Hello, Mister Wood. This is in reply to your letter that was published in The Skeptical Review (July / August 1998). Iíve also sent this letter to Mister Till.
Iím sorry to hear that Fundamentalism is alive and well in New Zealand. It is heartening to know that there is critical examination of Fundamentalist claims there, however. My personal opinion, based on reading other peopleís opinions and other people's scholarship, is that the words attributed to Jesus in the "Four Gospels" are most likely fabrications. Perhaps a score (20) sayings or sentences may have originated from him and presented in The Bible. Some scholars think even 20 is too high.
Anyhow, the reason Iím writing, and the reason Iím also copying this letter to Mister Till, is because you included my name as a Christian who objected to the blatantly false claim that Christians cannot be rational. (I made this objection, if I recall correctly, three issues ago, in the "From The Mailbag" section.) Please note that not all reverends are Christian: Yes, I am the minister of Marinerís Ministries, in a sea-side town called Dana Point (in the State of California, in the USA). However, I am not a Christian: I am a pantheist and a Deist. My ministry is mostly limited to performing weddings and burials at sea, though I have performed other religious functions such as Sunday services and sermons for boat mates during long-hauls off shore. I wish this to be clear because I do not want someone using me as an example of a Christian who agrees, disagrees, supports, or opposes any given issue or concern: I do not want to look dishonest when someone finds that in fact I am not a Christian.
My objection to someoneís claim that Christians cannot be rational is not based upon my own Christianity (which is nonexistent), but upon my humanitarianism. Also my sense of fair play and honesty: the vast majority of Christians are just as rational as the majority of non-Christians (which, I admit, is poor at best). My point in objecting to the blanket statement was that INERRANTIST FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIANS ARE THE TINY MINORITY AMONG CHRISTIANITY. The belief in the inerrancy of The Bible is an irrational belief because it is dramatically opposed by the evidence. In my personal experiences with Christians, the majority accept the errancy of the Bible: they believe the Bible is inspired, not directly authored, by God, and thus errors must exist (humans are not perfect).
It has often been argued that belief in god / gods is itself irrational, but I think human reasoning ability exists on a continuum: the matter may very well rest upon what one means by "god." Iím a pantheist: I see god as "the sum total of all that is." I hope this is more rational than the belief that god is an omni-present, omni-powerful, omni-benevolent, human-like being that goes into an insane temper tantrum and orders the killing of babies, children, goats, ox, sheep, and adults out of jealousy (See Numbers 21, Deut. 2:34, Numbers 25:16-17, Numbers 31:7-8, Deut. 2:19-21, Josh 8, Josh 10, Judges 1:4, Judges 1:18-19, Judges 8:10, 11 Samuel 24:15). The fine humanitarian and American jurist Robert Green Ingersoll called such a god "demonic," and I must agree with him. Can anyone who worships such a god be considered rational? THATíS the issue, it seems to me.