To be honest, it can get bit discouraging to constantly attempt to defend the Christian worldview here. In my efforts to stay up to date on what is going on in the world, I am constantly searching for news stories that touch on worldview issues. The result of that is that I am constantly mind-wrestling with negativity. It wears you down. That’s the nature of the beast I guess.
And don’t get me wrong, it is a passion of mine, I think it is vitally important, and I love to do it. But weeks like this one are particularly dispiriting:
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When it comes to spiritual issues, I am always amazed that people will accept and defend things that they would never, ever accept when addressing any other subject. People will convince themselves (and try to convince you) that the most illogical, nonsensical claims make perfect sense as long as they are attached to religion, spirituality, or questions surrounding ultimate meaning for our existence. Case in point: Nica Lalli, who wrote a book entitled, Nothing: Something To Believe In. In an interview about the book, Lalli proclaimed that:
I am an atheist. I have never joined, or been part of, any religious group or organization. I was raised without religion, and without much understanding of what religion is. I have never had much of an identity religiously, and I stayed away from much thought or discussion on the matter. It is only recently that I have really explored the many options for religious beliefs and have decided that rather than saying, ‘No comment,’ I now call myself an atheist.
Though she admits that she has had little training in religious matters and that she really doesn’t even understand what religion is, she seems to feel comfortable making judgments about religious ideas — especially those attached to “organized religion.” What Ms. Lalli fails to see is that by calling herself an atheist, she is in no way laying claim to a neutral position. Contrary to the deliberately provocative title of her book, she is most definitely not believing in “nothing.” Ms. Lalli is, by definition, making an explicitly religious claim.
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Sam Harris despises religion — so much so that he has blinded himself to an intellectually honest assessment about the differences between them. To put that claim in context, Harris (as discussed earlier here), misunderstands the concept of condemnation to hell and, because of that misunderstanding, believes his in-your-face his chest beating has some force behind it when he says:
The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are.
His serious delusion regarding the public impact of his own views aside, Harris’ taunt (p. 4) rings hollow. I can only speak for myself of course, but it seems that Harris fails to realize that we Christians don’t hold our view based on the popularity or reputation of those who may, or may not, share it with us. To be honest, most Christians had never heard of Sam Harris before his book hit the stores. But this kind of misunderstanding on his part leads him to make what can only be described as completely baseless associations like this:
Assertion (p. 6-7):
Every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling. The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe … The burden is upon them to prove that their beliefs about God and Muhammad are valid. They have not done this. They cannot do this. Muslims are not making claims about reality that can be corroborated
Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions.
Response: To put it is nicely as I can, Harris’ complete ignorance about the nature of religion in general, and the relationship between Christianity and Islam in particular, is stunning.
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Hitchens’ Childhood Epiphany
Christopher Hitchens begins his screed against God and religion by recounting his awakening, as a 9-year old “insufferable little intellectual,” to the “overreaching” comment of his grade school teacher, Mrs. Watts. The statement that is burned into Hitchens’ memory from that day is this: In an attempt to …
fuse her two roles as nature instructor and Bible teacher, she said, ‘So you see, children, how powerful and generous God is. He has made all the trees and grass to be green, which is exactly the color that is most restful to the eyes. Imagine if instead, the vegetation was all purple, or orange, how awful that would be.’
Assertion: I have to note that Hitchens is charitable in his assessment of Mrs. Watts. His only description of her is as a kind and loving woman with sincere motives. But Hitchens’ memory of this incident is that he was “appalled” by what she said. Knowing nothing of the argument from design, the claims of Darwinian Evolution, or any of the related issues, Hitchens remembers that he “simply knew, almost as if [he] had privileged access to a higher authority, that [his] teacher had managed to get everything wrong in just two sentences. The eyes were adjusted to nature, and not the other way around.”
This epiphany led him to notice other “oddities” over the next few years, such as:
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On My (Qualified) Agreement With Sam Harris
To restate from the last post on this topic …
Assertion: Sam Harris was compelled to pen The End of Faith on September 12, 2001 and wrote his Letter To A Christian Nation a few years later. He is one of a growing number who equate the travesties perpetrated by Muslim terrorists with anyone who claims what he calls a “rigid” religious view. Rigid thinkers are dangerous in this world because they become too extreme.
Keep that idea in mind as you consider some points of agreement that Harris claims to share the hard-core “Christian right.” In summary, Harris agrees that (p. 3-4) …
- If one of us is right, the other is wrong.
- The Bible is either the word of God, or it isn’t.
- Jesus offers humanity the one, true path to salvation, or he does not.
- True Christians believe that all other faiths are mistaken and profoundly so.
For all the relativists out there I want to point out that Harris, like me, appears to believe in the existence of objective truth. That being the case, we each must admit that one of us is right and one of us is wrong. It has to be so. We cannot hold completely contradictory views and both be right.
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On Sam Harris’ Understanding of Condemnation to Hell
Assertion: In the introduction to his Letter To A Christian Nation, Harris is quick to differentiate between harmless, liberal/moderate Christians and “the religious right.” Harris scolds the former if they should cover for the latter because, by doing so, liberal/moderates “give shelter to extremists of all faiths.” That’s the setup and it is important to remember in this discussion.
Remember that Harris was compelled to pen The End of Faith on September 12, 2001 and wrote his Letter a few years later. He is one of a growing number who equate the travesties perpetrated by Muslim terrorists with anyone who claims what he calls a “rigid” religious view. Keep that idea in mind as you listen to the beginning of Harris’ argument against the Christianity he despises …
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The final Evolution as Mythology post is up (here). Please take the time to read it. This has been a fantastic series of articles by some serious experts and each is definitely worth taking the time to read. I will offer a quick summary here but that alone does not do this series of articles justice. This is the kind of information every serious Christian should have stored in the immediate access area of their brain. If you can remember nothing else, remember these three points:
Evolution is no different from any other myth
A myth may be true or false, but its principle characteristic is that it validates the thinking, practices, and ideals of a culture. Evolution explains our existence within the framework of our modern culture of naturalism, which has no need for a god. A myth cannot be proved, or disproved, with the technology of the culture; a myth requires faith.
In this case, it requires faith to buy into the unrepeatable requirement for abiogenesis, the elusive wishfulness that goes with panspermia (of any variety), or the baseless assertion of macro-Evolution is a “fact.” Like any other myth, Evolution requires the true believer to suspend disbelief in order to accept it.
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Assertion: Dawkins offers into evidence (The God Delusion, pp.16-17) further proof of his assertion that the faithful are unthinking by quoting a letter written to Albert Einstein by the president of a historical society in New Jersey that “so damningly exposes the weakness of the religious mind, it is worth reading twice:”
Response: I fully agree with Dawkins’ critique of the letter in question! When the writer claims that “everyone knows religion is based on Faith, not knowledge,” then goes on to describe how he never admits his religious doubts for fear of “…disturb[ing] and damag[ing] the life and hopes of some fellow human being…,” I am on Dawkins’ side when he says that the letter “drips with intellectual and moral cowardice”(17). It does. The letter writer admits that he is not pursuing the truth. He is pursuing a self-serving piousness that I also believe is intellectually and morally bankrupt. Although the letter writer may represent a large portion of the faith community, he does not represent those who vehemently deny that religion is based on blind faith and not on knowledge.
He does not represent me.
Though the letter writer rolls over and plays dead regarding the reality of the epistemological basis for faith, I do not. He does not represent those who believe that faith is a trust that can comes from knowledge based on evidence. Once again, Mr. Dawkins is cherry-picking his opponents. Doing so relegates him to the same intellectually and morally vacuous position as those he so condescendingly condemns.
As promised earlier, this is the first in a series of rebuttals to the so-called “New Atheists.” I will try to keep them short and sweet, citing a quote or argument from their book(s), complete with a page number for reference. I will then attempt a response. Your comments are welcome …
Assertion: (The God Delusion, p. 4) “…delusion [is] ‘a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of psychiatric disorder’. The first part [of this definition] captures faith perfectly. As to whether it is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder, I am inclined to follow Robert M. Pirsig … when he said, ‘When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.’ … Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument.”
Response: On what basis does Mr. Dawkins separate himself from the possibility of being likewise deluded? Yes, there are people for whom faith is a blindly accepted belief devoid of the need for evidence. Likewise, there are atheists, apparently like Mr. Dawkins, who fully admit that they could never be convinced of the existence of God, regardless of evidence produced to the contrary. Is it too much to ask that, instead of mischaracterizing the position of his opponents, Mr. Dawkins would instead engage the arguments of those who do not accept their faith blindly? Can Mr. Dawkins offer an example of what amount of evidence it would take to convince him to change his belief? Some like him claim that no amount of evidence would convince them — proving that their atheism is not intellectually based, but rather volitionally or emotionally based.
I would also offer that many who profess atheism could likewise be accused of suffering from a psychological disorder stemming from the absence or abuse of the father figure in their lives (see: Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless). If it is acceptable to see religion as a compensatory psychological disorder, fair play would demand that atheism should also be subjected to the same test.