Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Uneducated Christians ?

A public meeting held in Parliament House this week gained quite a lot of attention on a prominent atheist website. The meeting was designed to support the teaching of SRE (Scripture) in schools, in the midst of the current debate about the introduction of Ethics Classes. The atheist website encouraged their members to attend to “keep one step ahead of these uneducated Christians”. Another respondent to the website agreed, accusing this rally of promoting 'flat earthers'. By way of contrast, the Atheist Foundation of Australia on their website proudly display their slogan: Atheism: celebrate reason!
It is true that some believers are uneducated. It is also true that at times believers have been slow to abandon views that they held to entirely because of tradition rather than reason. But to slag all believers with these sorts of slurs is just plain ignorant. Prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have encouraged this sort of rhetoric in recent years, but it ignores a great deal of evidence. It is also fair to say that some pretty irrational things have been inflicted on the world in the name of atheism in the last hundred years.
To my great surprise when I first investigated Christianity thirty odd years ago, Christians actually think very deeply about their faith and the world. Christianity has always been an advocate for learning and Christians have often been at the forefront of the development of schools and universities. I was also surprised when I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography that he received his education as a grant, because a group of Christians spotted his intelligence and offered his mother a free education for him in a private Christian School. To my surprise I discovered as a theological college student that the extent of critical, thoughtful and analytical study of the Bible is vast. Sure there have been anti-intellectual strains of Christianity, but there are also many examples where Christians have been prepared to engage at all sorts of levels with people of other religions and no religion. When Antony Flew, one of the world’s most impressive atheists, abandoned his atheism in 2004 to embrace theism, he did so, not because he had abandoned reason and joined the 'flat earthers', but because his mind led him to new conclusions.
Interestingly when the Bible criticizes the godless, it does not accuse them of being uneducated but immoral. I have long been convinced that reason covers some other very important factors as to why people do not believe. Human pride convinces many that unbelief is the only reasonable choice. To acknowledge God is not just intellectual - it’s personal. 
One prominent atheist journalist in Sydney was criticized when it was pointed out that the reason that this man could not believe in God, was that he could, after all, have no other god than himself!
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29: 13

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