Argument Adjourned, Atheism and Amorality

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In his book Why Be Moral, Atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen admits the position that the new, angry Atheists like Sam Harris cannot bring themselves to do, that “Pure practical reason, even with good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” Bertrand Russell, who above all things devoted himself to attempting to live according to reason alone, admitted that he could not account for morality by this method. If reason cannot complete the equation, where are we left to turn?

In every instance of moral decision, there is an evaluation of the opposite positions of good and bad. Moral affirmation cannot be an abstraction. The person who makes a moral evaluation assumes the intrinsic worth in himself and sees that intrinsic worth in the lives of others. In a world of matter alone, there is no intrinsic worth. A moral framework is necessary for the declaration of right and wrong, one which sets the standard for good and bad.

The existence and continued affirmation of a moral framework can lead us to only one conclusion. God exists and is the provider of this moral framework. We can lay it out as:

P1 Objective moral values exist only if God exists

P2 Objective moral values do exist

C God Exists

The arguments from reason for the existence and practice of morality (without God as the lawgiver) trend along the line of humanity doing things in the interest of the community and cooperation for the good of all. The problem is circular though; with an objective source of good and bad how will the billions of sovereign creatures agree on what is good and bad? Since one life (of matter alone) is of no more value than any other life, why would a person ever do anything but in their own self interest? These questions always lead us back to the top of the page.  

 

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Psalm 39 – My Heart Grew Hot Within Me

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Shall I suffer in silence or express my anguish at the way my life is playing out? All of us have asked this question and David was no exception.

I said “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.”

But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. (vv 1-2)

The psalm expresses an acceptance of the fragility and brevity of life. In the eyes of God, our time on the earth is but a second. We who follow Christ can look forward to eternity but we still have apprehension about the end of our days. Will we worry constantly about it or simply accept it as a fact of our existence. And if we come to this acceptance, will it relieve us from our current travails? David explores this hope in prayer:

But now, Lord, what do I look for?

My hope is in you.

Save me from all my transgressions; do no make me the scorn of fools.

I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. (vv 7-9)

Despite our broken natures, we beg for one more chance to praise the Lord before our time is extinguished.

Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more. (v 13)

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Arrogant Atheist’s Semantic Subterfuge

imageIn an attempt to mask the ultimate conclusions of their beliefs, the Atheist community continuously suggests the notion that there should not even be a word for atheism since it is the natural and normal state of affairs. In other words, it is not necessary to label the condition of no-God since there is no God? In the great tradition of Chomsky and Lakoff and the deconstructionists, this is semantic infiltration in order to evade the need to clarify what one believes.

The belief in God (in a variety of forms) is the majority condition in the world, and has been throughout history, continuing despite the countless scientific discoveries that have occurred through the centuries. Contrary to their heartfelt desire, atheism is not the normal state of affairs. A word and label are certainly necessary to describe a condition that is contrary to the majority belief, even if the adherents to that system of belief don’t like being named as such.

Their desire may have something to do with the constantly shifting definitions of atheism that the adherents tend to proffer. That discussion, is for another day.

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Atheist Certainty vs The Reality

Sam Harris poses this question, “One wonders just how vast and gratuitous a catastrophe would have to be to shake the world’s faith?” He goes on in support of this question; “The Holocaust did not do it. Neither did the genocide in Rwanda, even with machete-wielding priests among the perpetrators. Five hundred million people died of small-pox in the twentieth century, many of them infants. God’s ways are, indeed, inscrutable. It seems that any fact, no matter how infelicitous, can be rendered compatible with religious faith.”

Yes, one wonders that belief continues despite a purported lack of evidence.

Mr. Harris, why hasn’t the evidence of there being no God changed the religious views of billions of people through the number of centuries that you might want include in consideration? Why, if the evidence is so apparent, so powerful, and beyond question, does Atheism not represent the dominant worldview? That is the question that you must answer before excoriating the belief of others, whether or not they are able to slake your cynically formulated demand for apologetic proof.

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Psalm 34 Taste And See That The Lord Is Good

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I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (vv 4-5)

As we often see, the psalms are intensely personal. Starting as the voice of one man, through the centuries these magnificent poems have created the foundation for countless prayers. You may read and use the psalter in such a manner. What is more important is the reason that we are attracted to the psalms and that is that we see our own experiences played out in the lives of others. We have faced danger and the Lord has delivered us. We have been surrounded by enemies and the Lord has delivered us. Our story, as we see David’s, is of value to those around us whether they know the Lord or not.

Our greatest purpose is to live lives that invite others to taste the glory of God. Our words and actions should be so winsome that others cannot resist asking their source. In the wisdom component of this psalm, David voices these imperatives.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (v 8)

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (vv 12-13)

Let’s make it our mission this week (and beyond) to be purposeful in our joy and peace. Let is radiate from us and extend the invitation to come and taste…

 

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Atheist Manifesto by Michel Onfray

Rant.

Rodomontade.

Petulant Tirade

imageAny of these terms could have been used in the title of this volume and been more descriptive of its contents. The jacket proclaims the book to be “an international bestseller” and the recipient of the Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year award, but after reading the contents contained within, one is left to wonder why. This pretentious, overwrought volume contains none of the advertised case against monotheism. Instead, the reader is confronted with Onfray’s ponderous use of unsubstantiated straw men to vent his barely contained hatred for the monotheistic faiths.

When making the argument in favor of one position over another, the proponent offers his evidence and demonstrates by reason how this evidence better coheres to reality than that presented in favor of the opposing position. Onfray offers this:

Hatred of intelligence and knowledge … is codified in the books [of the monotheistic faiths.] (77)

Hatred of science. Monotheism does not really like the rational work of scientists. (81)

Monotheisms have no love for intelligence, books, knowledge, science. Preferring the ethereal over the material and the real, they have a strong aversion to man’s instincts and basic drives. (95)

Hatred of women is like a variation on the theme of hatred of intelligence. To which might be added hatred of everything women represent for men: desire, pleasure, life. (101)

The religions of the book detest women. (102)

Jesus’s existence has not been historically established. (115)

The reader might expect a presentation of the evidence in support of the allegations and yet none follows. The trained philosopher Onfray should be aware of the ‘bare assertion’ logical fallacy and the damage that it does to the gravitas of your argument and yet he commits it over and over throughout the book. If the evidence of the monotheists is inconvenient  to his position (e.g. the independent historical records of Jesus apart from the Gospels) he simply dismisses it without providing or at least pointing to the testimony undergirding his stand. By the way, you’ll notice my careful use of citations above so that you, the reader, can determine if I have pulled a reference out of context or to read the surrounding text and determine for yourself if I am wrong. You will not find a single reference throughout the entire text, a deficit especially noticeable when the author when he makes assertions such as the hysteria of Paul (“These are all obvious symptoms of hysteria.” pg 133) and impotence as the source of the theological tenets expounded by the Apostle. Support? Citations? None but we are treated to yet another exclamation point complete with ellipsis to help us catch our breath! (This was true hysteria…a hysterical conversion!” pg 132)

If this were a singular example of the rhetorical style of the Atheist corpus, it could simply be dismissed as the rant that it is. Sadly, the more one reads the literature of the true believers, one finds the style quite common. Sentences are rarely without pejorative adjectives and inconvenient issues are dismissed out of hand. A quick survey of reviews for this book show it receiving glowing praise from the Atheist community. I attribute this to its contribution to the echo chamber in which these arguments foment. Serious scholars should look elsewhere for a coherent discussion.

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Atheist Evangelism

imageI’ve recently been involved in extensive discussions with an avowed Atheist which has brought something interesting and saddening to light. Many Christians participate in this forum and have had their beliefs challenged or outright disputed by this man but, rather than addressing the fallacies or misrepresentations of his arguments, I’m alarmed to find that most either respond in a repeated confirmation of their faith or avoid him altogether. No one seems able or willing to confront him and his statements.

Sorry folks but this is not what Peter was thinking when he wrote “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

While tolerance of opposing views is important in our civil society, it is more important to have the preparation and ability to address a challenge to your faith that is rooted in the false premise of Atheism. As you have probably noticed, the ‘new atheism’ has been making quite a name for itself in the past couple of years. Harris, Dawkins, and Hutchins are names that have entered the cultural milieu as supposed authorities carrying the truth. They are actively proselytizing for their worldview and the majority of Christianity is unprepared to confront it. They are evangelizing and Christians are content to let it go on without challenge.

No more. We’re going to build muscle and trim fat and confront these falsehoods and point out the logical fallacies that the atheist must rely on make his points.

We’re going to fight for the heart of our king…

UPDATE:

Robert, participating in our dialog below, proposed the discussion of a Hebrew verse Isaiah 45:7. Here is the verse in the original language:

isaiah4571

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Lent 2009 – 12 Steps to the Cross

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“O remnant of Judah, the Lord has told you, ‘Do not go to Egypt. Be sure of this: I warn you today that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the Lord your God and said, ‘Pray to the Lord our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.’ I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the Lord your God in all he sent me to tell you. (Jeremiah 42:19-21)

In one week, our Christian lives will be centered on the events of the Passion leading to the worst and greatest moments in the history of the world. We have followed Peter through the Bible and seen his brief moments of glory and his more frequent times of failure and disappointment. As I reflect on Peter I have discovered a danger, a bad effect of this path; looking at Peter can make me think I’m not so bad after all.

That, of course, is the first step backwards away from the Cross.

Stepping away turns our feet towards a variety of attitudes. One that is especially deadly is hypocrisy. The Christian can say how much he loves God, how much she wants to deny self but the reality shows. What am I doing different when I look at Peter and think, well, I would never do this or that. Baloney! You would and DO do such things and only pretend that you don’t. You and I may be able to convince ourselves that we aren’t so bad in this area but God isn’t fooled. He looks beyond our outer actions and into our hearts, in the dark corners and he knows where our true allegiance lies.

Man, surrender can be hard…

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Psalm 31 – How Great is Your Goodness

31 We often peer into the Bible from a safe distance, having the benefit of seeing the whole story unfold before us. In the case of the life of David, we are familiar with his rise and eventual fall. The distance can separate us from his experience in such a way that we read of his trials but say ‘he but not me.’ The achingly robust faith that he expresses in the prayer of Psalm 31 is not so easily evaded though. We question our own faith and trust in the goodness of the Lord when our lives become a spiral of unending travail and alienation, especially at the hands of others. “Where are you?” we cry out. Forsaken may even creep into our vocabulary, a slow burning doubt that our Lord truly does have us in hand. In the remaining ember of light, we encounter the core of David’s psalm. Continue reading “Psalm 31 – How Great is Your Goodness”

A Theology of Creativity

The single greatest act of creativity is revealed in the first verse of the Old Testament.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

This consummate act becomes the model by which all other creative acts in the span of history will be judged. Staring into the pure black darkness, the Creator envisioned and brought into existence everything that is, purely from His own creative energy and imagination. The extent of His creativity has never been fully discovered, from the secrets that lie in depths of the oceans here on earth to furthest reaches of the universe who light has yet to reach

Continue reading “A Theology of Creativity”