Thinking About The “New Atheists”

Engaging The Belief Police

[This is a re-post from several years ago that I think is still completely relevant today]

Two books on the NY Times Best Seller list share a common thesis — that religion in general, and Christianity specifically, is not just wrong, or off-base, or a subject worth debating — but that it is evil, deluded, dangerous, and the righteous target of the thinking man’s scorn. Sam Harris’, “Letter To A Christian Nation,” (# 31 on the list) and Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion,” (# 14 and on the list for 24 weeks) don’t just want to appeal to their atheistic brethren, but want to question the sanity of religious belief itself and suggest that we would all be more safe if religion were forcibly banished from the public square.

This view of religion is nothing new to Dawkins who, blasting the intolerance of Creationists in his 1986 book, “The Blind Watchmaker,” claimed that …

It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

With an incredibly ironic inability to see the intolerance of those two ideas existing in parallel, Dawkins denies any respect to those who happen to disagree with him — and instead offers them nothing but contempt. Disgusted by the proselytizing of religious folk, he engages in a little proselytizing of his own when, on the fifth page of his most recent book he claims that, “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”

For all the bluster these two claim about their own “healthy” and “vigorous” minds as compared to the mental midgets who oppose them, it is a little too convenient that they fail to even mention the significant input to science and philosophy that has been contributed by theists throughout history. It is a little too convenient that they make no mention of the fact that most of the greatest scientific minds — Newton, Galileo, Pascal, Copernicus, Tycho, Kepler — were all devout men who studied the physical universe because they believed it was ordered and a reflection of the mind of God. It is a little too convenient that they make no mention of the great philosophers throughout history — Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, C.S. Lewis — who were not only Christian theists, but that began as atheists and reasoned their way to faith. It is a little too convenient that they make no mention of the fact that the Bible itself challenges us to “test everything” and that the scientific revolution began with Christian scientists who did just that.

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The Tyranny of Scientific “Consensus”

We’ve just seen the culmination of a “week of action” that started with “The March For Science” on Sunday, April 22, 2017 and continued through April 29th. It was brought to us by the steely-eyed, unbiased defenders of reason and “settled science” at 600 locations worldwide. It was meant to sing the praises of scientific consensus. According to The March organizers, their mission was all about:

“A call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”

Which makes it a little confusing. I mean, how did the references to “political leaders,” and “policy makers” make it into the mission statement of a pure “call for science”? And get this: The March began with a fiery call to action by Bill Nye, a mechanical engineer and stand-up comedian who has proven over and over again to have trouble even pretending to be a scientist. It ended with another march that proclaimed its purpose with perfect clarity on its website:

On the 100th day of Trump’s presidency more than 300,000 people in Washington DC and across the country joined together in a powerful demonstration of unity for jobs, justice, and climate action.

In summary, we have a non-scientist posing as the spokesman for a weeklong movement to undermine the public policies of a politician by demanding “jobs, justice, and climate action.”

Maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t seem all that “scientific.” In fact, it almost sounds like the whole thing has very little to do with science, and a lot to do with Leftist politics. If you happened to be one of the few who listened to the rhetoric of The March’s speakers, you would find that is pretty much all they talked about.

The truth is that this “movement” is meant mainly to empower the wielders of professional hatchets who are armed to destroy the careers and reputations of anyone who dares question the approved “scientific” narrative. These are people who disguise their political agenda not behind science, but behind a secularized worship of science called scientism.

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Date: January 8, 2017—January 29, 2017
Event: Sanctity of Human Life Training Seminar
Topic: Sanctity of Human Life Training
Sponsor: Liberty Heights Church
Public: Public

Trump as Yogi Berra: The Danger of Pro-Life Consequentialism

After the 2009 presidential election, the Catholic Church spent a ton of money promoting its pro-life stance by running the following ad nationwide. It was a heart-tugging appeal to “imagine the potential” that would have been squandered if our newly-elected president’s mother had decided to to have him aborted in light of the difficulties she faced in bringing him into this world:

Though many praised the ad for the power of its message, thinking pro-lifers criticized it for good reason — it is based on a consequentialist ethic that is vulnerable to a thoughtful pro-abortion argument to the opposite effect. Here’s why:

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An Extra Chromosome And A Cause For Hope

Modern medicine has found many ways to test for problems with unborn children. This is a good thing. It allows for prenatal diagnosis, treatment, and even surgery to address medical issues for babies in the womb. But it also has some diabolical consequences — like the fact that about 90% of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted.

90%

If you happen to be among those who don’t think that’s a problem — who don’t think that’s a sad and horrendous injustice — I give you Karen Gaffney. Karen can speak for herself but, before you listen to what she has to say, let me give you a few facts about Ms. Gaffney:

  • Karen is 38 years old
  • Karen is president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation which is funded in part by honorariums she receives for her public speaking engagements (like the one below)
  • Karen has swum across Lake Tahoe, Boston Harbor, and 16 times across San Francisco Bay
  • Karen is a graduate of the University of Portland
  • Karen received and honorary doctorate in 2013
  • Karen advocates for people with Down Syndrome
  • Karen “rocks the extra chromosome”

I realize that Karen is unique because she represents a “high functioning” case of Down Syndrome and I am in no way attempting to represent her as the norm. And let me be clear that I don’t tout Karen’s success story and inspirational life as the reason to oppose abortion.

My point is simply that the pro-life cause has its foundation in the idea that all members of the human family are valuable, not because of what they do, but because of who they are — human beings made in the image of God.

Karen is an exceptional human being and she would still be an exceptional human being if she didn’t have Down Syndrome. She is proof that all human beings are valuable. Let’s pray that her message reaches far and wide as an example of the value of every human life and that Karen’s story becomes a cry that will awaken those who would have never given her the chance to prove it.

Abortion By The Numbers

As a follow-up to my last post, and thanks to an article that my fellow CIA agent (and classmate), John Ferrer, contributed in the latest issue of  Salvo Magazine (“The Big Kill,” Salvo Issue 34, p. 10), I’ve found a new resource for showing people the impact of abortion.

In a format similar to the mind-boggling real-time numbers of the U.S. National Debt Clock, but with infinitely more moral impact, the website NumberOfAbortions.com gives a continuously updated count of the number of abortions in the U.S. and worldwide. The numbers are staggering. Just a few examples (as of September 25, 2015 at 10:30 pm):

Abortions performed today: 2,806.1
(as a point of reference, 2,977 people were killed in the U. S. on September 11, 2001)

Abortions performed by Planned Parenthood since 1970: 6,877,845.2
Abortions performed in the U.S. since Roe-v-Wade (1973):  58,293,265

Abortions performed worldwide today: 103,043
Abortions performed worldwide this year: 29,754,477
Abortions performed worldwide since 1980: 1,349,402,839

Like most statistics, they can make your eyes glaze over. They are literally incomprehensible. But I have also found a unique way to make the overwhelming numbers a little more real. It is self-explanatory … but that doesn’t make it anymore understandable that many in our culture are happy to defend every bee-bee that hits the tin can:

1000 Words

Several years ago, the local scientific apologetics group I belong to learned that I was involved in doing some pro-life teaching and speaking. As a result, they asked me to give a presentation about how the apologetic case for Christianity in general might relate to making the pro-life case as well. That was an easy one.

We at the Life Training Institute (LTI) deliberately construct our arguments against abortion in a way that they can’t be dismissed by abortion proponents as “just a religious opinion.” We do that by using science and philosophy to show what the unborn is, why it is valuable, and why that makes taking its life a grave moral wrong. Our argument is not in the least bit “religious”; it is a rational and reasoned case that points to the most basic of all human rights — the right to life. The fact that the case we make is perfectly compatible and consistent with what the Bible says is just one more reason to believe the Bible is a reflection of the truth about ultimate reality.

But I digress…

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This informal presentation at Center Pointe Christian Church demonstrates how pro-lifers can do two things:

1) Argue for the humanity of the unborn using science

2) Argue for the value of the unborn using philosophy (S.L.E.D. – Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency)

Date: May 1, 2015
Appearance: Defending Life
Outlet: Center Pointe Christian Church
Location: Liberty Township, Ohio
Format: Other

Throwing Cold Water On The ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”

I really don’t mean to be a killjoy. I love the fact that millions of people are engaging in the latest “Ice Bucket Challenge” to elicit donations for finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I’ve seen the moving story on ESPN about the gutsy baseball star (Pete Frates) from Boston College who initiated the whole movement. I pray that the almost 1000% increase in donations to the ALS Association as a result of this “Ice Bucket Challenge” phenomenon will accelerate the finding of a cure that cannot come too soon.

ALS is a heartbreaking, debilitating, evil disease. I know this because I’ve been watching my father-in-law suffer with it for almost 8 years now. I hate ALS.

But I hate the willful and selfish destruction of innocent human beings more.

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has become a cultural phenomenon that only the modern social media monster could create. But those who engage in it need to know that the ALS Association’s search for a cure includes their own unapologetic support for Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR). Stem cells offer an exciting area of research that may prove to lead to the most powerful cures for some of the most horrendous diseases mankind faces. But we all need to distinguish betweens Stem Cell Research and Embryonic Stem Cell Research. When it comes to ethics and how we all value human life, the differences between them couldn’t be more stark.

I and others at the Life Training Institute have written about the failures and ethical issues surrounding ESCR before (here, here, here, here, and here among other places). The moral issue centers on only one thing: From what source do you derive the stem cells? ESCR destroys frozen or cloned embryos of a small, defenseless human beings for the benefit of others. The simple fact is that the clinical promise and moral superiority of adult stem cell and induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) over ESCR is undeniable and avoids the destruction of innocent human beings. We don’t have to resort to barbarism to seek a cure for diseases.

So, what to do?

You can begin by reading a short news story on “What’s Wrong With The Ice Bucket Challenge?” It gives a short overview of the issue and a couple of solutions:

1) There is an alternative research group that does not engage in ESCR, the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. Feel free to dump a bucket of ice water on your head if you are so-inclined, but then send your money to an institute that respects the value of human life at all stages.

2) Alternatively, if you want to donate to the ALS Association anyway, include with your donation a stipulation that your funds are not permitted to be used in any ESCR program. The Association’s Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, Carrie Munk, has made a public commitment that they will not use your funds to support ESCR if you do so.

To be fair, the ALS Association does support a wide array of alternative research programs. I don’t want to disparage an organization that is doing so much to try to find a cure for ALS. But please, if you choose option 2), do so with great trepidation because Ms. Munk also claims that “under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future.” Seeing that there are no “very strict guidelines” that are strict enough to allow for the destruction of innocent human beings, this doesn’t seem like an acceptable risk to take.

Let’s end ALS, but let’s end it the right way.

Reasoned Pro-Life Apologetics Meets Raving Atheist

I think it is unfortunate that many well-meaning pro-lifers defend their position by leading with the Bible. They attempt to ground their view in the authority of the Bible and expect their opponents to respect that authority because it is the Word of God. While I share their high view of Scripture and its unarguable support for all things pro-life, there are a couple tactical problems with this approach. For one, the Bible doesn’t have much to say about the particulars of abortion itself. Though this “silence” in no way equals consent, it becomes difficult to make the case when you are left having to defend what opponents might call “tangential” evidence that the Bible finds the act of abortion deplorable. You end up in a debate about biblical inerrancy, or the proper translation of some specific word, or the cultural context of a passage — instead of defending the plain facts about the unborn’s value as a full-fledged member of the human family.

Secondly, and for more tactically important reasons, most of those who would justify abortion couldn’t really care less what the Bible says about anything anyway. They dismiss your argument with the wave of a hand and avoid even engaging it because they categorize your position as just another religious claim that has no bearing on reality.

For these reasons it is tactically advisable to first ask the question — “What is the unborn?” — and then offer scientific, philosophical and moral reasoning to answer it. That is what we do at LTI and that is why we do it.

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