’”
Not to mention:
“The Bible’s 66 books were written over a span of 1,500 years by 40 different authors on three different continents who wrote in three different languages. Yet this diverse collection has a unified story line and no contradictions.”
If you believe that the Bible has a unified story line and no contradictions, you will believe anything.
One Christian app, Fast Facts, advises,
“When someone says, ‘There is no truth,’ ask them: ‘Is that true? Is it true there is no truth?’ Because if it’s true that there is no truth, then it’s false that ‘there is no truth.’”
I will surely remember that the next time someone says, “There is no truth.”
Atheists, on the other hand, get “to keep the most funny and irrational Bible verses right in their pocket.” One app explains,
“If you take any miracle from the Bible and tell your co-workers at your job that this recently happened to someone, you will undoubtedly be laughed at.”
The president of Union Theological Seminary stated,
“It turns it into a game. Both sides come to the discussion with fixed ideas, and you have what amounts to a contest between different types of fundamentalism.”
Maybe. But it sounds to me like she has a case of terminal objectivity; the truth is not necessarily somewhere between two competing arguments. Many atheists may be fundamentalists, in a way, but simply debunking Biblical literalism or not believing in God is very far from fundamentalism. The developer of one app, Jason Hagen, expressed considerable sympathy for religious believers, and I will let him have the last word:
What inspired him [Mr. Hagen], he said, was a lifetime of frustration as the son of a fundamentalist Christian preacher in rural Virginia.
“I know what people go through, growing up in the culture I grew up in,” said Mr. Hagen, 39, adding that his father had only recently learned of his true beliefs. “So I tried to give people the tools they need to defend themselves, but at the same time not ridicule anybody. Basically, the people on the other side of the debate are my parents.”