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Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

Altars Against God

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on August 5, 2017

Excerpted from Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale (Nashville: FaithWords, 2017). Used by permission of the Hachette Publishing Group.

It was years ago when I was speaking at an openly and avowedly atheistic institution that I was fascinated by a questioner who asked what on earth I meant by the term God. The city was Moscow; the setting was the Lenin Military Academy. The atmosphere was tense. Never had I been asked before to define the term in a public gathering. And because I was in a country so historically entrenched in atheism, I suspected the question was both hostile and intentional. I asked the questioner if he was an atheist, to which he replied that he was. I asked him what he was denying. That conversation didn’t go very far. So I tried to explain to him what we meant when we spoke of God.

It is fascinating to talk to a strident atheist and try to get beneath the anger or hostility. God is a trigger word for some that concentrates all his or her stored animosity into a projectile of words. But as the layers of their thinking and experience are unpacked, the meaning of atheism to each one becomes narrower and narrower, each term dying the death of a thousand qualifications. Oftentimes, the description is more visceral and is discussed with pent-up anger rather than in a sensible, respectful discussion. More than once I have been amazed at the anger expressed by members of the atheist groups at one or other of the Ivy League schools in the United States to which I have been invited to speak, anger that I was even invited and that I had the temerity to address them.

In theory, the academy has always been a place where dissent serves a valuable purpose in helping thinking students to weigh out ideas and make intelligent choices. And, dare I say, had I been a Muslim speaker, there would have been no such dissent as I faced. Evidently, being able to instill fear in people has a lot to do with how much freedom of speech you are granted. But alas! For some, at least, civil discourse is impossible. To her credit, at the end of a lecture, one senior officer in one club stood up and thanked me, a veiled apology for the resistance vented before the event. I did appre­ciate that courtesy.

This unfettered anger on the part of some is quite puzzling to me. I was raised in India where I was not a Hindu and, in fact, never once gave it any serious consideration. For that matter, I’m not sure if I even really believed in God. I was a nominal Christian but never gave that much thought, either. Most of my friends were either Hindu or Muslim or Sikh, with a few others of different faiths. I never recall feeling any anger or hostility toward those who believed differently than me, no matter how ludicrous their beliefs may have seemed to me. Nor do I remember ever being on the receiving end of such anger and hostility because I did not have the same belief.

But the likes of Richard Dawkins are renowned for their bully­ing and mocking approach toward opposing views, an attitude from an academic that makes one wonder what is really driving such an intense temperament. A questioner at a gathering in Washington, DC, once asked Richard Dawkins how one should respond to a per­son who believed in God. “Mock them,” he actually replied. “Ridicule them.” When someone at an event asked me what I thought of that response, I reflected that, were Dawkins to practice that same method in Saudi Arabia, chances are he would not need his return ticket. One thing is for sure—he would at least find out that not all beliefs in God are similar and not all imperatives, equal.

But his “ridicule them” posture remains unchanged. In an inter­view in The Independent with Maya Oppenheim (May 23, 2016), he said, “I’m all for offending people’s religion. It should be offended at every opportunity.”1 Really? Is this how one arrives at whether or not a belief is valid? He went on to add, “In the case of immigrants from Syria and Iraq, I would like to see special preference given to apostates, people who have given up Islam.”2 If Donald Trump had said the same, there would have been a session in the British Houses of Parliament to decide whether or not he should be allowed into the country anymore. But Dawkins says it and it’s acceptable, because atheists who love him and his style of atheism have their own absolutes and their own legitimized prejudices.

Intolerance, prejudice, disrespect, hatred, and offense are all within the fruit of Dawkins’ philosophy. In creedal form, his philos­ophy is hate, discriminate, judge, mock, castigate, eliminate, stop…do whatever you need to do to put an end to belief in God. Ironi­cally, he condemns God for being prejudiced, hate-filled, egotistical, judgmental, and demeaning to those who don’t agree with Him. He derides the attributes of God by making a caricature of Him, but justifies the same attributes in himself without caricature. I would rather trust the judgments of a good and gracious person than one who spends his time and energy in mocking people and their sacred beliefs. And he is not alone. The hallmark of the so-called “new athe­ists” is the anger and ridicule that is hurled toward anyone’s belief in the sacred.

Need I add, not all atheists have the same disposition. In fact, many find the hostility of the new atheists an embarrassment. I have met many a cordial conversationalist who is atheistic in his or her belief, and we’ve had the best of conversations. Many have remarked that they have been able to take only so much of Dawkins and his followers and then stopped even reading them. Whatever worldview we espouse, dialogue and debate should take place with civility and courteous listening. But our times make that ideal so elusive. Hold­ing a supposedly noble belief and reducing it to ignoble means of propagation makes the one who holds that belief suspect.

To be sure, many in the so-called “religious” category have pro­voked strident responses. The pulpit can sadly be a place of bullying people into guilt and remorse and other emotions that make them want to escape from the voice hammering away at them, to say noth­ing of the anti-intellectualism among Christian ranks that brands even a hint of philosophy or science heretical.

History has taught us to beware of extremists in any camp that sacrifice cordial conversation at the altar of demagogic enforcement. Views and opinions are aplenty in our world of tweeting and Insta­gram, but civil discourse is rare. And rarer still is the ability to defend one’s beliefs with reason and experience. I sincerely hope that as my colleague Vince and I examine the differences among secular belief systems (that are, in fact, also religions), we will be able to effec­tively demonstrate where these differences really lie, and that the Judeo-Christian worldview has the most coherent answers to the inescapable questions of life that we all have, regardless of our beliefs.

Questioning the Question

The story is told of an Indian sitting in a plane next to Albert Einstein. To pass the time, Einstein proposed that they play a game. “I will ask you a question, and if you can’t answer it, you pay me fifty dollars. Then you ask me a question, and if I can’t answer it, I will pay you five hundred dollars.” The Indian knew he was no match for Einstein but figured he had enough philosophical and cultural knowledge to be able to stump Einstein sometimes, and with a ratio of ten to one, he could manage to stay in the game.

Einstein went first and asked the Indian how far the earth was from the moon. The Indian was not sure of the exact number and put his hand into his pocket to give Einstein fifty dollars. Now came the Indian’s turn, and he asked, “What goes up the mountain with three legs and comes down with four legs?” Einstein paused, pon­dered, finally dipped his hand into his pocket and gave the man five hundred dollars. Now it was Einstein’s turn again. He said, “Before I ask you my next question, what does go up the mountain with three legs and comes down with four legs?” The Indian paused, dipped into his pocket, and gave Einstein fifty dollars.

Like that Indian, we often ask questions that are manufactured to trip up the other person, while having no answers to the question ourselves. In his book The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom, Robert Morey points out the seven leaps atheists have to explain: How…

Everything ultimately came from Nothing

Order came from Chaos

Harmony came from Discord

Life came from Nonlife

Reason came from Irrationality

Personality came from Non-personality

Morality came from Amorality3

But more than that needs to be asserted. The questions in life are not just in the sciences. They are not just of mathematical or empir­ical measurement. Two people sitting next to each other in a plane may both be going to the same destination. They may know how many hours the journey takes and how many miles they may cover. One may be going to give a talk on science and the other may be going to bury his grandson. But think about this. The scientist may have his subject well in hand, but still have unanswered questions on the meaning of life, while the person next to him may have unan­swered questions on the value of the constants in the early formation of the universe, yet have the knowledge of what life really means. He may have in his heart the deep conviction that this present sorrow is only a punctuation mark because eternity awaits. One discipline may answer “how” in a material explanation, but the most import­ant question answers the “why.” Why is it that we are here in the first place, and who will see us through the anxieties and pains of life itself? These questions are different yet equally relevant, but for dif­ferent reasons. Life requires some understanding, and the struggles we face need explanatory power. It is when we get the two subjects and their reasons for existence mixed up that we end up with verbal attacks and needless hostility.

Many an atheist asks questions for which he or she admittedly has no answers or believes the answers to be “on hold,” but we are expected to give credence to the whole worldview for merely raising the question. I understand. As a young man I was like that, think­ing that putting another person down automatically justified what I had said in response to his position. This book is about examining the “gods” secular thinkers “worship” and how repeatedly they leave their own questions unanswered.

The points of tension within secular worldviews are not merely peripheral. They are systemic. Indeed, they are foundational. I have dealt with the philosophical debate on these matters in other writ­ings. Here, I wish to examine their answers to questions about life and its meaning in distinction to the answers Jesus gives to the same questions. That’s where our philosophical rubber meets the road of life. But hopefully, more than that, we will state why the answers of Jesus have stood the test of time, truth, and coherence.

Remember the insight of G. K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy that, for the atheist, sorrow is central and joy peripheral, while for the follower of Jesus, joy is central and sorrow peripheral. The reason that statement is true is that for the atheist, the foundational questions remain unanswered while they have answers for the peripheral ques­tions; hence, sorrow is central and joy peripheral. For the Christian, it is reversed: The foundational questions have been answered and only the peripheral ones remain in doubt.4 Hopefully, as the content of this book unfolds, Vince and I can sustain that claim.

Life Seeks a Balance

My favorite essayist, F. W. Boreham, has written an essay enti­tled, “A Baby’s Funeral.” Anyone who has read Boreham knows the beauty of his language and the depth of his writing. He has authored over fifty volumes of essays. In this particular essay, which I have references in two of my previous books but in this new context per­fectly illustrates how all of life must be grounded in truth, Boreham begins by describing the scene of a distraught woman he saw one day walking back and forth outside his home, pausing as though wanting to enter his garden and then backing off.

Finally, Boreham stepped out of his home and wished her a good morning. She asked if he was the pastor of the church nearby and he admitted that he was. She entered the house at his invitation and struggled to pour out her story. She had had a baby, born terribly deformed, who had died shortly after birth. She desired for the baby to have a proper burial and wondered if he would do that for her.

Boreham promptly responded that he would. He took out a pad to get the information. Did the child have a name? Who was the father? So went the questions. She answered them and the date for the funeral was set. The woman left and Boreham and his wife con­tinued with their plans for a picnic that morning. Throughout the day the woman was on his mind and he told his wife that there was something that didn’t quite sound right about her narrative. He did not know what it was but hoped he would have more clarity before the day of the burial.

When they returned home, the woman was standing outside their home and asked if she could come in. She sat down, rubbing her hands nervously, and said, “I have not been honest with you. The baby was born illegitimately, and I have given you a made-up name for the father.” The story unfolded and Boreham comforted her as best as he could.

The day of the burial came. It was pouring rain, and to add to the desolate reality, the cemetery was a new one and this was to be the first body interred. Boreham remarks on the total feeling of alone­ness for this poor woman. An illegitimate, deformed baby. Pouring rain as the three stood under their umbrellas, the grave digger stand­ing by ready to lower the casket into the soggy ground. A tiny body about to be buried in a place where no other had ever been laid to rest. No one else, just the minister and his wife and the bereaved mother present for this tragedy, and they too were strangers.

Boreham suddenly switches the scene and begins to write about being on a train journey years later with a superintendent in his denomination. It was a whistle-stop trip where, at every station the superintendent would step out, meet with a group of his ministers, listen to them, pray for them, and then would leave these parting words with them, “Just be there for your people. Be with them in their needs, in their hurts, in their pains. They will never forget your presence and your kindness.”

Boreham continues that as he listened to this advice being given to the younger pastors, his mind flew back over the years to the day a young woman walked distractedly back and forth in front of his home, a woman whose child he had buried in a lonely cemetery. He realized that through the years, rain or shine, every Sunday since then that same woman had been in his church and lived a life in a quiet relationship with her Savior.

This very type of story was reinforced just two days ago. I had just finished speaking to a full church in Jakarta, Indonesia, and there was a silence as the music played softly for the closing moments. I was near the platform, having stepped away from the lectern, and my eyes caught sight of a young mother with two little children. Her arms were gently bent at the elbows, palms open, reaching outward while the two little ones, one on each side of her, held on to her skirt. As soon as the benediction was over, the two of them ran up the stairs to give me a hug, though I had never met them before. And as they left, my interpreter said to me, “Almost exactly to the day, a year ago their father was murdered. The little boy looks just like his dad.”

What a statement that suddenly changed the context and my emotions from witnessing a young family at worship, absent the father, to realizing a young single mother reaching out to her heav­enly father and raising her two children without bitterness or anger. I spoke to her afterward and my heart still recalls her words. “Yes, I’m alone now, but my God is with me.”

You see, there is an intellectual side to life but also a side to life where deep needs are experienced. We falsely think that one side deals with truth and the other with fantasy. Both need the truth, and the elimination of one by the other is not the world in which God intends for us to live. A mockery of the sacred reveals an animosity that staggers not just the mind but shows the character flaw in one such as that. The words of Blake are appropriate here:

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;

Mock on, mock on, ’tis all in vain!

You throw the sand against the wind,

And the wind blows it back again.5

It is my hope that the reader will stay the course with an open mind to judge fairly how unique and splendid is the message of Jesus Christ, reaching to the deepest hungers and questions of the heart and mind. To be truthful, I wouldn’t waste a solitary moment in this task if I didn’t truly believe that as the world is skidding out of con­trol—politically, socially, economically, and racially—Jesus’ answers are unique and true and provide the only coherent worldview, combining truth with relevance to bring hope and meaning.

Every day, the news carries stories of tragedy and atrocity. News is thrust into our consciousness whether we want the information or not. Behind many an act and behind all responses is a worldview that filters reality. The follower of Jesus sees what is happening through the lens of how Jesus describes the human condition and the answer He gives. The contrast with the secular gods of this age is huge. A fair-minded person must at least give a hearing as to why that is so and, if indeed the answers of Jesus open up vistas for one’s own individual life, see the world through a different set of eyes. With that goal in mind, I enter into this journey of thought.

Your Worldview Matters

The Great Books of the Western World, published in the 1950s, gave the longest space to the theme of “God,” addressed by the most notable Western thinkers of the day. When Mortimer Adler, the edi­tor, was asked why that theme occupied such length when many other notable themes were given less space, he answered without hesita­tion, “Because more consequences for life and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from any other basic question.”6

The questioner was silent and nodded.

Yes, indeed, more consequences, on every matter of value and relationship, follow from one’s genuine belief or disbelief in God than from any other issue. This alone ought to remind us just how critical is the foundation to every life when it comes to God. The follower of Jesus Christ must take serious note of this. That belief has meaning and must make a difference.

I will never forget talking to a former Muslim who had com­mitted his life to Jesus Christ and who gave me a fascinating word picture. He drew two circles and put a small dot in each of them. Pointing to the first, he said, “As a Muslim, I believed the circle to be my faith and the little dot to be my life.” Then he pointed to the next circle and said, “Now, as a follower of Jesus, I have seen the differ­ence in the cultural tension. To many Westerners, the circle is his life and the dot is his faith.”

In other words, a Muslim believed that life was expendable, his faith paramount. The Westerner, he charged, regards his life more important than what he believes. “That is why,” he added, “the West will ultimately be overrun. Faith, in the West, is sort of an extracur­ricular interest and a mere aspect of life for the sake of inner peace. But faith seldom enters the conscience as a conviction.”

That was truly a sobering revelation of just how faith is viewed by most in the West, let alone the plurality of faiths that exist. In fact, the very word faith is now used in less than flattering terms. The real world is considered intellectually rigorous, and the world of ulti­mate reality—faith—fanciful, not to be entertained in factual terms. How fascinating that is. So the values by which we live are parked on the shifting mix of quicksand the skeptic calls “faith,” while the world of pragmatic and real understandings is supposedly built on the bedrock of the sciences called “reason.”

Is my friend right?

If he is right, I will go so far as to say that the West is on the verge of collapse at the hands of its own secular intellectuals. It is only a matter of time. The Christian faith brings with it convictions by which to stand and build a moral framework. The secular thinker, with his implicitly amoral assumptions, imagines that knowledge without a moral base has enough sustaining power. It simply doesn’t.

Watch Europe cower under the heel of Islamists who have not forgotten that they were stopped from overtaking Europe and beaten back by Charles Martel thirteen centuries ago. Now, with patience and the clever control of demographics and a gullible media, they stand by, ready to one day take over the structures and edifices built by a different ethic and a different belief system. It is only a matter of time, and they are in no hurry. Thirteen centuries ago, Europe was able to stop the theocratic Islamic tidal wave because it had a faith to defend. The value-less culture of today will not be able to withstand the attack.

Years ago, while Hitler was making plans to overrun the world and some were attempting to placate him in order to save themselves from having to make a moral justification for war, Winston Chur­chill made a telling speech in the House of Commons on October 5, 1938. (“The Munich Agreement” is also known by the title “A Total and ‘Unmitigated Defeat,’” referring to the mollifying treaty brought back by Neville Chamberlain.) Quoting from Scripture, Churchill declared, “You have been weighed in the balances and found want­ing” (Daniel 5:27). Then he ended his speech saying, “And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recov­ery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”7

After Hitler visited Paris in 1940, André Boulloche, a courageous member of the French Resistance, penned a letter to his father, say­ing: “The country can only be saved by a complete moral resurrec­tion, something that will require the work of all men of good will.… I think I can contribute a great deal. And if more troubles lie ahead, isn’t my duty present?”8

Indeed, the preservation of a nation’s ethos is at stake at all times. This is especially true of a nation such as America whose values of trying to balance liberty with law were clear from the beginning. That balance is easier stated than done. John Adams said it well: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”9

So I ask: Should one’s belief in God and destiny be more import­ant than life itself?

The answer truly depends on what that belief is and whether it is true. The irony is that for the atheist, the answer can only and ultimately be found in one’s political theory or, by default, in one’s cultural cradle, and cannot be mandated by a supervening world­view that pursues truth as an objective fact over and above all else. Every other discipline is dismissed as being outside truth, reflecting merely cultural and career desires. That’s all life is about. The natu­ralists control truth and then give license to other disciplines to live without absolutes. That is the deadly fallout.

In a commercial I saw recently, a couple of bandits are hold­ing the tellers at a bank at gunpoint and demanding money. All the customers are ordered to the floor. One man whispers to a security guard, “Do something, you’re armed!” The security guard replies, “I am on duty not to do anything but only to determine if a robbery is underway.” Then he pauses and reassures the customer, “Yes, indeed, this is a robbery.”

The naturalist is somewhat like that. Unable to respond to where the truth leads, he is useless to a person hungering for rescue and safety for life itself. He just states what is and does nothing about what should be.

Why do I make the connection between a nation, a people, and a culture? In the current climate, the political arena is fraught with language and views that are scary and disorienting. In one instance, a trail of lies makes no difference to the electorate, proving that the most valuable thing in human discourse, truth, is an expendable value if power is obtained. In another instance, even extreme and sometimes pejorative statements on people and views don’t seem to matter, and the dignity of office is replaced, once again, by the quest for power.

Candidates coming to the fore propound ideas that are creat­ing anger and protests that make the future very fearsome. For one, “dishonest” sums it up. For the other, “disrespectful” or worse, “prej­udice” is the charge. Whether these are legitimate assertions or not is secondary to the assumption that morality matters.

Ironically, the protestors protesting the candidates themselves resort to injurious means. But what is obvious is that statecraft has become soulcraft, and a nation that formally wishes to deny God finds its imperatives in a deadly mix of conflicting worldviews and hate-laden words on a path to power. What has happened? The answer is clear. The discussion in the public square is now reduced to right or left, forgetting there is an up and down.

These matters alone remind us that we had better understand this philosophy called atheism and why it leads where it does. Strange, isn’t it, that atheists in the West want the term marriageredefined while their counterparts in Russia and China will have nothing of that redefinition? Both have their own reasons, and there is no common point of reference. That’s precisely the edifice built on the bedrock of naturalism. Each person is a law unto himself.

Remember in the Old Testament when people wanted a king and God said that He wanted to be their ruler? The people fought back and said they wanted to be like every other nation and, in fact, have somebody else to fight their wars while they could go about their lives. They got what they wanted and found out that the greatest battles were ultimately for the rule of one’s heart. Once that becomes autonomous, culture and politics become lawless. And when those battles are lost, the war that looms is of huge proportions. This is, at best, the unintended consequence of atheism.

As Old as the Hills

We think atheism is some kind of newfangled thinking, that sci­ence and its bequest gave way to autonomy and our solitude in the universe. That is simply not so. The formalization of it and giving it intellectual respect may have taken time, but the question goes back to the beginning of time. Right from the start the question was not the origin of species but the autonomy of the species. We are more prone to quote from the Wilberforce/Huxley debate or the Galileo/Church conflict than to look back and see where such real tensions began.

We think Darwin buried God, but in fact, in Genesis 3, the very first in the created order wished to bury Him too. All the way to Calvary, the first attempt at death was the death of God. The kill­ing of God was followed by the killing by Cain of his brother, Abel. The Bible addresses this conflict from the pre-Mosaic era. After all, the battle in Genesis was really based on two questions. The battle between theism and atheism is the oldest philosophical debate. It didn’t take the French philosophes or the British empiricists to get it all going.

What are the two questions that existed for humanity from the beginning of creation? The first salvo hurled against God in the Gar­den was “Did God really say?” In the gospel story, the temptation of Jesus resurrects the same question, either by questioning a text or by wrenching it free from its context. The test brought to Jesus in the desert, the same test brought in the Garden, was “Has God said?” and “Is it true?” Those questions implicitly asked whether there was an up and a down. Is there a prescriptive backdrop to life? Can I not be my own definer of good and evil? Am I subject to some higher non-tangible authority?

In his article on “Religion,” Thomas Paine picks up this tension as if it is something new and makes some incredible statements questioning whether one should actually believe that God reveals and speaks. Here’s what he says:

As to the bible (sic.), whether true or fabulous, it is a history, and history is not revelation. If Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and if Samson slept in Delilah’s lap, and she cut his hair off, the relation of those things is mere history, that needed no revelation from heaven to tell it; neither does it need any revelation to tell us that Samson was a fool for his pains, and Solomon too.

As to the expressions so often used in the bible, that the word of the Lord came to such an one (sic.)…it was the fash­ion of speaking in those times…. But if we admit the suppo­sition that God would condescend to reveal himself in words, we ought not to believe it would be in such idle and profligate stories as are in the bible.… Deists deny that the book called the bible is the word of God, or that it is revealed religion.10

That is a fascinating mix of prejudice and perversion. One feels he must ask if Paine was present in the Garden right from the begin­ning. He takes the stories of Solomon and Samson and puts them in a “history” category. Would he do the same with the crucifixion and the resurrection or does a different kind of narrative now take place?

The key here is that he simply does not believe God would reveal Himself in propositional truth. Paine didn’t invent that predica­ment. It existed from the beginning. Revelation was not in a vacuum of belief. Revelation was sustained by evidence and propelled by a reality check, time and again. The very means by which we ascertain truth is not merely an inner voice but the rationale of why we are here in the first place.

The question should really be why we even think of a supreme being. Why do we ask if there is a sovereign power over the universe?

Is it because we are deluded into thinking there should be, or is it because reason demands a cause and a purpose? Is it possible that deep within our hungers is this quest to know why we are here in the first place, and the naturalist’s cavalier dismissal of that question falls upon questing souls that search for a reason as much as the body yearns for water?

There were no professors of science in the original created order to question revelation. From deep within the human soul arose the challenge for autonomy over against a boundary within which to live. So let’s get over two blunders—the one that thinks this is mod­ern man in revolt, and the other that thinks intellectuals disbelieve in God and only the naïve or stupid continue to believe in God. I have met intellectuals on both sides of the issue, and it is not merely an intellectual struggle. It is a struggle of bridge building, of trying to tie theoretical structures to heartfelt and heart-hungering realities. 

As Real as Now

The second question that originated in Genesis came in the form of a challenge: “You will not surely die! You will be as God, defining good and evil.” For Darwin, as for our polite modern thinkers, hell is anathema. Why would any self-respecting human being think up hell? Interestingly, these who challenge the existence of God are the very ones who are willing to punish others for their beliefs. “Destroy the livelihood of those who believe in the sanctity of marriage!” “Don’t give them a place in academia if they really believe God exists!” Such is the retribution of self-worship, imposed by those who call God vengeful, a “joy-killing monster,” and “a freedom-re­stricting tyrant,” if you don’t give Him His due place. Fascinating how we wield power when we own it and then mock others with power for giving in to the same expression.

The enemy of our souls basically counters the claims of God, not merely by questioning them, but then by asserting that by dis­obeying God’s commands one will actually be promoted to taking God’s place. Once again at the heart of all temptation is the desire for autonomy and power. The human scene was steeped in the battle for autonomy and power right from the beginning. Did God speak? Is it true what He says about good and evil? Are we going to believe the truth, or are we comfortable with the lie because of the power it promises to give us?

It seems as though the ultimate destination point, then and now, is the power to control culture and destiny. Very recently, a Russian business tycoon gave Stephen Hawking one hundred million dollars toward his endeavor to find extraterrestrial intelligence. Hawking has opined that it is critical for us to find them before they find us, saying that if we don’t find them before they find us, they could wipe us out of existence. After the slaughters in San Bernardino, Belgium, Paris, the Boston Marathon, Turkey, Baghdad, Orlando, Dallas, and the list goes on endlessly, we want to get to other planets without fixing our own and destroy them also?

I found his comment fascinating. My first reaction was cynical. Yes, I thought, since we don’t see much intelligence on this planet any more, let’s go looking for it elsewhere. Then another thought kicked in. It is fascinating that the “world’s brightest mind” thinks an intel­ligence possibly exists out there that could destroy us, but no intelli­gence exists as Creator.

Then yet another thought. Professor Hawking himself, had he been left at the mercy of a pragmatic “life is not human in the womb,” or not worth saving by virtue of a degenerative disease, would have been destroyed and we would never have seen the likes of his genius. It would have been our loss. You see how intrinsic value decisions are in the choices we make? The scientific single vision does not give us values; it gives us only what is and cannot give us what ought. Is it any wonder that in this scenario where science is our single vision, existence is the circle and what we believe—our values—are merely a dot, as described by my friend?

Another personal note, from having lived in Cambridge in the early nineties: Hawking’s first wife, Jane, was and is a devout Chris­tian, an intellectual in her own right. Hawking himself has paid her the finest compliments. Living side-by-side with one of the brightest minds in the world did not take away her deep belief in Jesus Christ and in the created order. That alone should tell us that what is at issue is not as simplistic as an intellectually determined faith. Much more goes into this.

So then, right from the beginning, in the face of choices, two questions determined the future: 1) Did God say? 2) Do you really think you’re going to die or can you become like God, determining good and evil? 

The Theoretical Backdrop

What does it mean to be an atheist? What does the “ism” of the atheist hold? Is it monolithic? Are all atheistic systems the same in political theory? How did that philosophy become a formal system, and how does one respond to its claims?

Let’s go back to the philosophical and categorical roots of this so-called belief, to its philosophical and cultural viewpoint. The very Greek word from which we get atheism is really a simple conjoining of the negative with the divine. The alpha is the negative and theos is the word for God. At its starting point, from the very structure of the word itself, the philosophy of atheism means no personal, self-existent, autonomous, intelligent first cause of reality.

Ironically, in particular cultural milieus the word gets watered down so that in the days of the early Church, Christians were called atheists because they denied the existence of the gods of Greece and Rome. By the seventh century, Muslims branded Christians polytheists because of their cardinal doctrine of the Trinity. One can readily see how important it is to understand, from the orthodox point of view, what the beliefs really are rather than attributing cultural nuances to a system.

In two of my previous works, I have quoted the standard texts and definitions that provide the starting point for this discussion. I would like to refer back to that before I move forward and bring the positions up to date. Frankly, in a subject such as this, there really is ultimately nothing new under the sun. People such as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Krauss, and others who promote the aggressive side of this belief muster not a single new argument to defend their position. That is why even other prominent atheists or agnostics con­sider them an embarrassment and say so. In fact, Dawkins’ remark on Harris’s explanation in The Moral Maze—that he provided the last strand against theism—is embarrassing to other atheists, to say the least. I doubt he truly believed that.

The well-respected Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Paul Edwards defines atheism as follows: “An atheist is a person who maintains that there is no God, that is, that the sentence ‘God exists’ expresses a false proposition…a person who rejects belief in God.”11 In his book on atheism, Étienne Borne says, “Atheism: the deliber­ate, definite, dogmatic denial of the existence of God.”12So while the bottom line of the view is a denial of God’s existence, in fairness it is really within the spectrum of agnosticism that ranges from a soft-boiled agnosticism where one claims not to know whether God exists to a hard-boiled agnosticism that postulates that one simply cannot know. The next stage is a rigorous denial of the existence of this Being we call God. That is the hard-nosed idea that God is not in the realm of meaningful statements, and that if He/She/It does indeed exist, it is up to the theist to prove it.

Now this latter assumption is terribly prejudiced by culture and, one might dare say, flies in the face of how philosopher Alvin Plantinga, a longtime member of the faculty at Notre Dame, would describe belief in God—a “Properly Basic Belief” so common and so self-evident to the masses of humanity that, to them, no defense is needed. Of course, other philosophers take issue with that and say that in any debate this description would not stand the test of argu­ment. Plantinga contends that the masses of people are not in the arena of debate; they intuitively believe that there is a power greater than themselves, and they seek ways in which to connect with that supreme being. Raised in India, I have seen this firsthand. Though it was not my personal belief, it was indisputably intrinsic to the main­stream of life, both for the unsophisticated and the highly educated.

It is important to recognize that the Greeks, who really are the forerunners in systematic philosophical thought in classical philos­ophy (and as an extension of that came democratic government), attempted to define ultimate reality in abstract terms. Their musings and ponderings on ultimate reality cause some to even argue that Plato was probably moving toward a high monotheism. Whether one accepts that or not, what is important is that in their view, ulti­mate reality was inseparable from virtue and ethical norms.

For many in Greek thought, the power of reason was supreme, and the freeing of philosophy and science from the mystical was a deliberate and purposeful discipline. But, I repeat, for the Greek thinkers, though they did not posit a God, one thing was certain—virtue and harmony were the emergent implications for life.

There is a striking similarity between our so-called doctrine of tolerance and the early Greeks. For example, the oration at the funeral of Pericles gives fascinating insight into the hub and spokes of their reflections on life and destiny. We owe to Thucydides the reconstruction of that eulogy. Here it is:

[J]ust as our political life is free and open, so is our day-to-day life in our relations with each other. We do not get into a state with our next door neighbor if he enjoys himself in his own way…. We are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law….

When our work is over, we are in a position to enjoy all kinds of recreation for our spirits…in our own homes we find a beauty and good taste which delight us every day and which drives away our cares….

Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extrava­gance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft…. As for poverty, no one need be ashamed to admit it: The real shame is in not taking practical measures to escape from it.

We make friends by doing good to others, not by receiv­ing good from them. This makes our friendships all the more reliable…. [E]ach single one of our citizens, in all the manifold aspects of life, is able to show himself the rightful lord and owner of his own person, and to do this, moreover, with exceptional grace and exceptional versatility.13

Tolerance the New Virtue

Actually, that philosophizing would fit into Buddhism, Hindu­ism, Jainism, and the new tolerance of Western Secularism. That is the new god of this age. One look at this and you can see how a politi­cal framework addresses the soul of a people when God is not known or sought. We can readily see how critical it is that values be upheld for the public good. In reality, this is possibly the basis of a noble humanistic credo, but we shall deal with that later.

For now, we see how the early Greek philosophers and early non­theistic spirituality or mystery religions believed in a structure of vir­tue for one’s individual life and destiny. There were, however, very important differences in terms of why they thought this way and what they believed the purpose of life to be. That, to me, is key. As I have travelled for some four decades and have literally met with thousands of individuals, either one-on-one or in small groups after the public forums, there are really a handful of questions that emerge.

The first question is of life’s purpose and meaning: What does life and living really mean? Then there comes the question of plea­sure and enjoyment: How do I fulfill my desires? The pursuit of pleasure is at the core of our existence. We work, we earn a living, we return to our homes, but then we make decisions for our enjoy­ment: Are there any boundaries for pleasure? Then there is the third question: What does one make of all the suffering and pain we see in this world?

There you have it. Meaning, pleasure, pain. And all of these hang on the hinge of the fourth major question, a very defining one: How and why am I here in the first place? This was the very bedrock of questioning that Solomon pursued. He was not raised a Greek. He was raised in David’s family, a Jewish family with a definite belief in a personal God. There had to be a father-son disjunction here for Sol­omon to live as a hedonist but be regarded as a moralist, renowned for his wisdom.

That defining question is answered confidently by the atheist that we are here by accident. Turn back the clock and try the same thing again and it will never happen once more. Our presence is a cosmic accident for which there is no script for life or preassigned purpose. But let us be absolutely clear: The atheist has placed all other definitions of life’s imperatives on this one hinge, that we exist on this earth and struggle with human personality, morality, and reality without a personal, moral, or real first cause. That’s the leap of faith—to believe that ultimately life is matter and that it therefore doesn’t really matter. If you submit to the first conclusion, you are inextricably bound to the rest that follow.

Take for example Stephen Jay Gould:

We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial crea­tures; because comets struck the earth and wiped out dino­saurs, thereby giving mammals a chance not otherwise avail­able (so thank your lucky stars in a literal sense); because the earth never literally froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa, a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a higher answer—but none exists. This answer though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating. We cannot read the meaning of life passively in the facts of nature. We must con­struct these answers ourselves—from our own wisdom and ethical sense. There is no other way.14

Gould states unequivocally that meaning is not decipherable by us. No higher answer exists, he says, and we have to find the answers on our own terms. This incredibly answerless answer is what sends Western values on the slippery slope of nihilism. But there is more. If meaning is not within the purpose of our existence, the second struggle is whether to seek a boundary for pleasure or eliminate all boundaries.

The difference between a nontheistic religion and an atheistic worldview is literally worlds apart. The difference comes from the explanation for theistic thinking. Both the realities of pleasure and of pain demand answers and explanation, whether life has meaning and whether there is a solution to the problem of pain. To arrive at a formal and creedal denial of a supreme being opens the door to all kinds of debates and arguments on the entailments of such a hope­less foundation.

From that starting point the remaining three answers are liter­ally up for grabs, so let’s see how the religious nontheist and the sec­ular atheist deal with the entailments of their starting points. When you start off with “no god,” you end up with the strangest of mental manipulations to keep you from the logical arc of reasoning. And the first mistake for the atheist is to position science into doing what it was never supposed to do.

Scientists themselves question their fellow authorities in this field. The agnostic physicist David Berlinski has written a trenchant critique of Dawkins in his book The Devil’s Delusion, a challenge to Dawkins’ The God Delusion. On the inside flap of the book, intro­ducing his subject, he writes,

Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?

Not even close.

Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe and why it is here?

Not even close.

Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?

Not even close.

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe anything so long as it is not religious thought?

Close enough.

Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?

Not close enough.

Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?

Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?

Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?

Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual con­tempt?

Dead on.15

One has to commend Berlinski and others like him for call­ing the bluff of those hiding behind science and making sweeping assertions against belief in God. In fact, there is so much contradic­tion even within the exact sciences that anyone who speaks for all obviously does not respect the different disciplines within science. I know scholarly thinkers in the field of chemistry who have issued challenges to others, asking them to show evidence from chemistry that the move from primordial slime to Homo sapiens is even theo­retically possible. Professor James Tour of Rice University is one such scholar. In fact, cosmologist John Barrow said to Dawkins, “You have a problem with these ideas, Richard, because you’re not really a sci­entist. You’re a biologist.”16

Interesting, isn’t it, how the methodology and implications vary between the disciplines? It was this very challenge that caused Chan­dra Wickramasinghe and Fred Hoyle to postulate that an earth­bound theory explaining origins is mathematically impossible. But that is the foundation on which all the debunking of religious belief takes place. My colleague in this book will be dealing more exten­sively with the hazards of a scientific single vision. For my purposes here, let us agree that the extension of the discipline takes it outside its range.

That, then, brings the implications of the existential struggle into the no-man’s-land of meaninglessness.

A Rootless Culture

In Western cultural speak, we have basically gone from being a rootless society to a ruthless society. In America, we say that we are a nation of laws. That sounds fascinating. Are we implying that other nations are nations without laws? No culture on earth has more laws than the Islamic world. Their laws extend to what you eat and when you eat, how you marry and whom you marry, how you bank and with whom you bank, when you fast and how much you give, which way you face when you pray and how many times…laws ad nau­seam. They pride themselves on it.

So we are a nation of laws. Let’s move further. To use a meta­phor, law forms the roots from which our culture is built. The trunk then becomes the political system; the branches and the leaves or the fruit of the tree become the expression of the culture. That’s the figurative description of how we build a culture. When you think about it, it is actually circular. We act as if law just came into being and is self-evident. The question should really be, what holds the law in place?

The laws that legitimized slavery were railed against by a moral intuition that this exploitation and dominance of a people was morally wrong. Ironically, in their songs both the slave and the slave owner called upon God to rescue them or validate them. They weren’t calling upon nature to do so. Even in the context of the dominance of the Indian people by the British, Bertrand Russell, of all people, said that it was doubtful the plea from reason would have succeeded against the British except that it appealed to the con­science of a Christianized people.

This is where worldviews come into play. What holds the laws of a nation? It is the moral soil that must hold the roots. As G. K. Chesterton put it, lawful and legal do not mean the same thing and the moral soil is indispensable to aesthetic flourishing:

We are always near the breaking point, when we care only for what is legal, and nothing for what is lawful. Unless we have a moral principle about such delicate matters as mar­riage and murder, the whole world will become a welter of exceptions with no rules. There will be so many hard cases that everything will go soft.17

Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art, any more than anything essentially reasonable has ever arisen out of pure reason. There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth.18

Recently I saw a movie titled Irrational Man. The well-known actor Joaquin Phoenix plays the role of an esteemed and atten­tion-drawing professor of philosophy. Before he arrives at the school at which he will be teaching, he already has a reputation as a bit of a loner and an eccentric. As the story line builds, we become aware that his goal is to influence his students toward the ethical system he subscribes to, built on the existentialists.

One day he overhears the story of a woman who was wrongly victimized by a judge’s ruling and becomes irate over that injustice. He ponders how to set this right and decides to kill the judge. That accomplished, one of his students discovers that he is the killer and, aghast, gradually pins him down with the truth. He has one option left, to kill her as well, even though he was romantically involved with her. In the end, in a struggle near an open elevator shaft, she gets the better of him and instead of her, as he had intended, he is crushed under the weight of the elevator.

It is interesting that though reason was his discipline, he was crushed by the weight of the immoral reasoning he had justified in his own heart as the right thing to do…until he was found out and had to explain it.

Law, philosophy, love, education, justice…all are built not on reason alone but on moral reasoning. This is the discipline under which atheism fails, and the ideas of atheism will be crushed under the very system constructed to make the one who points the guilty finger ineffectual.

The hunger of the human heart is for meaning, reason, purpose, and value, and atheism simply does not have either the answers or the explanatory power to make it possible to build a life on the foundation it offers. That is why some of the best of them discover at life’s termination point that their philosophy was reasoned into irrationality and their temporary victory, pyrrhic—it cost the victor more than it cost the vanquished.

To wit, Antony Flew and A. N. Wilson, two prominent thinkers who climbed the tree of atheism to great renown, only to concede that its trunk is hollow and its branches, deadly. The unanswered questions made Flew question the philosophy. An Easter Sunday walk to church with his family where he observed the followers of Jesus and heard the truth claims of their resurrected Lord made the difference for Wilson, the difference between life and death, sub­stance and hollowness, purpose and meaninglessness, love and hate, living a lie or living by the truth.

The chapters to come show the difference between Jesus and secular “isms” in the why of life itself. Our first comparison will be a deeper exploration of atheism—the general “ism” underlying all other secular worldviews. Then we proceed chapter by chapter to confront the secular gods that guide our neighbors and our nation. So far we have glimpsed only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s see where the differences really take us.

 

__________

Ravi Zacharias is Founder and President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

 

Maya Oppenheim, “Richard Dawkins: Atheist academic calls for religion ‘to be offended at every opportunity,’” The Independent (23 May 2016), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-atheist-academic-calls-for-religion-to-be-of­fended-at-every-opportunity-a7043226.html. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.

2 Ibid.

Robert A. Morey, The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1986), 98.

4 G. K. Chesterton observes, “It is said that Paganism is a religion of joy and Chris­tianity of sorrow; it would be just as easy to prove that Paganism is pure sorrow and Christianity pure joy…. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsa­tion of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live. Yet, according to the apparent estate of man as seen by the pagan or the agnostic, this primary need of human nature can never be fulfilled. Joy ought to be expansive; but for the agnostic it must be contracted, it must cling to one corner of the world. Grief ought to be a concentration; but for the agnostic its desolation is spread through an unthinkable eternity.” G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 236–237, 105. Also available online at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16769/16769-h/16769-h.htm. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.

William Blake, “Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau” in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Third Edition, general editor M. H. Abrams (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1975), 1338.

6 Mortimer Adler, The Synopticon: An Index to the Great Ideas, Vol. 1 (Chicago: Britan­nica, 1952), 543.

7 Winston Churchill, “The Munich Agreement,” http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1930-1938-the-wilderness/101-the-munich-agreement. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.

Charles Kaiser, The Cost of Courage (New York: Other Press, 2015), 51.

9 “Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798,” in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1848), 266.

10 Thomas Paine, The Theological Works of Thomas Paine (London: R. Carlile, 1824), 317.

11 Paul Edwards, ed., Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 175.

12 Étienne Borne, Atheism (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1961), 61.

13 Thucydides, “The Funeral Oration of Pericles,” History of the Peloponnesian War, M. I. Finley, editor, translated by Rex Warner (New York: Penguin Classics, 1972), excerpt online at http://teacher.sduhsd.net/tpsocialsciences/world_history/dem_ideals/peri­cles.htm. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.

14 Stephen Jay Gould, quoted by David Friend and the editors of Life magazine, The Meaning of Life(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991), 33.

15 Citation from book jacket, http://www.davidberlinski.org/devils-delusion/about.php. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.

16 John Barrow quoted in Julia Vitullo-Martin’s “A Scientist’s Scientist,” http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/barrow-to-dawkins-youre-not-really-a-scientist/. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.

17 G. K. Chesterton, As I Was Saying, ed. Robert Knille (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984), 267.

18 G. K. Chesterton, “A Defence of Nonsense” in A Defence of Nonsense and Other Essays (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1911), 8.

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Examining Religions

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 6, 2017

truthBy Ravi Zacharias

It was years ago when I was speaking at an openly and avowedly atheistic institution that I was fascinated by a questioner who asked what on earth I meant by the term God. The city was Moscow; the setting was the Lenin Military Academy. The atmosphere was tense. Never had I been asked before to define the term in a public gathering. And because I was in a country so historically entrenched in atheism, I suspected the question was both hostile and intentional. I asked the questioner if he was an atheist, to which he replied that he was. I asked him what he was denying. That conversation didn’t go very far. So I tried to explain to him what we meant when we spoke about God.

It is fascinating to talk to a strident atheist and try to get beneath the anger or hostility. God is a trigger word for some that concentrates all his or her stored animosity into a projectile of words. But as the layers of their thinking and experience are unpacked, the meaning of atheism to each one becomes narrower and narrower, each term dying the death of a thousand qualifications. Oftentimes, the description is more visceral and is discussed with pent-up anger rather than in a sensible, respectful discussion. More than once I have been amazed at the anger expressed by members of the atheist groups at one or other of the Ivy League schools in the United States to which I have been invited to speak, anger that I was even invited and that I had the temerity to address them.

In theory, the academy has always been a place where dissent serves a valuable purpose in helping thinking students to weigh out ideas and make intelligent choices. And, dare I say, had I been a Muslim speaker, there would have been no such dissent as I faced. Evidently, being able to instill fear in people has a lot to do with how much freedom of speech you are granted. But alas! For some, at least, civil discourse is impossible. To her credit, at the end of a lecture, one senior officer in one club stood up and thanked me, a veiled apology for the resistance vented before the event. I did appreciate that courtesy.

This unfettered anger on the part of some is quite puzzling to me. I was raised in India where I was not a Hindu and, in fact, never once gave it any serious consideration. For that matter, I’m not sure if I even really believed in God. I was a nominal Christian but never gave that much thought, either. Most of my friends were either Hindu or Muslim or Sikh, with a few others of different faiths. I never recall feeling any anger or hostility toward those who believed differently than me, no matter how ludicrous their beliefs may have seemed to me. Nor do I remember ever being on the receiving end of such anger and hostility because I did not have the same belief.

But the likes of Richard Dawkins are renowned for their bullying and mocking approach toward opposing views, an attitude from an academic that makes one wonder what is really driving such an intense temperament. A questioner at a gathering in Washington, DC, once asked Richard Dawkins how one should respond to a person who believed in God. “Mock them,” he actually replied. “Ridicule them.” When someone at an event asked me what I thought of that response, I reflected that, were Dawkins to practice that same method in Saudi Arabia, chances are he would not need his return ticket. One thing is for sure—he would at least find out that not all beliefs in God are similar and not all imperatives, equal.

Need I add, not all atheists have the same disposition. In fact, many find the hostility of the new atheists an embarrassment. I have met many a cordial conversationalist who is atheistic in his or her belief, and we’ve had the best of conversations. Many have remarked that they have been able to take only so much of Dawkins and his followers and then stopped even reading them. Whatever worldview we espouse, dialogue and debate should take place with civility and courteous listening. But our times make that ideal so elusive. Holding a supposedly noble belief and reducing it to ignoble means of propagation makes the one who holds that belief suspect.

To be sure, many in the so-called “religious” category have provoked strident responses. The pulpit can sadly be a place of bullying people into guilt and remorse and other emotions that make them want to escape from the voice hammering away at them, to say nothing of the anti-intellectualism among Christian ranks that brands even a hint of philosophy or science heretical.

History has taught us to beware of extremists in any camp that sacrifice cordial conversation at the altar of demagogic enforcement. Views and opinions are aplenty in our world of tweeting and Instagram, but civil discourse is rare. And rarer still is the ability to defend one’s beliefs with reason and experience. But we do well to examine the differences among secular belief systems (that are, in fact, also religions). We do well to examine where these differences really lie. I continue to find that the Judeo-Christian worldview has the most coherent answers to the inescapable questions of life that we all have, regardless of our beliefs.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

See RZIM.org

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Is Anything Wrong?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on October 6, 2015

earth-and-lightening

We live in a generation rife with contradictions in its understanding of moral values. On the one hand, we are witnessing the confused blurring of lines between good and evil, and a desecrating of boundaries that were intended to keep us from harm. On the other, there is widespread dogmatism and an indignant moral outrage at the real or imagined offenses of others.

The prophetic voice of the church is desperately needed in this mix of confusion and contradiction. Questions about the very concept of moral absolutes have never been more important. Do moral absolutes—unchanging moral values that are independent of humankind and are discovered rather than constructed by us—even exist? What is the reference point for the content of our moral values? And how are they to be grounded?

God and Morality

You may have heard Christian voices making this argument, but you might be surprised to learn that an impressive array of atheist academics concur that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist, because there is no way of ultimately grounding them.

The theist goes on to note that belief in the existence of objective moral values is one of the most deeply ingrained, intuitive beliefs of the human race. As such, it gives us good reason to believe in God:

If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

Objective moral values do exist.

Therefore God exists.

The atheist insists that there is no God, and therefore has to force the issue on morality:

If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

God does not exist.

Therefore objective moral values do not exist. 

This final conclusion is at odds with what appears to be a self-evident moral sense, and thus has warranted further explanation from the atheist camp. The narrative offered goes something like this: human beings—and in fact our whole universe—are the product of matter, time and chance, together with the processes of evolution, which are geared towards the survival of the fittest. We have what appears to be a very deeply ingrained sense of an objective right and wrong, as though it has been hard-wired into our systems.

In a sense it has been hard-wired: it is an illusion (atheists argue) brought about by our genes, because it enhances our chance of survival. So there is no issue or contradiction within atheism with regards to our sense of moral absolutes—the sense of these absolutes is an evolutionary illusion.

There are significant problems with this line of reasoning, and I will raise two. Firstly, the broader systemic problem. The atheist tells us that selfish genes, fighting for survival through the processes of evolution, have brought about what we refer to as human beings. The entirety of the human framework, controlled by our genes, is geared towards the aims of that evolutionary process, namely survival, and not (ultimately) towards understandings of truth and reality.1It, therefore, becomes possible to argue that however much we may think and feel that there is an objective morality, and however much it appears to us to be self-evidently the case that there are some things that are genuinely evil and others that are good, this is just an illusion brought about by genes that ultimately have no regard for truth but only for that which is convenient in the aim of survival.

If this is in fact the case, the atheist has a much bigger problem than the explaining of morality at hand. Our very reasoning (our minds) can no longer be trusted, because we can only assume that our minds, controlled by our genes, are not geared towards truth but towards whatever might aid our survival. In fact, the atheist philosopher John Gray concedes exactly that when he writes, “The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.”2 It is a staggering claim.

Our colleague John Lennox responds to Gray with a serious rebuttal:

But what about Gray’s own mind…one must suppose, according to Gray, that his writing this sentence [“The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth”] serves evolutionary success. Well, it certainly would appear to serve the success of evolutionary theory, if it were true. But then Gray has undermined the very concept of truth, and so has removed all reason for us to take him seriously. Logical incoherence reigns once more.3

Again, there is a significant systemic problem in the atheist explanation of morality being just an illusion of our genes. All rationality becomes undependable in that framework.

Leaving aside this issue, secondly, we hit another, more immediate problem. The claim that morality is an evolutionary construct geared towards the survival of the fittest doesn’t seem to be borne out intuitively by the kinds of things that morality seems to demand of us, in contrast to the kinds of things that would seem to ensure the survival of the fittest. Greg Koukl writes: “Consider two cavemen in neighboring villages. One kills the other in cold blood. We’re being asked to believe he feels guilt, because he realizes such an act ultimately undermines his own survival status…. In the rest of the animal kingdom, killing the opposition seems to secure just the opposite.”4

It’s a little tongue in cheek, but the point remains. It is not necessarily clear how caring for the weak, the vulnerable, the sick, the dying or the elderly helps the survival of the selfish gene. One might expect self-sacrifice in such a system to be considered morally good only if weaker persons sacrifice themselves for stronger individuals. And yet it is a person like Mother Teresa who captures the public imagination in setting for us an incredible standard of moral living. We applaud the courage and the character of those who lay their lives down for the weakest among us. There is a significant gap between what we actually find honorable, valiant, good, kind, righteous, and pure, and what we’re being told is the impetus for that belief.

This kind of forced reasoning—the idea that there is no God, and therefore the need to fudge the lines on objective morality—has raised some important questions and a backlash from within the atheist camp itself. Peter Cave, the humanist philosopher, writes, “Whatever skeptical arguments may be brought against our belief that killing the innocent is wrong, we are more certain that the killing is morally wrong, than that the argument is sound.”5 It is a telling insight.

Religious Atheism

We have, as a result, a growing field of “religious atheism” as it’s been dubbed by some: atheists who have wanted to hold on to an objective morality but deny the need for its grounding in God. Sam Harris has been the most prominent voice in this field at the popular level. In 2010, he published the book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values and in it he says that we do not need God, as the world of science can give us the grounding and the context in which we encounter moral truth. Harris writes, “We simply must stand somewhere. I am arguing that, in the moral sphere, it is safe to begin with the premise that it is good to avoid behaving in such a way as to produce the worst possible misery for everyone.”6

With that statement taken as a given, he goes on, throughout the book, to bring various definitions of what the opposite of that misery (what he calls “human well-being”) would look like, and to suggest ways in which neuroscience might, in the future, provide us with ways of measuring that well-being. If science achieves such a feat, Harris argues, we would be able to say (with objectivity) whether one culture or another—or one set of ideas or another—enhanced or diminished human wellbeing and was therefore “true” or “false” with regard to moral values. In other words, we would encounter moral truth grounded in science, as opposed to God.

Can you see the problem? Harris starts by assuming that moral truths exist, and even outlining that they can be boiled down to the idea of well-being. He hasn’t used science to get him there. It is not science that underpins the foundations of Harris’s theory. These are just his starting assertions, his intuitions. It is only after positing those two assumptions that he then goes on to bring a kind of pseudoscience in to measure his own construction of morality. (I am calling it a “pseudoscience” because, by his own admission, the field of neuroscience is not yet capable of doing what Harris says would need to be done, even within his own construct). This kind of logical leap is representative of the field and it fails to achieve its objective. Moral absolutes remain impossible to ground in a godless universe.

To be clear, it is important to note that we are not arguing that you need a belief in God in order to lead a moral life. It is quite obviously the case that there are many people who do not believe in God but who lead exemplary lives, just as there are, unfortunately, many who profess to believe in God whose lives leave questions unanswered. Similarly, we are not arguing that a belief in God is necessary in order to recognize objective moral values or to know and to formulate a system of ethics. In fact, if the Christian worldview is to be taken, it provides us with reasons for believing that by very nature of being human each of us would have something of the moral law imprinted on us regardless of the status of our relationship with God. The Bible tells us that we are made in “the image of God”—hence we are moral beings—and given consciences that speak to the moral law within (see Romans 2:14-15). Whether we acknowledge its source or don’t acknowledge God, that God-given faculty is not incapacitated. The question at hand is a more foundational one: the question of whether we can coherently ground absolute moral values in a world without God.

I think the vast majority of people in this universe believe it to be the case that torturing babies is not just frowned upon as a societal norm, or a personal preference, but that it is in reality objectively wrong. Or again, that rape and genocide are not just matters of preference or cultural norms but are objectively wrong.That even if, for example, Hitler had won the Second World War, and had succeeded in exterminating all of the Jews, conquering the whole world, and indoctrinating everyone to believe in his ideology, that the Holocaust would still be wrong. You cannot coherently ground that view without reference to God—but this is where it becomes essential to clarify which God we are talking about.

The Person at the Center of the Story

It would be a mistake to think that you can posit any God you like and still account for our understanding of the moral law. Everything hinges on the character of the creator at the center of the story. In the Islamic worldview, you have a God whose nature is not essentially good and who defines morality by his commands. Many philosophers grappling with the theistic answer to the question of an absolute morality have unknowingly assumed an Islamic perspective and raised some important and significant challenges to it.

If good is defined simply by whatever God commands, then morality is arbitrary—God could command us to kill everyone who disagrees with us, and we would have to consider that, by definition, to be good. If we push back and say, “God commands things because they are good,” then there must be some objective standard outside of God by which He measures good and evil, and, if there is such a thing, then we don’t need God in the first place—why not go to the standard directly ourselves?

The Christian reality is profoundly different. God Himself is the plumb line. “HOLY HOLY HOLY is the Lord God Almighty”7 is the wonderful, ringing affirmation of Scripture. The Bible presents to us the God who “is light” and in whom there is “no darkness at all.”8 The God who “does not change like shifting shadows.” The God who keeps his promises. The God who is faithful. The God who does not lie. The God who is truth. The God who hates injustice. The God who judges justly. The God who is righteous. The God who cares for the weak, the destitute, the widow, and the fatherless. The God who is kind. The God who is gentle. The God who is love.

The moral law is not grounded in the commands of God but rather in the character of God. This is why the command of God in Scripture is not simply to “be holy according to my commands.” No; the reality is far more profound: “Be holy as I am holy.”9 It is a unique command. No other God either makes or sustains the claim to absolute holiness.

When Christians make the claim that there is such a thing as an objective moral standard, we are saying that there is a God whose character provides that standard and whose commands flow entirely in keeping with that character. I think David saw this when he was writing in the Psalms, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”10 The moral law is a glimpse into the glory of God himself.

What About the Personal Questions?

There is, of course, much more that could be written as we consider the conceptual questions raised by moral absolutes. What about the personal questions?

A couple of years ago, I found it interesting that while doing a mission at a university in the UK that had few professing Christians on campus, the vast majority of students filling out our surveys said that they struggled with guilt. The truth is that we can think about moral values as abstract concepts for hours, and it has no impact, but it takes one second’s worth of a bad decision to make a lifetime’s worth of regret.

We have gotten so good at convincing ourselves that we are relatively good that we never seem to stop and think: “Well, what about the bad parts then? Does anything happen to them? Do they need to be accounted for?” One of the most famous letters written to a newspaper was by G.K. Chesterton. The Timeshad run an article entitled “What’s wrong with the world?” to which Chesterton had written the following reply:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton.

This is no glib reply. In two little words, Chesterton points us to the profound reality that we are, each and every one of us, broken, and in desperate need of forgiveness. Isaiah writes these solemn words: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”11 We all stand on the same ground before the cross. We all carry guilt. We are in need of forgiveness. And we long for justice.

The atheist tells us that there will be no judgment, no day of reckoning, and that the only justice we can hope for is whatever can be meted out by our law courts in this life. You are left with cases like Jimmy Savile: a legend in his own lifetime, enjoying public praise and adoration, huge wealth, being awarded an OBE and being knighted, and then dying a hero. There is nowhere to go with the horror of the broken lives that we are only now discovering have been left behind in his wake. No justice.

Richard Dawkins writes in his book River out of Eden, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”12

It is hard to believe that he could be serious. The world is still reeling from the shock of the images of decapitated heads of children and adults paraded like trophies. Are we really to believe that this was ultimately neither good nor bad? I couldn’t disagree more with Dawkins.

Immanuel Kant famously wrote in Critique of Practical Reason, “Two things fill the mind with ever increasing wonder and awe…the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” He was right to be awed by it.

There is the persistence of a plumb line—a standard that is independent of us that simply will not go away—and we all know we have transgressed it. No explanation outside of the Judeo-Christian worldview will account for the existence of that standard, the guilt that is very real, the need for forgiveness, and the longing for justice.

Look again at the Cross: the justice of God, the judgment of God, the mercy of God, the love of God, the holiness of God, and the forgiveness of God are all in the person of Christ. God himself embodies the good, overcomes evil, and makes a way for us.

The existence of objective moral values not only gives us a compelling reason to believe in God but points us to some of our most profound needs and draws us to the God who deals with our guilt, offers us forgiveness, and ensures justice.

Courtesy of http://rzim.org/just-thinking/is-anything-wrong

Tanya Walker is a member of the RZIM Zacharias Trust speaking team in the UK.

________________________

1 Although, of course, connecting with truth and reality aids our survival in many instances, this is not necessarily always the case. The considerations of truth and reality remain distinct from the considerations of survival.

2 John Gray, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: London, 2007), 26.

3 John Lennox, Gunning For God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target (Lion Hudson: Oxford, 2011), 108.

4 See Greg Koukl, “Did Morals Evolve?” online at http://www.bethinking.org/morality/did-morals-evolve.

5 Peter Cave, Humanism (Oneworld Publications: Oxford, 2009), 146.

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Atheists ‘Picket’ San Diego Creation Museum Celebration

Posted by faithandthelaw on September 27, 2011

SANTEE, Calif. – About a dozen atheists holding disparaging signs towards creationism and Christianity demonstrated during the opening of the Human Anatomy Exhibit by the Creation and Earth History Museum in San Diego County Saturday.

  • Creation MuseumThe full day of events planned at the museum by its owners, the Life and Light Foundation, included celebrating National Museum Day. About 1,500 people attended the celebration, many of them parents wanting to show their children the new exhibit and addition of the museum’s Dinosaur Garden.

    In the early afternoon, atheists from various parts of Southern California assembled in front of the museum located about a 20-minute drive from San Diego. Signs included one asking, “Why Hasn’t Evolution Eliminated Creationists?” Another sign held by an atheist stated, “Thou Shall Not Lie – Creationism is NOT Science.”

    Orange County atheist group leader Bruce Gleason, who organized the field trip for his “Backyard Skeptics” to the museum event, told The Christian Post that teaching creationism harms the country.

    “We think that creationism is actually dumbing down our kids and the United States,” Gleason said. “It’s dumbing down most every home school child in the South that is taught that God created the world instead of inspiring them to think more creatively.”

    As sign holders began walking back and forth on the sidewalk in picket-like fashion in front of the museum, several Christians began engaging the atheists in one-on-one debates.

    Russell Marechale, a resident in neighboring Lakeside, brought some middle-school-age children from his church to attend the event. Later, he said he felt compelled to engage a few of the atheists in conversation.

    “I just felt like I had to respond to the one sign about humanism and morality,” Marchale said. “I asked them, ‘where does morality comes from?’ I just wanted to help them realize that deciding what’s right and what’s good doesn’t come from us, it comes from above.”

    In the middle of a busy day, museum manager Jayson Payne appeared to take the atheists’ demonstration in stride. He said he welcomes everyone from the community, no matter what their beliefs.

    When asked by CP about the atheists assembled in front of the museum, Payne said, “We just want to love them. In Acts 9, there’s the story of Saul. God changed his life, took the scales off his eyes. We just need to love on them so they can see the love of Christ. We hope they come to the reality of a Creator and hope their hearts will be softened by this event and future events.”

    Contact: alex.murashko@christianpost.com

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Secular Humanism: the Word of Man

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 7, 2011

 

By W. David Beck

For all of the talk about something called “secular humanism” these days, there is not a great deal of clarity as to just what it is—on the part of both its opponents and its supposed proponents. Some of its enemies have blamed it for every evil society has seen in the last fifty years, from socialism to anarchy, from atheism to satanism. Its advocates label it the salvation of the West, the only hope for a democratic society, and the preserver of true moral values in the face of the tyranny, intolerance, and ignorance of the resurgent new right.

If we are to give careful evaluation of this current world view, it is clear that we must first understand just what a world view is, how this one came to be, and just what the present conflict of views is all about.

What Is a World View?

….- Let us begin by saying what it is not. First, it is not an organization. Undoubted­ly there are organizations that have dedicated themselves to the promulgation of certain world views. There are in this country and elsewhere a number of small but very vocal humanist associations. They have a slick and persuasively written magazine, The Humanist. Recently they have added a more dignified looking jour­nal, Free Inquiry, aimed at the more “intellectual” audience. Nevertheless, we are still talking about a very small number of people with any sort of organizational in­volvement.

Second, a world view is not a religion. It is true that, for legal pur­poses, those who preach the non­existence of God have to be considered as promoting religion, just as those who preach His existence. But in general, world views and religions are two very different things. Christianity is a prac­tical outworking of a particular world view, but it is not in itself one.

Just what is a world view, then? It is a system of beliefs. By this is meant two things: A world view is what people believe to be true. But, of course, not just any old arrangement of beliefs is a world view. Rather, a world view is ideally a fabric of beliefs. I say ideally because all too often we are not consis­tent in our beliefs. In fact, some world views — including secular humanism — are inherently inconsistent.

The beliefs that make up a world view are those most general and defin­ing beliefs that control what we do with the facts of our daily experience. For ex­ample, one’s definition or concept of what a human being is, is an important part of a world view. And if one holds that we are simply physical organisms, then abortion is simply a matter of get­ting rid of unwanted tissue. It has little more, if any, moral significance than trimming your fingernails or mowing your lawn.

The vast majority of people are largely unaware of their actual world view. This is because the world view of a society is often equal to the “common sense” of that society. Beliefs about knowledge are, for example, an impor­tant component of any world view. And certainly our society considers it just common sense that anything which science Cannot investigate sim­ply is not there.

This third feature of world views — that they are held unconsciously — is, of course, not always true. Not only are there many who have reflected on the matter and made conscious decisions regarding world view beliefs, but for some it has even taken on the level of an ideological cause to which they have devoted their lives. But they are clearly the exception.

Fourth, world views are decidable. By that is meant that one can make ra­tional choices between world views on the basis of evidence and argument. This is certainly not always easy and often a great deal of time and careful examination elapses before it becomes clear that certain ideas must be wrong.

It is important to emphasize this feature of world views since it has become popular today to say just the opposite. Many, in their desire to be tolerant and “pluralistic,” are telling us that world views are just choices one makes in order to find satisfaction and meaning in life. But history, as will be demonstrated later, clearly defeats such a view.

In summary, a world view is a pat­tern of beliefs which dominates a seg­ment or the whole of a society, often unconsciously for many and controls its interpretations of the facts. As such, world views are to an extent dependent on facts. Sometimes the facts just can­not be forced into a mold, and then it becomes clear that a world view, in part or as a whole, must change.

The Development of Secular Humanism

Secular humanism is a curious com­bination of two older world views, humanism and naturalism, which has come to be a vocal force in our society. If we are to understand, we must go back to another age when world views were also in conflict.

The sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries brought about a revolution in our knowledge of ourselves and our universe. Anatomy became a developed science, the circulatory system was discovered, and, perhaps most importantly, the functions of the brain and nervous system were un­covered. Man turned out to be a highly complex machine.

This conclusion, however, was diametrically opposed to the spirit of the seventeenth century. The after­math of the Reformation and Renaissance was producing a society for which “liberty” was the key word. Man was the free individual.

The solution to the ‘apparent con­tradiction adopted by the seventeenth century was to split man into two total­ly different sorts of things. On the one hand there is a physical, material body, subject to the scientific laws. On the other there is a spirited, non-material soul or mind, subject to none of the laws of science, but rather the laws of logic. It is not long untila whole worldview develops and becomes a powerful force in Europe and eventually America. It will take many forms and names over the next 200 years — deism, rationalism, “free-thinkers,” liberalism, and more. The world view they all par­take of is commonly called humanism.

In outline, humanism is a system in which the individual human being is the central notion. While he may have a mechanical body, he is essentially a mind, radically free and inherently logical or rational. This must mean that God, while still the Creator, is neither the Controller of the universe nor the Savior of man. The universe runs by mechanical laws, it has no fur­ther need of God, and there are no miracles, just as a watch, once it is wound, has no further need of the watchmaker. Nor does man need a Savior. He is a rational human being, capable of knowing and doing what is good. He needs no God, nor other per­sons. He will choose his values freely and rationally and eventually bring about a utopian society.

This idealistic optimism is perhaps the most persistent trait of humanism, though it was occasionally dulled by the aftermath of the French Revolution and revivals and awakenings in America. But curiously it produced its own poison. By the middle of the nine­teenth century the notion of “evolu­tion” began to take hold of all the sciences, but eventually biology — thanks, in part, to Darwin — as well as geology and social anthropology. This, in turn, produced a devastating result from which humanism has never recovered.

If evolution is correct, no matter how complex humans are, no matter what functions we have attained — in­cluding what we call reason — we are just machines after all. World War I seemed to deal the final blow to the grand optimism of humanism.

Thus, in the early twentieth century a new world view began to take hold, at least in certain segments of our society. C.S. Lewis, in Miracles, called it “naturalism,” an apt name since the defining concept is that the natural, material universe is all that there is. Mental abilities are just highly evolved physical behaviors. Even our sense of morality must be regarded as a natural acquisition. There are two options here. Values are seen as acquired either by the sheer biological evolution of certain behavior patterns, or else they are acquired habits, forced on us by the drive for survival. B.F. Skinner, the Harvard psychologist, has long championed the latter option, which he made popular in his 1971 best­seller Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Here he unabashedly draws the final conclusions which evolutionary naturalism must draw, namely that human beings are not free, make no choices, and deserve therefore no rewards or punishments. We are simply computers which occasionally need repro­gramming.

Naturalism, of course, has no need for a gad. There is only the chance evolution of material things. Carl Sagan begins his popular PBS television series and best-selling book Cosmos with the statement that “the Cosmos is all there is.” It is the Cosmos itself which “created” man, which produced all the present complexity, including man’s self-awareness. In fact, it is noteworthy that while Sagan denies God, his “Cosmos” functions exactly like one. It is curious that even the naturalist cannot escape Romans 1:18-19. There is in­evitable logic to the universe that demands the existence of God — and all men know it. Robert Jastrow, for example, Columbia University astronomer and geologist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, now admits that science, while it is one avenue of truth, “is not the only one” (Christianity Today, August 6, 1982, p. 15). Questions about the origin and meaning of the universe are not available to science, but must be answered.

However, the one aspect of naturalism that has continued to prove most unpalatable to contemporary Americans in particular is its denial of freedom and the reality of choice. Skinner’s “behaviorism” has certainly been influential, especially in psychology and to a lesser degree in education. But for the most part our society has not been willing to ac­cept it. And thus we have seen over the last two decades or so the development of a rather strange combination called “secular humanism.” If one reads the statements of its pro­ponents, it is largely naturalistic. That is, until they begin to talk about man. At that point suddenly they insist on ra­tionality, morality and freedom.

Paul Kurtz editor of The Humanist, and author of the “Secular Humanist Manifesto,” provides us in the latter with a typical example of this patchwork world view. It denies any divine purpose or action in the universe and affirms “the universe to be a dynamic scene of natural forces that are most effectively understood by scientific inquiry.(paragraph 6). It goes on to reject creation and insist on evolution and limit the study of man to “biology and the social and behavioral sciences” (paragraph 8). Thus far this is consistent naturalism. But along with it is a recurring insistence on freedom. At one point we read: “As democratic secularists, we consistently de­fend the ideal of freedom” (paragraph 3). We are told that reason alone is sufficient to determine ethical choices. This, of course, is traditional humanism.

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is similar in its selectivity. Again, its view of the universe and man’s origin and nature is pure naturalism. Yet at the end of the first segment we are exhorted to save the future. Where things will go from here is left up to us — to our choice, we are told.

This then, is the system of beliefs that is commonly called secular humanism. We must now take a critical look at it.

Responding to Secular Humanism

It is essential to remember that world views are decidable in the sense explained above. The reason why a pattern of beliefs is created, becomes popular, and even dominates, then eventually declines and perhaps disappears, is always a matter of good arguments and evidence. Sometimes the evidence takes the form of historical events. Nothing did more to crush the optimism and the idealism concerning man’s glorious abilities that held sway during the second half of the nine­teenth century than the debacle of the “Great War.” In fact, a careful look at history shows that rather frequently prevalent ideas have changed as the result of unexpected events. At other times the evidence has taken the form of scientific discoveries or trends. We have already noted the role played by the theory of evolution in the last century.

Most importantly, however, ideas change because men make them change. That is precisely why Scripture com­mands us to “persuade,” to “give a reason,” and to “witness.” Paul says that we “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

It is critical, then, that we face the ideas commonly called secular humanism, head on. In fact, this world view is riddled with contradictions and inadequacies, and we must force our society to see that, if we want to gain a real hearing. Secular humanism may not be an organization, but it is quite clear that for many it has ceased to be just a world view and has gained the status of a cause. It is obvious that Carl Sagan and Paul Kurtz, for example, are not dispassionate investigators searching for truth. They are preachers committed to com­municating a message and convincing us of its truth. Ant. they have doubtless been quite successful. But they have nt case. There are at least four fatal flaws in this odd fabric oi beliefs.

First, it provides us explanation of the origin of our universe. Secularists like to present creation and evolution two alternative accounts of the same thing, the former outdated and religious and the latter contemporary and scien’tific. We even hear from some that one can have both. If yct need to talk about a god in order to feel secure, go ahead! Just don’t confuse your religious beliefs with scientific truth. This is a complete distortion of the facts.

The truth is that naturalistic evolu­tion has absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about origins. It is an attempt to I explain how the universe got from a simple condition of perhaps just one dement, say hydrogen, to its present highly complex state. On the other `land, creation, strictly speaking; tells  how anything at all came to be. To this issue secular humanists have nothing to say. They generally attempt one of three responses. Some suggest :hat everything began with the “big bang,” but that only leaves us with a great many questions concerning the origin of the tremendous amount of energy that would have to be involved. For example, Isaac Asimov, world famous science and science fiction writer, argues in his 1981 In the Beginn­ing that it all began with the explosion of the “cosmic egg.” But who laid the cosmic egg? Asimov does not know. Others are content to say that matter and life itself came from elsewhere in he universe, but this is just silly. Where it came from is irrelevant. We avant to know how it came to be at all. Finally, there are those who say simply that matter has just always been there. Ir needs no creating because there was no beginning. This is no answer either. You do not provide an account of origins by refusing to provide an ac­count — or postponing it infinitely. Even if the universe has always been coming into existence, we still need to know how and why.

The probability of life occurring by chance is equivalent to rolling houble sixes five million times in a row.

There is a second glaring deficiency in secular humanism. Not only does it give us no accounting for the existence of a universe, it also fails to explain the present structure of things. Now this is supposed to be the very point of evolu­tion, so it is a particularly devastating ‘,mission. Almost invariably today’s naturalists and naturalistic humanists use some version of evolutionary theory to explain how we got here from a big cloud of hydrogen. However, evolution is not even theoretically ,sound, quite apart from its failure to live up to the scientific evidence.

No matter how naturalists try to hide the fact, what they really are claiming is that everything came about by sheer chance. Sometimes you can roll two doubles in a row. But what we are talking about here is totally dif­ferent. In his 1982 address to the Socie­ty of British Astronomers, Sir Frederick Hoyle suggested that the probability of life occurring by chance is equivalent to rolling double sixes five million times in a row. Even given the supposed fifteen billion years evolutionists suggest are available, there is not enough time — not nearly enough — for such an event to take place; and that is just one parti­cle of life. The actual universe in which we live is incalculably more complex than that. Chance will not work as an explanation.

Naturalistic evolution provides no mechanism, no means, for making the transition from one stage to the next. If life-form X did develop from life-form Y, what produced or caused the change? Just what is it that keeps the process moving in such a constantly progressive fashion, from simple to complex? Again, since the only real answer a naturalist can give is that of sheer chance, their specific suggestions are little more than cover-ups. Usually one hears of mutations and “survival of the fittest” as supposed mechanisms. But these are only descriptions of what happened, they fail to tell us why or how. Why is it that a sequence of muta­tions evolved the complex eye? Why are certain life forms able to develop the ability to maintain themselves in new environments? Chance? Surely that is insufficient. It is certainly not serious science.

It is not surprising that increasingly evolutionists have begun to recognize that they need to include some “guiding hand,” some driving force (maybe The Force), some internal in­telligence to explain the order of the universe. Note, for example, Carl Sagan’s key word is “Cosmos,” the Greek word for rational order. But to Sagan it is a mystery just why it is so complexly ordered.

A third serious failure of secular humanism is its inability to provide for human morality. This is a particularly glaring problem since current humanists have so much to say about human rights. Yet they can provide no basis for them.

Many in our society have fallen prey to the secularist’s rhetoric of rights and we need to be very alert here. Chris­tians, as theists, believe in human rights, too, but there is a crucial dif­ference. There can be no real rights unless there is some absolute standard to guarantee them. The “Secular Humanist Manifesto,” for example, declares the right to private property (paragraph 3). But no justification is given, although we are told later on that “philosophers have emphasized the need to cultivate an appreciation for the requirements of social justice and for an individual’s objections and responsibilities toward others” (paragraph 4). So what? Philosophers have emphasized many things. That is hardly a very solid guarantee for my rights. Unless there is some real objec­tive value that anchors our rights, out of reach of philosophers, governments, armies, majority votes or evolutionary process, we, in fact, have no rights. But the secular humanist has no such an­chor to offer. All of his talk of rights is pure surface illusion. Only the theist’s God, whose word and character is unalterable, truly guarantees and makes human rights possible.

Finally, apart from all of its omis­sions, secular humanism is faulted by a serious internal contradiction. It holds on the one hand that this is a natural universe, entirely open to scientific in­vestigation, hence the word “secular.” There is no spiritual, non-material realm. Therefore, human beings are simply biological organisms, the pro­ducts of a long sequence of evolution out of simple chemical elements. Yet it also holds that those same human be­ings are free to make their own choices. In fact, they have made a veritable fetish out of the word choice. How is this possible? If we really make choices that change or affect the natural universe then we are not just part of it.

Mechanical objects, chemical organisms, make no choices. They simply carry out their evolutionary destiny. B. F. Skinner is quite right. If we are products of evolution then we are “beyond freedom and dignity.” We are not free to choose, we simply act out our conditioning.

Here again secular humanism proves itself to be a cruel hoax. Not only can it provide no basis for supposed rights, it even deprives us of any meaning in life. For after all, if there are no absolute values and if we make no choices, then nothing is more valuable than anything else and we can do nothing to alter our lives in any way.

An Agenda

In the preceding discussion we have ignored what has un­doubtedly been the majority world view in the West at least since Christianity became its dominant religion during the first millennium. That view is generally referred to as theism. If naturalism is a world view which defines and derives every concept by means of nature, and humanism by means of man, theism is a world view in which God is seen as the cen­tral and defining concept. But despite its position, theism has grown lazy and overconfident — and quiet.

In Colossians 2:6-8 we are admonished to be so well in­formed and educated — “built up” — that we will not be taken in by philosophies centered on either human traditions (or authority) or on the elements of the “cosmos.” While Paul certainly had specific reference to views quite different from those facing our society, the parallel is surely obvious. Texts such as this and others we have mentioned leave us with a threefold responsibility to understand, as well as to demonstrate the fallacy of secular humanism, and to prove the superiority and truth of theism.

Lest there be any doubt about the necessity of acting on this agenda it will be best to conclude by briefly enumerating why I am convinced of the real dangers of secular humanism.

First, we face a real danger because secular humanism is not just an academic curiosity, it has become a true cause. That demands that it be countered whenever its advocates at­tempt to argue their case: in the media, in education, in politics and courts of law. Fundamentalists will have to get in­to the arena. The distinguished American philosopher Roderick Chisholm, of Brown University, commented in an interview in Time (April 7, 1980) that atheists have tri­umphed in the academic world, because “they were the brightest people.” We can no longer afford that. We never could.

Second, secular humanism has tended more and more toward consistent naturalism. This shows itself most pro­minently in the increasing subjectivity of morals in public ex­pressions. The key word in our society has become feeling. We are told by every television show to “do what feels right.” As a popular song put it, “if it feels so right it can’t be wrong.”

This is, of course, a purely natural standard for ethics that denies the divinely ordered values of the theist as well as the free rational choices of the true humanist.

The ultimate danger of this view is well exemplified in B.F. Skinner’s novel Walden Two. Once human behavior is viewed as naturally caused there can be no talk of responsibility. Criminals are unfortunate or sick. Homosexuality, just an alternate lifestyle. Misbehaving children are hyperactive or deprived: they need “behavior modification.” I don’t think a democratic society can survive such a notion. It removes all restraints and requires a police state.

Third, secular humanism, even with its present view of morality, is not only an illusion but a serious danger. If  a naturalistic ethic necessitates the “Big Brother” state of Nine­teen Eighty-Four, the secular humanists’ ethic must, by their own admission, lead to socialism in which all rights are sacrificed. It is especially on this point that secular humanists are simply deceptive, as we have seen. There is no justifica­tion here for values and rights and therefore no basis for a real democracy based on constitutional law.

Finally, and of ultimate importance, secular humanism is dangerous and must be opposed because it makes the gospel unintelligible. How can the message of God’s revelation make sense if man is good and rational; does not need God and ,1 owes Him nothing; if miracles, including the resurrection, can by definition not occur; and revelation itself is unthinkable and an insult to man’s autonomy?

Our final responsibility is always to bring the good news  Christ to all men. But increasingly we face people whose world view makes God’s truth into a lie. We can no longer af­ford to sit idly by. We must regain the media, the courts, the universities and the grade schools, not by force or censorship, but by the persistent conviction of sound argument and reason. We have no cause to hide from the truth, but must pursue it and expose it in every corner. For after all, all truth is God’s truth.

Courtesy of http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1082&context=sor_fac_pubs

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Pro-Christian Message Shadows Atheist Ads in Texas

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 9, 2010

A week after atheists rolled out their “Good without God” bus ads in Fort Worth, a blue mobile billboard truck appeared in the city declaring an entirely different message.

I still love you. – God,” the billboard reads. In a smaller font size, the ad also states, “2.1 billion people are good with God.”

The blue truck was sponsored by an anonymous group of individuals, according to Heath Hill, president of Lime Media, which owns a fleet of mobile billboard trucks.

“These are business owners and individuals that really just want the atheists to know God hasn’t give up on them and still loves them,” Hill told Fox 4 News.

The truck ad is in response to the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason’s ad campaign, launched last week. The ads, plastered on the sides of Fort Worth’s “T” buses, declare, “Millions of Americans are good without God.” The backdrop of the ads is an image of an American flag made up of the faces of actual atheist and agnostic people.

The coalition said the campaign is designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god and to guide those interested to the 15 area nontheistic groups that make up the DFW coalition.

The atheist group had also planned to run the ads on Dallas buses, but the Dallas Area Rapid Transit rejected the campaign.

“They chose to stop running all religiously-related ads rather than include ours,” DFW coalition coordinator Terry McDonald said in a statement.

Still, similar ads have been showing up in cities across the country as part of a national effort by the United Coalition of Reason.

McDonald said they are not only trying to reach out to like-minded Americans, but also sending a message to religious people.

“We want religious people to understand that non-believers are basically the same as everyone else,” he said. “We are as good, as moral as any other group. If you look you’ll find us among your friends, neighbors, coworkers and family members. There are about 50 million non-religious people in the United States. It’s time we were recognized and granted our rightful place in society.”

The DFW Coalition of Reason began advertising last year, with billboards informing the secular public that they are not alone in their unbelief.

While the atheist group tries to spread its message this holiday season, the anonymous group behind the blue truck is proclaiming its pro-Christian message from closely behind. The blue truck was hired to shadow a “T” bus in Fort Worth carrying the atheist ad, beginning Monday.

Courtesy of http://www.christianpost.com/article/20101207/pro-christian-message-shadows-atheist-ads-in-texas/

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Atheist Summer Camps For Children and Teenagers?

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 30, 2010

News out of Great Britain indicates that Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world’s most famous living atheist, is setting up a summer camp intended to help children and teenagers adopt atheism. As The Times [London] reports: “Give Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life.”

The camp, based upon an American precursor, is to be financially subsidized by Dawkins. According to media reports, all 24 places at the camp have been taken.

AsLois Rogers of The Times reports:

Budding atheists will be given lessons to arm themselves in the ways of rational scepticism. There will be sessions in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology along with more conventional pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war. There will also be a £10 prize for the child who can disprove the existence of the mythical unicorn.

The organizers of the camp are doing everything possible to emulate more traditional summer camps, generally organized by Christian groups or venerable organizations such as the Boy Scouts. Campers are to learn about evolution even as they go canoeing and swimming. Like their counterparts at Christian camps, these campers will sing songs around the campfire. As might be expected, the songs will be quite different.  “Instead of singing Kumbiya and other campfire favourites, they will sit around the embers belting out ‘Imagine there’s no heaven . . . and no religion too.’”

Camp Quest, established in the United States in 1996, has now expanded to six locations. While its numbers are small in terms of attendance, especially as compared to more traditional camps, the camps for atheists receive a good deal of media attention.

In this light, it appears that this announcement hardly adds to the reputation of Richard Dawkins. In the parlance of American popular culture, he appears to have “jumped the shark.” As this phrase indicates, some figures in the public eye become something like parodies of themselves. In this case, the recently retired Oxford University professor has thrown his public reputation behind an effort that appears to be profoundly unserious when it comes to reaching the masses. If Richard Dawkins is really so concerned to support atheism, it hardly seems that a summer camp limited to 24 children and teenagers represents a bold advance for his cause.

In recent months, Dawkins has spent his personal credibility on a project to put atheistic messages on London buses and, now, on this very small experiment in a secularist camp for children. The bus advertisement campaign became something of a joke, with the signs declaring only the claimed probability that there is no God. Londoners seemed more bemused than persuaded. Now, Professor Dawkins lends both his name and his financial support to an atheistic summer camp that will teach evolution to children by day and teach them to sing the songs of John Lennon by night. The Boy Scouts should not fear the competition.

At a deeper level, the existence of this camp in Great Britain and its sister camps in the United States indicates something of the intellectual insecurity of contemporary atheism and agnosticism. The effort to create a religion-free zone for summer camp makes for an interesting news story in the media, but it is not likely to draw the masses.

What comes after atheistic bus signs and a secularist summer camp? Time, as they say, will tell.

Courtesy of http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/06/30/richard-dawkins-jumps-the-shark/

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Evolution and Atheists Big Dilemma:The Question of Beginnings

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 16, 2010

Explanations exist for the answer to “How did I get here”:

  1. Evolution — first there was nothing, and then it exploded. Then goo formed, then amino acids, then life, then through mutations became what we see today.
  2. God — an eternal being created the cosmos.
  3. Aliens placed us here 10 minutes ago with all memories intact (we’ve heard that before, seriously).
  4. We’re in the Matrix.

Evolution makes many assumptions about what may or may not have happened billions of years ago (“first there was nothing, and then it exploded”), simply because they’re required for evolution to occur. But that’s not science. The scientific method1 involves repeatable, experimental data. If you don’t have that, it’s not science — by definition. So where is the experimental evidence for the following? If you don’t have repeatable, verifiable experimental data for it it’s not science, and you can’t answer the question (via science) of how did I get here?

  1. Matter comes from nothing.
  2. Non-living material can spontaneously become alive.
  3. Species can change from one to another.
  4. Explosions produce order.

Evolution doesn’t work — even Dawkins admits a god exists2. If you believe “from the goo to the zoo to you” you need repeatable, scientific experiments for it. If you don’t have that, you accept evolution on faith, not science.

The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing—is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice. — Richard Dawkins “The Ancestor’s Tale” page 613

Dawkins states how the universe came into existence is evolution. And his theory about evolution is “first there was nothing, and then it exploded” followed by the goo … to the zoo … to you! All without experimental data to support it. Where are the experiments showing matter comes from nothing? For non-life becoming life? Of course, that’s not the only problem Dawkins and his disciples need to answer:

Nevertheless, it may be that the origin of life is not the only major gap in the evolutionary story that is bridged by sheer luck, anthropically justified. — Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” page 140

Where’s the science? By Dawkins’ own admission, he’s postulated a lucky theory-of-the-gaps, where he has a start and end point, and in the middle only exists “poof—some magic happened” — completely without any scientific experimental evidence or observation in the lab. Where are the experiments proving life comes from non-life, or matter comes from nothing? Dawkins takes evolution on faith, not science.

Some say evolution doesn’t involve these questions concerning the beginning of the cosmos and matter itself (even though Dawkins disagrees), but we still need to answer the question: how did I get here? If you want to ignore the foundation and start on the 13th floor, fine. Where are the experiments showing massive quantities of mutations create new species? This gets to be an argument over what a species is, but for the bit we’ll gloss over that issue to focus on another problem — lack of information.

Courtesy of http://www.dyeager.org/book/atheism-agnosticism/question-beginnings

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Atheists gone wild

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 14, 2010

By David Kupelian

© 2010  

While left-wing bloggers insist the next Supreme Court justice should be an atheist and Psychology Today publishes an article on “Why Atheists Are More Intelligent than the Religious,” occupying anti-religion’s center stage today are best-selling authors Richard Dawkins (“The God Delusion”) and Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”).

The world’s two most well-known atheists are seriously calling for the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI “for crimes against humanity” for what they allege is his complicity in covering up sexual abuse on the part of Catholic clergymen.

They’ve retained top U.K. lawyers Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to cook up a legal process enabling British authorities “to initiate criminal proceedings against the pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court,” the Times of London tells us.

No question about it, atheism is rapidly undergoing a remarkable transformation right before our eyes.

Somehow, in recent years, atheists have gone from being a near-invisible pariah class on the fringe of civilized society to a confident, unapologetic and increasingly vocal minority, publishing best-seller after best-seller condemning and mocking religion. To give you a taste, here’s the opening sentence of chapter two of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

That’s just the beginning. Atheism is currently coalescing into a genuine political force, its adherents comparing their “plight” to that of gays combating “discrimination.” The evidence is hard to miss:

Atheism, just like homosexuality – once considered shameful by the larger culture – is now becoming hip, sophisticated, even a badge of honor.

Exit-polling data clearly indicate atheists’ numbers are growing dramatically. “The bloc of voters identifying themselves as religiously unaffiliated – which does not directly translate into nonbelievers but includes their ranks – has risen in every presidential election since 1988: from 5.3 percent that year to 12 percent in 2008,” writes Paul Starobin in the non-partisan National Journal. “That 12 percent share amounts to 15 million voters – a bigger bloc than the Hispanic vote (9 percent), the gay vote (4 percent), and the Jewish vote (2 percent), and just a notch smaller than the African-American vote (13 percent).”

Even more impressive is the data compiled by Roger Finke, a Pennsylvania State University professor who directs the Association of Religion Data Archives:

The share of Americans who report no religious preference hovered around the 5-to-6 percent level from the early 1970s through the 1980s, jumped to 9 percent in 1993, rose to 14 percent in 1998, and is now about 16 percent. … By that count, the no-preference bloc is nearly equal to the share of mainline Protestant churches, from which it is probably poaching members.

Until recently, atheists had zero political clout, having to content themselves with being more of an “intellectual club,” the Journal report says, “reflecting on the meaning of a life without God (and the patent absurdity, as many of these folks think, of a life with God). But those days are over.”

Now the Godless are making a crucial transformation toward the status of a my-time-has-come movement with a political and legislative agenda to enact – and with this shift, a host of contentious national issues is being engaged, with the potential to ignite a new round of culture wars in American society.

Today’s atheist activists “liken their strategy to that of the gay-rights movement,” adds the New York Times, “which lifted off when closeted members of a scorned minority decided to go public.”

“It’s not about carrying banners or protesting,” said Herb Silverman, a math professor at the College of Charleston who founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, which has about 150 members on the coast of the Carolinas. “The most important thing is coming out of the closet.”

In fact, just as homosexuals co-opted the word “gay” to facilitate their cultural and political mainstreaming, atheists have adopted their own euphemistic label, many now calling themselves “brights.”

And how, exactly, do atheists want to change American society and government?

“The end result,” atheists claim, would be “a more peaceful and modern society,” reports the National Journal, since presumably our nation would be “less willing to embark on violent conflicts of a religious character” such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Euthanasia would be widely permitted – no ethical problems there. Pharmacists couldn’t legally refuse to fulfill birth-control prescriptions (or, presumably, chemical abortion prescriptions either) as a matter of conscience or religious faith. School science classes would be prohibited from teaching anything about the origins of life except evolution – no mention of “intelligent design” allowed. And “the Boy Scouts would lose all forms of federal support for teaching that a good Scout has a ‘duty to God.'”

It gets even more controversial. At least some influential atheists reportedly want to clone humans. “In a sign of the culture warfare to come,” reports Starobin, atheists are “emerging as an enthusiastic voice on behalf of scientific efforts to clone human beings, a technology with the potential to ‘conquer mortality.'” Seeing themselves as very pro-science, atheists “tend to think that mindless religious scruples prevent the development of such techniques as cloning that could extend the boundaries of human life.”

As I explain in my new book “How Evil Works,” the astonishing spectacle we are witnessing today – from the upsurge in militant atheism and pagan religions, to the overflowing toxic sewer of popular culture, to the attempted socialist coup d’etat in Washington, D.C. – is the utterly predictable, inevitable result of abandoning our nation’s core principles, otherwise known as Judeo-Christian values.

A couple of generations ago, almost all of America believed a few basic things: that there is a God, that He’s the God of the Bible, and that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are the basis for a good life and a great society; that human beings are made in God’s image (so we don’t kill little babies before they’re born); that sex is sacred and reserved only for marriage. These and a few other common values, which formed the moral foundation of Western civilization for millennia and American civilization for centuries, gave life and strength to our nation and unity to our people.

Then, we were seduced into abandoning those few, innocent, shining truths. We were persuaded and intimidated into thinking they were old-fashioned, superstitious and repressive. Remember how Barack Obama referred to the Bible’s censure of homosexuality, dismissing the moral principles held as sacred by virtually all of America’s founders as “worn arguments and old attitudes”?

As most readers already recognize, America as we know it is being destroyed – or as Obama put it five days before the 2008 election, “fundamentally transformed.” But this didn’t start with Obama, his regime being just the latest phase of a long-term assault on the transcendent moral foundation of America. The termites have been voraciously boring at our ground floor, largely out of view, for decades.

There is unquestionably a way back, which I explore in-depth in “How Evil Works.” It will not be easy, but it can be done. However, if I may offer a friendly warning, there are also many ways of fighting back that, while making us feel good and righteous, serve only to make things worse, perhaps much worse. I spent a very long time sorting all this out and translating it into plain, simple English in “How Evil Works,” and I sincerely commend it to you. 

Courtesy of http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=140045
David Kupelian is an award-winning journalist, managing editor of WorldNetDaily.com, editor of Whistleblower magazine and author of the best-selling book, “The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom.” His newest book is “How Evil Works: Understanding and Overcoming the Destructive Forces That Are Transforming America.”

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The Rape of Morality:The Moral Dilemma of Atheism

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 14, 2010

by Joel McDurmon, Mar 12, 2010

The best way to refute an atheist is to quote a more consistent atheist. Modern atheists get angry and some even feel justified in ridiculing Christian when we recall Dostoevsky’s refrain (paraphrased), “If God does not exist, all things are permissible.” The ridicule comes with pointing out that Dostoevsky didn’t actually write this exact line, although The Brothers Karamazov does get close to the sentiment. “You idiots are so ignorant: Dostoevsky never said that!” Of course, the protest only skirts the real point of the saying. Whether Dostoevsky said it not, who cares? The issue is the impossibility of justifying moral laws in a godless universe.

Flowing from a near idol-worship of Isaac Newton and his emphasis on the laws of Nature, Alexander Pope published his 1732 “Essay on Man” as an affirmation of faith, although more in Nature than God. “All things fall out according to Natural laws,” was his point, and that we should learn to live content with whatever happens in life. After all, as he repeated throughout the poem, “Whatever is, is right.”

Pope had no idea what he was really advocating. Living in a world that was still dominated Christian culture, law, morals, etc., for Pope “Nature” and “Right” seemed like good things. Little did he know just how depraved a society built solely on nature could actually be.

Pope died in 1744. A mere four years earlier was born another influential literary figure across the English channel—the Marquis de Sade. Pope would not live to see the French Revolution where they idolized “Nature” and enshrined “lady reason” in the cathedrals. Sade not only lived through it, he provided the most radical and consistent view of what a system of morals built only on natural impulses would look like. In his rigorous consistency with “Nature,” Sade shows how deluded a dream like Pope’s really is, though Sade embraced it wholeheartedly. He pulls back the curtains on a dark, sadistic (a word derived from his very name), heartless, murderous, pornographic, backstage of evil. His basis for this? The fact that godless Nature dictates a lawless society: “for what should we, who have no religion, do with law?”[1]

He continued, “Nature, equally dictating virtues and vices in us… in reason of the need Nature has of the one and the other, what she inspires in us becomes a very reliable gauge by which to adjust exactly what is good and bad.” While this sounds somewhat acceptable—he is still speaking of good and evil, right?—he had much more in mind. Unlike Pope, Sade would not be hindered by the moral values of good and evil already entrenched around him. He would rigorously seek ought only that which Nature dictated in us.

For example, he would advocate abolishing the death penalty, but not because he thought it too harsh a penalty for the crime of murder, but because he did not think murder is a crime to be punished at all. And thus, he argued, we should also abolish all laws against murder. Murder, after all, is a perfectly natural impulse.[2] Society must learn to accept it.

In fact, sometimes mass murder is profitable for society, for example, to keep the population down and thus prevent poverty. For this, Sade prescribed infanticide, “The human species must be purged from the cradle.”[3]

Sade was just warming up. Once denuding society of punishment for the highest offense of murder, the way was clear for his favorite “natural” acts—those of sexual deviance. Sade advocated the forced submission of all women to all men unconditionally, incest, sodomy, pederasty, as well as the eating of feces as a matter of taste and sexual pleasure.[4]

Of course, some atheists today are still brave enough to say as much as that is, in fact, “natural.” Sam Harris, for example, has admitted, “There is, after all, nothing more natural than rape.”[5] Although he pleads that it is still not “good.” A few years back a book titled A Natural History of Rape stirred up controversy with the same admission, “We fervently believe that, just as the leopard’s spots and the giraffe’s elongated neck are the results of aeons of past Darwinian selection, so is rape.”[6] Like Sam, the authors were quick to point out, “We’re not saying something is good even if it’s natural.”[7] Nevertheless, the book gives scientific, Darwinian, and academic sanction to the belief, “Rape is natural.”

 

At such a juncture, it seems that an ethic like Pope’s offers humanity little help: “Whatever is, is right,” means, “Rape is; therefore, Rape is right.” Further, since the atheist/naturalist believes nothing exists except nature, a consistent doctrine of “good” versus “bad” will be impossible to find. What is good for one man may or may not be good for another. One man’s pleasure is simply another woman’s (or little girl’s) pain, and who is to judge between them except for might itself? This is why atheists like Sade are so important: they expose how today’s atheists are really arbitrary and soft in both their logic and their practice. Sade shows how cruel and heartless the naturalistic ethic truly is:

“[W]hat right do you have to assert that women ought to be exempted from the blind submission to men’s caprices Nature dictates?”[8]

“[W]e have received from Nature the right indiscriminately to express our wishes to all women… we have the right to compel their submission… Indeed! has Nature not proven that we have that right, by bestowing upon us the strength needed to bend women to our will…. I have incontestable rights to the enjoyment of her; I have the right to force from her this enjoyment, if she refuses me it for whatever the cause may be.”[9]

Don’t lie Sam! With the naturalistic ethic, what is natural is good; and (if God does not exist) there’s no one who has the right to say otherwise. Ergo, rape is not only natural, but Nature herself proves that rape is acceptable by equipping the rapist with greater strength than his victims.

Nor does the age or well-being of the female affect the scenario:

“[O]nce you concede me the proprietary right of enjoyment, that right is independent of the effect [harm] it produces…. The issue of her well-being… is irrelevant. As soon as concern for this consideration threatens to detract from or enfeeble the enjoyment of him who desires her… this consideration for age ceases to exist.”[10]

“Once you concede me the proprietary right to enjoyment…” Now that is a profound notion of which all naturalists should take note. Taking nature as a source of morals creates a paradox for the naturalist: while he would never forbid the individual the right to enjoyment, he must do so in order to stop the rapist from pursuing his enjoyment. The Sadean rapist, of course, only cares about his personal enjoyment, and cares nothing about temporarily forbidding as much for victim. In wishing to prevent him, however, the naturalistic ethicist must rely, in principle, on exactly the same standard: by saying that it is sometimes acceptable to prevent another person’s enjoyment, the naturalist has adopted Sade’s standard. He is, in principle, no better than Sade. Of course, which one prevails—in a naturalistic world, this is—will depend only on which one is more cunning, secretive, and/ or powerful enough to impose their will.

In a Christian world, of course, we have an infinitely better system. Mankind—male and female—are created in God’s image. They are thus designed to express God’s will—the Ten Commandments—in society. An attack on another person bearing God’s image is an attack on God Himself. To debase an dishonor that image through scheming, kidnapping, bondage, sexual violence and theft—i.e., rape—is essentially to break the entire second table of the Law in one act. As such a consummate act of rejection of God and God’s prized image on earth, rape deserves the death penalty.

This morality is transcendent, it descends from above, and lifts man to a higher purpose, honor, and meaning. Naturalistic ethics debases man to the level of lawless, meaningless matter. In such a world, the issue is not whether rape is good or evil, it is who can ultimately get away with raping whom. Reject God, and you destroy law, and open the floodgates to destroy man as well. Naturalism is the rape of morality.

The next great “consistent atheist” after Sade came a generation later in Friedrich Nietzsche. He used the same rigorous logic as Sade: “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet….” When the naturalists

actually believe that they know “intuitively” what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion….[11]

This continues today as a perfect description of atheists. Logically, they have pulled the foundations of morality out from under their feet. Sade has show us where this logically should lead. But rape and pederasty make for bad PR. Atheists continue to steal Christian morality while denying the Christ who gave it.

As long as they continue to do this, we should continue to refute them by referencing the more consistent atheists. The point of course, is not drive to actually to become consistent atheists—at least not in practice—but rather drive them to admit where the logic of their position leads, and hopefully turn to the only God who can save them from it. And in the meantime, whether Dostoevsky said it or not, the truth remains, “If God does not exist, all things are permissible.”

Endnotes: The Marquis de Sade, The complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings, 297. The many quotations from herein are often referenced as well by R. J. Rushdoony, for example, in his books The Institutes of Biblical Law, To Be As God, and Noble Savages.
[2] The Marquis de Sade, The complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings, 310, 318.
[3]
The Marquis de Sade, The complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings, 336.
[4]
The Marquis de Sade, The complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings, 318–320, 324, 325.
[5] Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, 90.
[6] Thornhill and Palmer, quoted in “Born to Rape?” Salon, Feb. 29, 2000.
[7] Craig Palmer, quoted in “‘Natural, biological’ theory of rape creates instant storm,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2000.
[8] The Marquis de Sade, The complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings, 318.
[9] The Marquis de Sade, The complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings, 319, 319n15.
[10]
The Marquis de Sade, The complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings, 320.
[11]
Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols,” The Portable Nietzsche, 515.

[1]

Courtesy of http://www.americanvision.org/article/the-rape-of-morality/

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