The philosopher and atheist AC Grayling is writing a book entitled ‘The Good Book: A Secular History’. In it he joins Richard Dawkins and Christophet Hitchens, amongst a growing list, who insist that you don’t need to believe in God to be good. Every Christian would want to affirm that fact. Atheists can and often do choose to be ‘good’, whatever that may mean in an amoral universe of ‘blind pitiless indifference’ to quote Dawkins.
But, heres the rub, the thing they don’t want to tell you is that without a belief in God there is no reason to be bad either. In a quite brilliant article the intellectual dishonesty at work in those who will not admit that their creed allows men to be cruel is exposed by Peter Heck.
Here’s just one extract but it’s well worth reading the whole:
Two years ago, their motto was “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake!” Last year, they were more direct: “No god? No problem!” But this year, as they feebly attempt to detract from the celebration of Christ’s incarnation once again, perhaps it’s a fruitful exercise for our civilization to consider their overtures and weigh the merit of their message.
As far as I can tell, the mantra “No god? No problem!” has but one minor flaw: the entire record of human history. It is no coincidence that as German atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche boasted, “God is dead … we have killed him … must we not ourselves become gods[?]” (which, by the way, is the entire basis of humanism dating back to the Garden of Eden), he Continue reading »
Do you sometimes wonder whether our Bibles tell us the whole story about Jesus? Do you wonder whether other biographies of the life of Jesus have been censured by the church? Why should we trust the four gospels we have and what could we say to those who ask?
In 1945 a man called Mohammed Ali (not to be confused with the Boxer) discovered in the deserts of Egypt a storage jar containing thirteen leather-bound books that date from the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The books are written in Coptic (an ancient Egyptian language) and are probably translations of earlier Greek texts. We know, for example, that one of the books ‘The Gospel of Thomas’ is a translation because archaeologists have discovered earlier Greek fragments that probably date from between 130-250 AD. After years of research and translation the Nag Hammadi find was published in 1977
Why is this discovery so important?
The discovery matters, essentially, because they contain early Gospels that we don’t find in our own Bibles. The thirteen books include a total of 52 documents including books called ‘The Gospel of Philip’,‘ The Gospel of Thomas’ and ‘The Apocalypse of Peter’. Continue reading »
A couple of days ago we considered the remarkable story of how atheist and arch-enemy of Christianity AN Wilson rediscovered his Christian faith.
In a follow up article in the Daily Mail Wilson set out some of the reasons he had become an atheist along with his route home to faith. I hope by looking at it together it will give us renewed confidence in our faith and a fresh desire to share it with others.
Like having spots
One of Wilson’s key insights looking back on his life is that his atheism rested not on the fact that Christianity is no longer believable but that it has become so deeply unfashionable. Our culture is much more than secular (in which it would simply ignore matters of faith). Our culture is in fact deeply anti-religious. It’s not satisfied to leave Christianity alone it seeks out opportunity to give it a good beating.
Wilson, in his article, examines how the media-pundits and intelligencia in British society systematically attack and ridicule Christianity.
‘Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.
To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.
This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.
It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.
The Guardian’s fanatical feminist-in-chief, Polly Toynbee, is one of the most dismissive of religion and Christianity in particular. She is president of the British Humanist Association, an associate of the National Secular Society and openly scornful of the millions of Britons who will quietly proclaim their faith in Church tomorrow.
‘Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?’ she asked in a puerile article decrying the wickedness of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, which have bewitched children for more than 50 years. Or, to take another of her utterances: ‘When absolute God-given righteousness beckons, blood flows and women are in chains.’
The sneering Ms Toynbee, like Richard Dawkins, believes in rational explanations for our existence and behaviour. She is deeply committed to the Rationalist Association, but her approach to religion is too fanatical to be described as rational.’ Continue reading »
As a young Christian the man we had to contend with was AN Wilson. He just seemed to have it in for us Christians. He wrote a biography of CS Lewis in which in page after page he worked hard to erode my confidence in the man, his faith and his reasoned defense of Christianity. But Wilson wasn’t satisfied to rob me of CS Lewis. He followed it up with a booklet entitled ‘Against Religion: Why we should live without it’ and then he wrote a book on Jesus himself denying his deity and reducing him to the place of a merely misguided end-time ‘prophet’ of liberal Christianity. Perhaps my biggest problem was not Wilson but the media’s delight in him and his books. Time and again his views were splashed across the papers and Christians were once again in retreat.
Here is how AN Wilson describes his own conversion to atheism:
I can remember almost yelling that reading C S Lewis’s Mere Christianity made me a non-believer – not just in Lewis’s version of Christianity, but in Christianity itself. On that occasion, I realised that after a lifetime of churchgoing, the whole house of cards had collapsed for me – the sense of God’s presence in life, and the notion that there was any kind of God, let alone a merciful God, in this brutal, nasty world. As for Jesus having been the founder of Christianity, this idea seemed perfectly preposterous. In so far as we can discern anything about Jesus from the existing documents, he believed that the world was about to end, as did all the first Christians. So, how could he possibly have intended to start a new religion for Gentiles, let alone established a Church or instituted the Sacraments? It was a nonsense, together with the idea of a personal God, or a loving God in a suffering universe. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.
As a hesitant, doubting, religious man I’d never known how they felt. But, as a born-again atheist, I now knew exactly what Continue reading »
People are embarrassed to believe in God so confesses Victoria Coren in an article in the Guardian over the weekend. And so as a believer in God herself she bemoans the lack of quick-witted, thinking, believers able to stand up to the growing assault of radical atheism.
She writes: ‘Lord Carey (previous Archbishop of Canterbury) complained last week that Britain is ashamed to celebrate Christmas as a religious festival. It’s bigger than that: people are embarrassed to believe in God at all. They feel silly.
There is a new, false distinction between “believers” and “rationalists”. The trickle-down Dawkins effect has got millions of people thinking that faith is ignorant and childish, with atheism the smart and logical position’
Coren wants Christians to pick up the gauntlet and respond! It’s time for Christians to expose the illogicality of atheism (after all you simply can’t prove a negative and Dawkins when pushed on the matter in debate with Professor John Lennox admits that he is an agnostic rather than an atheist). We need to reveal the intellectual poverty of atheism in its answers to questions of morality and to demonstrate the falsity of the claim that religion is to blame for everything by showing how the course of human history and the Continue reading »
Sawing off the branch you’re sitting on
Charles Darwin once wrote in a letter to a friend:
The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.
What Darwin is recognising here is that if our minds are nothing more than products of evolution from lesser animals there really has to be a doubt as to whether we should believe that they are an accurate guide to life the universe and everything.
Maybe ignorance is bliss
Aldous Huxley died on the same day as JFK and CS Lewis, 22nd November 1963. He was also the grandson of TH Huxley or ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ who was outspoken in his support of Darwinian evolution and in attacking the church.
Aldous Huxley was not a believer in God but he did recognise in himself that the reasons for unbelief are often not as rational as we would like to believe.
He once wrote:
‘I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know . . Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless . ..For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.’
Maybe unbelief is, as Huxley concedes, a most convenient ‘truth’ and a most liberating one.
Paul in Romans chapter 1v18 makes exactly this point. ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.’
Those of us who are now Christians were exactly the same. We too closed our eyes to the very evidence of God’s existence. We too preferred to operate under the cover of darkness. It is amazing grace that John Newton discovered opens our eyes so that we too say ‘I once was blind but now I see.’
And on Advent Sunday we remember ‘The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.’ John 1:9
A tangle of wires
Not every statement a scientist makes is a scientific one just as not every statement from a theologian is a theological one. The God Delusion works by mixing up scientific statements with mere assertion and then leaving it to the reader to separate the two.
We saw in the last post that Dawkins at times misrepresents, distorts or skews the facts when it suits which isn’t the best commendation for scientific inquiry.
Today we look at a different example of how some of Dawkins’ statements are anything but scientific. Rather than look at distortion this time we’ll look at omission. What happens when all of the evidence is not considered but instead significant evidence is disregarded, ignored or omitted. We’ll see that it inevitably leads to a bad argument and for bad science.
Remember what he is seeking to do which is to demonstrate the absurdity of religious belief and so in a section of The God Delusion entitled ‘The Argument From Admired Religious Scientists‘ he seeks to respond to the charge that there are many able scientests who believe.
Scientists who believe
Dawkins begins by conceding that there were great men of science who believed in God before Darwin (eg. Newton) but of course Continue reading »
Maybe you’ve avoided reading The God Delusion because you just fear there might be something in it. Joan Bakewell in her Guardian review writes ‘Dawkins comes roaring forth in the full vigour of his powerful arguments.’ Claire Tomalin is persuaded too. ‘There is not a dull page…a book that makes me want to cheer its clarity, intelligence and truth-telling‘
Well can I urge you not to lose too much sleep. I quite like sections of the book and it’s an entertaining read. The problem is that I kept stumbling across mistakes and I mean really basic mistakes. You know, the kind of stuff you’d expect an undergrad. to get right let alone a distinguished Professor.I guess that’s the problem with claiming more than you know.
This is the first of a series of posts that highlight from Dawkins own words why we have nothing much to fear from his book. Each time we’ll look at a basic claim in the book and then dig a little deeper. And each time we can’t help but draw the conclusion ‘well if he got something as basic as wrong as that why should I trust him with the rest?’
How many gospels?
According to Dawkins then, p.121 Continue reading »
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