CultureWatch

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

The Politics of Unbelief

Aug 2, 2010

There are plenty of odd political parties which have sprung up recently, all seeking to make some inroads in the next Federal election. All sorts of weird and whacky parties are now out there, including the Australian Sex Party, the Communist Alliance, and the Gamers 4 Croydon (South Australia).

And those evangelistic atheists are at it again as well. They now even have their own political party. Called the Secular Party of Australia, this party might be better called the Silly Party, based on what one finds on their website. It reveals plenty of sloppy thinking and twisted reasoning.

Indeed, given how much the fundamentalist atheists go on and on about reason and rationality, it is remarkable just how much irrationality abounds here. Get a load of this for example: “The Secular Party thus advocates rational discourse as the antidote to delusion and unfounded bigotry.”

But just who is being deluded and wallowing in truck loads of bigotry? A simple look at the website reveals just how delusional and bigoted these guys are. Consider this whopper: “We contend however, that only wilful blindness to the violence and destruction caused by religion, over centuries and to the present day, could obscure the fact that religions are on balance harmful to society. Whatever moral, charitable or consoling advantages religions may have had, in the 21st century these are best obtained by other means.”

They acknowledge some charitable goods of religion, but then turn around and say it is all evil and harmful. And then they incredibly claim that non-religious goods will do just fine thanks. OK, show me the goods. I am aware of tens of thousands of hospitals, schools, social agencies, soup kitchens, aid groups and charitable bodies set up and run specifically in the name of Christianity.

I certainly am not aware of even dozens set up and run in the name of militant atheism. I bet every one of these anti-Christian bigots have benefitted from some Christian social work or charity. However I have yet to benefit from one atheist social work or charity.

Consider also this gem: “Belief in religions requires faith, which necessarily entails a departure from rationality”. Oh really? Spare me please. Every time an atheist sits on a chair he is acting on faith. He has no certainty that the chair will bear his weight. He is simply going on past experience, assuming the likelihood and probability that the chair will be the same today as it has always been.

Every person on planet earth exercises faith dozens of times a day. On faith I expect the sun to set tonight. Can I rationally prove that it will? Of course not. All I have is the probability that it will, based on past experience. This is true of most of our life experiences.

Does the atheist watching his plasma TV know every scientific and technical aspect for how and why it works? Nope. On faith he watches the thing, aware that he lacks plenty of certain knowledge about its basic operation. That is how life is, with a million faith commitments made every day.

Indeed, scientists accept on faith a whole range of givens which cannot be proved. They assume that the world is rational. Science assumes a sense of order in the universe. Scientists accept without a priori proof the laws of logic and mathematics, and so on.

All scientific theories are adhered to with a mix of evidence and faith. Indeed, we do not know what evidence may arise tomorrow which will invalidate scientific theories held to today. Faith commitments are as much a part of the scientific enterprise as any other human endeavour.

So enough of this juvenile and false rhetoric about faith versus fact. No one lives without a mix of both, and it is pure arrogance and ideological bigotry to suggest otherwise. But just how rational are these guys anyway? Indeed, what can you expect from people who have set up a “de-baptism” ritual using hairdryers? And these guys want us to believe they are the epitome of rationality?

Of course some religious leaders can be equally obtuse and lacking in clear thinking. Consider the remarks made a few days ago by Perth Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft. He told the Weekend Australian that Christians should not be concerned about Julia Gillard’s atheism.

Said Herft, “Christians need to remind themselves that those who do not profess the Christian faith are still capable of adopting an ethical and moral framework which assists in public policy decision-making for the common good.” Yes, but he misses the point here.

Can an atheist seek to live a moral life? Yes. But the real question is why, given their worldview. How can talk of moral behaviour even arise in a naturalistic world where we are simply the products of our genetic makeup? Morality has nothing to do with an impersonal and totally material world.

The fact that atheists make moral pronouncements at all indicates the poverty of their own worldview. It shows that they are indeed moral creatures who live in a moral universe. That makes perfect sense in the Judeo-Christian worldview, but none whatsoever in the atheist worldview.

As Edgar Andrews explains, “If our world is the product of amoral forces, and if man is simply cosmic flotsam scattered on the shores of time, then morality (including Dawkins’ longed-for generosity and altruism) simply does not exist. . . . To their credit, older atheists like Nietzsche, Russell, Sartre and Camus recognized this and saw that it led logically to nihilism or, at best, to absurdity. The ‘new atheists’ (who want us to call them ‘brights’) seem oblivious to the obvious.”

But unfortunately sometimes our religious leaders are no more rational and coherent than some of our atheist leaders. The good thing about a free country however is the fact that both can freely disseminate their ideas – twisted and tortured as they might be.

And given that the Judeo-Christian worldview in large measure made such freedoms possible in the first place, our atheist crusaders ought to be a bit more thankful. But of course in their worldview, there is no one to give thanks to. Nor is there anyone to pray to as well.

Which makes the recent remark by Julia Gillard all the more bizarre, when she said she was praying for Kevin Rudd’s recovery while in hospital. Just who exactly was she praying to? And never mind that her knife in his back was just as serious a matter in terms of his health.

The world of atheist inconsistencies and irrationality is ever something to behold. Because most people have more sense than to adhere to the mumbo jumbo of the atheist evangelists, I won’t expect to see too many Secular Party candidates elected.

But if they do, they can thank their lucky stars, or their pre-programmed DNA, or a bundle of chemical reactions. Better yet, perhaps they better not even bother giving thanks.

www.secular.org.au/example-pages
www.secular.org.au/mnu-viewpoints/mnu-separation-of-church-and-state

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61 Responses to The Politics of Unbelief

  • Dont be to critical of atheists Bill. In their worldview they are generally committed to a fairly rigid determinism. So the stupid statements and general idiocy of their beliefs is not something they can have any control over.

    Surely if they did have control over such things and weren’t simply the pawns of an impersonal universe they would be capable of offering a rational and coherent argument instead of the insipid babble they usually produce.

    Jason Rennie

  • Bill,

    I had a vision some time ago of Jesus politely tapping an atheist on the shoulder, and saying “boo”, as the atheist turns to see who it is.

    The Bible says that “The fool has said in his heart that there is no God”, so it is no wonder that foolishness could be so freely dispensed, as though it is truth. I suppose that lies are the “truth” in the kingdom of lies?

    The kingdom of lies seems to have a problem that “..grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

    David Alston

  • Bill,

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    I am a member of the Secular Party, and I suppose I am an Atheist – in the same sense that you, I assume, are an Azeusist and an Agnomist. I am not a member of any religious organisation, and I can not manage to maintain belief in the God of my childhood.

    I am also a Humanist, and I believe strongly in the principle espoused by great Humanists, such as A.C. Grayling, that wherever and whenever possible we should “Do no Harm”. To each other, to our descendents yet to come, to the planet that must support them.

    I hope this helps you and your readers to understand that the Secular Party is NOT a hive of militant, evangelistic Atheism, but rather a voice for those – religious or otherwise – who believe in the separation of church and state.

    Kind regards,

    Mary Fankhauser

  • Thanks Mary

    Perhaps it may surprise you, but most Christians also support the separation of church and state, properly understood. Indeed, it was a key insight of biblical Christianity. Thus it is yet one more religious good which you atheists are getting the benefits of. I deal with this in various places, including here:
    billmuehlenberg.com/2006/10/20/separation-of-church-and-state/
    billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/06/christian-political-involvement/

    And while you present a ‘nice’ face to atheism, the website of your party is just as militant and fundamentalist as any religious site might be. For example, it pays lip service to some charitable goods brought about by religion, but then makes ugly, antagonistic and patently false remarks like this: “We contend however, that only wilful blindness to the violence and destruction caused by religion, over centuries and to the present day, could obscure the fact that religions are on balance harmful to society.” This is just as ludicrous and bigoted as the bile that atheists like Dawkins pour out on a regular basis.

    If you are really such a ‘moderate’ as you purport to be here, and really wish to “”Do no Harm”, then you better spend some time reining in your own fightin’ fundie mates at the Secular Party.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • If one takes atheism to its complete logical course, it either leads to nihilism or strict determinism yet as Jason Rennie suggests they quickly gloss over this and suggest that they can come up with some other superior moral system to the tried and tested Judaeo-Christian one.

    I’d like to see these atheist come out and start attacking the concept of freedom of will, which according to a purely materialistic view of the universe shouldn’t exist. It would also be fun to see Dawkins apply his own “meme” theory (where religions and other ideologies are simply ideas which grow or die depending on their success in spreading) to his own brand of militant atheism.

    Such is the arrogance and hypocrisy of the militant atheists that they are blind to these bleedingly obvious inconsistencies in their own theories.

    Nick Smith

  • Mr Muehlenberg, you say that morality only makes sense in a Judeo-Christian worldview. Leaving aside all other religious worldviews (which you’ve so casually discarded here as immoral), do you really believe that the only reason people are moral is because God tells them to be? If God turned His back on you tomorrow, would you stop being a moral person? Of course not – you know, even without being taught by a preacher, what is right and what is wrong. Why deny the same moral sense to atheists?

    Your further assumption that only religious people are charitable is similarly skewed. There are non-religious charities out there – The Smith Family, for one.

    You seem intent on portraying atheists as immoral (or at least amoral) creatures with no ability to be charitable. “Judge not, lest ye also be judged”, as the great teacher Jesus Christ is reported to have said.

    Simon Papson

  • Thanks Simon

    You manage to misunderstand and/or misrepresent most of what I have said. People are moral and able to be moral because they are moral beings living in a moral universe created by a moral God. So for that reason atheists can live moral lives. It is just that moral motions and obligations make no sense in the atheist’s worldview. But they make perfect sense in the Judeo-Christian worldview.

    As I already said in the above quote, the honest atheists even admit to this. There are plenty more such quotes. Let me offer just one further example: “The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God.” (Atheist ethicist Richard Taylor).

    And I of course did not say only religious people are behind charitable works. I simply said there are thousands of such charities directly attributable to practising Christians, but hardly any directly set up and run by militant atheists. That fact itself is most telling.

    Your misuse of Matthew 7:1 I have dealt with time and time again, including here: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/08/thou-shalt-judge/

    Indeed, moral judgments only make sense if an absolute moral standard exists by which we assess such judgments. Naturalists cannot offer such moral absolutes. As C.S. Lewis put it, “When men say ‘I ought’ they certainly think they are saying something, and something true, about the nature of a proposed action, and not merely about their own feelings. But if Naturalism is true, ‘I ought’ is the same sort of statement as ‘I itch’ or ‘I’m going to be sick’. In real life when a man says ‘I ought’, we may reply, ‘Yes, you’re right. That is what you ought to do,’ or else, ‘No, I think you’re mistaken.’ But in a world of Naturalists…the only sensible reply would be, ‘Oh, are you?'”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Note too that the atheist if he or she is a materialist or a naturalist has no idea how to explain the three main problems of the philosophy of mind – intentionality, qualia and rationality.

    Jerry Fodor explains;

    ‘Some of the most pervasive properties of minds seem so mysterious as to raise the Kantian-sounding question how a materialistic psychology is even possible. Lots of mental states are conscious, lots of mental states are intentional, and lots of mental processes are rational, and the question does rather suggest itself how anything that is material could be any of these.’

    Damien Spillane

  • “Given the state of human knowledge, the persistent adherence to various forms of religious belief is unwarranted and unnecessary”

    How do they reconcile the above statement with the sentence in their banner: “freedom of religion and freedom from religion”? Why bother with freedom of religion when you believe religion is utterly unnecessary for anyone? During the eighties I corresponded with a group of American Humanists who explicitly labelled their doctrine as a religion. There were also Humanists in Europe thinking the same way, perhaps for the purpose of receiving State support that officially recognised religions sometimes receive. So if Humanism can be called a religion why isn’t it also “unwarranted and unnecessay”?

    During my youth I was a member of a Humanist society. Membership was low, under 200 in a State of a million people. Members tended to be elderly. Meetings were lethargic, depressing, with poor intellectual standards of discussion. Essentially they sat around massaging each other’s anti-religious prejudices. A psychologist in the group opined to me that quite a few were depressed individuals. In fact, one woman, less lethargic then the rest, actually tried to start a self-help group for depressed members. In defiance of reality, the Humanist symbol is an abstract “Happy Humanist”.

    Their website has links to assorted atheist groups. My experience is that these groups are very shy of telling you about membership numbers. One group told me I would have to join them first before divulging that information. Another gave me the third degree for a month by email, questioning my motives for such a simple request. In other words they are not open. A club of zombies would have better public relations.

    John Snowden

  • I’d like to expand on the point that “scientists accept on faith a whole range of givens which cannot be proved”: consider that there are many major unknown and unproven “links” in the standard atheist description of how we came to be here from the original “big bang”. Eg how the big bang happened, how cosmic inflation happened, how the first cell happened, … how mind arises as a “byproduct” of matter etc. The standard response is “one day we’ll find this out” but that’s the point exactly: an atheist must go way beyond what is factual and rational from what we know _now_ using faith in his/her “material only” worldview.
    David Stanhope

  • Hi Mary Frankhauser
    You wrote: “I cannot manage to maintain belief in the God of my childhood.”
    Would you be able to share what makes you feel this way?
    Anne van Tilburg

  • “Scientists accept without a priori proof the laws of logic and mathematics …” – Quite right. I’ve long thought about these “laws” scientists (and particularly materialist/atheist scientists) make such a fuss about, laws of nature etc. How and in what way can they be “laws”? Real laws are devised by intelligences, and they are regulated and policed – but what about the materialist’s “laws”? Who made them, and why? Why are they unvaryingly conformed to? Would they exist without intelligencies (people) to observe and describe them, or what would be the nature of their reality? It’s all just part of the huge bogus claim made for the whole business of self-creation, things coming from nothing without design and intention. Yes, one fault we Christians have long suffered from is a lack of rigorous, uncompromising and effective criticism of the absurdities (and ethical atrociousness) of atheism.
    John Thomas, UK

  • I’m an ‘a’atheist. No matter how much evidence they present, I refuse to believe they exist.
    Glenn Christopherson

  • Hi Anne van Tilburg,

    I would be very happy to share my many and varied reasons for not maintaining a ‘faith’ or belief in a God, but not in this forum. We are effectively in Bill’s lounge room, and I believe it would be quite rude to hijack his discussion.

    I am on twitter, my username is SecularMe. Feel free to contact me there.

    Regards,

    Mary Fankhauser

  • Thanks Mary

    I do not mind your discussion here. And Anne makes a very good point. Having debated with so many atheists over the years, I have found some recurring patterns. One is that atheists have not found theism in general and Christianity in particular to be intellectually lacking. Far from it. Instead, many of them simply had an unpleasant experience as a child at their church or Sunday school or whatever, and have rejected faith for that reason.

    One can hardly talk about children carefully analysing the rational arguments pro and con for anything let alone the truth claims of Christianity. So like so many others, I have to call your bluff here. Just what intellectual problems do you have with the biblical worldview, or are you simply responding out of a past hurt or bad experience as a child? The two of course are not at all the same.

    If you did have a bad experience at the hands of some churchmen or others, we can say we are sorry to hear that, and we wish it did not occur. But that has nothing to do with weighing up carefully the merits of the Christian truth claims. So we all need to be honest here. Just what exactly are you rejecting and why?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    Bill Gates is at least an agnostic, if not an outright atheist. Have you heard of the Bill Gates Foundation? What about the Richard Dawkins Foundation?

    Yes, there are many more religious charities than non-religious ones. This does NOT prove that religious people are more charitable than non-religious people (have you ever analysed the statistics of who’s donating to the Salvos or to World Vision?). What it demonstrates is that religions have been around longer, and have dominated the cultural landscape for longer, than atheists. The atheist movement has been an oppressed minority view for a very long time (“Noone expects the Spanish Inquisition!”), and is only now standing up to be heard in strength. Give us time…

    Again, you’ve assumed the Judeo-Christian religion is the only one in which morality makes sense. Are not Buddhists moral? Muslims? Hindus? Or did all these people get their morals from your God as well? I certainly did not get my ethics from your God.

    As for that quote about “moral obligation”, did you consider that that Richard Taylor was proposing that moral obligation equates to guilt? Your priests lay an obligation on their flocks to be moral, for fear of punishment. Atheists choose to be ethical because it is the right thing to do. Therefore, moral obligation only makes sense if you’re religious; the rest of us aren’t OBLIGED to be moral – we choose it freely.

    Just as you believe I’ve misunderstood you, it appears that you’ve also misunderstood atheists and atheism.

    Simon Papson

  • Hi Simon,

    Leaving aside the fact that you totally misrepresented what Bill said or singularly failed to comprehend it due to your own irrationality, I find this statement you made odd.

    Mr Muehlenberg, you say that morality only makes sense in a Judeo-Christian worldview. Leaving aside all other religious worldviews (which you’ve so casually discarded here as immoral), do you really believe that the only reason people are moral is because God tells them to be?

    If you take seriously the idea that people have a “law written on the heart” as Paul said, that they have access to the first principles of moral reasoning (Aristotle), that they have an obligation to the “mandate of heaven” (Confucius), then the notion of morality is in a very literal sense something people understand “because god tells them to”. This is a fundamental insight of Natural Law theory that cuts across cultures and religions throughout the ages.

    It is only the hubris of various pseudo-intellectual moderns that think that you can construct a system of moral reasoning without recourse to the Natural Law.

    You might deny the existence of God, but you can’t escape the inevitable conclusion that without a moral law giver as a foundation for moral reasoning you are left without a philosophical leg to stand on. The older atheists understood this, which was why they embraced a very nihilistic view of the universe. Sadly the preening pretentious frauds that claim to pick up their mantle today seem to have forgotten the lessons of the much wiser intellects that went before them.

    If you want to claim to push a moral law giver out of the picture then at lest be intellectually honest enough to admit that you are left with nothing but a vacuum of moral nihilism.

    Jason Rennie

  • Thanks again Simon

    But you again manage to mangle everything I have said. You are not giving atheistic rationality a very good name here I am afraid. You may be wrong, but at least you are consistency wrong. Please tell us all what exactly Dawkins is giving his money to. Is it to starving children in Africa? Of course not; he is simply funding like-minded atheist crusaders. What kind of charity is that?

    Gates is of course not a militant atheist, which is what I have twice now referred to. And the research does indeed indicate that religious people are more inclined to give to the various charitable causes. But my point was this: who in fact is actually involved in the actual hands-on establishment and running of all these charitable groups and causes? Overwhelmingly it is religious people, and overwhelmingly it is not atheists.

    And spare me this nonsense about being an oppressed minority, and therefore unable to do any actual good to the world. ROFL. Your responses are getting increasingly bizarre and desperate.

    And for the last time, I said we are all moral beings because we are all made in the image of a moral lawgiver. But Buddhists of course do not even need to believe in a god, so they come closer to atheists in terms of lacking an epistemological basis for affirming moral obligations.

    Sadly your paragraph on moral obligation is completely incoherent, so I cannot even attempt to reply to such gibberish. I am afraid it is you who is completely out of your depth here, and you will have to come up with something much better if you hope to convince us that atheism is somehow a coherent and rational position. We are certainly not getting that from you so far.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Simon,

    Just a note on a comment you made

    Are not Buddhists moral? Muslims? Hindus?

    Actually Hinduism isn’t really coherently moral in terms of its philosophical under pinning at all. Although to generalize about a mish mash of ideas like Hinduism isn’t really practical, although there are strong strains of an ambivalence in Hinduism to right and wrong being opposites.

    Buddhism? I’m not sure, though I’ve never seen it espouse a particularly coherent moral worldview, but that might just be my experience with it.

    As for Islam, actually Islam is an “Abrahamic Faith” and it has ties to Natural Law theory through some of its jurisprudence and interactions with the pagan though of men like Aristotle.

    But again, you seem to have utterly missed the central point. It isn’t a question of whether some individual can adhere to some set of “moral principles” (whatever you think that means) but whether or not their professed worldview can provide an adequate meta-ethical foundation to make sense of those moral precepts.

    Could you at the very least, try to answer the question you are asked instead of answering an entirely different question and pretending that is somehow an answer to the question asked. If you dont understand the question then ask for clarification. Nobody will think less of you if you admit your ignorance and seek greater understanding. But continuing to answer the wrong question and pretend it is somehow relevant will quickly make people think you are out of your depth intellectually and unable to follow some pretty basic moral philosophy.

    Jason Rennie

  • Jason Rennie,

    Why do you assume that atheists exist in a moral vacuum? What a strange idea!

    You say that “It is only the hubris of various pseudo-intellectual moderns that think that you can construct a system of moral reasoning without recourse to the Natural Law.”

    OK. Work with me here. Imagine you and I are both selfish, immoral beings, with no sense of right or wrong (we’re atheists, in other words!). I want what’s best for me, and you want what’s best for you. We’re also both rational, and can think about consequences of our actions.

    So, you could steal my food. I also know that you can steal my food. You’re also aware that, if you steal my food, I can hit you back. And, if you steal my food now, I might steal your food later. We know that bad actions lead to bad consequences. And, we don’t need to be “moral” to know that, just selfish and rational.

    Alternatively, I could give you some of my food if you ask. This means you’re more likely to help me later if I need it. I also know that I’ll be able to keep part of my food for myself, rather than have you steal it all. It’s better for me, as a selfish and rational being, to treat you with compassion.

    Chimps groom each other, to remove nits and fleas. They literally work on the basis of “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.”

    Chimpanzees have been observed to show altruistic and compassionate behaviour to each other. They don’t believe in God, yet they act in “moral” ways. Did God give chimps a moral sense as well as humans? Or, is morality (I prefer the term “ethics”) something which we evolved to have?

    Why do religious people assume that atheists are nihilistic? I believe in humans; I believe in our power to do great good (and great evil). I give money regularly to charities. I help people in need. I do not commit violence. And, I do all this WITHOUT a god!

    Would you be moral without the Bible to tell you so?

    Simon Papson

  • Thanks Simon

    Sorry, but you continue to dig yourself further and further into a hole. Indeed, your nit-picking comments had me chuckling for quite some time. There is a fundamental difference between human beings engaging in genuine altruistic behaviour, such as sacrificing their life for a stranger when it gets them no gain or advantage whatsoever, and a chimp picking another’s nits.

    Genuine human altruism is light-years removed from anything animals do. All you are talking about is reciprocal altruism: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. That has nothing to do with genuine moral action. All you do by appealing to chimps is demonstrate the utter poverty of your moral beliefs by going down that dead-end road.

    And it is exactly because there is a God that you are doing anything that is good. Your own worldview offers no justification whatsoever for moral obligations. The point is, you need not believe in God to try to be moral, but there needs to be a God in order for you to be moral.

    It is odd that we have to keep belabouring this point, when the more rational atheists have admitted it all along. Some of you ‘brights’ really need to get up to speed with the more sensible atheists. I quote a few more, in the hope that all this might begin to sink in:

    “altruism toward strangers is a behaviour not supported by natural selection.” (Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr)

    “Moral properties … constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them.” (The late Oxford atheist philosopher J.L. Mackie)

    “If, then, there are such intrinsically prescriptive objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have, after all, a defensible deductive argument from morality to the existence of God.” (J.L. Mackie)

    “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view or that all really rational persons, unhoodwinked by myth or ideology, not be individualists or classic amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me… The point is this: Pure, practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” (atheist Kai Nielson)

    “The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns this ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, are they purely ephemeral?” (atheist Paul Kurtz)

    “A moral world is, however, very probable on theism.” (Agnostic philosopher Paul Draper)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • In my time as a Christian I have seen a situation pop its head up time and time again – that of a person saying that they are atheists because of a bad experience or because they think all Christians are hypocrites etc. My reply to these people is simply this – why should you miss out on the blessings God wants to give you because you shut him out on the basis of other people’s actions/thoughts etc.? So many people blame God for men’s mistakes, are all Christians hypocrites? To varying degrees probably yes, but as I explain to these people who blame God for that – wherever you find fallible human beings, you will find everything that is potentially wrong with human beings and this most certainly includes Christians but Christians have never claimed to be perfect, just forgiven and while Christians have their individual faults, you cannot help but notice the foundation that unites all Christians and is relatively manifest in their outward persona for all to see. On this basis I have come to the conclusion that turning your back on God because of other people’s attitudes/actions etc. is really not an option.
    Steve Davis

  • Hi Mary,
    I really like this statement: “Do no Harm”. To each other, to our descendents yet to come, to the planet that must support them.
    That would mean then that you would be strongly opposed to abortion, to the deliberate harming/killing of unborn babies. That is wonderful.
    Tas Walker

  • Thanks Tas

    Yes the ‘Do No Harm’ principle goes back as far as the Hippocratic Oath, which strongly denounced both abortion and euthanasia. Do Mary and the Secular Party agree with this as well?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill and Tas,

    Though I am a member, I do not speak for the Secular Party. I would refer you to the website for the party’s policy on abortion and euthanasia, which I support.

    Mary Fankhauser

  • Thanks Mary

    I see. So when you informed us you were in favour of the principle of “Do No Harm” you were just having us on. Of course since atheists do not believe in objective and transcendent moral absolutes, I guess such dissimilitude is to be expected.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hello Bill.
    I am a member of the Secular Party and my main reason is the Christian Political Parties flexing there muscles on values i dont hold true e.g. abortion, euthanasia, gay rights, internet filtering etc etc. Why these parties can not live there own lives without having to push there hand picked from the bible values into Australian law is beyond me. The bible is racist, anti gay and extremely violent when it comes to punishment but that is forgotten. Christians have such a violent and intolerant history when it comes to opposition and being faced with loosing there grip on society. This is why i feel the need to fight back.
    If Christians could live there life and not interfere with the rest of the world there would be no need for Parties like the Secular Party.

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21
    “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death.”
    How is this moral
    Nathan Everard

  • Thanks Nathan

    Let me answer you by simply paraphrasing you:

    “I am a member of a Christian group and my main reason is the secular Political Parties flexing there [sic] muscles on values i dont hold true e.g. abortion, euthanasia, gay rights, internet filtering etc etc. Why these parties can not live there [sic] own lives without having to push there [sic] hand picked secular values into Australian law is beyond me.”

    “If secularists could live there [sic] life and not interfere with the rest of the world there would be no need for Parties like the Christian parties.”

    As to the passage, a few quick points. This was not about kids but rebellious teens – juvenile delinquents as we would call them today. And societies today also have laws against rebellious anti-social behaviour. But capital punishment could be – and was – easily substituted for a ransom. Finally, I am a Christian. A law relating to ancient Israel has nothing specifically to do with the Christian religion which I am advocating.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,
    A very good answer to Mr Everard!
    Steve Davis

  • with your regards to religions not set up in the name of athiesm, you are absolutly right, there are very few charities ect, set up in the name of athiesm, this is because athiesm is a non belief, rather then an active belief, however you will find plenty of charities set up for NON-religious reasons, and i think that this distinction bill is where your confusion in the matter lies.
    Cameron Hoare

  • Thanks Cameron

    Sorry but I am just not buying your spin on “non-belief”. One simply has to look at a book such as The God Delusion to see that what we have here are misotheists with a full-orbed set of beliefs. They believe there is no God (something they cannot prove but must accept on faith), they believe religion is evil, they believe everyone should think like them, etc. They are fundamentalists on a crusade, and are far more than those simply with “non-belief” as you would have us believe.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “Every time an atheist sits on a chair he is acting on faith. He has no certainty that the chair will bear his weight…”

    I’m always puzzled by this sort of analogy. Do you reckon your god’s no more than furniture, or perhaps you think we should worship chairs?

    Seriously, your analogy falls down at the first hurdle. If I have any doubts about the existence of chairs, it’s an easy matter for me to determine that they do exist. If I lack faith in a chairs ability to hold my weight, I can easily test it to determine if it will, and modify it or replace it if it won’t. I can’t do any of those things with god.

    If I choose not to have faith in chairs, or I choose to believe in beanbags instead, no-one will denigrate me for it, or tell me I’m going to burn in hell for rejecting chairs. I won’t be stoned as an apostate if I choose not to sit down. Can’t say the same about god.

    I think if anyone is indulging in juvenile rhetoric, it’s you.

    Mark Newton

  • The Secular Party supports all the standard secular-left issues including abortion and same-sex marriage. See here: www.secular.org.au/mnu-aims2

    A very similar agenda to The Greens but perhaps a little more overtly anti-Christian. Then there is the Sex Party which is another overtly anti-Christian group. We might think of these three parties as the unholy trinity!

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Thanks Mark

    But of course you miss the point. The analogy is not the issue. The point is, every single one of us on a daily basis operates with a combination of knowledge, evidence and faith. You atheists who so smugly go on about how you only operate on the basis of evidence and proof are of course simply making arrogantly vacuous assertions. There are, as I mentioned, all sorts of faith assumptions which even scientist must operate from before they can even begin to do science. Any scientist worth his salt is quite happy to admit as much.

    Everyone – whether religious or non-religious – lives on faith as much as on the evidence. The Christian is the one who has weighed up the evidence and decided that on balance there is far better reason to believe in God and the claims of Christ than to buy into the reductionism of philosophical naturalism. Indeed, it takes far more faith to be an atheist.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • There are plenty of atheists posting on here who are obviously completely out of their depth because they’ve never thought through the issues.

    God has revealed Himself to us through his son Jesus Christ, and He has granted us the gift of morality. Who has granted atheists their gift of morality? One only has to look at Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Dawkins to see what atheism leads to. Mass deaths and the poisoning of children’s minds with atheistic mumbo-jumbo. Is that the sort of world these atheists want to live in?

    Spare us the nonsense, atheists. Without God nothing makes sense, and there’s no logical reason to be good. Keep your horrible ideologies to yourselves and stop trying to poison children’s minds with it all.

    I sometimes wonder if these people’s lives are solely to challenge the faithful to reaffirm their beliefs. I can’t bring myself to believe that because God loves us all. But what good do atheists to anyone? There’s no reason any decent society should be forced to tolerate them. I for one don’t trust any of them.

    Barbara Murray-Leach

  • “A law relating to ancient Israel has nothing specifically to do with the Christian religion which I am advocating.”

    What about the ancient Israel law advocating slavery for your daughter? The ancient Israel law against prostitution? The ancient Israel law against homosexuality? The ancient Israel law against eating animals without cloven hoofs? The ancient Israel law against working on the Sabbath?

    Which ancient Israel laws do you keep and observe, and which ones do you ignore? And, more importantly, how do you decide which is which? Because, I know you don’t observe them all, but nor have you ignored them all. Therefore, there is some way of deciding which to observe and which to ignore.

    And, THERE is your person-driven morality. The morality of people rather than of God. Any time we interpret the Bible, we apply our own morals to it. We decide, not God.

    Simon Papson

  • Thanks yet again Simon

    As I have told plenty of other atheists, I am always happy to provide honest answers to honest questions. Those who are genuinely seeking truth I am happy to engage with. Those however you are simply pushing an agenda and just want to argue for argument’s sake I am not really interested in at all. It is entirely up to you to decide which camp you are in.

    There happen to be over 600 laws spelled out in the Hebrew Scriptures. Is it your intention to discuss all of them? And as I already told you, I am a Christian. I am not Jewish, so my primary marching orders are of course found in the New Testament.

    The laws you cite were of course for the ancient nation of Israel – a theocracy under Yahweh – which no longer exists today. So the laws and the penalties attached to them do not directly apply to us today. The moral principles behind them certainly may, and timeless moral codes such as the Ten Commandments are applicable today. Thus God’s foundational stance on marriage, for example, which was enunciated long before the Mosaic Law was given, continues today. Jesus himself affirmed this moral truth.

    But I have discussed these matters elsewhere on this site, and genuine seekers are welcome to take it further. But those who simply want to score cheap atheist points are encouraged to go elsewhere. I leave that judgment up to you.

    As to “person-driven morality,” you are once again quite off base. We are not robots, and we are all created with a mind to make genuine moral decisions. So of course there is an element of ourselves in every moral decision made. But there is a huge difference between a moral universe in which transcendent and objective moral codes exist which we can interact with and respond to, and a world in which there are no transcendent moral absolutes at all, as in your worldview, where everyone decides for himself or herself what is right and wrong.

    It makes all the difference in the world to have a nation with a standardised law code, which may still raise some question of interpretation at times, as opposed to a nation which is completely anarchic, with no rule of law whatsoever. Once again, we are not too impressed with the atheists’ inability to make such basic moral and conceptual distinctions.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Bill,
    Thank you for your generous response to my offer to take a seemingly irrelevant and personal discussion out of your ‘loungeroom’.
    You’re quite right – I have no intellectual problem with Christianity. I work in the Catholic education system, and have a deep respect and love for my colleagues, the children I teach and their families. I do not pity them their faith, and equally I am not in the least jealous. It is a personal matter, and I am happy to keep to my Science teaching. I do not challenge them on it, and keep my unbelief to myself.
    I did grow up in the Anglican Church, and had many wonderful experiences. I loved belonging to the cohesive and welcoming community that existed in our parish, I sang in the choir, served at the altar, played music during the Communion reflection. I loved the pageantry of the mass, the feeling that I was a part of some larger celebration. I wept for the passion of Christ and was as exultant as anyone else on Easter morn. It was beautiful and hypnotic, and even now in times of great stress I am tempted to fall into a comforting mantra of Hail Marys.
    I had no bad experiences of the type you describe. In fact, I wanted to enter the priesthood. At age 15 I approached our Priest, who was also a close family friend, to discuss what I believed to be my calling. He was most supportive and took me to meet our Bishop, who stated simply that I would never be ordained in his Diocese. This opened my eyes to the fact that though it professed to be based on the teachings of Christ, the Church was actually a political institution, run by misogynists who enjoyed exercising power. I didn’t think Christ would like it, and neither did I.
    This led me to think deeply on the nature of organised religion, and the fact that so many exist. I wondered how it could be that purely by accident of birth, you could have such a different idea of God and what God stands for and wants of us. Surely if God was all-powerful and all-knowing, he would’ve stuck to the same story? Also, as I read more and more of the bible, it appeared to me that God had been on a fairly steep learning curve over the last few millennia. Again, this didn’t sit well with the idea of a supreme being. This led me to the conclusion that it was we who had made God in our own image, rather than the other way around, and that we keep re-inventing Him as our society evolves.
    I believe that we will get to a point where we don’t need this invisible friend any longer. I don’t know whether we’re there yet, but I personally can’t keep up the pretence.
    There are things I do miss and I think we, as a species, probably need a substitute for.
    One is the community, social inclusion and social responsibility that comes with an organised church. I don’t have an answer for that yet, but I believe that a secular society will have to come up with something. I am more than happy for my taxes to be spent on foreign aid, education, provision of health care, preventative mental and dental health programmes etc etc etc. In fact I am much happier with the idea of providing a Secular government with the means to do this effectively than relying on religions, with their own strange political and moral agendas to do so.
    As to my beliefs on Euthanasia and Abortion, I would be happy to go into them if you are truly interested, but this is probably enough of an essay for this morning.
    Regards,
    Mary Fankhauser

  • And from a very basic point of view,
    Why would Bill Gates or the like have a foundation? I don’t think it has anything to do with a giving heart to help the poor, or to protect those who cant protect themselves? More to do with Tax and public opinion.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Thanks again Mary

    I appreciate your story, and your willingness to share it. But all it seems to do is prove my point. You seem to have turned sour with faith partly because of your sense that “the Church was actually a political institution, run by misogynists who enjoyed exercising power”. But of course all you are doing there is dismissing a straw man. The truth claims of Christianity must be assessed on their own merits. The fact that churches and individual Christians can and have misrepresented Christ is no reason to reject Christ. So the burden is still on you as to what you will do with Christ and his claims.

    And I must call your bluff on this silly false choice between Christian commitment and “my Science teaching”. The two are not at all mutually exclusive, and as so many experts have pointed out, modern science only arose because of the Judeo-Christian worldview in the first place.

    As to the existence of many organised religions, that is not at all surprising. Given that people have turned their back on God, shaken their fist at him, and said “we will not have you to rule over us,” they have then invented their own gods and beliefs. It is a simple and tragic example of violating the first commandment. As Chesterton reminds us, “When a man ceases to believe in God, he does not believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” So there are not only plenty of competing religions, but all sorts of false gods which we worship as well, be it money, success, power, human pride in our own intellectual abilities, secular utopias, and so on.

    Indeed, we have had plenty of experiments with man-made religions last century, complete with attempts to create utopia on earth. Between these various secular utopias, hundreds of millions of people were slaughtered. And you want us to head even further in this direction? You simply have far more faith than I to say, “I believe that a secular society will have to come up with something”. Sorry, we have been there and done that – and it looks pretty horrendous indeed.

    As to abortion and euthanasia, as I mentioned, support of pro-death policies certainly gives lie to your claims that “wherever and whenever possible we should ‘Do no Harm’. To each other, to our descendents yet to come, to the planet that must support them.”

    But thanks for sharing in your journey with us. I trust that you have not stopped seeking for truth, but will continue. You may have rejected some man-made religion, but the living God still patiently waits, and the outstretched arms of Christ are still extended to you. I will continue to pray for you.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ultimately belief in the existence of God, or the lack of belief, is a matter of opinion. Some base their opinion on deep knowledge and research, others on more superficial grounds.

    But it remains a matter of subjective opinion. I am a non-believer, but I respect the right of believers to their opinion. Amongst my circle of friends are people in both camps, some more strongly attached to their position than others. Although I have sometimes had discussions about the issue with friends who hold a different opinion, it has never become quarrelsome. This is as it should be among friends. Life is too short.

    I wish the militant minorities on both sides in the wider world would back off. Quarrelling achieves nothing since the question is impossible to resolve.

    I’m sure if the protagonists in this forum met face-to-face over coffee there could be a friendly meeting of minds. Yet the same discussion over the anonymous medium of the Internet almost always results in conflict, stereotyping and name-calling. Reminds me of road rage.

    No matter which side you are on, or how strongly you think you are right, you could be wrong. Worth thinking about.

    Richard Prentice, Perth

  • Thanks Richard

    Thanks for sharing. But I must beg to differ with you. Belief in whether or not God exists is far more than a matter of mere personal opinion. Not only are the issues involved vitally important (dealing with life’s most important questions, such as who am I, where did I come from, where am I going, and what is the purpose of life, etc) but these matters are categorically on a different level from genuine matters of subjective preference. For example, the issue of you preferring vanilla ice cream while I prefer chocolate ice cream certainly is a matter of personal opinion and subjective taste. But truth claims are of an altogether different order.

    These religious truth claims can be assessed and weighed up. Indeed, it is incumbent upon us to do so. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. We all owe it to ourselves, and the cause of truth, to take seriously these various truth claims and seek to ascertain which are most coherent, consistent and correspond to the real world.

    In biblical Christianity there are all sorts of truth claims being made, including the following: A personal infinite God exisst; he created the universe; we are made in his image; we have rebelled against his rightful rulership over us; God’s son Jesus Christ entered human history, lived a perfect life, and died a substitutioanry death for our rebellion; and will one day come again to offer final judgment.

    Christianity invites critical inspection and evaluation. The claims of Christ are open to scrutiny and ultimately, decision as to whether we accept them or reject them. These are claims which can be assessed, discussed, and evaluated. They are of course far different than discussions about flavours of ice cream, and are much weightier matters as well.

    As to religious debates, yes they can get messy, and yes there often is more heat than light generated in such debates. But little wonder, given what vitally important issues they are dealing with – life and death issues really. As to having chats over coffee, I already do that with some people. But given that there are over 17,000 comments on this site, I obviously cannot share a cuppa with everyone. And you yourself have of course chosen to use a web blog to share your points of view.

    Indeed, many people prefer the relatively anonymous environment of the Internet to discuss such matters. So that I shall continue to do. But thanks for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    It is always interesting to ask oneself a few questions..

    1. Where did I come from i.e. how did I get here?

    2. Why am I here i.e. what is my life’s purpose?

    3. Where am I going when I die i.e. what is next?

    If my religion is that God doesn’t exist, then the answers are quite simple – came from nowhere, here for no reason, and going nowhere. However, where did the nowhere that I came from come from, and where did the nowhere from nowhere come from? How can I live and move and have my being if I am here for no reason, having come from nowhere? Why does my heart beat and carry oxygen (and where did the oxygen come from again?) and nutrients into my cells, and ATP become ADP plus energy to power me? Going nowhere next does not provide much hope for the future.

    If, as the Bible declares, “..the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.:..”, then where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going takes on quite a different perspective! I now have hope – for today, and tomorrow, and for the future.

    I have found myself, that some rational contemplation leads to the conclusion of a Creator.

    David Alston

  • Atheists: please see Antony Flew’s Book: “There is a God: how the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind”. An atheist’s position is simply not tenable in the light of the absolutely astronomical odds against blind chance bringing about life on earth. The 3.8 to 4 billion years available that was available after the earth was formed, is simply not enough time to allow for blind chance as a cause. Antony Flew also has an endorsement on the back cover of Drs Scott Hann and Benjamin Wiker’s book: “Answering the new atheism: dismantling Dawkins Case against God”. This “praise” by Flew states: “Rarely, if ever, in my many years as a professor of philosophy did I ever have the opportunity to read such a compelling argument”….
    Jerome Gonzalez

  • Faith is not the same thing as knowledge. Faith is a decision to believe based on reason, evidence and personal experience. For me this leads to the conclusion that God exists.
    Many atheists are clearly people of great faith that God does not exist. Perhaps a truly impartial review of the evidence could help them to a more reasonable stance.
    Anna Cook

  • Atheists have chosen a very difficult stance since it will never be possible to conclusively prove a negative. My proof, on the other hand, is definitely coming some time in the next 25 years!!!
    Anna Cook

  • Bill,

    You seem to be saying that the word “opinion” only applies to frivolous matters. Yet an opinion can indeed be a matter of life and death, as in the opinion of a doctor, or a judge or jury.

    The existence or non-existence of God cannot be demonstrated, irrespective that there are “truth claims” that support either position. Therefore it is not a fact but a matter of subjective opinion, hopefully informed by a comprehensive assessment of the evidence. The fact that there are great minds who are believers and great minds who are non-believers demonstrates that it is not a question that can be finally resolved by rational human thought.

    Your other comments on the seriousness of the question are a paraphrase of Pascal’s Wager, serious criticisms of which have been widely published.

    Richard Prentice

  • Thanks again Richard

    I could of course cut to the quick and ask you a direct question: do you consider your two comments to be actual truth claims, or merely your own personal opinion?

    But leaving that important and intriguing question aside for a moment, you do miss the point. Opinion can of course be given on matters large or small, significant or insignificant. But speaking as a Christian, I am arguing that Christian truth claims are not at all just a matter of subjective personal taste, but claims which can be assessed, verified and investigated.

    The chief claims of Christianity include the facts that Jesus lived on planet earth 2000 years ago; he is purported to have done many miraculous acts; and he died and rose again, and was seen by many hundreds of people thereafter. These historical claims can be studied and considered as to their historical veracity. So too can the early texts which record most of these truth claims. The historical reliability of the gospel accounts are not just something one has a mere opinion about, but are matters which can empirically and historically be investigate and ascertained.

    That, as I say, is a far different matter than whether or not you prefer chocolate ice cream.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Oh dear Anna. Please tell me that I’ve misinterpreted this, “… is definitely coming some time in the next 25 years!!!”

    Kev Downes

  • “Evangelistic atheist” is pure sillyness. Atheist’s have no beliefs to force onto anyone.
    Religion is a delusion no matter how much you deny it.

    “We contend however, that only wilful blindness to the violence and destruction caused by religion, over centuries and to the present day, could obscure the fact that religions are on balance harmful to society. Whatever moral, charitable or consoling advantages religions may have had, in the 21st century these are best obtained by other means.”
    Although it partially fits the definition of bigotry, I see absolutely no delusion there. From what I can tell they are saying we don’t need Religion to have good people. As Steve Weinberg once said “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    “Every time an atheist sits on a chair he is acting on faith.” Terrible analogy. The chair is something that we can see and feel. Belief in religion requires faith of something they have never been shown in any way. It is definitely a departure from reality.

    I, for one, don’t need faith to watch a TV. That is just an absolutely ridiculous statement.

    Scientists accept the laws of logic and mathematics because there is masses of evidence that they are correct.

    “Indeed, we do not know what evidence may arise tomorrow which will invalidate scientific theories held to today.” Yes, and once they have been invalidated, Science will not ignore the invalidation. It will change.

    A “de-baptism” ritual (mostly for laughs) is much weirder than an actual baptism? Are you crazy?

    After this you just go on a rant about morals, it’s not even worth arguing those points. They are completely mental.

    Simon Matthews

  • Thanks Simon

    As to your first point, you are either woefully ignorant or deliberate deceptive. No one can read such a book as The God Delusion without seeing 400 pages of beliefs being forced on others.

    And your second claim is typical misotheist hogwash: simply throw out an assertion without a shred of evidence or fact, and think you are somehow making an argument.

    And Weinberg’s vacuous comment is not really worth bothering with. It is all of your atheist buddies who have singlehandedly managed to massacre over 100 million people last century, all to set up their secular utopias.

    I have already spoken to the analogy.

    No, there is not “masses of evidence” for the laws of logic. They are not proved at all – they can’t be. They are simply assumed and utilised.

    Science readily self-corrects and changes? Oh, like climate change science you mean?

    No I am not crazy.

    In my discussion on morality, I mainly quote your atheist buddies on the issue. Yet all you can do in response is throw a hissy fit and refuse to even address the point. Such sparkling rationality really moves me to want to embrace atheism. Not.

    Sorry, but I am afraid the cause of fundamentalist atheism has not been advanced one iota by your remarks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,

    My comments are indeed my personal opinion. One cannot state that it is a fact that the question of the existence of God cannot ever be resolved, because new information could come to light. So my comment that the existence of God is a matter of opinion is based on the current state of knowledge.

    I am well aware of the “truth claims” of Christianity, as I am of the claims of many other competing and mutually exclusive religions. I respect that you believe the Christian claims to be true, and I respect the fact that you proselytise your beliefs with much passion and energy.

    However, earnestness does not turn claims into facts, otherwise the claims of Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Hindus, and other earnest believers have to be considered as “truths”, and I doubt you would accept that.

    A sincere non-believer is also entitled to an opinion based on his assessment of the evidence. In my case, I find the evidence for the supernatural, whether the Christian claims or any other, to be unconvincing. And this is not, as some Christians may think, because I haven’t properly examined the claims.

    My purpose here is not to argue that you are wrong, or to push the case why I think I am right, but merely to point out that an earnest seeker of truth can come to a different conclusion than yours. Hence, my original comment that faith, or lack of it, is entirely subjective.

    I concede that I could be wrong, and I would be perfectly willing to change my opinion if unequivocal evidence came to light. Are you willing to concede that the possibility that you could be wrong?

    Richard Prentice

  • Thanks Richard

    But my point was that to determine how to assess differing truth claims is far more than mere personal preferences, as you first seemed to be indicating. And you seem to want to have it both ways here. One the one hand, you seem to believe that what you are saying is true, and what we are saying is wrong, and you want us to see the light. On the other hand you want to inform us that this is all just a matter of opinion. In which case, why even bother? Why waste your time here? We do not have lengthy debates over the ‘right’ flavour of ice cream, so why have such debates here, if there is no truth to ultimately discover and promote?

    And earnestness has nothing to do with the matter. As to competing religious truth claims, one weighs them up, assesses them, and makes a decision. Many of the claims are mutually contradictory, so to adhere to one means disbelieving in the other. Any important decision in life involves weighing up the options and comparing pros and cons. One can do that in the religious quest for truth as well.

    And faith – at least in the Christian worldview – is always based on an object. It is not faith in faith, but faith in a certain truth or fact. In Biblical faith it is based on the words and actions of God. It is a faith resting upon rational evidence, and is not contrary to it.

    Whether or not you are genuinely open to changing your mind is only known to you. Indeed, you seem to rule out any change of belief by setting the bar higher than any normal person does on such issues. Just what do you mean by “unequivocal evidence”? As I have argued elsewhere, fool-proof evidence for most things does not exist, except perhaps in mathematical truths, etc. In almost all normal areas of human life, we at best rely on high degrees of probability or likelihood. But if you make unrealistic demands of God, and insist that he bow to your terms, instead of rightly submitting to his, then of course you will never get very far if you are indeed on a truth quest.

    And the biblical pronouncement certainly applies here: “God gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud”. The proud man says the issue of God’s existence can only be discussed and dealt with on human terms. The humble man says God has the obvious right to determine the rules of the game, and if he has revealed himself to us, then he lays down the ground rules, not us.

    And by the way, it is my experience with dealing with numerous atheists over the years that perhaps at least 95 per cent who say they have carefully examined the truth claims of Christianity have done nothing of the sort. As Chesterton once rightly observed, “The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult, and left untried.”

    As to changing my mind – yes, I already have. I too was once an unbelieving secularist, fully caught up in the radical counter-culture of the sixties. But like millions of others, I had a radical change of mind. Just as uber-atheist Antony Flew was persuaded by the evidence, and had to renounce his unbelief, so too did I.

    So I have certainly progressed in these areas. Have you?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • So the atheists want unequivocal evidence do they? I think not. I read an article by an atheist organisation that said no one can prove that God heals.

    A few days prior I received a newsletter that told of the raising to life of a dead baby. I sent them all the details and invited them to do their own investigation as to the veracity of the claim.

    I never heard anything more from them.

    Another thing that atheists are famous for is taking isolated verses from the Old Testament and saying “there you are, that proves what I am saying.” Context and biblical exegesis doesn’t get a look in.

    This is very evident from the previous comment about the so called 600 laws in the OT. Of course, if they applied their claims in context, they would know that there are laws and then there are commandments.

    We have 10 commandments which were not done away with at the cross because Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments” (all 10 of them, not just nine as some would have us believe).

    Atheists, in their haste to slag off at Christians say in their ignorance we have to keep the other 600. Of course they ignore the fact that the other 600 are not commandments, they are ordinances, which were Jewish specific and which were done away with at the cross and are unnecessary to be saved by grace.

    Roger Marks

  • Bill,

    I was once a believing Christian, so I too have progressed, but in the opposite direction from you.

    I think you are misunderstanding my argument here. I am not trying to convert anyone to my opinion, nor have I criticised yours. I am merely putting the proposition that no one, with the information and knowledge presently available to us, can know with absolute certainty that God, whether the Christian version or some other, exists or does not exist. Or more importantly for human aspirations, whether an afterlife exists. That is not to say that such truth is ultimately undiscoverable in either its truth or falsehood. (I reject the notion that a negative cannot be proven, as many theists, and even many non-theists contend).

    I don’t know why you compare your conversion with Anthony Flew’s. He stated that he did not believe in the Christian God, nor in the afterlife.

    Will you answer one direct question for me? Do you consider the existence of the afterlife to be a hypothesis, a theory or a fact?

    Richard Prentice

  • Thanks Richard

    As to your journey, we will all find out soon enough whether it was in fact progress or regress. And just what deep intellectual component of Christianity did you once have which you now have rejected? Or are you in fact telling us what most atheists really mean when they make such claims: that you went to Sunday school as an eight-year-old, and that is the extent of the Christianity which you have now “rejected”?

    Given that most of the great minds of history have been theists, if not Christians – including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Locke, Berkeley, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, to name but a few – are you telling us you once carefully investigated their writings, but have then decided to reject it all?

    And I don’t think I am misunderstanding you. Indeed, it seems that you are now finally conceding the point I have been making all along: “I am merely putting the proposition that no one, with the information and knowledge presently available to us, can know with absolute certainty that God, whether the Christian version or some other, exists or does not exist.”

    As I already said, that is true of about 99 per cent of life. You do not know with “absolute certainty” that I exist; that the chair you are sitting on will support your weight the rest of the day; that Richard Dawkins is really who he claims to be; that the sun will rise tomorrow; that you will be alive next week; that Obama is right now President; that quarks exist; or that evolution is true; etc, etc.

    Almost all of life is based on uncertainty, doubt, levels of probability, and degrees of certainty. Almost nothing can be known with “absolute certainty”. Thus we all live on faith every day of our lives. You do as much as anyone. Yet do you cower in a corner, afraid to move, because of the lack of “absolute certainty”? Of course not, you exercise faith a hundred times a day and get on with your life.

    And I did not say my conversion was on a par with that of Flew’s. I simply held him up as one example of many of those who have renounced atheism. His rejection of atheism was a seismic shift, even if it seems he only got as far as deism. And he of course did not utterly reject belief in the afterlife. For example, he said of NT Wright’s case for the resurrection of Christ that it was quite “impressive”.

    As to the afterlife, I believe it to be real, just as I believe the following things are real: love, truth, justice, beauty, purpose, meaning, consciousness, etc. All these and many other wonderful goods of life of course cannot be proven empirically or known with “absolute certainty” as you are so worried about. But even the most reductionist naturalist – even ones who deny such non-material goods exist – still live as if they do.

    Are you married Richard? If so, has your wife ever told you that she loves you? If so, did you go in a philosophical rant, and tell her how silly it is to believe in things which cannot be seen or measured or tested in themselves? Do you tell her that her love is really rather useless because you cannot know with “absolute certainty” that it in fact exists? Did you say this marriage cannot continue, because I cannot stand going through life without “absolute certainty”?

    So I have to call your bluff here. It really is a foolish and irrational bluff which atheists keep trying to pull.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Richard wrote:
    >> I am merely putting the proposition that no one, with the information and knowledge
    >> presently available to us, can know with absolute certainty that God,
    >> whether the Christian version or some other, exists or does not exist.

    Interesting burden of proof that you seem to be suggesting is required. I was about to point out that we humans simply do not live our lives in ways which require “absolute certainty”, but I see that Bill has already posted some thoughts about that.

    If you doubt that this is true, ask yourself this question: Do I know, with absolutely certainty, that there are other persons such as myself?

    The answer is “no”. Everyone else could all be very cleverly designed robots. Or we could all be inside the Matrix. Yet we live our lives as though it were a certainty that there are other persons, that the world I experience is real/tangible, that time is indeed passing, that when I flick the light switch the light will come on, and a thousand other things every day.

    So why require a deductive proof? Why not be satisfied with an inductive proof?

    But if you’re interested in seeing what at least one world-leading mathematician thought (I refer to the late Kurt Gödel), you might be interested in this quote:

    ?”I am convinced of the afterlife, independent of theology. If the world is rationally constructed, there must be an afterlife.”
    — Kurt Gödel (1906-1978)

    Godel left us a fascinating proof of the existence of God, via modal logic:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel's_ontological_proof

    It is subject to some criticisms; the argument itself is formally correct, however some of his assumptions are open to debate. I think its the closest thing you will ever find to a formal deductive proof either for or against the existence of God.

    There are others, however this is probably the most fascinating, given who Gödel was. If you’d like me to point you to other attempts at proofs, I could look them up for you (however none of them, to my knowledge, are a slam dunk, as they all have their critics).

    Stephen Frost, Melbourne

  • What I don’t understand is why atheists continue to post here, or, anywhere for that matter; to write books and attempt to “debunk” the beliefs of Christians and other religions at all.

    I mean, thinking about it from an atheistic perspective, it simply makes no sense. If you don’t believe we were created by God and that He exists, in an afterlife, or, sin, punishment, etc. why do you even bother replying, posting, writing books, etc.?

    If you are actually correct and religious people are delusional and mislead, as you all keep stating, then it doesn’t matter what anyone has done, or, will do in the future, (so there’s no point complaining about the so-called evils of religion and alleged deaths/damage caused – clearly ignoring the carnage that atheism has caused for the moment) as the moral outrage that you seem to imply here is entirely baseless.

    Without a basis for ultimate authority to appeal to, your morality is entirely subjective and depends on the individual whims of the person moralising. You have no right to say that something is right, or, wrong, because there is no ultimate example for others to be compared against.

    If you are correct and life/death doesn’t matter, we’re all going to end up as nothing, why do you care? Why do you post replies?

    It seems to me that in arguing what you perceive as a case against religion, you are actually showing doubt in your position.

    A true atheist who actually believed wholeheartedly in their position would know that there is absolutely no point at all in arguing about the existence of God, etc. as if you are right it doesn’t matter, in fact nothing matters at all…..

    …but, consider if you are wrong…..

    Glen Grady, Brisbane

  • Glen Grady, you are so right in your observations. I have said this many times debating atheists on the internet. They rant and rave on and when I ask why they do so if God does not exist and…mumble, mumble, mumble.

    For you Richard Prentice. I have had a personal encounter with angels, satan and with God. I KNOW that my redeemer lives. You can hypothesise all you like but I know what I know, I saw what I saw, I felt what I felt and I heard what I heard.

    Roger Marks

  • Just another aside. I don’t believe that atheists don’t believe there is a God. The reason why they spend so much time attacking him is because they know he is there but they don’t want to acknowledge the fact and they don’t want to submit to his will, so their only response is to try and convince themselves he doesn’t exist.
    Roger Marks

  • Yes quite right Roger

    Just what Romans 1:18-32 informs us.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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