CultureWatch

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

The Missionaries of Anti-theism

Jan 12, 2007

The atheist fundamentalists have been working overtime as of late. Not only did Jill Singer pen another zinger in the Herald Sun (January 8), but the militant missionary for atheism, Pamela Bone, also had an article in the Australian (January 9). Both articles were full of the usual froth and bubble.

Singer’s piece was a vitriolic attack on myself, generating way more heat than light.

She continues to be well out of her depth. For example, she makes this incredible remark: “Apart from the fact that decently run secular state systems alleviate the need, the Red Cross is the world’s largest and oldest international humanitarian relief organisation: it was set up in 1863 and has nought to do with religion.” Nought? The International Red Cross of course was started by Jean Henry Dunant, a devout Swiss Calvinist. Clara Burton, founder of the American Red Cross, was deeply religious. Even the words ‘cross’ or ‘crescent’ should have alerted Ms Singer to their obvious religious roots.

Organisations like the Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence, World Vision, Catholic Social Services, the YMCA, the YWCA, Compassion International, and Food for the Hungry all have clear Christian origins and most maintain their Christian identification today. Thus Ms Singer’s remarks are as uninformed as they are disingenuous.

But her whole piece is just more of the same. Venom oozes out of every sentence, with little or no clear thinking and evidence. The whole tenor of her article suggests that she really has just one thought in mind: “How dare you challenge me and my atheism!” It was of course she who started this fight, by deliberately attacking the faith of millions and using one of the holiest days of the year to do so. And my article was not an attack on her, as she contends. Much of what I wrote concerned the militant anti-theism of Richard Dawkins. The fact that she is so upset by it all may suggest that for all her strident misotheism, deep down inside she is having a few niggling doubts, which perhaps she needs to come to terms with.

Indeed, that may be the real heart of the issue. Ms Singer confesses to a Christian upbringing, which she has clearly rejected big time. I do not know what negative experiences she may have had, but she really needs to deal with her hatred and bitterness, instead of lashing out at those who allow for more than her goo-to-you materialism.

Ms Bone’s piece is slightly less nasty in tone, but similar in its wispy-eyed humanism. It is also filled with some pretty ugly accusations. Consider this gem: “Yes, worldwide, religion is growing because religious people tend to have many children: children who are then indoctrinated with the beliefs of their parents (some call this child abuse).” Thanks Ms Bone for accusing perhaps 90 per cent of the world’s population of being child abusers. And of course her children are free from such abuse? Evidently humanistic indoctrination is not indoctrination.

Or consider this howler: “Everything good in religion can be had without religion.” Everything? These are just some of the ‘goods’ that Christianity has to offer: forgiveness of sins, unconditional love and acceptance with God, a clean conscience, and eternal life. How does secular humanism give us that?

And as a thorough-going philosophical naturalist, how can she even talk about good? As her hero Richard Dawkins reminds us, “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, 1995)

Borrowed Spiritual Capital

Bone makes the same mistake that others did when they attacked me over an earlier comment I made. I had written in my critique of Singer’s original piece these words, “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.”

That comment got all kinds of people foaming at the mouth. ‘How dare you claim I cannot love, or appreciate beauty.’ Of course what I said was they are unable to “fully enjoy or appreciate” these things. What did I mean by that? Those who are scientific reductionists, who believe that only matter matters, have no rational basis for claiming such things even exist. As materialists, they cannot offer a coherent explanation for such non-material entities. The metaphysical or the supernatural world just does not fit into their worldview.

These people are simply living off of borrowed spiritual capital. These nonmaterial things are pinched by the secularists from theistic worldviews. They do not belong in their worldview, and are not explicable by it. And for that reason, they cannot be fully enjoyed as well, not as they were intended by God.

But that is not to say that secularists or atheists may not appreciate, desire or benefit from such things. Nor that they are incapable of doing ‘good’ things. The only reason any goodness happens is because of the goodness of God in the first place. Despite their protests, non-believers are still made in God’s image, and they still live in God’s world. Thus, because of God’s grace, they can do good things. This is what theologians refer to as “common grace”. Even non-believers participate in, and receive blessings from, the creator whom they deny. Or as Jesus put it, God causes his sun to shine on the good and the evil, and his rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).

The doctrine of original sin does not suggest that people are as bad as they can possibly be, or that they are incapable of doing any good. It just means that every aspect of humanity is affected by the fall, and without God’s help and grace, humans will simply descend into more darkness and selfishness.

So atheists can certainly acknowledge that such non-material things exist, but they are then being inconsistent with their own non-theistic presuppositions, while being consistent with who they are as God’s image-bearers.

Atheist Hate Speech

Another issue raised by the various misotheist tirades is worth exploring. Many of their writings are quite savage and nasty. ‘Hate-filled’ would not be a bad description of some of their polemics. We might refer to this as atheist hate speech.

Secularists are often going on about how the Bible is hate speech, and how the words of religious fanatics are not just words. They claim that their speech often translates into action; that hate-filled ideas lead to hate-filled actions.

OK, so why do they not apply this reasoning to themselves? Do they really believe that all their anti-theistic hate speech will just remain verbal? Are they seriously denying that some people will read this vilifying material and go out and engage in acts of violence? Why the double standards here?

If religious fundamentalists are capable of provoking violent actions by their words, surely atheist fundamentalists are capable of doing just the same. And we have seen it happen before. Preceding Krystalnacht and the Nazi reign of terror, there was plenty of anti-Semitic speech in circulation. Virulent anti-Semitic writings, along with stirring speeches by Hitler before the outbreak of the Second War, provided the verbal grounds for later violent actions.

And as I mentioned elsewhere, the French Revolution is a great example of how the ideas of militant secularism were translated into ugly actions. The writings of the French despisers of religion like Voltaire and Diderot certainly contributed to the secularist rage later witnessed on the streets of Paris and elsewhere. They in part laid the foundation for the desecration of churches and the many clergy being sent to the guillotine.

Indeed, it seems a good case can be made, for example, that Ms Singer’s recent outbursts violate Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. There is little question about Ms Singer’s intolerance toward those with religious convictions, nor that she seemed to go out of her way to vilify them.

Conclusion

This is, nonetheless, a democracy. So the missionaries for atheism are free to write their anti-religious gospels. But one would like to see a lot less venom and hatred, and a lot more sound argument and rational debate coming from their camp. Much of what we have seen lately tells us more about the psychology of the atheists, than about the truth of their worldviews.

www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,21023731-5000107,00.html
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21029153-7583,00.html

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47 Responses to The Missionaries of Anti-theism

  • What a sensitive wee soul Jill Singer is, if she thinks that Bill Muehlenberg’s calmly-reasoned response to her atheistic anti-Christmas diatribe was a “personal attack”. But it’s common for anti-Christians to be only too happy to attack Christianity in the most stident terms, but to take offense very easily at the mildest response.

    And she is disingenuous to say “He [BM] says he presumes that I believe religion is the root of all evil.” Well, I can’t imagine how he could have gained such an impression, just because of her effusive praise for Dawkins who made a TV program with that title, and her gushing about his latest book that called the Bible “just plain weird” and “systematically evil”, and calls a “cruel ogre” and a “monster”, and the atoning death of Christ “vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent,” and “morally obnoxious”.

    Most of the rest of her diatribe is spent on her embitterment about her own religious upbringing, dismissing the well documented Christian foundations for modern experimental science, stillborn in places like Greece, and explaining away the numerous Christian-founded charities with her apparent motto, “In bloated government bureaucracies we trust.”

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Another great piece Bill. Many thanks.

    What a shame Jill Singer didn’t embrace the faith that her elders tried to instil in her. Perhaps it was more a religious indoctrination, rather than a genuine faith and display of a real connection between people and their Creator; that seems to have scarred Singer in some way, and may explain her aversion to faith. Who knows?

    I guess this may explain why many people have rejected not only the Christian faith, but vehemently oppose and ridicule those that do.

    Whilst Jill will probably choke on these next words, I will state them anyway. “I will pray for you Jill.”

    George Kokonis

  • Bill,
    You said:
    “But one would like to see a lot less venom and hatred, and a lot more sound argument and rational debate coming from their camp.”

    The same could be said for your own writings. The bile and spittle fairly flies from your articles, and your hatred of atheists is plain. Aren’t Christians supposed to love everybody?

    By the way, the term misotheist can’t be applied to atheists. You can’t hate God unless you believe he exists, so only a theist can be a misotheist.

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • Sorry, but wrong again Bronwyn. I don’t hate atheists. I am not thrilled about many of their dangerous and nasty ideas, but I do not hate them.

    And yes we are called to love everyone. But love is not sentimental sap, nor is it embracing every worldview and truth claim that comes along. Rather, it is willing the highest good for the other person. It might be hard for you to get your head around it, but I in fact love atheists, and I love you too.

    That is why I spend so much time trying to speak truth into their lives, and praying for them. Just as I have, perhaps some of them will be set free from their reductionist prisons and come into the liberating freedom of a love relationship with Jesus Christ. Even though you have rejected God, he is still there if you are willing to receive his love.

    And Dawkins, et. al., are exactly that: misotheists. They have an irrational and ideological hatred of theists.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • David Williamson thinks Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ offers a compelling argument for atheism. Should we really be surprised that a far left-wing playwright with no scientific qualifications finds Dawkins’ arguments compelling? Let’s see. We can believe in a supernatural, personal and eternal God who supernaturally created the universe out of nothing, or we can believe that nothing created everything out of nothing. Furthermore, if it is a scientific fact that life emerged and evolved via a gradual process of genetic alteration from one generation to the next, then why did Richard Dawkins himself admit on camera (in the documentary ‘From a Frog to a Prince’) that he could not think of a single example where there had been a net increase in information in any particular organism. Who is really being irrational and deluded here? Sorry, I really don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.
    Andrew Kulikovsky

  • Pamela Bone thinks we would all do better without religion. There used to be an empire which was based on atheism and that outlawed religion. It was called the ‘Union of Soviet Socialists Republics.’ According to R. J. Rummel, from 1917 to 1987, that empire murdered 62 million of its own citizens. Yet what I find most interesting is that atheists and humanists actually think they are not at all religious. Christians believe in a supernatural God by faith. Atheists, on the other hand, cannot disprove the existence of God, so their unbelief is also based on faith. Moreover, humanist thinkers John Dewey, Julian Huxley, Roy Sellars, Curtis Reese, Charles Potter, Corliss Lamont, Paul Kurtz and many others, all described secular humanism as a religion. You’re kidding yourself Pamela. You do believe in God. Your God is yourself.
    Andrew Kulikovsky

  • Like many misotheists, Bronwyn is hypersensitive to criticism of her own faith but blind to the vitriol from her fellow believers that is amply documented.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Dear All,

    The excitement and demands of a new university term beckon and this time next week I will be back researching the micro- and macro-mechanisms of evolution, determined to challenge the orthodoxy if I can find the least crack in other scientists’ ideas!

    I would very much like to say thank you to all fellow correspondents for taking the time to express your views, enter debate and engage with others of divergent opinions. I have already written to say thank you to Bill for his considerable efforts in bringing us all together to meet in cyberspace.

    So to one all, atheist and theist alike, health, happiness and the love of family and friends!

    Andrew Lake

  • Bill, it is great to have a guy speak the truth from his heart via his head. Well done for standing God’s way, the only true, right way. Bill, keep standing for what is true and right, Our country Australia needs more men like you.
    Judith Bond

  • As always, fantastic stuff Bill. It’s great to see someone expose these opinion pieces for the drivel they are.
    Tim Baker

  • Once again athiests write articles promoting intolerance masked by language – I notice that when people like Bone write an article they use very sneaky language, language that betrays their personal view of the people they are writing about. Words like ‘bluffed’ and ‘intimidated’ to describe the non-religious people – implying they are victims of the ‘stupid’ Christians whose opinions are nonsense and who only multiply in number because they have a lot of indoctrinated kids, and what’s worse they abuse their children by teaching them what they believe.

    She then states she is not speaking on behalf of all non-religious people but then contradicts herself by saying ‘I can safely say that one quarter to one third of Australians who don’t believe in God are fed up…’, seems to me that you ARE speaking for the non-religious (large) minority of 12 percent Ms Bone (which is not a quarter to one third but less than one fifth). She says she doesn’t need to speak of the harm religion does… well I think you do Ms Bone to back up your insinuation because your other claims seem to be quite exaggerated. It seems Ms Bone’s article is aimed and focused on people who agree with her and her language excludes the possibility for debate as though ALL religious people absolutely are stupid and victimize the intelligent non-religious people.

    Joshua Ferrara

  • When I read Jill Singer’s article I was astounded at the bad philosophy, bad theology and bad journalism that she expounds. Her diatribes simply show she has not yet come to terms with God. She really does need our prayers, as George suggests.

    Further to what Bronwyn has written above, yes, Christians are called to love others. However, we must not confuse love with total acceptance that whatever someone does is OK. Love and justice go together. That’s what was revealed when Jesus died on the cross, demonstrating God’s love for us and satisfying God’s judgment of sin.
    Alan Every

  • Bill,
    You said:
    “… Even though you have rejected God, he is still there if you are willing to receive his love.”

    According to many of your other correspondents, I can’t be a Christian unless I believe that the earth is 6000 years old. I can accept that the existence of a supernatural personal God is a matter of faith, but if that faith must be bonded with denial of observable reality I have a major problem. To believe that the earth is 6000 years old is, based on my scientific knowledge and a lifetime of study and investigation, as absurd as requiring me to believe that the earth was created yesterday. I absolutely cannot accept the proposition, ever.

    Can I still be a Christian?

    Bronwyn Kingsley

  • Is democracy the best form of government? Should we elect people to represent the majority? What is the Christian’s view of the separation of church and state?

    Personally, I struggle to respect people who believe one thing and do something completely different. If I vote a Christian into government, I expect them to govern in that manner. If I vote an atheist in to power, I expect them to govern from an atheistic perspective. If I vote a Muslim into power, I would expect Islam to be evident in the way that they govern. Is that unreasonable? Can it be any other way?

    I must confess that these comments and questions are not particularly well thought out or fleshed out, but I probably should get my own soap box to do that.
    Jerome Rowcroft

  • Does Jill Singer know how you spell fallacy of extension? I do not believe Bill’s critique of her arguments came anywhere near chopping off her arms and legs, though her Python illustration is funny, even while being extremely fallacious. Sadly the rest of her article is in a similar vein. I’m pretty sure that Bill realizes there is both good (image of God) and evil (brokeness, hurt, need, the Fall) in all of us. And I’m rather sure he knows the Greeks influenced western civilization. Give us a break. In addition to a plethora of influences on the main concerns she shares, there is the Hippocratic Oath. Smile. Has she ever read it? It’s a goodie.
    Joe Whitchurch, Indiana, USA

  • Thanks Bronwyn
    I have never argued on this site or anywhere else that one has to commit to an early earth position before one can be a Christian. The issue of origins is certainly very important, but it is not, and has never been, a precondition of salvation. If any believer claims that it is, then I respectfully disagree. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bronwyn Kingsley said:

    According to many of your other correspondents, I can’t be a Christian unless I believe that the earth is 6000 years old.

    Please name some of the alleged many correspondents who claim this.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Bronwyn

    There are plenty of powerful intellectuals that hold to a Christian worldview but do not believe the ridiculous assertion that the universe/earth is 6,000 years old. It is certainly not a condition of salvation (and I think can be argued, not even Biblical).

    I hold to Christian Theism because it is the best and simplist explanatory hypothesis of everything from the origin of the Cosmos, to morals, to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, to consciousness and fine-tuning of physical constants etc.

    Damien Spillane

  • Andrew Kulikovsky said:

    “Furthermore, if it is a scientific fact that life emerged and evolved via a gradual process of genetic alteration from one generation to the next, then why did Richard Dawkins himself admit on camera (in the documentary ‘From a Frog to a Prince’) that he could not think of a single example where there had been a net increase in information in any particular organism. Who is really being irrational and deluded here? Sorry, I really don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.”

    I suggest you actually look at little further in to the history of that video, and maybe try to read some of the numerous literature on the subject before you make ridiculous judgements.
    Chris Mayer

  • Jonathan Safarti said:
    “”According to many of your other correspondents, I can’t be a Christian unless I believe that the earth is 6000 years old.”

    Please name some of the alleged many correspondents who claim this.”

    So which parts of the bible *do* I have to believe to be a Christian? Also who decides which parts? And how do they decide?
    Chris Mayer

  • Bronwyn Kingsley 13.1.07 / 10am

    “To believe that the earth is 6000 years old is, based on my scientific knowledge and a lifetime of study and investigation, as absurd as requiring me to believe that the earth was created yesterday. I absolutely cannot accept the proposition, ever.”

    You describe the proposition as a belief based upon scientific knowledge. But I’m not sure that the age of the earth is addressable by the scientific method.

    What experiment could one devise to test the hypothesis of age? What observations would one make? How would one interpret the observations? None of us has the time to span such a time period.

    Scientific experimentation deals with the present physical reality – we examine phenomena in the present. If the earth had been made yesterday and you had been present, then you would in fact have a better standpoint from which to draw a scientific conclusion.

    So I would suggest that your conclusions from a lifetime of study and investigation do not follow logically. I’m sorry if that challenges a lifetime’s science, but the age of the earth is more of an historical question than a scientific one.

    “Can I still be a Christian?”

    As Bill has already said – yes you can.

    Once you are a Christian, you may apply your intelligence to re-examining your world-view and re-assessing the results of your studies and investigations, in the light of your new pre-suppositions.

    Or you may not – the choice will be yours. And you will be in a better position to understand that choices have consequences.
    John Angelico

  • Jonathan,
    How about Ewan and Rebecca (in the Jihad thread).

    To quote Ewan (and no one has objected to this assertion):
    “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.”

    Which means a Christian who accepts an old earth has a contradiction at the very heart of their faith.

    If this issue is not important to the Christian faith, why do you and your colleagues at CMI bother to devote your lives trying to prove the earth is young?

    From the CMI website:
    http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/508
    Ken Ham:
    “There’s no doubt — the god of an old earth destroys the Gospel.”

    http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/3301/
    Jonathan Sarfati:
    “As we show, it is those who compromise on a straightforward reading of Genesis that are bringing doctrines contrary to those the Apostles taught, and that the church has understood through most of its 2,000-year history.”

    So is a Christian who rejects a young earth saved or not? And if they are saved, why all the fuss about ages?

    Bronwyn Kingsley, Brisbane.

  • Jill Singer’s article (Herald Sun 8/1/07) actually crucifies the truth. She seems determined to resurrect the philosophy of a bygone era when advertisements stated that “Catholics need not apply” for jobs.

    When one vilifies another person’s religious beliefs, especially in the press, then surely that believer is entitled to defend such accusations as Bill has done.

    As a senior journalist, surely Ms Singer is aware of the fact that the separation of Church and State simply means “no official state religion”. Australia does not have a state religion unlike England and many Middle Eastern Nations.
    Madge Fahy

  • Thanks Chris
    How much of the Bible do you need to believe before you become a Christian? Probably not much. The thief on the cross did not have much to believe in at all, just faith in Jesus. But once one becomes a Christian, well then it is a different question altogether. I am working on an article about that issue right now, so stay tuned.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bronwyn needs remedial reading comprehension lessons. None of those quotations say that one needs to be a YEC to be saved. Rather, we explicitly point out that the sin-death causality “is the insuperable difficulty of trying to marry Christianity and long ages. (Note that we don’t claim that one can’t be a Christian and a long-ager. Many people are saved despite ‘blessed inconsistency’—there is no hint in the Bible that the ability to hold mutually contrary thoughts in the same skull is an unforgivable sin. See also:

    Is it possible to be a Christian and an evolutionist? A leading creationist answers an often-asked question

    The big picture: Being wrong about the six days of creation does not automatically mean someone is not a Christian. But if you think that makes it unimportant, stand back and look at the big picture … .

    Do I have to believe in a literal creation to be a Christian?)

    It is far better instead of trying to read between the lines to read the lines themselves.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Chris Mayer, why do you presuppose that Andrew Kulikovsky doesn’t know the history of the video, as opposed to you who probably rely on the ludicrous Australian Skeptics (whom we demolished in even combat, available as a booklet).

    See for example Skeptics choke on Frog
    Was Dawkins caught on the hop?
    and The problem of information for the theory of evolution: Has Dawkins really solved it?

    It’s no wonder that Dawkins has moved even further away from science in his later books and now ventures into amateurish philosophy and history essays masquerading as this great case for atheism.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Jonathan,

    I am reading the lines themselves, and I am seeing major contradictions.

    On the one hand you state that one can be a Christian and a long-ager.

    On the other hand your website explicitly states that:
    “the god of an old earth destroys the Gospel”
    and:
    “it is those who compromise on a straightforward reading of Genesis that are bringing doctrines contrary to those the Apostles taught”.

    So if one’s belief in an old earth destroys the Gospel (which I thought was the basis of Christianity) and involves belief in a doctrine heretical to Christianity, how can one be a Christian?

    I’ve also come across this:
    http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/508
    “Christians who believe in an old earth (billions of years) need to come to grips with the real nature of the god of an old earth — it is not the loving God of the Bible.”

    I presume “the god of an old earth” is deliberately uncapitalised, i.e. it is a false god. How can one be a Christian and believe in a false god?

    And I need a response to my other question, that if, despite all these contradictions, the only thing that matters is that a Christian believes in God, why do you make such a huge fuss about earth age anyway? Who cares how old science thinks it is?

    Bronwyn Kingsley, Brisbane.

  • Jonathan Sarfati said:

    “Chris Mayer, why do you presuppose that Andrew Kulikovsky doesn’t know the history of the video, as opposed to you who probably rely on the ludicrous Australian Skeptics (whom we demolished in even combat, available as a booklet)”

    I assume he is referring to the debate with the topic “Did the universe and life evolve, or was it specially created in 6 days?”, where the debaters from CMI (then AiG) managed to go through the entire process without mentioning the number six. It is hard to demolish something when you make no attempt to address it, but easy to claim that you have demolished it if your audience doesn’t know the facts.

    I hope that the booklet is being given away for free. I would not like to think that something I wrote half of was being sold and I wasn’t being paid for it.
    Peter Bowditch

  • Bronwyn

    As already explained, believing in self-constradictory premises is not an unforgivable sin. Many genuine Christians have not properly thought through the implications of belief in an old earth, but they are still saved because they accept that the God-man Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead. They still believe the Gospel and are saved without understanding that death before sin, entailed by an old earth, destroys the logical basis for the first Adam bringing death so the last Adam, Jesus, could conquer it.

    That is the reason for making a ‘fuss’ as you put it. The Christian faith, based on the logos who became flesh and dwelt among us, should be logical (see also Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation).
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • As has been said, whilst it is not necessary to believe in a literal Genesis creation account to be a Christian (since as J.S. said above “there is no hint in the Bible that the ability to hold mutually contrary thoughts in the same skull is an unforgivable sin”), a belief in one of the compromise long-age views of creation does have serious consequences for the church. The authority of Scripture is undermined which often leads to further liberalism and eventually apostasy.

    See for example evangelist Charles Templeton’s stated reasons for rejecting Christianity at:
    http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/291

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Peter Bowditch is right that we are referring to the Creationists v Skeptics debate, on the topic ‘Did the universe and life evolve, or was it specially created in 6 days?’ Both sides had three 1500-word essays to make their case. It is hardly our fault that the Skeptics chose to waste theirs on alleged contraditions in the Bible, relying on an older English version not the Hebrew. And we have it in writing that we could publish the debate in booklet form.

    This is the second debate one of us has had with a Skeptic, where the Skeptics claimed victory but we were the ones willing to stock the debate (the other is Wieland v Willis).
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Bill wrote :- Those who are scientific reductionists, who believe that only matter matters, have no rational basis for claiming such things (love, beauty) even exist. As materialists, they cannot offer a coherent explanation for such non-material entities.

    Bill, you are completely wrong. Read any good book on neurology such as “What Makes You Tick – The Brain In Plain English” by Thomas B Czerner and you will discover that emotions such as love and the appreciation of beauty are as intrinsic a part of the evolution of the human brain as anything else. There are very good coherent explanations for what you mistakenly call “non-material entities”.

    It is really very misleading to talk about love and beauty as if they were somehow separate entities from the workings of our definitely material brain. Such Cartesian dualism has long been demolished. Even your belief that there is such a thing as supernatural forces or beings is well understood by neurologists studying delusion. Your emotions (what you term non-material entities) can be traced by electroencephalography and even your consciousness, as yet dimly understood, may be one day made explicable by some exciting work currently under way involving feedback loops in the brain. Such work has already resulted in hugely successful neurosurgery giving head trauma patients who once would have died or been severely retarded a better standard of life. These are concrete results, not bizarre fantasies.

    I am encouraged by the fact that most of your religious correspondents use arguments based on personal incredulity, fervent zealotry and tellingly, profound ignorance. Such spurious arguments inevitably disappear into the mists of time. The work of humanitarian, mostly atheist, scientists will continue to result in saving of lives and improvements in health thus allowing love and the appreciation of beauty to exist. Fundamentalist “Christians” will however still continue to promote their parochial and childish absurdities whilst claiming that their god is responsible for all good.

    Grow up folks.

    Neil Crellin

  • Believing in contradictory premises may not be a sin but it certainly lays the groundwork for many sins. For example, believing that murder contravenes the law of God while believing at the same time that abortion is permissible. And can a genuine Christian really accept Jesus’ offer of salvation while sincerely believing that the Genesis account of creation is untrue? The second belief so grossly contradicts the first that it appears to negate it.
    Chloe Marshall, Geelong

  • Thanks Neil
    But if all mental states are solely reducible to chemical/electrical reactions in the brain, then they just are. They cannot then be either right or wrong. But truth and falsehood transcend mere material bases. If your thoughts are simply physical processes alone, then so are mine. So why waste time trying to say one is right and one is wrong.

    Or as C.S. Lewis argued years ago, ““But if naturalism were true, then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. Therefore, all thoughts would be equally worthless. Therefore, naturalism is worthless. If it is true, then we can know no truths. It cuts its own throat.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Chloe,
    You wrote:
    “And can a genuine Christian really accept Jesus’ offer of salvation while sincerely believing that the Genesis account of creation is untrue? The second belief so grossly contradicts the first that it appears to negate it.”

    Perhaps both stories are untrue?

    We can’t know until death whether eternity is true, but we can test the truth of the Genesis story. Advances in knowledge over the past few hundred years have clearly demonstrated, to all but the wilfully obdurate, that Genesis cosmology cannot possibly be literally true. Most Christians and theologians have come to acknowledge that and have moved on. And yet the opposing spin gets
    more shrill with each passing year.

    Christians expend enormous energy squabbling amongst themselves over who is a “genuine” Christian. Humility is supposed to be a Christian virtue but the vehemence and arrogance with which some branches of Christianity proclaim that only their interpretation of scripture can be true is an unedifying spectacle. The arrogance seems to be strongest from those with the loosest grip on reality. Politics has a lot to learn from religious spin-doctoring.

    Bronwyn Kingsley, Brisbane.

  • Jonathan,

    I assume therefore that a theistic evolutionist can also be a genuine Christian. You would presumably assert that such a Christian would be holding contradictory opinions, but not so contradictory as to be a sin in the eyes of God.

    I have read your page on Logic 101 for Christians, although I fail to understand how natural logic can follow from axioms that are based on a belief in the supernatural. I also note that your organisation, which once had the term “creation science” in its name, has now evolved into “Creation Ministries”. At least you have the honesty to admit that you promote faith-based ministry rather than science.

    Yet you continue to publish and reference articles that you claim to be based on science, even though creationists operate outside the established process for scientific publications. All of the references you have provided, in this thread and others, to support your theories are to publications on your own website or those of similar creationist organisations. You promote the Humphries theory that purports to explain distant starlight, and when I point out that professional cosmologists have found glaring errors in his understanding of general relativity, your glib response is simply to say that Humphreys has answered all that. He has certainly responded, but the conflict remains. Professional (Christian) cosmologists, trained and experienced in the field, continue to state that Humphreys has made glaring errors in his calculations, and that creationists should stop promoting his ideas as if they were a solution to the starlight dilemma. The same goes for the “C-14 in diamonds” and “C-14 in coal” stories. If these stories were true, the same experiments would have been repeated and verified independently by mainstream scientists, yet the only reference to these claims that I can find are in creationist publications. Self-reference is no recommendation.

    Creationist “research” only takes place within the creationist cabal, outside the scientific environment. Humphries is not a cosmologist, by training or experience, so it is hardly surprising that he gets muddled. According to the limited information you provide in his biography, his professional work experience has been mainly in high-voltage power systems. Now there is nothing wrong with a scientist moving to another field, but it takes a lot of training and experience to become an expert. Furthermore, if this was indeed a startling new cosmological theory, why wasn’t it exposed to peer review in professional scientific journals? Perhaps it was, and was rejected for publication because it didn’t stand up to independent scrutiny.

    The same story is repeated time after time in creationist papers. Creationists can’t get published in recognised journals, so they simply create their own publications, websites and conferences, and pretend they are doing real science. I recognise that many creationists have proper scientific credentials, and may have published in the past in recognised peer-reviewed journals, but invariably their young-earth theories are published exclusively within the creationist cabal, and far too often in fields outside their professional training and experience. Your own prolific publications are no exception. You publish articles in astronomy, biology, cosmology, geology, philosophy and even theology as if you are an authority in all of these fields, yet all are far removed from your professional career as a physical chemist.

    These objections will go undetected by the scientifically unsophisticated audience to whom your message is directed, who may meekly accept that someone with a PhD must know what he is talking about, but to a qualified outside observer it is quite frightening exploitation of scientific ignorance and gullibility.

    Yet you use this patently false platform as the basis to aggressively market the idea that much of science is wrong, and that only creationists are free of scriptural contradiction. What mind-boggling arrogance!

    Bronwyn Kingsley, Brisbane.

  • Bronwyn, I would have to respectfully disagree with Chloe Marshall from Gelong. One can indeed not only become a Christian, but can be an active, thriving and serving Christian and not believe in a young earth creation. To Ms Marshall I would say that I can believe the Genesis story of God being the author of creation without believing that a day in this story refers to a 24 hour period. The Hebrew text from which the English is translated allows that possibility.
    Bronwyn, it is clear that there are many ‘side’ issues that Christians disagree upon and are continually discussed and debated. If you are interested in seeing some of the old and new earth theories discussed, as well as academic work by Christian Professors in the sciences, humanities and social sciences, I would recommend this link:

    http://www.leaderu.com/index.html

    If you are interested in historical research on the historicity of Jesus and the New Testament, I recommend my favorite author Tom Wright at this link:

    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/

    The main thing I would stress to you is that a Christian who is practicing his/her faith can not hate an atheist. We are to love, pure and simple. As Mr. Muehlenburg said, that doesn’t mean we have to be sappy about it, but that love must be real or we (I) have work to do on our(my)selves.

    Bill, thanks for this forum. I found it as I was looking for info on Tom Wright and encountered an article you wrote on one of his books.

    Charlie Swift, Virginia

  • Bill,
    You wrote “If your thoughts are simply physical processes alone, then so are mine. So why waste time trying to say one is right and one is wrong”.

    That is an absurd question. Any neurologist will tell you that thoughts definitely are electro/chemical processes. The success of neurosurgury is evidence of that fact. But why does that make thoughts any less real or important? I would suggest that you are profoundly ignorant of modern neurological research. CS Lewis reveals a similar ignorance. He was utterly wrong, as you are.

    If you claim that the sense of right and wrong comes from elswhere except in people’s brains, then where does it come from? If you claim some “holy” book as your source, by what criterion do you choose which book, and which bits of it. I would suggest that you choose exactly the same way that I do, using your own evolved capacity for kindness and altruism.

    What you have written demonstrates yet again the proud ignorance of religiousity. This is exactly why the USA is the laughing stock of the world at the moment. However, as 93% of the top scientists in the USA do not believe in a god, I still have the hope that the once great USA will emerge from this cocoon of medieval superstition.

    Neil Crellin

  • Unfortunately Charlie, Bronwyn is unlikely to be convinced of the truth of Christianity just by telling her that one “can be an active, thriving and serving Christian and not believe in a young earth creation.” To her credit, Bronwyn, like many atheists, has demonstrated that she is at least consistent enough in her reasoning to know that if one cannot believe in the Genesis creation account then there is no reason to trust any part of the Bible. Such is the problem when Christians (albeit sometimes with good intentions) compromise Scripture to make it accommodate the ‘scientific’ fads of the day.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Once more, Bronwyn resorts to elephant hurling to shore up her own misotheistic faith. She hasn’t actually refuted anything about Genesis (laughably claiming that the likes of Hugh Ross are authorities to refute Russ Humphreys model, to say nothing of Dr John Hartnett’s refinements), but whinges about the lack of publication in nsecular journals. But as I have explained before:

    But all this nonsense that “creationists don’t publish in refereed journals” is really the last refuge of those who can’t refute the arguments. And they know perfectly well that overtly creationist papers are almost always censored. One “intelligent design” paper that slipped through the “paper curtain” was Dr Stephen Meyer’s one on the origin of basic types in the Cambrian explosion, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. However, groups like NCSE wrote to the journal railing that the article was substandard—before they’d even read it (not reading things may be no deterrent for Dr Scott—consider her closing comments about Dr. Humphreys’ paper). Then the Biological Society’s governing council backtracked, claiming that had they known about it beforehand, they “would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings,” and promised that “Intelligent Design … will not be addressed in future issues of the [journal].” So it’s ironic for evolutionists like Scott to pontificate that a scientific movement must publish a peer-reviewed article in order to be considered legitimate, and then turn around and complain that it wasn’t legitimate for a journal to publish any peer-reviewed article from that movement!

    I should also point out that Dr Hartnett has published in the secular journals his demonstration that the Carmeli metric does away with the fudge factors of the big bang such as dark matter and dark energy, and it happens that his metric also explains distant starlight.

    BTW, the C-14 in coal and diamonds were measured by secular labs, so it remains a glaring problem for her faith in billions of years.

    As for her “We can’t know until death whether eternity is true”, actually we can know if someone has returned from the grave to tell us, as Jesus has done. While Christians believe this because of evidence for it, Bronsyn rejects it because of a dogma against it.

    Charlie Swift is mistaken about the days in Genesis, but this certainly doesn’t mean that he is not a Christian! Certainly the Hebrew yom can have other meanings than “day” in some contexts, it doesn’t follow that it can have any of these meanings in the specific context of Genesis 1. Mr Swift commits what Dr Don Carson called:

    Unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field. The fallacy in this instance lies in the supposition that the meaning of the word in a specific context is much broader than the context itself allows and may bring with it the word’s entire semantic range.’ (Exegetical Fallacies)

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks Neil
    Unless there is an independent judge to arbitrate between your “electro/chemical processes” and mine, then we are wasting time. To reduce all mental activity, reasoning, and truth claims, to mere physicalism, is in effect to deny their validity. Chemical processes are neither true nor false, they just are. So why are you bothering us with your arguments if there really is no such thing as truth?

    And if right and wrong comes solely from “people’s brains” then the same problem applies. Electro/chemical processes are neither right nor wrong, they just are. You and I are simply slaves to physical processes. Dawkins is much more honest and consistent than you are here. There is simply no right and wrong in such a reductionist scenario. Dawkins knows that. Why don’t you?

    Objective moral laws are easy for me to explain, because there is an objective moral law-giver. You are the one who has no ability at all to explain morality. Under your scheme, both Hitler and Mother Teresa were simply following what their DNA programmed them to do. Therefore neither one is either blame-worthy or praise-worthy.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • And it is actually 94% of the leaders of the National Academy of Scientists who are atheists. That simply tell us more about the Academy than it does about science as a whole. It simply means that many so-called scientists have accepted on faith the presuppositions of philosophical naturalism. Such prior faith commitments are not what science is about, but scientism.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ewan, thanks, but my goal was not to convince Bronwyn of the truth of Christianity by just telling my beliefs about an old earth created by the God of the Bible. I was simply saying that the decision on old earth/young earth is not an obstacle to being fully and actively Christian.
    It is to Bronwyn’s credit that she is willing to ask serious questions about the Bible and its claim to be authoritative in our world today. There are very many biblical and historical reasons to believe the Gospel, to believe in the historicity of Jesus Christ and the point that he lived, taught, was crucified, was resurrected from the dead and accomplished for Israel and for humanity, redemption which they could not do for themselves. These are facts that can be known historically and rationally accepted, not diluted or compromised by creation date disagreements.
    The best I can do for atheists is not to argue with them but to keep the invitation open to check out the Gospel. Research in the past 50 years has contributed so much to our understanding of the Gospel and to the history of the people and the land in which it was written. I do hope Bronwyn and others will take up on the invitation to check out the historicity of the bible. Yes, there are many critics out there for them to read, and that’s fine, but hopefully they will not just read the critics but read some of the better historical exegetes so they can compare and judge for themselves.
    Thanks again Bill, for the opportunity to participate in your blog.

    Charlie Swift, Virginia, USA

  • Hi Bill

    As I’ve commented on a previous Jill Singer piece and made largely the same points as yourself, I won’t belabour my agreement with you.

    However, I do have a minor quibble with the conclusion of your commentary – the reference to pre-revolutionary France. I think we need to be extremely careful with this sort of historical analysis. The Church (in this case the Catholic) was constitutionally part and parcel of the ancien regime. Cardinals like Richelieu and Mazarin virtually ran the French state for years and the selection of churchmen had more to do with teh circumstance of your birth than your competence as a minister of the word.

    History is replete with examples when the Church, as an institution rather than a faith movement has contributed to some horrendous situations. I am the first to advocate that in any judgement of the Church, the good must be balanced with the bad, but its hardly surprising that people will judge the Church harshly when its corporate identify obscures its faith.

    This feeds into another point that I have also made before; that it is the reality of the Church as an institution and not soley as a faith community which over over many hundreds of years has laid the foundations for many of the disagreements we see played out in pages of our newspapers and on this site.

    I see many facsinating and intelligent points of view made on this great site of yours Bill – discussions about creationism and evolution, the age of the earth and many other complex issues besides. But interesting and important as it is, for me it has no bearing whatsoever on whether a person is a Christian or not. The only defining crucial and defining critieria about what makes someone a Christian is whether they believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God; that he was crucified under Ponitus Pilate, suffered and was buried and one the third day rose again.

    Everything else is utterely irrelevant as to whether you are a Christian, including the ability to accurately quote from the bible.
    Cheers
    Ben Carter

  • Thanks, but not quite Ben. Coming to Christ means submitting to his Lordship. The Lordship of Christ means we follow him as he commands us in Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to simply believe in Jesus and then do what we like or believe what we like. A disciple of Jesus is one who keeps his commands as outlined in Scripture.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Neil, I find it interesting that you say you have “hope that the once great USA will emerge” because of the fact 94% of scientists in America do not believe in a god. What made the USA once great? I’ve always seen the USA as a nation steeped in religious tradition from independence, so at what point was America separate from its religious beliefs and therefore “once great”? Religious views hardly make any nation a laughing stock, especially in a postmodern world of tolerance, so really you speaking more of your personal distaste of Christianity.
    Dan Rodgers

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