CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Another Atheist Jihad

Dec 28, 2006

It was very thoughtful of Jill Singer to pick Christmas day to launch her atheist jihad in her Herald Sun column. In doing so she not only offended millions of Australian Christians, but those of other faiths as well with her opinion piece. By celebrating Richard Dawkins’ new book, The God Delusion, she shows how insensitive and out of touch she is with the vast majority of the world’s population.

The God Delusion is a 400-page attack on religion. It is one of the more narrow-minded, intolerant and bigoted books I have read in quite a while. Yet his groupie thought it would be neat to blast religion in general and Christianity in particular on one of the world’s most sacred days.

Singer’s piece is a rambling affair, reflecting that of her mentor. She states that she is greatly concerned about religious intolerance. However it seems that the real worry is intolerance coming from unbelievers. Both Singer and Dawkins are quite happy to offend and ridicule the overwhelming majority of those who do not share their narrow little atheistic crusade.

Dawkins is contemptuous of all religions, so he is an equal opportunity offender. But it is Christianity that he especially savages. He says that the Bible is “just plain weird” and “systematically evil”. He speaks of God’s acts as “God’s jealous sulk,” “God’s maniacal jealousy,” “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. Yahweh is simply a “cruel ogre” and a “monster” according to Dawkins.

But wait, there’s more. Dawkins calls the atoning death of Christ “vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent,” and “morally obnoxious”. So much for tolerance and open-mindedness.

In Dawkins’ view – and presumably Singer’s as well – religion is the source of all evil, while atheism is the source of all sweetness and light. Never mind the millions of people killed in the name of atheistic utopias, be they Stalin’s, Hitler’s or Mao’s.

And never mind that even non-religious academics like Professor Rodney Stark have claimed with massive amounts of documentation that “Christianity created Western Civilization,” and most of the benefits of the West (freedom, democracy, prosperity) are largely due to the Christian religion.

Indeed, another secular author, Nicholas Kristof, puts it this way: “Moreover, for all the slaughters in the name of religion over the centuries, there is another side of the ledger. Every time I travel in the poorest parts of Africa, I see missionary hospitals that are the only source of assistance to desperate people. God may not help amputees sprout new limbs, but churches do galvanize their members to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics that otherwise would not exist. Religious constituencies have pushed for more action on AIDS, malaria, sex trafficking and Darfur’s genocide, and believers often give large proportions of their incomes to charities that are a lifeline to the neediest.”

I am not aware of any hospitals or charitable works set up by atheists. And never mind that many noted philosophers have pointed out that it was the Christian emphasis on reason that gave rise to modern science.

Moreover, both Singer and Dawkins are way out of their depth, showing their ignorance about the gospel accounts in particular and theology in general. Indeed, Singer simply rehashes the lame arguments found in Dawkins’ book concerning the reliability of the gospels. They really should keep silent on subjects they clearly know so little about.

As one Marxist commentator put it, “This is why [atheists] invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be.”

Singer’s Secular Religion

Consider this opening quote of Singer’s: “To we heathens, infidels, barbarians (call us what you like), today is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate things such as family, peace and goodwill to others, the essential spirit of Christmas. It’s just that we don’t believe in or feel the need to celebrate the supernatural.”

Sorry Jill, but it does not quite work that way. What is the spirit of Christmas? Love, peace and goodwill are byproducts. The work of Christ reconciling mankind to himself is the source. If you cut off the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, you cut off the very basis for love, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. If you deny the supernatural, in other words, as Singer wants to do, you will simply not achieve the peace on earth bit.

This is just the old theological liberal habit of seeking to separate the ethics of Jesus from the teachings of Jesus. But it cannot be done. Love for one another is prefaced on love for God, and that love is only possible when we accept God’s gracious provision in Christ.

Our rebellious and sinful nature will not allow for genuine brotherly love. That is why Christ came. But to ignore his work at Calvary and continue to champion some sentimental hopes for peace on earth and goodwill to men just will not work.

Singer waxes lyrical about her preferred religion, reason: “Ah, sweet reason. If only it can prevail on this and every other day. Whatever it is that you do or don’t believe in, may we all worship at the altar of reason and have a very happy and safe Christmas.”

Sorry, but that has been tried before, and found wanting. The worship of reason is just what the revolutionaries argued for during the French Revolution when churches were ransacked and desecrated, and believers were sent to the guillotine. As the statue of the Goddess of Reason was paraded through the streets of Paris, Christians were being killed and persecuted. Is this the religion of tolerance and reason that Singer would have us embrace?

Singer would have us bow down to rationality and science. But that is not always a wise course. We have seen both rationalism and science go off the rails on numerous occasions. This naïve belief in unaided human reason is part of the now largely discredited Enlightenment project.

Indeed, the pair seek to make a sharp distinction between faith and reason, between religion and science. They claim that science is the source of all truth, but faith is simply superstition. But this is a false polarisation. Faith, according to the Christian religion, is a faith informed by reason. While it may at times go beyond reason, it does not run against it. And science itself is also made up of faith commitments.

The truth is, a lot of ‘open minds’ need to be closed for repairs. The nasty diatribes launched by Dawkins and Singer are examples of secular fundamentalism and intolerance. Their defense of secularism and reason simply turn out to be another militant atheist crusade.

Singer is free to engage in her simplistic thinking and crude materialism, in which only matter matters. But for billions of human beings, non-material things like truth, beauty, justice, love, and even God are very meaningful realities, which the narrow world of atheism will never fully enjoy nor understand.

www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,20971575-5006029,00.html

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102 Responses to Another Atheist Jihad

  • I really enjoyed your comments here Bill, especially the line that “The truth is, a lot of ‘open minds’ need to be closed for repairs.”

    Singer has done little more than demonstrate what an intellectual light-weight she really is.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Your closing statement;

    “Singer is free to engage in her simplistic thinking and crude materialism, in which only matter matters. But for billions of human beings, non-material things like truth, beauty, justice, love, and even God are very meaningful realities, which the narrow world of atheism will never fully enjoy nor understand.”

    I nearly fell off my chair when reading that an atheist cannot fully understand or enjoy the truth, beauty, justice or love.

    What a sad life we must lead!

    In all seriousness, I am curious as to your understanding of the various moral and ethical codes that atheists adhere to in guiding their daily actions. Perhaps you could direct me to another one of your pieces on this matter?

    Matthew Dermody

  • As I live and breathe… your rebuttal of Jill Singer’s article just shows that you have fallen for every religious trick outlined in Richard Dawkins’ book! I find it absolutely astonishing that you could have read ‘The God Delusion’ and not immediately thrown out your robes n’ bible and opened your eyes to the awe-inspiring beauty and truth of science. I expect this sort of rubbish to appear only on Blogs from god-fearin’, bible-thumpin, mid-west USA. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

    Tony Fioretti

  • Thanks Matthew
    As to atheist moral codes, you would have to consult them. Dawkins for example has his theory of memes, etc., to explain such things, but I do not find his arguments all that compelling or convincing. Regards,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Tony
    But simply labelling something dumb is hardly offering a solid rebuttal.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The truth is that Secular Humanism (the religion of most modern atheists) is really a parasitic worldview. Having no logical foundation from which to sustain any “moral and ethical codes that atheists adhere to in guiding their daily actions”, it has to borrow such codes from Christianity.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Do you actually have an original thought in that article Bill? Sounds like the same old myths and fallacies that just keep getting trotted out again, and again.

    Chris Mayer

  • Thanks Chris
    But I was responding to Singer and Dawkins. Thus if my article appeared tired and old, it is because I was responding to tired and old atheist arguments.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’ve haven’t read such hate mongering bile against atheists for quite a while.

    I’m an atheist and I’ve given 1 to 3 days per week over 8 years of my life participating in volunteer work to better the community. I do this because I genuinely care for other human beings. I also know many other atheist doing similar things. Don’t tell me atheists are not capable of charity.

    And what’s with thinking atheists are not able to apreciate love, beauty, justice and truth? I was half expecting you to say we also eat small children.

    Stalin, Hitler and Mao show what happens when people embrace nasty dogma and pursue it with vigour. The same happens with religion and can, on a very small level, turn otherwise calm people into folk publically dehumanising other sections of the community by stripping them of the ability to appreciate basic human experience.

    Instead of vomiting forth hate filled bile, why don’t you step up to the plate and try to encourage atheist/religious dialogue. A dialogue where you are armed with an open mind and respect rather than being armed with words used as religious weapons and armour.

    Paul Murray

  • Bill I notice Tony Fioretti boasts of the awe-inspiring beauty and truth of science. His closed mind refuses to acknowledge the awe-inspiring beauty and truth of creation that science has discovered. Science may check and prove milestones in nature but is clueless on the meaning of life in its widest sense.

    Jill Singer presents the classic paradox of atheists. She loves Christmas but wants Christ out of it. But Christ is Christmas. In the most important event in human history, God entered humanity as a tiny, defenceless babe and brought a message of love and hope for the world, and the promise of eternal happiness for those who respond to His message.

    Everyone is free to reject Christ’s message but they will never obliterate it. Just as for 2000 years that message has withstood all manner of attacks, Christ has assured us that His message will endure to the end of time.

    Pat Healy, Victoria

  • Thanks Paul
    It makes perfect sense to me that you might care for other people if in fact you share in the image of God. If there is a triune God which throughout eternity has been involved in loving relationships, and then has created mankind to do the same, then such concern for others is perfectly sensible.

    But it makes no sense if we are nothing but a collection of selfish genes. The fact that you at times put others first demonstrates to me that atheism cannot be true, but Christianity is. It is not that atheists are incapable of doing good. It is that their worldview does not adequately explain why they should do good.

    And if you really believe that we should be dialoguing with an “open mind and respect,” then I take it you have written to Dawkins and complained about his closed mind and his disrespect for others.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    I am atheist and I do care for others. It has to do with who I am as a human being, my upbringing and inate human qualities that I was born with. For me this has nothing to do with religion.

    You wrote: “And if you really believe that we should be dialoguing with an “open mind and respect,” then I take it you have written to Dawkins and complained about his closed mind and his disrespect for others.”

    You can point and say “But he did it too” all you want. It’s somewhat juevenile.

    I’m writing to you because you attacked my lifestyle, my world view and dehumanised me by stating those like me are incapable of experiencing basic human experiences such as love. I am not a separate species or a lessor human being. You really should know better than to publish stuff like that. There is a sad irony to it all.

    I respect religious people, they can get on with their life as they see fit and enjoy their religions in a peaceful prosperous environment. I won’t hassle them at all. Many religious people respect me. Some don’t, which doesn’t worry me too much. The intial article you didn’t like was the responsibility of just a few people, but your reaction savaged many many people in a very public way. That really is not appropriate.

    Paul Murray

  • Your article is interesting, but I tend to disagree with you on the Christian shaping of Western culture. True, Christianity did influence the West, but it is the watered-donwn Christianity of “an-all-loving-God” that was most influential. This has all but no basis in Biblical terms. Most people who preach about a God that loves everyone has clearly never read the entire Bible (the book of Judges for instance). If we followed the Bible to the letter, the West would still have slavery, few women’s rights, and religious and ethnic cleansing on our hands.

    Nick Davis

  • I can not help but wonder if the likes of atheists such as Paul are just attacking a straw man when they accuse the Theist of supposedly denying that atheists can be moral people.

    I don’t think any Theist argues in this way and this doesn’t seem to be Bill’s position at all. What we would instead be pointing out when we argue that atheists have no justification for morality or indeed any ultimate reason as to why they would be moral is that their actions and beliefs are inconsistant.

    On mon, tue and wed they may be doing charity work and extolling the virtues of helping the poor and loving one another. But on thur, fri, sat and sun they are teaching a materialistic/atheistic worldview that serves no ultimate justification for moral virtues or vices. All is chance and a whole bunch of physical this and that, there is no ought and should in a purely naturalistic universe.

    So it is a contradiction/inconsistency in the atheistic worldview that theists point to and not a denial that no atheist has ever done a morally virtuous act.

    Damien Spillane

  • Hi Bill,

    Just a quick heads up, you say “I am not aware of any hospitals or charitable works set up by atheists.”

    Only the largest in the world, the Gates Foundation? Which is getting even bigger due to a donation by another athiest, Warren Buffet.

    Don Buchanan

  • Thanks again Paul
    But my piece was specifically about Singer and Dawkins, and by implication those who share in their militant atheism. If you wish to distance yourself from those two, great. I was not taking aim at you, and I apologise if you were offended. No offence was intended. My article was about the Dawkins’ type of atheist.

    And again, the issue is not that you can appreciate humanity; it is how in your worldview you can logically and coherently explain such an ability. You speak of “inate [sic] human qualities” which is puzzling. Assuming you buy the neo-Darwinist perspective, there are no real innate human qualities. We are all just animals, with no unique or special anything. Again, your naturalistic worldview offers no reason why we should treat human beings as different or special.

    And I am not attacking your lifestyle. As a theist, I believe that real love, justice, etc. comes from God, and to deny God is to cut oneself off from the source of those things. That does not mean that a non-believer is not a moral being. It simply says that those who believe that only matter matters have no convincing ground to truly explain things like love, altruism, and the universal sense of transcendence.

    Of course Dawkins tries to do it with his memes theory, and evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists are also trying to explain religion and morality from naturalistic grounds, but their arguments are tenuous and speculative at best.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Damien,

    You said “But on thur, fri, sat and sun they are teaching a materialistic/atheistic worldview that serves no ultimate justification for moral virtues or vices.” – Building armies of monsters in your mind to attack I see.

    Bill,

    you said “Assuming you buy the neo-Darwinist perspective, there are no real innate human qualities. We are all just animals, with no unique or special anything. ” – You’re also building armies of monsters in your mind to attack.

    Less monsters, less generalisations and more understanding will go a long way.

    Paul Murray

  • Bill, I’m puzzled that have chosen the perjorative tile “jihad” and that you describe both Dawkins and Singer as “militant” and as having produced “nasty diatribes”. I haven’t read Dawkins latest book yet, but none of his previous works struck me as militant, and I can’t see anything militant or nasty about Singer’s article. It seems to me you regard even the mildest criticism of religion as offensive, and frankly I think thou dost protest too much. Why should not religion be open to questioning, criticism or even ridicule? People can choose or reject faith, and, until there is conclusive evidence of a supernatural God, religious belief is no more deserving of special treatment or reverence than astrology or any other kind of superstition.

    I was born and raised as a Christian, but I discarded it in adulthood quite simply because it doesn’t stand up to serious scrutiny. I spent a lot of time studying the origins of scripture before I came to this conclusion. I respect the rights of others to hold a religious belief, but I have little time for those who think that they have sole possession of the truth, as so many fundamentalists seem to do.

    I strongly reject your assertion that non-theists cannot appreciate truth, beauty, justice and love. If anything, the non-theist appreciates these things even more than the believer, because we expect that this life is all we are going to experience and therefore we need to make the most of it, in all its richness. Your denigration of atheism as animalistic and materialistic bears little resemblance to the philosophy and lifestyle that I enjoy.

    Like Dawkins, I am a scientist, although I don’t claim to be in his league. However, I am continually astounded and amazed at the rich diversity and beauty of life, and I have seen irrefutable evidence from almost every branch of human inquiry that this diversity came about through natural means. Evolution may be called a theory but it is to all intents and purposes fact. The vast majority of Christians, including most mainstream denominations, have also come to accept this, and I am always flabbergasted that there are still people in this day and age who reject the findings of science for no other apparent reason than that it renders their interpretation of scripture wrong.

    And Bill, we may have descended from lower animals, but humans are indeed special.

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • Thanks Nick
    I for one have read all of the Bible. And it is exactly because we followed the Bible, particularly the New Testament, that the ills you mentioned have been greatly reduced. It was Christians like Finney and Wilberforce who campaigned so long and hard against slavery. It was the Christian religion that greatly elevated the status of women around the world. And it is the Christian conviction that religion cannot be coerced, but only spread by proclamation, that has lessened religious cleansing.

    And the overwhelming theme of the Bible – both Testaments – is in fact the love of God. Try reading the Gospels for a start.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bronwyn

    I am sorry you abandoned your faith. My story is the opposite. I was not raised a Christian, but I embraced the faith after ‘close scrutiny’ of the evidence, as you put it.

    As to Dawkins’ newest book, if and when you do read it, you might concur with even a non-believing Marxist like Terry Eagleton that it is indeed a very brutal and militant crusade that Dawkins is engaged in. See his assessment here: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2006/12/03/atheist-rage-and-venom/

    And yes, religious truth claims can and should be questioned as any other claims. I just find the biblical worldview to be much more coherent and resonant with reality than hard core philosophical naturalism.

    And I do not doubt for a moment that you can appreciate beauty and love, etc. I simply ask you why you do, from a Darwinian perspective. That you might relish a sunset, even finding it to be a ‘religious’ experience, makes no sense from a purely materialistic framework. The sense of transcendence that is universal may better be explained by the fact that there is something that transcends the natural order. Better a belief in the super-natural than fanciful theories such as a “god gene” and the like, which seem to require as much if not more faith.

    It makes sense that if we are made in God’s image – a God of truth, beauty, love and justice, eg. – that we should also appreciate such things. A non-believer can just as much long for love and hunger for meaning and significance as a believer can. It is just that the believer is connected to the source, while the non-believer has to come up with naturalistic explanations for such phenomena.

    Finally, I ask you why you believe that “humans are indeed special”? Your worldview would not necessarily lead to that conclusion, I would have thought.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I read your article on www.news.com.au. I have not read “The God Delusion”, nor do I have any intention of doing so. I am not often prompted to comment on such an article but I feel that something needs to be said as a response. You speak of intolerance but you clearly generalize about atheists and have a mightier-than-thou attitude. In addition you misled readers of your article by providing false information. For example:

    “Never minds the millions of people killed in the name of atheistic utopias, be they Stalin’s, Hitler’s or Mao’s.”

    In response:

    Hitler was never an atheist. The available evidence points to the fact that he remained a theist throughout his whole life.

    It is true that Stalin, Mao Zedong and were atheists, but the primary influences that led to their atrocities were not atheism but their dogmatic Marxism and communist ideas.

    In your words: People “…really should keep silent on subjects they clearly know so little about.”

    John Wallows

  • Bill, a non-believer can perfectly understand why we have famine, drought, pain, disease, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. Believers are at a loss to explain how these things can happen if there really is a loving benevolent god in charge. Of course there are some so-called Christian leaders who have explained such events as God’s retribution on homosexuals, or some other “sinful” behaviour. Do they have any idea how ridiculous these propositions appear?

    Every time I go to a Christian funeral, especially if it is for someone who died before their time, the preacher comes out with the same tired old hand-wringing “we can’t explain or understand, but we can only hope” sermon, which always strikes me as a futile and hopeless response.

    If there truly is a perfect god and we are made in his image, why are our minds and bodies so imperfect? The natural explanation of imperfection is well understand. The Christian one relies on a suspension of one’s faculties of reason.

    I don’t think anyone has yet identified a “religion gene”, but we know that our genes are responsible for our physical and mental makeup. Intelligence for instance has been shown to be inheritable. So why is it beyond reason that there could be a genetic explanation for that fact that some people glibly accept ancient superstitions on faith? Of course there are environmental reasons as well. If you had been born in a Muslim country to Muslim parents you would no doubt be passionately Muslim in your beliefs. Yet as a Christian you no doubt regard Muslims as infidels, and vice versa. To an atheist outsider, the conflicting inter- and intra-religious differences and conflicts are but a demonstration of the absurdity of all faiths.

    Your view of all atheists as purely “materialistic” is sheer stereotyping. Even my cat enjoys a sunset, or appears to. We have evolved an apparently higher level of intelligence than other animals, so why should it be surprising that we can appreciate non-material concepts without invoking the need for gods? There were a trillion sunsets before humans appeared on the scene. Why would a god have created them when there was no one around to appreciate them? Similarly religion has no explanation for why the rest of the universe exists.

    The god of the Bible seems to have some very human imperfections, particularly anger and a penchant for violent retribution against the most trivial offences. This is exactly the kind of god you might expect to be invented by ignorant peoples of limited intelligence, who made god in their own likeness rather than the other way around. Frankly, if I were going to develop a god theory I would want that god to be above such human imperfections. But I would have a great deal of trouble explaining how such a god could have created an imperfect world. Or why.

    Would you kindly explain why you use the term “Darwinian” as if it is some kind of disparaging adjective applicable only to infidels? As I pointed out in my last post, evolutionary theory is now accepted by the vast majority of Christians. Are you a creationist? If so, how old do you think the earth is?

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • Bill

    Thankyou for your wonderful articles re. the “God Delusion” and Jill Singer’s article. There are many of us out here who are not good at putting pen to paper, who agree and strongly support your comments.
    As a farmer with over 60 years experience, I am amazed that people can say that this world and all that it contains
    “Just Happened”. When I look at the animals we run (and care for) and see male and female perfectly matched, and the crops we grow producing “after their kind”. I believe it takes more faith to believe it all evolved than to believe someone planned it all.
    We also know from experience that if we walk away and leave our farm to its own devices (contrary to what some believe) it does not improve, but rapidly falls to pieces and begins to be overrun with noxious weeds (mostly bad).
    In other words it does not get better on its own. I see a principle here.
    Once again thankyou Bill for your writing and I know this will not convince anyone with a contrary view.

    Happy New Year to you Bill.

    Llew & Nan Mitchell, Victoria

  • Llew and Nan. I am sorry but your post left you open to it. You talk about what would happen to your farm if you left it be. I.e. you removed the Intelligent Designer, you in this case, the farm would, by your standards, go to pot. Yet that very nature that would reclaim it on your neglect is according to some designed by your god, so you are saying that you design better than your god. If so, perhaps the real argument is that there is no designer god but there is a human designer, the farmer, who redesigns the land by working it and when that human designer stops working on his design the farm goes to pot. Of course, the land doesn’t really go to pot, that is only the value judgement of a farmer whose work is to make the farm productive to his ends rather than natures, not a criticism of you by the way simply a reflection of a farmers role and outlook. A conservationist who might want a more natural landscape would consider it the opposite to you. I.e. not that the land was going to pot but simply reverting to its natural state where the plants and animals most suited to the new changing environment will survive best, exactly as the theory of evolution predicts will happen and can be observed all the time. However, this more natural landscape is the one this god supposedly originally invented or created if religion is to be believed and was the norm before humankind took up farming. So which is it, are you the Intelligent Designer or your god, as by your statement one would have to assume that your god is not much of a designer if you consider what he does to the land as going to pot if left to his own devices.

    John Phillips

  • Nick

    You said…”If we followed the Bible to the letter, the West would still have slavery, few women’s rights, and religious and ethnic cleansing on our hands.”

    These are pretty strong claims. Can you give some justification for them? From what I have observed, the Bible gave us so much that is good about the west, such as democracy, constitution, hospitals, charities, women’s rights, the end of slavery etc. Can you give us some evidence for your claims?

    Damien Spillane

  • In your response to Bronwyn above, you say that you embraced the faith after close scrutiny of the evidence. Please would you be so kind as to provide (or at least provide a link to) any evidence for any kind of god whatsoever as bears close scrutiny: there is nothing I have come across on your site (not to mention the Bible or Qoran) that is even remotely convincing.

    Phil Alexander

  • How can you say for cetain from your own narrow biggited opinion that only with Christionality can one experience or know of the non-material things like truth, beauty, justice, love, and even God are very meaningful realities, which the narrow world of atheism will never fully enjoy nor understand.

    You profess to have read the bible but which version? Since the first english language version 1380’s there have been hundreds of printings and scores of differing versions and then dare we even consider the earlier versions in older languages. Changing the language changes the meaning as provided by the motto: “The translator, The slayer”

    While there are good men and women who follow the bible there are also others who use the same bible to promote their evil with the example of slavery and racism being the easiest to come to mind.

    While I am nihilist in my views – I do not believe that anything is waiting once I die. I value more strongly non-material things like truth, beauty, justice, love than people like yourself as you believe taht you will see these things again in your afterlife while I will only have the one lifetime/existance at them.

    I am a firm believer that a person’s religion regardless of what type it is should be used as a shield to make them stonger and to protect them from the misfortunes of the world. What it should never be used for is a sword to attack thoes that believe differently.

    You do not like being generalised with racists who use to bible to promote thier views. Respect thoes of us that have differnt views to yourself – I believe that the bible had a phase “to turn the other cheek” maybe you should follow it before conducting another non-christian bashing session.

    M Jefferson

  • Thanks John

    Quotes from Hitler can be used to support any number of positions. Even Dawkins concedes that Hitler was no friend of Christianity, but used it for his own purposes. And his heavy reliance on atheists such as Nietzsche needs to be acknowledged.

    As to your claim, “It is true that Stalin, Mao Zedong and [sic] were atheists, but the primary influences that led to their atrocities were not atheism but their dogmatic Marxism and communist ideas.” But Stalin and Mao were both Marxists. Marx of course was an atheist, and he made it clear that communism rested on an atheistic foundation. His dialectical materialism allowed no room for religion. When Stalin and Mao killed millions, they did so in the name of, and because of, atheistic Marxism.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Don

    But are Gates and Buffet in fact atheists, or simply agnostics? I would like to see how they describe themselves in this regard. If you have quotations from them in which they say they are atheists, please provide them.

    But even if they are atheists, I would make this point. It is one thing for any billionaire – be they an atheist or a believer – to sign a few large checks and donate to various causes. In one sense, that is not much of a sacrifice.

    My point was that the history of people actually getting their hands dirty, of actually doing the hard work of dedicating their lives to helping others in a sacrificial nature – be it helping in prisons, in hospitals, in slums, and so on – has in the main been done by religious folk, and quite often, Christians. Much of this hard, unheralded and often thankless work has been undertaken in the name of religion, often in the name of Christ.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Bronwyn

    As to the current imperfections in the world, you may recall from your Christian education the doctrine of the fall. People have rejected God’s good plan for them and this world. Just as you have evidently told God to get out of your life, mankind has been doing this throughout human history. But as love by its nature cannot be coerced, that means God allows us the choice to reject him (who is the source of love, beauty, truth, etc.), and to face the resulting consequences.

    If you buy a new computer, and refuse to read the owner’s manual, and think you know better than the manufacturer how to use it, you may find some imperfections occurring. The same with the big picture. We have rejected God’s best for our lives, and are surprised by suffering and evil.

    The Christian religion makes very good sense of this indeed. It has some solid answers for both good and evil. It also explains both the grandeur of man and his beastliness. Because we are made in God’s image, and were designed for a love relationship with him, mankind has great potential for good. But because of the fall and sin (selfishness) mankind has great potential for evil.

    Rugged materialism does not seem to explain any of these features of human existence. As even Dawkins admits, “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.” (River Out Of Eden, p. 133.)

    I know which worldview I would rather embrace. So it is the philosophical naturalist who needs to come up with a good explanation for both good and evil in his or her reductionist worldview.

    Yet I am happy to admit I do not have all the answers to all the world’s ills. How could I, a mere finite and fallen creature. There will always be room for some mystery.

    You say that you can appreciate non-material concepts. What are those non-material things? Do they exist? Are you admitting to a supernatural realm? Either matter is all there is, or you allow for some non-material things. Can you elaborate please. You see, I know where Dawkins is coming from, but I am trying to get a handle on your version of things.
    Thanks,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Phil

    Christianity is Christ. Thus it is the uniqueness of Christ that must be examined. And the case has to be cumulative: various strands of evidence need to be considered. For example, what do we know about the life and death of Jesus? What about his claims? What about his miracles? What about the resurrection? How reliable are the gospel accounts? And so on. All these questions need to be examined at length.

    In this regard I would suggest two inexpensive paperbacks by Lee Strobel. A former atheist, he set out to examine the same questions, and was surprised with what he discovered. They are: The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998) and The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000).

    These books provide a good start if you are genuinely interested. I challenge you to read these two books then get back to me for further dialogue. Thanks,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, I still cannot believe your totally naive thinking and fuzzy logic. You continue to bend the truth to suit your own religious world-view and skirt around key facts eloquently put forward by Bronwyn Kingsley. Why can you not answer her questions directly? Moreover, your comprehension of the theory of evolution by natural selection is completely skewed – have you any real understanding or appreciation of the complexity that can evolve over eons from the non-random selection of random occuring replicators (ie. genes)? You talk about something called “The Fall”, but what about Enid Blyton’s “Magic Faraway Tree” Surely each story deserves equal respect and tolerance?

    Tony Fioretti

  • Thank you for your response Bill. This certainly is a comment inspiring article…

    I would like to leave a quote for all: “The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the wider vision.” – George Elliot (aka Mary Anne Evans)

    John Wallows

  • Bill, I find it difficult to respond to your questions when I don’t know where our points of difference lie, particularly about the origin of the human species. You use the terms “neo-Darwinist” and “Darwinian” as if they are pejorative terms, which suggests that you are a creationist.

    You didn’t answer my previous question about this so I will ask it again. Do you believe that the universe, the earth, its flora and fauna, including humans, were created intact rather than evolving? If so, how long ago?

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • I’m not sure why some people so energetically try to prove that God doesn’t exist or is irrelevant. What a pity that they are wasting their time – even Bertrand Russell and Saddam Hussein are both now absolutely sure of the existence of God.
    I have read all the comments to date and have a sense of sorrow for those like Bronwyn who consider that this short life is all they are going to experience. When people appreciate beauty, peace, goodwill and other basically idescribable characteristics they are acknowledging the very source of those characteristics – the Creator God of the universe and the Creator God of each one of us. Evolution cannot explain these characteristics! And God’s immense love for us (as expressed at Christmas) only provides confidence that there is an eternal life beyond this one.
    Keep up the good work Bill

    Bruce Coleman

  • Can I add some more to the mix of ideas.
    When I travelled to Romania I saw the devastation of an atheist regime where the people were told ‘there is no God’. Whatever Ceacescu did his basic tenet was ‘there is no God’. Atheism destroyed hope. It destroyed prosperity. It destroyed the country. It is so evident. Who is there now trying to assist in the rebuilding of the country and providing the very basics that were denied for 70 years? I don’t think there are too many atheists. I know of many Christian organisations that are working tirelessly to help provide food and clothing and shelter from the freezing winters. BUT What are the impoverished people seeking more than anything else – to know about the wonder of atheism? Definitely not – they know from bitter experience that it is empty. They desperately want to know about the God they were told doesn’t exist! I have seen the same in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, and so the list goes on. I would like Bronwyn to meet some of these people and see the real hope that God puts into the human heart – a hope that transcends their impoverished circumstances (Bronwyn, God did not create the impoverished circumstances – we can blame man for that) and even transcends death as the doorway into a heaven we could never imagine.
    Bruce Coleman

  • John
    Thankyou for your thoughtful reply. I want to say that because our worldviews are different we view things and events quite differently, and also totally accept your right to disagree.
    Firstly. Yes I do believe in an Intelligent Designer (certainly not us). Who originally made all things good. However if you read the first three chapters of Genesis you will see the “fall” and what went wrong.
    John you might laugh at this, but we have spent over 60 years chasing weeds, thistles, droughts and floods etc. as a result of man’s choice. What is written there is spot on, in fact absolutely spot on in out experience. We are not upset about this, rather we enjoy the challenge to try and overcome these things but they remain a fact.
    Secondly. You mentioned a conservationist view. Can I say that I do not know one farmer who is not a conservationist at heart and is trying to improve things and grow the best food possible, and yes this does include improving and building up our land. But if this land is left, it will go back to thorns and thistles which was not Gods original plan.
    Thirdly. John you stated and I quote “This more natural landscape is the one this God supposedly originally invented or created if religion is to be believed and was the norm before humankind took up farming. So which is it, are you the Intelligent Designer or your God.” end quote.
    Can I say it again, we are not the designers but custodians and what we see and experience is exactly what is written. Hence this land goes back not to what was originally created (good), but rather to what it became.
    Lastly, we are not in any way bitter about these events, as we realise we are part of the problem. I mean by this that we are sinners but thankfully forgiven sinners.
    Happy New Year John.

    Lew & Nan Mitchell

  • Isn’t it rather amazing to see how much of a lather atheists work up? I mean, if they do not believe there is a mighty Creator God, who has been revealed to us in His Son Jesus Christ, why do they spend so much time talking about Him? Who believes in fairies at the bottom of the garden? No one to my knowledge, but do disbelievers in fairies constantly talk about them? Not that I am aware. The fact is there are no real dinky-di atheists anywhere – only people trying to convince themselves by intellectual means that there is no God. And this points to the very thing the Bible says about man: that “what may be known of God is manifest in them (men) for God has shown it to them” Romans chapter 1:19 The apostle (Paul) also poins out that men try with all their might to “suppress the truth” and that’s what all the dust stirred up as a result of Jill’s singing in the Herald Sun is all about.
    Dallas Clarnette

  • Hi Bill

    Thanks for your comments on Dawkins work, The God Delusion. There really is no reasoning with some secular jihadists! You are absolutely right when you point us pragmatically to the reality of the world we live in – not only are believers in the supernatural in the majority (not a overwhelmingly compelling argument, but certainly not to be ignored), but more significant are your comments that it is where the pain and suffering is that you will find the church and missionaries – caring for the poor and the sick etc. It’s a subjective argument, but no more so than the illusory arguments of “reasoned atheism”. All “reason” starts from presuppositions and all presuppositions start from a leap of faith. Dawkins and other atheists it seems are sometimes just a little less honest about their leaps of faith than those of us with religious faith.

    Julian Holdsworth

  • Bill,
    So called ‘dialogue’ between atheists and Christians has run on since our Lord shook the world, and will continue until His return – at which time all will know the truth! Faith has ever been the difference between belief and unbelief, and since faith is a personal discipline, such dialogue invariably is a waste of time if it is only for arguements sake. To this end I offer no comments other than to encourage you to continue with the Lord’s work. Those that He is calling will greatly benefit, the others,well., they will only improve your spiritual mettle!!

    Fond regards, Shane Welsh

  • Well done Bill Muehlenberg for having the stand up spirit to disagree with these outrageous off the planet views, I really wonder where the world is heading when we pay for newspapers with so called free democratic journalism that really is a personal view with a sordid tainted and hurtful agenda that attacks the moral fibre of who we are in Australia – please remember Kings Park (Perth) is lined with trees in memory of Men & Women who sacrificed their very lives to protect freedom from radical nonsense such as the comments posted here on this site about our great CHRISTIAN NATION!

    T. Flood

  • Bill thanks again for your courage in telling it how you see it.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, I’ve read much of what Jill Singer has to say and she can be quite a good read… that is until she talks about religious issues. Jill seems to descend into an illogical rage, and wields words like weapons trying to cut down anyone who disagrees with her or gets in her way.

    I appreciate that not everyone is going to drop everything and repent when given the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Extremist atheists hijack Christian holidays and then attempt to annihilate all theistic viewpoints without provocation, they violently force others to accept their revisionist meaning – Jill Singer would not have the faintest clue what the meaning of Christmas is, she can only say what she personally thinks Christmas is about (but she doesn’t just express her opinion she rams it down your throat with a pool cue). It seems to me that Hitler really did win WWII…. ‘DEATH TO ALL THEIST RELIGIONS AND DEATH TO GOD’, Ms Singer would chant while she stands on her proverbial soapbox preaching (or enforcing) the new world order.

    Watch out world – the March of the Atheist is at hand

    You see the secular existentialists and the post modernists say truth is relative – if they truly believe that, it will inevitably boil down to whomever has the biggest guns (and whom ever is willing to use them first) will prevail. It is not about truth at all, but about power. Ms Singer like many other extremist atheists, use words that are not peaceful but desecrating, waging war in order to have their truth as the only truth… ironic?

    Joshua Ferrara

  • Bill,
    I am not a usual contributor to these debates and as you can see I am not the most eloquent in the English language or spelling despite being a Pom.
    I wasn’t anything until 6 years ago (aged 37), I was a pretty good sort etc. thought the bible was a collection of nice stories and put all religions in that same box as a bunch of hypocrites. Then whilst minding my own business thinking that I didn’t need anything I discovered Jesus. If you had a couple of hours I could explain about 4 years of what non Christians would call big coincidences that led me (and my wife) this way. I dug deeper and discovered many things like the Bible is recognised as an accurate historic document, but most of all we experienced Gods love for us in our lives. When you experience something for real then no argument. Sorry that went on a bit longer that I wanted but wanted to set the scene for my comments. Nothing personal meant by these as we are taught by Jesus to love all humans and that we are all equal, sinning and falling short. So I don’t have a holier than thou attitude but do have some thoughts which I have tried to get over.
    Browyn –
    Sorry you evaluated the evidence and gave your Faith away. From your second comment about where the blame lies for Famine etc. this suggests you don’t understand something in my short time as a Christian I would say was a basic. Christian leaders who state these are punishments should be questioned. Being brought up in a Christian home would you say your evaluation was impartial or could have carried some negative prejudices ? When you say Absurdity of all faiths, does this mean you have investigated then all? if not then as someone who likes to investigate things, don’t you think that statement is rather arrogant and insulting.

    Paul – I agree there are a lot of non Christians out there doing good work and can I congratulate you on your volunteer work. Just the same there are a lot of people out there doing wrong in the name of religion. You should not tarnish us all with the same brush. I don’t think Bill spouts hatred or offence in his article. Many people out there speak about tolerance, with exclusion of Christianity. Bill is merely standing up against those people who do not respect our rights to believe this and celebrate our beliefs, in my experience this tends to be the Atheist spouting tolerance. In most non-extremist cases other religions respect people rights to believe in something even if it is different. Not knowing Dawkins or Singer prior to this article/book I would say they are a good example of this, taking the time to write a book or pen a Christmas article trying to do exactly that.
    On a lighter note if we Christians are right at least we will have eternity to gloat, if you are I guess the worms will do it on your behalf. !! Hope you all have a good 2007.

    Jamie Marsden, Western Australia

  • Hi All,

    Thank you Bill for your on-going work and this article in particular. The truth is worth fighting for, especially when it is a matter of life and death, as I believe it is.

    I include the below for what it’s worth and hope everyone has a rewarding and joyful 2007.

    As to the faith-reason debate. I don’t think it is too much to state that everyone has faith in something (even if it is only their presupositions), but not all faith is reasonable.

    With regard to atheism I find it completely unreasonable to believe my 2 year old niece is merely a product of matter, lots of time and a whole lot of chance. And my niece is only the tip of the very large, wonderful and fascinating iceberg we call the earth/world/galaxy, or some may call ‘matter’.

    I have two problems with faith in aetheism. Firstly, as a scientist I find that in comparison to the small step of faith it requires to believe in a loving, Creator God (and the biblical accounts) it seems to me the faith it requires to hold to a worked out atheistic world view is more like an inter-galactic space journey in size. In this regard I admire my atheistic friends, their faith is far greater than mine! But in the final analysis I believe it is misplaced.

    And secondly, I find a correctly interpreted biblical world view far more consistently explains both my scientific observations of the world, and my observations as an physical, emotional and spiritual being, than any other belief system that I have encountered or heard of (atheism included).

    Finally, I have also found my otherwise very smart and highly educated friends (whom I love) ‘belief’ in atheism is not always a result of their own ponderings of the evidence; discussion of beliefs and worldviews seems to have become taboo. Instead I have found ‘beliefs’ are often formed from a surface level understanding of worldviews such as Mr. Dawkins, and the promotion given to them by media outlets; often portraying religion/faith/Christianity as somehow ‘defeated’.

    And so I return to applauding you and your work and hope that you continue to stimulate debate, and the individuals search for the truth.

    T. Walks

  • Dear Bill, thanks for a great article. It’s amazing how journalists can print their views about God and religion to prove a point. I heard a sermon on Sunday about the wright brothers and how nobody ever believed that man would be able to fly. Then early last century man achieved what was thought to be impossible and took to the air. But that doctrine about not being able to fly is no longer credible. We hear of planes malfunctioning and falling out of the sky yet we have had 100 years to “evolve” and perfect that engineering feat. But I have never ever seen a bird malfunction and fall out of the sky and yet they travel and migrate thousands and thousands of kilometers every year,year after year. Maybe there might be some truth to the fact of divine order in creation. The doctrine that there is no creator is a very similar doctrine to the blindness of believing we still can’t fly. Sorry to say this Jill but God has already proved His point whether you believe it or not.

    Michael Bourke

  • Hi Bill,

    I really appreciate this website. You show a good understanding and well rounded view on what it means to be a christian person living in today’s world. This website brings alot of hope and encouragement to my life. Thanks.
    Jo McDade

  • Many thanks Jo
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Bronwyn (1/1/07)

    I am a creationist in that I believe there is a God who created the universe and everything in it. Of course just as there are differing views amongst Darwinists, so too among believers. You would no doubt be aware of the spectrum of options, beginning with early earth creationists, to old earth creationists, to progressive creationists, to Intelligent Design, to evolutionary creationism and theistic evolution. The last two I find problematic.
    However this article was not so much about creationism, but Dawkins’ (and Singer’s) attack on religion. And I was trying to determine whether you held to the same reductionist materialism (philosophical naturalism) that Dawkins does. So I still await your answers. Thanks

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill

    It is with great interest that I read the comments of so many. As a Christian, I have never been able to understand the following two points of ‘evolution’, so would welcome enlightenment from those who consider themselves athiests:

    1. If man (the species) evolved from our primate brothers, why have these primate brothers never evolved further? Why didn’t the gorilla, chimpanzee etc evolve as a species like the man species?

    2. Why is man so unique amongst creation?

    Its interesting that I have asked these questions many times over many years but no one has ever been able to answer them.

    Science is a wonderful medium but it can only illuminate and confirm our world as it is defined by the finite, ie the intelligence of man. To believe it is anything else would surely indicate great arrogance.

    Bill, keep up the work that is God’s!! Regards
    Joy Bryant 

  • I remember an interesting story I heard many years ago about a French scientist, who was a very devout Catholic, who constantly got ribbed by some of his colleagues, who were atheists, about his faith. He had a hobby, which he pursued at home. He built a model of our tiny part of the universe, and had “planets” move around on thin wire once he turned on the power.

    One of his colleagues, who was an atheist, visted his home once and commented on the model, saying how smart it was. He added “Who built that, was it you? The Christian replied “No, nobody made it”. His friend laughed and replied “Somebody must had made it”. The other man said “No, there was a big bang and it suddenly appeard in my workshop”.

    Frank Bellet, Petrie Queensland

  • Hi Bill, Thanks for your succinct evaluations and observations of society and the absurd logic that is sprouted about. I am often far too busy getting on with life, being part of the silent majority, caring for my family, friends and others to bother responding to things which have already been written about for centuries, but now I see it is essential to take part in these posts and respond to these challenges.
    I find it very interesting that “the same old mouldy chestnuts” are trotted out every time Christians stand up to intellectual snobbery and bullying, selfish closed mindedness. I note that many (all?) of these protesters don’t follow the posting rules and give their location when posting.
    Bronwyn and others may keep tossing the red herrings of “Evolution may be called a theory but it is to all intents and purposes fact…” Excuse me? When is a theory factual without facts? Also, “..the vast majority of Christians, including most mainstream denominations, have also come to accept this” is a largely ludicrous sweeping statement – like many others made by the anti-respondents – is not the case in the ‘mainstream denominations’ I have contact with! In my last 30+ years of questioning, I like many before me, have had personal experiences which lead me to conclude the truth of a Triune God and ordered beauty and structure of Creation. I am still amazed the circular argument of rocks/fossils is trotted out when someone wants to ‘prove’ their point!
    To all the anti-respondents, I too like Bill, am waiting to hear a lucid response from anywhere to the question of “WHY are we here?”
    As to some valued resources, perhaps Bill there should be a link or reference on your site (if not already so) to places like Answers in Genesis: www.creationontheweb.com ; or books like Morrison’s ‘Who moved the stone?’ Josh McDowell’s ‘Evidence demands a verdict’, C. S. Lewis, Michael Green, etc.
    There is though the old adage ‘You can lead a horse to water…etc’, so set minds would probably pompously reject such knowledge and wisdom without really researching and investigating any further to find truth.
    There have been many great comments – like from Ewan, Joshua, Jamie, Michael, Jo, Joy etc. – and Bill’s responses that explain or question in ways I find enlightening.
    Bill – keep up the good work that is God’s!!
    Peter Murphy, Victoria, Aust

  • From what I’ve read here in your review and the quality of the responses, it seems to me that the bulk of Dawkin’s contribution in this rhetorically emotive book, is a kind of politically correct (and thus highly protected and defended) bigotry. It may sound as if my response is in a similar vein, but how is one to respond to a bigotted rant, rationally, humbly, and with clarity? Christianity aside, one of the Proverbs of Judaism coupled with another, seems to hit the nail on the head. One says ‘answer a fool according to his folly’ and another in a nearer context says ‘answer not a fool according to his folly’. Clearly the author of the proverbs saw the context and labrinth. When one interacts with another who is purposely acting the part of the ranting fool, it is hard not to have any of this rub off on you. In short, if this post gets a reply it will be from someone not liking, and thus accusing me of the same…bigotry, foolishness, ranting. Sadly this is the only level of discourse this otherwise intelligent scientist has taken us into with his religious ‘critiques'(?). Trying to be polite. Blessings.

    Joe Whitchurch, Indianna, USA

  • Funny thing, I see athiests decrying the possibility of there being a Creator/God and yet expect the human race to bow down to their god of science and “reason”. Reason? What militant athiests call reason, I call religious persecution. If their way should prevail, there will in time be no freedom, no atonomy, and in the end, no unsubjegated human life on earth.

    Let us remember that social Darwinism led us to one of the worst atrocities ever visited on mankind, Nazi Germany and the extermination of 6-7 million Jews and the deaths of another 20 million or more other human beings Adolf Hitler and his henchmen considered too inferior to live. For all his outward support of religion, in fact Hitler enbraced Darwinism and used it to justify the inhumane treatment and murder of tens of millions. It also led to a human being caged and treated like a monkey in London’s most celebrated zoo because African Pigmies were not considered human by England’s 19th century white Darwinists.

    Are there moral Darwinists? Sure. But they’re generally not the ones whom are busily and loudly proclaiming moral relativism, that everything is OK if you can get away with it. And do not be fooled and believe social Darwinism is dead. Racism and cultural prejudice is still rampant in this world and no amount of political correctness can change that any more than putting buttercream frosting on a block of styrofoam turns that indigestable mass into a moist and delicious cake.

    M.E. Huffmaster

  • There’s an old folk tale that comes to mind. A farmer decides to sell ten donkeys he owns, and sets out for town riding on one of them. Partway there he decides to count the donkeys to be safe; but he forgets to count the one he’s riding on at the time, and so gets into a panic thinking that one is missing.

    When atheists practice good deeds, and think that this has “nothing to do with religion,” they are failing to count the donkey they are riding on. That is, they are failing to take their own spiritual nature into account, even as they are in the very midst of “riding” on it. They look for other explanations of human nature and moral principles, and fail to notice the evidence of spiritual reality which is as close as their own skin.

    Joseph Richard Ravitts, USA

  • Bronwyn,

    I have mulled over your criticisms of the Christian world view. They seem reasonable on the surface when one does not have all of the evidence. I’ll respond to only one of your points.

    You claim that believers are at a loss to explain famine, drought, pain, disease, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters “if there really is a loving benevolent god in charge.” This is like saying: “I can’t explain why Billy did such horrible violence to his mother. He’s such a lovely boy.” Billy’s loveliness does not explain his total character.

    The attributes of God include love, compassion and mercy, but they also include judgement and justice. When Abraham was pleading with the God of righteousness to save Sodom from destruction, he asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). The psalmist said what we need to say to all nations of the world, including my own of Australia: “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity'” (Psalm 96:10).

    The God of love who is also the God of righteousness and justice is not one who promotes ridiculous propositions, as you claim Christians do. It is a perfectly rational proposition when you understand the full nature of God and his attributes. Take a read of the whole Bible to understand the nature of the God of the universe.

    In fact, this position is as reasonable as many parents adopt. They love their children but will not let them get away with disobedience. My love as a parent is also combined with my justice so that when wrong (unrighteousness/injustice) is done by my child, it will be disciplined/punished. I, the loving parent, am also the just parent.

    Yours is the worldview that has holes in it because you don’t comprehend all of the evidence of the attributes of God.

    Sincerely, Spencer Gear

  • Bill, going by the vehemence of some of the comments directed at you in response to your analysis of Dawkins’ book and Singer’s column, obviously you have touched a nerve. That’s good. Congratulations – and more strength to your arm. You run a great website – and your work is much appreciated.
    John Styles

  • Thanks for the article Bill.

    In particicular I thank you for the way you generously and respectfully respond to those who critque you and what you stand for.

    It always amazes me how two people can walk into a forest, see exactly the same thing, but draw two totally different conclusions as to how the forest came to be. I guess it makes we wonder whether they have really seen the same thing or not!

    It also amazes me how people can claim that evolution is a fact. I am not a scientist, but even a simple bloke like me can see that the order and harmony of our world does not suggest random chance and accidental processes, but forthought and design.

    Many thanks again,

    George Kokonis

  • Bill, I find it ironic that you use the term “athiest jihad” to describe Singer’s article. As you must be aware, “jihad” is an Islamic term meaning to strive to serve God, although I guess you mean it in the militant sense of holy war in defense of Islam. In either case, hardly an appropriate term to describe Jill Singer’s rather tame article, which after all finishes with: “Whatever it is that you do or don’t believe in, may we all worship at the altar of reason and have a very happy and safe Christmas. ”

    I stongly doubt that, Dawkins excepted, there is a spirited campaign for athiesm gaining traction. I am not a believer, and in my work, sporting and social contacts, I would estimate that there is a 30/70 split between believers (of all faiths) and non-believers, although it is rarely a topic for much discussion. I don’t sense any conflict over belief, and everyone I know is quite content to respect the right of others to their own opinion.

    If there is indeed a backlash against Christianity in some quarters, I have a theory about the probable cause. I think it can be directly blamed on America, in particular the gung ho militarism of President Bush’s administration, and Bush’s personal promotion of himself as a born-again Christian doing the work of God. The fact that he has had the backing of the extremist fringe of the Christian Right frankly scares the living daylights out of many people, Christians included. I therefore find it hardly surprising that people like Dawkins are publicly questioning religion (although I admit I haven’t read his book yet).

    Daniel Farrelly, Sydney

  • It is interesting to read that it is considered ‘dumb, dumb, dumb’ for Bill to stand by a book that has been around for many thousands of years instead of throwing in the towel, instantly abandoning his deepest beliefs and becoming an atheist overnight! What an astonishing conclusion. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone but I do know that to do so would be ridiculous. Why would a passionate, intelligent, morally driven person abandon thair fundamental beliefs and deepest relationship because of a book that has been around only days? To think that Bill would simply throw away what he passionately (and rightly) believes in just becuase of an ill thought out and light-weight book beggars belief! I’m sure most readers – atheist or otherwise – would agree that to do so would actually be dumb!
    I’m also intrigued to read that people from the mid-west USA have been type-cast as “god-fearin’, bible-thumpin…” Narrow minded? Yes… Tolerant? Not at all. Racist. Indeed…
    I, for one, will make my lifes most important decision based on another FAR more meaningful and accurate book – the Bible. Tony F… I wonder if you’ve actually read it! Somehow I doubt it. If you had, you’d appreciate the incredible depth of content and it’s relevance to your life. If you have read it, you quite clearly haven’t understood. Please do. I have – and I love the peace, freedom and forgiveness and depth of relationship my God has given me. It could all be yours too.

    Peter Howard

  • Hi Bill,
    To me your article points out how absurd it is that an atheist with a theory (of evolution) can dismiss a Christian with a belief (in God) as foolish and misinformed.

    I am a student and a Christian but have explored religions and evolution and have decided to have faith in God rather than faith in natural selection for the origin of life and have decided to have faith in God rather than in random ‘big bang’ for the placement of the universe and our planet.

    Why should I be categorically called intolerant or misinformed? Why should the politicians I vote for demeaned because of their religious faith? This action by nature is intolerance; it is misinformed hypocrites having a go at honest people because of their belief system.

    By all means, atheists, have your belief in a theory unproven (which by very nature does not serve as fact) and stop insulting those who have chosen with solid and reasonable minds Christianity as their belief.

    Jay Rusty, Melbourne

  • Thanks Daniel
    But as I mentioned to Jill, worshipping false gods can sometimes be dangerous. At times in the past when people worshipped at the alter of reason, other people lost their heads – quite literally.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Daniell Farrelly apparently is part of the Hate Bush Brigade. These people claim they hate Bush because of the war – it’s the other way around. They hate the war because of Bush. They had no complaints about Bill Clinton’s bombings while in office, nor the fact he was given the chance to capture Osama bin Laden and passed it by.

    Remember, the hate Bush Brigade among political journalists in the nation’s capital Washington, outnumber the pro-Bush 12 to 1. And why do they, along the Hollywood crowd hate Bush? Two reasons: 1) he has declared himsefl as a born-again Christian and more importantly to them, 2) Bush is anti-abortion. That to them is unforgivable.

    Frank Bellet, Petrie, Queensland

  • Nick claims, “If we followed the Bible to the letter, the West would still have slavery, few women’s rights, and religious and ethnic cleansing on our hands.”

    Actually, according to For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery (2004) by Rodney Stark, slavery was ubiquitous, and it was only ended in Christian countries. Christian leaders constantly spoke against slavery (see also Slavery — early Christian responses in America), but alas they were not always listened to.

    And in Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (2005), Adam Hochschild points out that the anti-slavery movement in Britain was spearheaded by people who would today be called “the religious right”, such as William Wilberforce and Granville Sharp.

    As for women’s rights, 19th century American Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, also wrote in Woman in Sacred History:

    “The object of the following pages will be to show, in a series of biographical sketches, a history of WOMANHOOD UNDER DIVINE CULTURE, tending toward the development of that high ideal of woman which we find in modern Christian countries.”

    Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., Brisbane

  • Hi, Paul,
    You have a point when you mentioned: “Stalin, Hitler and Mao show what happens when people embrace nasty dogma and pursue it with vigour. The same happens with religion and can, on a very small level, turn otherwise calm people into folk publically dehumanising other sections of the community by stripping them of the ability to appreciate basic human experience.”
    I think you do recognise that it is comparing the level of crimes two differenent groups of people are capable of committing: those who do not believe in God and those who do but were somehow misguided in certain dogma. Hitler once said, “we have no scruples .. we are barbarians. We want to be barbarians. It is an honourable title. “Nature is cruel, therefore we too can be cruel”. How diabolical can one get to be when one takes Darwin’s teaching seriously!

     

    SK Leong, Singapore

  • Hi Bill, I have just read the complete list of comments on this site. The joy of the Lord shines out in those articles by Christian believers – they speak with assurance of faith in God our Creator and sustainer of the universe who understands our human nature. Keep up the good work.
    Dawn McGregor

  • I agree with Shane Welsh. It is a waste of time arguing with avowed atheists. As Christians all we can do is share our faith in word and deed and leave the rest to God.

    (Mat 10:14-16).

    I do think however that faith is more than a “personal discipline”. It is a gift. (Rom 6:13). Why some people receive it and others don’t is a mystery. Maybe it has something to do with predestination, which probably goes some way to explaining why atheists are so vehement in their criticism of Christians who have something they don’t!

    Anyway keep up the good work Bill. As Christians we have a primary responsibility to be “salt” and light” in our communities and to not tire of doing what is right (2 Thes 3:13).

    John Bradford

  • Thanks John
    Although there may be a place to give honest answers to honest questions (1 Peter 3:15).
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, on 3/1 you asked if I held to the same reductionist materialism that Dawkins does. Let me say at the outset that I don’t agree with Dawkins’ approach of ridiculing believers. It achieves nothing other than angering them, and my view if that people want to believe in a god they’re quite entitled to, even though I may disagree with them.

    With the current state of knowledge in neuroscience, I prefer not to be boxed into a particular philospohical viewpoint, but I would tend towards nonreductive materialism, i.e. everything is either physical or dependent on the physical. This is a complex subject, and difficult to discuss properly in a forum of this nature, but even everyday experience illustrates that the mind, intelligence and consciousness are clearly associated with the physical brain. The fact that our physical senses can perceive pain, pleasure, colour and other sensations demonstrates this, as does the fact that people with physical brian damage suffer loss of mental and intellectual faculties. Every animal obviously has some subjective qualities of conscious experience, but the differences between humans and other animals are differences of degree rather than character. This is where religion has a problem, because if you postulate a supernatural soul as the explanation for human consciousness, how do you explain the mind-body problem in lower animals to which, as far as I am aware, no Christian theology ascribes a soul.

    I know that your faith-filled correspondents on this forum will scoff at such philosophy, but do they also scoff about quantum physics, which has many characteristics that would once have been thought unbelieveable, and which may ultimately be shown to be part of the explanation for human consciousness? The neurological explanation for consciousness has not yet been discovered, but there is a great deal of work going on in the neurosciences, and scientists can already observe some human thought processes by physical means.

    I frankly find it intriguing that those who question the findings of science (as many have done in this forum) do so in such a superficial manner and with almost childlike wonder, i.e. by argument from incredulity, yet are quite happy to creduluosly accept the existence of a supernatural being for which there is absolutely no observable evidence. Some of the questions make me wonder if these people are actually aware of the current state of scientific knowledge, e.g. in the area of human genetics. Are they aware for instance many of the previously theoretical evolutionary pathways have now been directly observed through mapping of the DNA sequences of the respective genomes? Perhaps it is far more comfortable and less threatening to ignore inconvenient truths.

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • Paul
    I am sorry you have taken offence at what Bill had written regarding being incapable of not knowing love. With respect Bill was commenting on Dawkins and Singer and their radical atheism. It is to these characters and those like them that Bill was refering to. They have positioned themselves so far from God they are incapable of knowing His love, Gods love, not the sort of love one has for their wife, kids, pets, footie team etc. It is the love that comes from God and knowing God that Bill refers to.
    I am 50 this year and in Feb 2002 I came to know the love of Jesus Christ, it fills you, it overwhelms you, it overflows from you and it is in this love (not hate) that Bill puts pen to paper. Love for his fellow man, love for God.
    I would suggest that love was not the motivation behind Dawkins book or Singers article.
    Finally, if the ‘blind’ man cannot see the beauty of the picture hanging on the wall, it doesn’t mean the picture does not exist for those who see it. Whether Dawkins believes it or not we will all stand before God and be judged and we will all spend eternity somewhere.
    God Bless you Bill and keep up the good work.

    Steve Goliger, Western Australia

  • Thanks Bronwyn

    You are certainly right about the highly complex nature of the neurological sciences and the debate about the nature of personhood. But everyone has difficulties with the mind-body problem, not just theists.

    As to what you call “nonreductive materialism” (which has a more strongly atheistic connotation than “nonreductive physicalism”), it is not without some serious problems. Indeed, there are various versions of it, so it depends on which one you subscribe to. But all forms of physicalism would find difficulty with the notion of free will. If humans are merely physical, then not only are we not making genuine moral choices, but we would seem to have no moral accountability at all. Therefore there is no blame in what Hitler did nor praise for what Mother Teresa did.

    And physicalism has major troubles explaining the unity of the self at a given time, and the sameness of the self through change. For example, if there is no soul, what accounts for personal identity over time?

    Then there are some key epistemological/philosophical problems with the position. While at best we can find some correlation between mental capacities and brain functions, this in itself offers no proof whatsoever that there is no soul. It simply means that some (but not all) acts of the mind are reducible to, or explicable by, neurological activity, to some extent. But even substance dualists acknowledge that much.

    Moreover, it can be argued that physicalism entails determinism. In this sense physicalism seems to be self-refuting. If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or reject determinism. In which case, end of discussion.

    And I was pleased to see you admit that you also have a place for faith. To acknowledge that “the neurological explanation for consciousness has not yet been discovered” is not all that different from Dawkins’ criticism of Christians for believing in a “god of the gaps”. You too have gaps, and you rely on wishful thinking that they may one day be explained by your materialist worldview.

    In truth, there is as much speculation and faith in your worldview as there is in any religious person’s worldview. So I trust I will hear no more about how believers rely solely on faith, while science has no place for faith at all, simply evidence and reason. That phony dilemma really needs to be put to rest.

    Also, some theologies do speak of souls in animals. While there are some similarities between humans and animals, there are also major differences. While animals may have souls or types of consciousness, it seems they do not possess such things as morality or religious experience, something unique to humans.

    And with all due respect, your assertion that “Even my cat enjoys a sunset, or appears to” is certainly moving away from hard science (which you so much champion, and claim is your only foundation) and into the realm of silliness and superstition (which you so often accuse religionists of).

    All of which is not to argue that theists have no difficulties here, or that there is a unanimity of positions on this complex issue. But it is to say that non-theists equally have troubles here, and must also rely on faith, speculation and conjecture.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • It is amusing to see that materialists believe that our consciousness is really an effect of our brain responding to external stimuli via the laws of chemistry. But by their own reasoning, this belief itself is merely the result of neural chemistry. Therefore, according to their own belief system, the materialists did not freely reason out their belief according to the evidence. Rather, they believed their theory because they couldn’t help it—it was predetermined by brain chemistry. But then, why should their neurons be trusted over mine? They both obey the same laws of chemistry.

    Many non-christians also recognize a problem in explaining consciousness. Richard Gregory, evolutionist and professor of neuropsychology and director of the brain and perception laboratory at the University of Bristol in England, explained the dilemma in the book Consciousness (1977, pp. 276–7):

    “If the brain was developed by Natural Selection, we might well suppose that consciousness has survival value. But for this it must, surely, have causal effects. But what effects could awareness, or consciousness, have?

    “Why, then, do we need consciousness? What does consciousness have that the neural signals (and physical brain activity) do not have? Here there is something of a paradox, for if the awareness of consciousness does not have any effect—if consciousness is not a causal agent—then it seems useless, and so should not have developed by evolutionary pressure. If, on the other hand, it is useful, it must be a causal agent: but then physiological description in terms of neural activity cannot be complete. Worse, we are on this alternative stuck with mentalistic explanations, which seem outside science.”

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Bill,
    Thanks for responding. Adopting a rigid philosophical position on the issue of consciousness is fraught with difficulty and conflicts with my sense of reason based on observable evidence. I prefer to leave that to the philosophers of this world to waffle on about. The key issue for me comes down to a simple dichotomy:
    – whether consciousness, free will, intelligence etc. are the result of a complex but natural, physical process that we don’t yet fully understand,
    – or whether they require belief in a supernatural soul, which for Christians and other Abrahamic religions also means belief in an immortal soul.

    As I stated previously, you don’t need to be a scientist to observe that brain damage leads to loss of these mental faculties. Where is the mind or soul in situations of coma where there is little or no observable brain function and no signs of consciousness? Clearly the mind is dependent on a fully-functional physical brain, and theories that the mind lives on when the brain is dead require an extraordinary religious conviction that cannot be supported by any observable evidence.

    I disagree with your assertion that gaps in scientific knowledge require faith, or that scientific hypothesis equates to blind speculation. My understanding of faith is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. No believer can prove there is a god, just as no unbeliever can prove there isn’t. God theories by definition are outside nature and therefore not subject to scientific study.

    A scientific hypothesis arises out of physical observation and can be discarded or strengthened by subsequent experimentation or new evidence. Religious faith is absolute, and people of religious conviction have no way to test the faith hypothesis nor do they expect new evidence to come to light which support their beliefs. Theology can only offer refinement or interpretation of existing scriptural texts.

    As for your comments about my cat, you may be pleased to know that I am able to enjoy the many pleasures of life without subjecting every waking moment to hard-core scientific analysis.

    Jonathon,
    I assume that you are the young-earth creationist of the same name. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    This discussion is not helped by your attacking straw men of your own creation. Materialism does not imply that everything is pre-determined, and to suggest that it does is mischief-making that does little to help your cause. You would be well aware of the many areas of science that demonstrate this, quantum mechanics for one.

    Creationists gleefully pounce on any area where science does not yet have all the answers as if it is a weakness of science. Yet the very characteristic that drives science is curiosity about the things we don’t understand. Scientists don’t just shove all such matters into the “God’s little mysteries” basket. They form hypotheses based on what we can observe and what we already know, they conduct research and investigation, and they either refine or discard hypotheses. Gaps in current understanding are simply opportunities for research and the advancement of knowledge.

    Young-earthers promote a hypothesis that is frankly bizarre, absurd and unscientific. This is reckless behaviour, because it requires you to blatantly deny the vast storehouse of cross-disciplinary observations, measurements and experimental results that make up our scientific knowledge base about the universe and the solar system.

    I can respect Christians who practise their faith without needing to deny reality, but YECs deserve no credibility whatsoever. Why is it that the overwhelming majority of Christians accept the established ages of the universe, yet you folk regard an old earth as a threat to your faith?

    Bronwyn

  • Bronwyn Kingsley above makes several claims including these two: (1)”The vast majority of Christians, including most mainstream denominations, have also come to accept this [evolution as fact]” and (2)”If there truly is a perfect god and we are made in his image, why are our minds and bodies so imperfect?”

    She and others may not realise it but the two issues are connected – that is, once the church accepts evolution and it’s corollary of ‘millions-of-years’ of earth history, they have effectively undermined the only answer the Bible gives to Bronwyn’s second point. The answer that Bill and others rightly gave to this charge was to explain how sin and the Fall has corrupted an originally perfect creation, but if the church accepts an ancient age for the earth then we have death and disease existing for many millions of years prior to the Fall and no originally perfect creation.

    Bronwyn also said she was raised a Christian but later became an evolutionist. Perhaps her problem was that her family belonged to one of the denominations that accept evolution as fact? Bronwyn may also be interested to learn that those of us who reject evolution and an ancient age for the earth do so without rejecting a single scientific fact – we just reject a bunch of unprovable naturalistic assumptions.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Ewan,
    I wasn’t “raised a Christian but later became an evolutionist”. I have accepted evolution since as far back as I can remember, because it’s the only theory that explains the observable facts. Rejection of religion came later, a result of detailed study of the origins of scripture.

    I’m interested in your observation that Christians who accept the established scientific age of the earth have no way to explain death and disease prior to the Fall. Yet presumably these Christians (and we are talking about the official position of virtually all of the major mainstream Christian denominations here), must have a theological response to that dilemma, else they’d have no option but to declare themselves non-theists. My theological knowledge is a little rusty now, so perhaps someone could enlighten me? And how, in light of the clear split between fundamentalists and mainstream Christianity, is a Christian to know if they’ve backed the wrong horse?

    You claim that “we just reject a bunch of unprovable naturalistic assumptions” in order to support your faith. I presume the “assumptions” to which you refer are the constancy of physical constants. Yet you happily accept all the other outcomes and products of science, for example the very network that enables us to have this discussion, which are based on the very same “assumptions”. Has your knowledge of science come from a preacher by any chance?

    Seems to me that creationists need to cling desperately to a young earth theory because you’ve tied your faith to it.

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • No Bronwyn, I didn’t learn my science from a preacher, I learnt it from a scientist – perhaps one better qualified than you. For a comparison of the differences between what might be called ‘operational science’ (that provides the knowledge to build things like computers) and ‘origins science’ (that does little more than make up stories about the past), I suggest you take a look at this:
    www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/3830/

    If by the “constancy of physical constants” you are referring to radiometric decay rates, I would answer yes. How do you know that radiometric decay rates have remained constant over time?

    Concerning “Christians who accept the established [I would say ‘presumed’] scientific age of the earth have[ing] no way to explain death and disease prior to the Fall.” You are right – such Christians can’t explain it, so they just reinterpret God’s meaning of “very good” to include death and disease. See “The god of an old-earth”:
    www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/508

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • As opposed to those commenting on this website, it concerns me that public commentators such as Jill Singer do not exercise more open mindedness and intellectual honesty in their opinion pieces.

    Take her recent ‘Truth Crucified’ column. The intellectual dishonesty or at least sloppiness was appalling. Some examples:

    Her assertion that the Red Cross has ‘nought to do with religion’ is inaccurate considering that the founder – Jean Henry Dunant was a devout Calvinist and that the cross and crescent are hardly secular symbols.

    Her point about Christianity not being solely responsible for ‘western civilization’ fails to take into account that the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman knowledge in europe following the ‘middle ages’ recieved invaluable assistance from the Church who not only played a key role in keeping much of this knowledge alive, also preserved the linguistic key to unlock the knowledge (latin) against excruciating odds.

    While is always possible to hold up examples of persecutions or atrocities perpetuated by the Church, there is hardly ever any acknowledgement of the critical role it has played in the advancement of human quality of life.

    The assertion that the Church should not be involved in the provision of education, community welfare, health and aged care services and that these services should be entirely provided by the government is not founded in reality. If the Churches unilaterally pulled out of providing these services tomorrow, our society would literally collapse. Anyone who thinks there is some evangelical agenda to the provision of these services has clearly not been inside a Church run school, hospital or welfare facility for at least 30 years.

    I am not fussed one iota if people do not believe in God or feel that His existence cannot be proved. Faith is not a popularity contest, its the exact opposite. Much of what is dark in the Church’s history can be attributed to it becoming an institution to serve the geopolitical ambitions of thousands of years worth of politicans instead of a faith movement. Its impossible to imagine that the people sheltering in the catacombs could have ever concieved of the Inquisition or the Reformation.

    What is entirely unreasonable is that atheists exercise a intellectual hypocrisy in their attitudes to Christianity. They claim that God cannot exist because no one can prove it; but they cannot disprove His existence either. They want to uphold science as the only authority on the truth, and yet science revises its opinion on things all the time, disproving its own infalability. Has anyone heard of the planet formerly known as Pluto? Secularists are alarmed at the prospect that the Church might involved in providing pre-abortion counselling (a claim that has been shown to be a beat-up) but can they acknowledge that pro-choice advocates also have an axe to grind and are as unlikely to be able to provide a balanced perspective to women in this situation?

    If we are going to discuss these issues lets at least do so honestly.

    Ben Carter

  • Thanks Bronwyn (5/1/07)

    But you continue to insist that there is no faith in your position, and only faith in ours. Very few sensible scientists or philosophers will make such simplistic claims and pose such silly false dilemmas. Try to get back into the real world. Every time you turn the computer on, you have faith it will work. Every time you open your mouth to speak, you have faith that words will come out. While these and other activities are highly probable, none are absolutely certain. Thus the place for faith in every one of our lives, every day.

    As I have already said, and you have yet to answer, if mental activity is solely reducible to brain functions, and nothing else, then I was programmed to think as I do, just as you were. So why are you feigning a rational argument if we are all simply the product of impersonal forces, chemical activities in the brain, etc. Your very insistence on debating seems to prove the deficiency of your case.

    And you continue to provide caricatures of belief systems. Who says that “religious faith is absolute”? For the Christian at least, as I have said time and again, faith is a rational faith, based on the evidence. Even the apostle Paul admits such. He says that if Jesus is not risen, then our faith is in vain.(1 Cor. 15: 14) Provide the body of Jesus and we will have to give it all up.

    Your continued insistence on false polarizations, and the implied superiority of your own position over those you disagree with simply tells us more about the arrogance and narrow-mindedness of secularism than it does about the evidence for or against religious belief.

    And while you may not subject everything to “hard-core scientific analysis”, your worldview seems to allow for nothing else. Please explain to me aesthetics, beauty, truth, meaning and purpose, to start with, if you are committed to philosophical naturalism. And if you are not, why do you speak as if you are?

    The fact that you (but not your cat) may enjoy a sunset fits well into my worldview, because I believe reality is more than just the natural or physical realm. But it makes no sense whatsoever in yours. If what is true is only what empiricism can declare to be true, you have truncated your world tremendously, and have no rationale for anything beyond mere matter.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • It’s amusing to see Bronwyn lecture me on quantum mechanics, which was an important part of my doctoral thesis in spectroscopy 😛 As for the rest, it was just fact-free elephant-hurling.

    Bronwyn is also wrong about faith and science. The Christian faith is based on historical evidence such as the Resurrection of Jesus (maybe she would like to demonstrate the errors in papers such as The Impossible Faith.

    Conversely, science requires a number of presuppositions to be accepted on faith if you are an atheist, but which follow logically from a biblical worldview (see explanation). It is thus no accident that modern science grew out of a Christian culture while it was stillborn in others, as scholars such as Rodney Stark have documented.

    Finally, creationists do not resort to ‘god of the gaps’ arguments, appealing to ignorance. Rather, we appeal to what we DO know about information theory and chemistry to argue against goo-to-you evolution. It is also rich that when evolutionists are confronted with a difficulty, they spruik, “It’s the job of science to solve problems”, but when they confront creationists with a difficulty, it’s “why don’t you give up and go home?”

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Greetings.

    I have a question for the athiests: What would be deemed acceptable evidence?

    Ian Fisher, Melbourne

  • Bill, Jonathan, Ewan, Ben et al,

    Our respective brains are obviously wired differently. I cannot find any persuasive argument for the existence of God, and you apparently can’t understand why anyone would be a disbeliever.

    Some brief points that explain my position:

    1. There is no observable evidence that there is a supernatural God. Gods were once invoked to explain thunder, lightning, earthquakes and volcanos. But science has demonstrated that all of these events have natural explanations, and science continues to make inroads into the areas we don’t yet fully understand. But invoking God doesn’t explain nature’s mysteries because it simply creates another mystery – where did God come from?

    2. Religious faith is largely a product of parentage and culture, not of independent reason. Christians believe as fervently in their particular faith as do people of other faiths in theirs. Christianity makes no more sense to me than Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Hinduism, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster*. And I’m sure those other religions are equally unacceptable to each of you. And even Christians can’t agree amongst themselves what they believe. There are many Christians who doubt the Resurrection and Virgin Birth, and there are many (the majority) of Christians who think Genesis is a creation myth and don’t have to force themselves to think the earth is young.

    3. There is nothing in the Bible that could not have been written by ordinary human beings. Nothing in the Bible demonstrates knowledge that did not exist at the time these texts were written.

    4. The God of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is a vengeful, spiteful and angry god, wilfully smiting all and sundry who displeased him. How can such a god be considered perfect with such human failings?

    5. Christians meekly accept that pain, disease, violence, evil, death and natural disasters are God’s retribution on all of humanity because Eve ate an apple. Yes, I know that’s simplistic, but really, you have to be kidding.

    6. If a supernatural god really created the universe, he went far out of his way to make it look like he didn’t do it, including leaving massive amounts of evidence of a very old universe, and ensured that his very existence was merely left as a matter of philosophical speculation. Yet this very same god is said to require that humans must believe in him to be saved. This simply defies reason.

    Debates like we are having here have been going on since time immemorial, but have obviously gained intensity as mankind discovers more about the natural world. I know that none of these points will convince any of you, but they sure convince me, and I would like to think that you can at least understand why they convince me. Equally, none of the arguments I have heard here or elsewhere for the existence of God are even vaguely convincing to me.

    I don’t go through life trying to convince other people to become atheists, and I’m not trying to do that here. But each of you has asked in various ways, “How can you think like you do when I think X”. Well we each come to our own conclusions as a result of our life experience, culture, education and (hopefully) the application of reason using our human intelligence. I’ve come to my own conclusions after long and deep thought.

    And Bill, I reject your continued assertions that a material world implies pre-determinism. I have free will, but I simply don’t accept that “I think, therefore there is a god”. I think, or at least I think I think, but I still don’t know how I think, just as you don’t know how you think. Thankfully there are many good and clever people (and I personally know a few of them) working very hard on resolving that question. Watch this space.

    I have many friends who are Christians, and some try to convince me that I am going to hell and that I should believe as a kind of insurance (i.e. Pascal’s wager). Yet an omniscient god would surely know that such belief was not sincerely held and would therefore not be deceived. I often wonder how many Christians are in that category?

    Bronwyn Kingsley

    * See: www.venganza.org/

  • More elephant hurling from Bronwyn. But once again, she commits the genetic fallacy by attributing belief to upbringing, which has no bearing at all on whether the belief is true, and is a cheap way of ignoring the evidence already presented.

    While she might have asked as a five-year-old “who created God”? it’s about time she grew up — only things which have a beginning need a cause (see www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/1851).

    And if she wants to whinge that God is mean, then she needs to explain how she can judge meanness in a world where we are just rearranged pond scum, the result of survival of the fittest. Her claim is really equivalent to merely ‘I don’t like God’, which has no more objectivity under her own belief system than ‘I don’t like bananas’. See www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/2207/ for more explanation.

    And under her own system, she can’t even justify the reliability of her own thoughts. Natural selection would produce a brain that promotes survival, not logic. It is not accident that Christianity, not evolution, has historically provided the foundation for reason, as Bill wrote in Christianity, Reason and the Rise of the West .

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks Bronwyn

    Of course if you really believe our brains are hardwired the way they are, then there is no debate. The fact that you keep insisting on a debate implies that you do not accept your own materialistic assumptions.

    And I do understand why people are unbelievers, just as I now understand my own former unbelief. It is because people refuse to follow the evidence, and their understanding has been darkened by selfishness and stubbornness (what theologians call sin). Pride is the chief sin, and it keeps people from being open to truth.

    1. There is plenty of evidence for a supernatural, personal, infinite God. You just refuse to accept the evidence. And you are again mistaken: Only what has a beginning must have a cause. God by definition is an uncaused being who is without beginning.

    2. Millions of people brought up as atheists, agnostics or of other faiths have converted to Christianity. I am one of them. But your narrow worldview just does not acknowledge the existence of such people.

    3. The hundreds of detailed prophecies, fulfilled in minute detail hundreds of years later are not likely to have been written by mere human ability. And to have a book with a single consistent and coherent theme, made up of 66 books, written by 40 authors from three continents over a 1500 year period is also evidence of a Bible with more than just human authorship.

    4. You simply offer a caricature of a God who is certainly holy and just, but merciful and loving as well.

    5. Wrong again. The causes of evil and suffering are many, with much of it due to human choices. At least in theism one can speak of good and evil. It makes no sense whatsoever in your worldview. Please explain good and evil to me.

    6. The more that scientists study the wonder and complexity of the universe, the more evidence they find for design, order, meaning and purpose. The more we learn from molecular biology and genetics, for example, the more we see a universe awash with meaningfulness, intelligibility, and purpose. It is the philosophical naturalists, pushing on faith their scientism, that are the ones who refuse to be open to the evidence. Fortunately not all atheists are so willfully blind and arrogant. Former atheist Antony Flew said he embraced theism because he “had to go where the evidence leads”. Would that all atheists were as humble and open to truth and reason.

    You say you are not tying to convince anyone about your atheism. Then explain this: there I was, minding my own business, putting articles on my website, and you come along with your comments, suggesting that I and all theists are living is superstition, and that you folk alone are in possession of all truth, reason and fact. That sounds like you are on a missionary crusade to me. Certainly Dawkins is, who you so strongly defend.

    I am glad you believe in free will, however inconsistent it is to hold such a belief in the face of your materialistic reductionism.

    And I do know how I think. I think, feel and makes choices because I am made in the image of a thinking, feeling and volitional personal God. That is a much more coherent position than to seek to explain such activities from a purely materialistic worldview.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • In reply to Bronwyn’s point 6 above: I don’t think the world looks “very old” at all. I used to, but that was only because I, like most Westerners, have been conditioned from a very young age to think of it that way. It took some time, but after becoming convinced that both the Bible and real science indicate an age of only about 6000 years, I started to see it in terms of thousands not millions of years old. For more see “The earth: how old does it look?”
    www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/373

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Hi Brownwyn

    Did you ever sit down and ask yourself what would be acceptable proof of God?

    The Bible simply says in John 15:7 to 10: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”

    Have you simply tried obeying what Jesus has commanded His creation to do and living the life style He outlined in the sermon on the mount? (Matthew 5-7)

    You see God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. I used to have alot of questions and worries when I was growing up. I tried my own way but always left room for God, just in case. It’s was the day I humbled myself and chose to obey the Lord that He revealed Himself and WOW, He is awsome.

    Did you acually notice the things that made God angry in the old testament? And don’t thing sin angers God any less these days, just look at the drought in Australia, just like the Lord promised (see deuteronomy chapter 28 for the blessings (for obedience) and curses (for disobedience))

    I can’t give you proof of God, but I can tell you how you can get it.

    Have a nice day
    Ian Fisher, Melbourne

  • Ewan,

    On 9/1 you asked.
    “How do you know that radiometric decay rates have remained constant over time?”

    C-14 dating has been cross-correlated with tree-ring data going back 8000 years, so we know for certain that its rate of decay has not changed. That covers the time scale alleged by creationists as the age of the earth. I suppose you are then going to say that long half-life isotopes may behave differently, but there is no scientific theory to explain that and no empirical evidence. Decay rates have been measured at high temperatures and high pressures and are shown to be invariant. Remember that decay rates would have to be almost a million times faster in order to accommodate the creationist timescale. It’s creationists who have the obligation to explain their wacky theory.

    Last year I was present at an address by a US creationist, Dr. Don DeYoung, in Brisbane. He was asked why isotope dating revealed increasing age with depth of strata in the geologic column. His answer was, and Tas Walker was there as a witness, that “I don’t know how God did that but obviously he did”.

    The problem that creationists have is that they start with the assumption that the Biblical account of creation is correct, and force the evidence to fit, even if it means invoking magic from God as DeYoung does. That’s not science!

    Creationists also have yet to explain the distant starlight problem, which further validates the scientific age of the universe.

    Finally, the sun can be dated using “helioseismic” methods which strongly agree with the radiometric dates found for the oldest meteorites and the earth.

    It’s sad that you think otherwise, Ewan, but creationist cosmology is unscientific hogwash.

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • Dawkins must be delighted. Germaine Greer said of his book “Its a mess.” (ABC Tuesday Book Club) However he, with Jill Singer’s help, has certainly got a few people stirred up. If everyone is actually thinking and those who believe in prayer are praying we should see a lot of positives out of all this.
    Katherine Fishley, Wantirna

  • Dear Ewan,
    If the world could be shown to be more than 6,000 years old, would that prove that your faith and truth are wrong?
    Andrew Lake

  • Now Bronwyn, whose philosophical sophistication is reflected by her love of spaghetti monsters, resorts to a hearsay report of an off-the-cuff response to a leading question in an oral Q&A time. Note that Dr De Young’s colleagues have adduced examples of where the radiometric “date” does NOT increase with increasing depth, which is why the question was leading. I also remind her of the C-14 in diamonds which disproves the millions of years.

    However, even his reported answer, which is not one I would use (see documentation), it is little different from a common evolutionist answer: “I don’t know how this evolved, but it must have because we are here!”

    For the distant starlight problem that is supposedly unanswered, see the answer at www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/3664, and note also that big bangers have their own problem with light travel time.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Yes it would Andrew, but since ‘age’ is not a substance that can be directly measured, I’d like to know how you propose to do it? See:
    www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/4347/

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Hi Ewan,

    May I ask you a couple of questions?

    1. Do you ever use a watch to tell the time?
    2. Do you ever use a clock to tell the time?
    3. Do you ever use your computer to tell the time?
    4. Do you ever use your mobile phone to tell the time?
    5. Which do you think is the most accurate?
    6. What is the reason for your choice in Q.5?

    Many thanks in anticipation!
    Andrew Lake

  • Bronwyn you said: “The problem that creationists have is that they start with the assumption that the Biblical account of creation is correct, and force the evidence to fit, even if it means invoking magic from God as DeYoung does. That’s not science!”

    However something very similar could be said of the evolutionist: “The problem that evolutionists have is that they start with the assumption that evolution is true and force the evidence to fit, even if it means invoking just-so stories. That’s not science!”

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • I’ve really enjoyed reading everyones comments today. And I was happy to be educated by Ewan as to why an old-earth position doesn’t fit with the theology of the Fall which shows instantaneous death and decay. I had other reasons for believing in only 6000 years. One is that cataclysmic events like the Great Flood petrifies things instantaneously (therefore no normal decay, but perfect preservation) and makes things look old. Another is consistency in Biblical language. In the rest of the Bible when it says a day, it means a 24-hour day. And in the Creation event is says the sun rose and went down–well that’s 12 hours.
    Rebecca Field, Victoria

  • Unfortunately, Ewan, you are wrong about science (yet again!) Evolutionists did not start from a position of assumption about evolution. Science progresses through a continual process of testing and retesting. If an idea or concept or theory is proven to be wrong it is rejected and we move on to something that works better. Incidentally, many christians don’t have a problem with science or evolution.
    Andrew Lake

  • Jonathan,

    De Young’s statement is not hearsay. Your colleague Tas Walker was chairing the meeting. Why don’t you confirm it with him?

    The reason young-earth creationists cannot get published in real scientific journals is because their theories don’t stand up to real peer review (as opposed to peer review by other creationists), and all too often they are publishing outside their specialist fields. Humphreys is a case in point and his theory has been widely debunked, even by other Christians who are actually qualified in cosmology.

    Here’s one example from the “Reasons to Believe” website, a Christian website that aims to show that real science is not necessarily incompatible with faith:

    The Unraveling of Starlight and Time
    www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/unravelling.shtml

    Some excerpts:
    “Starlight and Time and related writings by Humphreys exhibit profound misunderstandings of relativity theory and cosmology. Humphreys’ theory is irremediably flawed. It is very unfortunate that these writings have been so widely distributed in the young-earth community and have misled so many Christians.”

    “Jesus’ question to Nicodemus 2000 years ago suggests a set of challenges to Christian apologists today: if our claims about earthly, empirically testable things such as natural history are demonstrably untrue, how can we expect unbelievers to accept our testimony on subjects which are not empirically testable and which call for a faith response? The answer is clear: we cannot. If our testimony on scientific matters is demonstrably false, rather than giving unbelievers reasons to consider the Gospel, we will give them grounds to reject it. To put it another way, if the Church demonstrates itself to be unreliable in the interpretation of scientific matters which are subject to verification by unbelievers, it undermines, by association, the credibility of our claims that unbelievers need to pay attention to the Bible’s statements about spiritual matters which are not empirically verifiable by unbelievers. If Christians’ claims about physical reality cannot be trusted, what grounds do unbelievers have to trust our claims about spiritual realities? Demonstrably false “science” gives the lost “reasons to reject” the Gospel — “reasons to disbelieve” rather than “reasons to believe.” ”

    Bronwyn Kinsgley

  • Bronwyn, your report is still hearsay, and in any case would at best prove something about Dr DeYoung NOT about creationists in general.

    It is also disingenuous for a misotheist like you to cite with approval the Reasons to Believe crowd. In any case, Dr Humphreys has answered that lot, and I have refuted them in detail in my book Refuting Compromise.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Bronwyn,
    We believe in science because we believe in the God who created science and who created our minds to study and interpret science. Just like we don’t worship trees, but the Creator of the tree and He is the one who gave us the tree to take care of and benefit from. To not worship the Creator of what we see is paganism, or at best neo-paganism.
    It is the interpretation of data and any false data that we have problems with. And I believe there are a lot of lies fed to the public regarding so-called hard data in the evolutionist camp. And these lies are very difficult to call to account. I just remember not to believe everything I read just because it is in hard print.
    Now the Bible is in hard print and I have chosen to believe that. The total sense of it has not changed at it has been handed down through different versions. I reject certain interpretations of the Bible because I go by the rule of thumb to let the Bible interpret itself. Inserting evolution into the Bible sends off warning bells that this is not consistent with the integrity of the 66 Books within as a whole document.
    Andrew Lake, I believe that there was an original desire many evolution scientists to find an alternate theory to distract people from Creation. Many people who perpetuate the evolution theory want desperately to believe that there is no Creator, because if they had to believe there was, they obviously would have to worship Him and they prefer to worship any number of other things. However, if they desperately want to find the Creator, He promises that He is findable.
    Rebecca Field, Victoria

  • Hi Rebecca,

    I am not sure than many people who post here agree with your version of faith.

    If you look through history you will see that anything written at a certain time aligned with human knowledge at that time. There are many ideas that we debate today and even live by which were not operant in biblical times – should we pretend that these don’t exist or have value because we have another 2,000 year of knowledge, history and culture on which to decide our personal lives and how we live togther?

    The tragedy of a fundamentalist view of the bible is that it is stuck in that time warp and struggles to interpret any core meaning and thus becomes obsessed with issues such as creationism, homosexuality, abortion, etc. Most christians move beyond this, look for the core teachings and deal with the everyday realities of a society, whose whole wealth and existence depends on the productivity of science and technology.
    Andrew Lake

  • Hi Ewan

    In case you hadn’t worked it out. The way you tell the time (on your computer etc) is ultimately based on the predictability of atomic processes. Just like isotopic dating.

    Funny you’ll accept one but not the other.
    Andrew Lake

  • Actually, Ewan is quite rational, and Andrew Lake very selective, since he would dismiss the C-14 dates of diamonds because of his billions-of-years faith.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Unfortunately, Andrew, you are wrong about science (yet again!). You said “Evolutionists did not start from a position of assumption about evolution.” Maybe not, but those scientists credited as the founders of evolution (and the uniformitarian geologists who preceded them) certainly did start from a position of assumed philosophical naturalism – this is the point. As Rebecca said above, the agenda was to invent a story to explain the creation without the need of a Creator. Only by doing this can one become an “intellectually fulfilled atheist”.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Johnathon,
    If Bronwyn was present (which she states) at the meeting and heard the utterences first hand then it is not hearsay.

    By the same token if you do not consider hearsay as evidence (like most criminal courts), then can we safely assume that you place no credence in the bible as we all know it was written many years after the events stated and rely totally on hearsay. Of course exception given to the gospels written by the apostles who were there first hand but let’s face it, they were on a recruitment drive and quite willing to embellish the facts.

    My thanks to Bill for hosting a very interesting site.

    Marius Wytenburg, Brisbane

  • Thanks Marius
    But you need to be challenged here. What facts did they embellish? And why? Why would the early church make up the whole thing anyway? It was far too costly. All they got for their troubles was persecution, rejection and death. Not much of a deal there. And a liar usually has a selfish motive. What were the selfish motives of the early disciples? It is thus quite unlikely that they made up the gospel story.
    Similarly, why did thousands of his followers suffer torture and death if they knew it was all a lie? Even under so much torture, not one ever confessed to making it all up.
    Also, most of the early followers of Jesus were Jews. This kind of “myth” would have been the last thing they would have invented.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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