CultureWatch

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

Atheist Wars

Jun 2, 2007

On and on go the atheist wars. They are out in droves, they never sleep and they want your children. Or so it seems from their continual bombardment. Barely a day goes by now when another anti-theist is pushing his or her form of secular fundamentalism onto the rest of society.

And it is just the same old same old: the same old historical amnesia; the same old half-truths and subterfuge; the same old lame arguments; the same old clichés. At least these guys could come up with something new, something creative. But that does not seem to be their strong suit.

And so when we find God-hater Pamela Bone once again pushing her anti-theist gospel (The Australian, 31 May 2007), we find nothing new: just plenty of the predictably tired and weak argumentation. She begins by describing her visit to a public lecture by French philosopher Michel Onfray, author of The Atheist Manifesto. Like a groupie visiting her favourite rock star, there was Pamela, savouring every word the French atheist had to offer.

And like all good unbelievers, she distorts the truth to further push her anti-theism crusade. Consider some of the whoppers found in her piece. How does she explain the fact that the overwhelming majority of the world’s population – both past and present – is religious? Easy. She informs us: “The studies – of which there are now many – indicate that a tendency to religiosity is genetically determined”.

There you go. We were determined by our genes to be religious. So does that mean atheists were determined by their genes to be non-religious as well? In which case, why is Pamela spending so much time trying to convince religious folk that they are wrong, when they cannot help it: their genes made them do it.

Why don’t you find something more valuable to spend your time on Pamela? Trying to tell genes they are wrong and must change seems like a lost cause to me.

But ever the pre-eminent theologian, Pamela has more sure-fire rebuttals to belief: “why would an all-loving God create some of his people without the capacity for believing in him, and then, according to scriptures, send them to eternal hellfire for not believing in him?”

Do you want the short answer or the long answer Pamela? Or do you really want an answer at all? One suspects your question is purely rhetorical. But let me give you the short answer anyway.

There is no one who does not have the capacity to believe in God. We all can believe. But as Jesus said, some will not believe. Some refuse to believe. It is our choice. We determine our destiny. We decide if we end up in the smoking or non-smoking sections of eternity.

Consider another zinger: “A book promoting atheism could only be dangerous if atheists were calling for religious believers to be put to death, or even discriminated against; and no atheist is calling for that.” No atheist is calling for the death of believers? Her memory is short. What about Stalin and Mao, to name but a few? What about what is happening in places like North Korea and China today?

And she cites Western nations which are less religious but prosperous and healthy as more proof of the values of unbelief. “I don’t think it is an accident that Sweden, The Netherlands and France, the least religious of Western countries, are also the healthiest, wealthiest, freest and most educated.” She again conveniently forgets the lessons of history. She ignores the fact that the Christian religion largely created and sustained Western civilisation for centuries, giving rise to the wealth and health of nations in Europe and elsewhere.

She also says she is unable to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. “I am unable to believe that the physical body of Jesus rose up into the spiritual place of heaven.” Translation: I do not want to believe in the resurrection, regardless of the evidence. She has closed her mind, while trying to convince us how open-minded she is.

She concludes by saying that if we could all just live in a world of agnostic bliss, the world “might just be a little safer and happier for all.” Then again, it might not. If the world is heading for the abyss, and does not know its fate, it may seem comfy and peaceful for a while. But when people start heading over the cliff, then things start looking a whole lot different. And of course if someone is there, waving his arms furiously, seeking to warn people about their nasty fate, he will appear to be a bit of a mad man.

But this world needs a lot more such mad men, if indeed there is a precipice which we are all about to rush headlong over. As C. S. Lewis once put it, “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.” Quite so. But if we all heed the quaint but foolish advice of Ms Bone, there will be a whole lot more casualties at the bottom of the cliff.

www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21828394-7583,00.html

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23 Responses to Atheist Wars

  • Sweden and the rest of Europe sees a huge rise in mental illness, suicide, drink and drug related problems, an ever increasing number of murders committed by children and a massive breakdown in family life. If this is sanity and reality then bring on madness and the delusion of Christianity because it heals broken families and brings hope to millions!
    David Skinner, UK

  • No atheist is calling for religious people to be discriminated against? They why is she attacking religion in the first place? What about atheists like Dawkins who seem to think of religious people as sub-human? If this isn’t discrimination, what is?

    James Swanson, Tennessee, USA

  • “She has closed her mind, while trying to convince us how open-minded she is.”

    Someone once challenged me with this. “Open minded” people are those who believe that what humans observe is all there is, no God, no spiritual, no greater purpose. Meanwhile the “close minded” ones acknowledge that they aren’t at the centre of the universe and perhaps there is more than what can be observed. Who then is more open minded; the atheist or the Christian?

    It makes me both laugh and deeply troubled that people can honestly think that they know for certain there is no God and that Christianity ruins the world. Whereas it seems anyone who actually examines the evidence is slightly doubtful of such a worldview; even if not becoming a Christian.

    Jay Rusty, Victoria

  • And what about the millions being murdered through abortion? Another example of intolerant atheism.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Well said James Swanson.

    Dear me, Pamela:
    “No atheist is calling for religious people to be discriminated against?”

    Given that there are so few atheists, this is a bit trite! But Pamela, you have failed to address the related question: why are so many Christians being discriminated against, nevertheless. And why so many other religious people too?

    John Angelico

  • Jay,

    Atheists don’t “know for certain there is no God”. They simply expect that any proposition about the existence of a supernatural being needs to backed up by objective evidence.

    Most Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc. follow those beliefs because they were raised with them. They generally don’t critically examine the evidence supporting their belief or the evidence for alternative theistic beliefs. If they did, we would expect the proportion of adherents to any particular belief, or no belief, to be consistent throughout the world. The fact that it isn’t demonstrates that religious belief is largely cultural.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks Steve

    But there are three major problems with your ‘argument’. One, you commit a basic logical fallacy known as the genetic fallacy. The truth of an idea is not determined by its origin. It has to be judged on its own merits.

    Second, even if it were valid, your criticism could be turned on its head and used on secularists: They were born into that worldview, and have not critically examined it, but just grew up with it.

    Third, this approach falls apart when one considers the fact that many millions of people have converted to religion in general and Christianity in particular from their unbelief. I am one of them. So please spare us this rather juvenile criticism. It really carries no weight at all.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    I asserted that belief is largely determined by origin. That is an entirely different matter from judging truth from origin.

    It is indisputable that a person’s belief system is highly correlated with that of their parents/culture. Truth doesn’t enter into it. This is not to say there aren’t exceptions.

    I agree the same could be said of some atheists. You actually said secularists, but that term means persons who believe that religious considerations should be excluded from civic affairs. Many believers are also secularists.

    We are all born as atheists, but the majority of believers inherit their belief from their cultural upbringing, not from a genuine examination of the alternatives.

    The fact that atheism is increasing in the West suggests that many atheists must have had a Christian upbringing but have overcome that cultural influence.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  • Thanks Steve

    But you are quite wrong. Atheists, like saints, are made, not born. We choose what we will believe in. And if we refuse to believe in and serve the God who created us, then we will invariably choose another god to worship, often our own self.

    Indeed, no atheist chooses merely to deny God. He also chooses to promote himself as God, to claim that he is the centre of the universe. Thus an atheist is not really godless: he simply chooses to worship false gods.

    Religious belief is a universal condition, and is best explained by the fact that we are made that way, and that an object for our religious longings really exists. As C.S. Lewis put it, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

    As I said, millions of people have rejected their unbelief and chosen, after an examination of the evidence, to let God be God. All you are saying is you refuse to let God be God. You have chosen to deny God, and will one day stand before your maker to give an account of such choices. It is my hope and prayer that you remain open to the truth, and follow it where it leads, before that day arrives.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve, although I am back in the Uk now, in 1970 I emigrated to Australia. At the time I was a deeply troubled and confused man. David Frost, with satirical programmes like ‘That Was the Week That Was’ had effectively demolished any belief in anything or anyone. We all laughed at the time at the supposedly naive and immature Christian values of our culture – and continue to do so at an every increasing manic intensity, but we were left with cynicism and despair. To cut a long story short, I was not searching in particular for God; in fact I was not even able to articulate what I did feel – lost, unbelieving, insignificant, insecure and hopeless. God found me, not the other way around. I was not really searching for him. Thankfully, Australia’s most significant nuclear physicist told me about Jesus Christ (and for him that was his greatest discovery). Up till that time I had always regarded Christians as quaint and a bit touched. What I experienced was far from weird; it was as though I had returned to what I had originally been intended to be. It was the most natural thing I had ever experienced. I was now clothed in my right mind and I could see. I pray that you too will discover just how great his love for you is. People from all backgrounds and cultures become Christians, from astronauts to savages in the Amazion Jungle – what a family to join!
    David Skinner, UK

  • The fact that atheism is increasing in the West suggests that many atheists must have had a Christian upbringing but have overcome that cultural influence.

    The fact that Christianity is increasing in China suggests that many Chinese Christians must have had an atheistic upbringing but have overcome that cultural influence.
    Michael Watts

  • Thanks Michael

    Exactly right. Yet regardless of how many times we point these facts out to the anti-theist brigade, they simply refuse to believe it. I have said on many occasions that I was an adult convert to Christianity, as have been millions of others. But this is simply an inconvenient truth to the I-hate-God crowd, who seem to never let the facts stand in the way of their preconceived prejudices. Anti-God ideologues seem to be quite irrational and unreasonable. Indeed, they seem to be very much closed to truth and evidence, preferring instead to wallow in their chosen faith-based worldview.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The protests and overall media bias against the recently opened Creation Museum demonstrate the intolerance towards Christians expressing their worldview in the public arena.

    If you present evolution as fact, you’re labelled as intelligent and a provider of education.

    If you present creation as fact, you’re labelled as crazy and a provider of brainwashing.

    Both evolution and creation are belief systems about the past that are based on presuppositions. Yet it seems to be considered unacceptable to even question the presuppositions that evolution is based upon.

    This said, God loves atheists who mock Christians, just as much as He loves me or any other Christian. Jesus died and rose again for all people – He is alive. Call on His name – seek God and you will find Him.

    For those who are interested, I have created a Squidoo website about the Creation Museum http://www.squidoo.com/creationmuseum/

    Scott Ludbrook

  • Steve Angelino :

    The fact that atheism is increasing in the West suggests that many atheists must have had a Christian upbringing but have overcome that cultural influence.

    Or else, they are in a culture where the educratic and media establishments are saturated with misotheism.

    Conversely, as Michael Watts pointed out, Christianity is increasing in China, despite official persecution on top of state-funded antitheistic indoctrination.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • I am an atheist. I have read this and I am not angry. I think it is unfair that every atheist or agnostic is often stereotyped into a radical. I do not agree with Richard Dawkins or Dan Brown when they say that religion is bad for our society. I was raised Lutheran, baptized and confirmed. I have seen, and in fact participated in, the good that comes out of religion. Yet I do not believe in God. I do, however, believe we have souls. I believe there is more to life than what is on this Earth. I don’t deny the Bible. I deny the story of Creation. I do not believe I will be judged upon my death. I believe in tolerance. I do not think that religion is the only cause of war. It is merely one, as is atheism. Maybe before you continue to criticize others beliefs, you could look at the whole instead of just a fraction. A tolerant life is a peaceful life.
    Ashley Lynn

  • Thanks Ashley

    I am glad you are not angry. And you have a real grab bag of beliefs here. I am not sure if you are an atheist though. Many of your colleagues would argue that materialism is a concomitant belief to atheism. And if you reject creation, presumably you accept macro-evolution. Most proponents of evolution also assume a philosophical naturalism, or materialism.

    Consistency is something we might discuss here. You say you believe the Bible, yet you say you deny creation. Without a creator God none of the rest of the Bible makes any sense. And where does the soul come from if there is no creator, and we are all just the product of blind, material forces?

    And you say you support tolerance. But of course tolerance presupposes disagreement. You do not tolerate someone you agree with. Lack of disagreement may make for a peaceful life, but a dictatorship has a lack of disagreement. That is not the kind of peace I want.

    But the real issue here is that of truth. If the truth claims of biblical Christianity are correct, then of course other conflicting truth claims cannot be. You seem to have an eclectic, cafeteria type system of beliefs. This is fine for eating at certain all-you-can eat places, but not as good when determining what is true.

    And it is not a question of criticising other beliefs, but of determining what is true and what is false. I hope you continue to think through your beliefs. Not all beliefs are true, and some have very negative consequences indeed. Thanks for writing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I am an atheist, largely because there is no good reason to believe in the existence of god(s). Or fairies at the bottom of my garden. There is no such thing as heaven, or hell, or the supernatural. No leprechauns, no Santa Claus, and no Jesus either. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a sinner, as sin is an invention designed to keep the credulous controlled. I am quite a cheerful person, and not the slightest afraid of death, though I am not crazy about the process of dying itself, preferring a sudden demise, if that is possible. I have nothing against theists, until they tell me what I MUST believe, in which case, I now vigorously resist, something I never did until a few years ago. I have joined the Freedon From Religion Foundation, among others, and am planning on leaving them a sizeable bequest upon my demise (though it will be much sooner if I can). I thank the efforts of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, George Bush, the Catholic Church, and every smarmy god pusher out there who has finally pushed me over the edge into activism. I have finally found my life’s work, and am content.
    Lee Picton

  • Thanks Lee

    “I am not now, nor have I ever been, a sinner”. There are all sorts of sins. Pride is one of the more prevalent and subtle. The sin of pride is in evidence when we claim that we are just fine, doing nothing wrong, in need of no help, fully in control of everything. It comes in the form of thinking that we are the centre of the universe, and that we, not God, have all wisdom and knowledge.

    Interestingly, there was a story last night on TV about a guy who went from rags to riches. He set up a mobile phone business and became a multi-millionaire. The story showed how he was now living the good life in his mansion, and so on. Less than 12 hours later, the morning news announced that he had died of a heart attack, age 42. He is now standing before his maker. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

    The truth is, we never know when our last breath will be. But Jesus took the sting out of death and the fear out of the future. If we acknowledge our sin and selfishness, and turn from it, and receive the forgiveness freely offered by Christ, we can know where we will spend eternity, and death need not be an issue for us.

    That is the simple gospel message that you, I and every person on earth needs to hear.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I am still an atheist and still not a sinner, and your smarmy proselytizing is highly offensive to me. I do not need to hear YOUR gospel. It is not mine, nor do I want it. THere is NO afterlife (and don’t pull the old stupid Pascal out of your shabby theological hat). I will die. So will you. That is THE END.
    Lee Picton

  • Thanks Lee

    You have evidently shut your mind on this one, so no arguments of mine will be of much use. But to those who have an open mind, the claims of Christ are still worth investigating. The Bible tells us that the cross of Christ is offensive to those who refuse to believe. Jesus loved you and I enough to die for us. That is good news indeed. I will keep you in my prayers.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Lee, what is your definition of sin?
    To believe that you are NOT a sinner, implies that you believe that there is such a thing as sin; and that you are not taking part in it.

    I am telling you, we are all sinners and until you acknowledge that you are, you are unable to acknowledge your need for God to SAVE you from this sin; which He already has through Jesus, if you accept it.

    Please let me encourage you, don’t shut your mind to the fact that there is a God, and that you do need Him.

    Chris Farace

  • Your offensive, vomitous dribble is still offensive. There is no reason to believe in any god and your god is one of the most disgusting ever invented. You claim to know that I need god. You are an arrogant, condescending, patronizing twit. It is exactly people like you who have encourage me to fight for what remains of my life against the poison you spew.
    Lee Picton

  • Thanks Lee

    It sounds like there may not be much I can say to persuade you at the moment. So let me just offer these two remarks by Jesus Christ, which are indeed very important for every one of us:

    “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

    “Blessed are those who see their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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