Browsing articles in "atheism"
Sep 23, 2011
neil

Independent reviews Dawkins new book – ‘untrue, absurd and dangerous’

Did you witness Jeremy Paxman’s sycophantic interview with Richard Dawkins about his new book ‘The Magic of  Reality‘ on Newsnight a week or so ago?

If you did might well have shared a general and growing frustration that Dawkins keeps getting away with writing bad books and making quite a bit of money from it in the process (including another £10 from me for this new book).

In one sense, Dawkins is a great help in the Christian cause because he helps to ensure that ‘God’ and ‘religion’ are centre-stage.  Having said that I did enjoy this review in the Independent which does a good demolition job of the weak arguments presented in the book.

Sep 23, 2011
neil

Tim Keller on ‘What is the New Atheist message’

Sep 14, 2011
neil

Paxman and Dawkins on the stupidity of religion on Newsnight last night

Jeremy Paxman has a reputation of being a bit of a Bulldog. Yet last night on Newsnight the Bulldog failed to bark, let alone attack, preferring a tickle on the tummy from Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins once famously said

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it nor any justice.  The universe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless existence.  DNA neither knows nor cares DNA just is and we dance to its music.

As we know, atheism does hold a pretty bleak outlook on life but now the nihilist who believes in only ‘blind pitiless indifference’ has given his atheism a make-over.  His new book The Magic of Reality conveniently hides from view his belief that nothing can really be considered morally evil preferring to find solace in the wonders of science; science in some sense reveals a magical reality according to Dawkins.  It might be a book for children but it skilfully disguises the darker realities that this universe is indifferent to human notions of truth, beauty and goodness preferring to blind us with science.

And so last night was a perfect opportunity for Paxman to put Dawkins’ arguments to the test and in doing so expose the manifest contradictions in his portrayal of atheism. But instead we were exposed to a pretty sycophantic interview in which Dawkins and Paxman laughted together after giving the straw-man they had invented a bit of a kicking. Paxman’s  question to Dawkins ‘Do you really care that there are a lot of stupid people around?’ summed up the level of discussion. To watch it tune in at around 43 minutes.

By simply accepting Dawkins’ flawed premise that religion and science are opposed to each other Paxman missed a great opportunity for a grown up conversation. A conversation that would have been considerably more profitable to the thinking mind if held in conjunction with another author who has a new book out and who has debated Dawkins on a number of occasions.

Professor John Lennox of Oxford University also has a book already out in the US and coming out in the UK next week called Seven Days That Divide the World in which he discusses the relationship between the Bible and science. Alvin Plantinga, describes it as being ‘as good as it gets in the religion/science area.’

There might be good reasons as to why John Lennox could not have attended, or might even have preferred not to attend, but there cannot be any good reasons for Paxman going along with Dawkins’ pretence that religion is nothing more than a misguided myth.

Sep 7, 2011
neil

Why are we here? Dawkins thinks aliens might be to blame

Richard Dawkins, the champion of the New Atheism, argues that we should base our lives only on that which is empirically verifiable or rationally provable and yet in this devastating interview Dawkins admits that;

a) He has no idea how likely it is that God doesn’t exist and wouldn’t want to put a figure on it

b) He has no idea how the universe was created

c) He has no idea how life began on earth

d) He suggests that we might be here because aliens put us here!

Given his lack of answers its perhaps no wonder that he’s happier raking in the money at the Albert Hall rather than debating William Lane Craig.

 

Sep 3, 2011
neil

Why are the leading figures of atheism running away from a debate with William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is arguably the foremost Christian apologist in the world and he is coming to the UK this autumn on a debating and lecture tour. You would think that leading atheists and representatives of the British Humanist Association, Polly Toynbee,  Richard Dawkins and A.C.Grayling would have readily accepted the invitation to debate him and given that they think they have the knock-out arguments, with some relish. Yet, one by one, they have either refused or withdrawn from a debate.

New Atheist, Sam Harris, said of William Lane Craig in his introductory comments at their recent debate;

I’m very happy to be debating Dr. Craig, the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists. I’ve actually gotten more than a few emails this week, that more or less read, “Brother, please, don’t blow this.” So, you will be the judge.

Christopher Hitchens said ahead of his debate with Craig;

I can tell you that my brothers and sisters, my co-thinkers, in the unbelieving community take him very seriously. He’s thought of as a very tough guy; very rigorous, very scholarly, very thoughtful. I say that without reserve. Normally I don’t get people saying to me ‘good luck tonight’ or ‘don’t let us down’ but with him I do.

Given that Dawkins, Grayling and Toynbee claim to have all the arguments why don’t they run William Lane Craig out of town?

Perhaps, as ‘commonsenseatheist‘ conceded having witnessed a debate between Craig and Christopher Hitchens;

The debate went exactly as I expected. Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.

I’m not a great one for Youtube videos that mock the views of others and I’m certainly not suggesting that Christians ought to mock or insults all humanists but I do think that the double-standards and hypocrisy (as well as down-right rudeness in some cases) of those who claim to speak in the name of Atheism but refuse to debate Craig should be subject to a degree of mild ridicule.

‘Enjoy’ the video and buy a ticket for one of the debates. Who knows maybe Dawkins will turn up!

 

 

Aug 28, 2011
neil

at the bottom of his heart, in the depths of his soul, there was an empty space

I believe myself that his whole life was a search for God, or, for those who prefer less personal terms, for absolute certainty. Indeed, he had first taken up philosophy in the hope of finding proof of the existence of God… Somewhere at the back of my father’s mind, at the bottom of his heart, in the depths of his soul, there was an empty space that had once been filled by God, and he never found anything else to put it in.

Katherine Tait. My Father Bertrand Russell cited in John Dickson’s If I were God, I’d make myself clearer

Aug 25, 2011
neil

This post is dedicated to all who insist that religion poisons everything

For all those who insist that religion poisons everything The Sunday Times Magazine (21st August 2011) carried the following article;

The first Mercy ship was launched in 1982 by Texan Christians Don and Deyon Stephens, who transformed Victoria, a retired ocean-going liner, into a state-of-the-art clinic. The charity has since sent four ships – all but one retired – into some of the worst trouble zones, including Haiti, Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

The idea behind the project is simple: to create ‘islands’ of care off the coast of some of the world’s most desperately poor countries – beyond the reach of corrupt officials looking to plunder equipment.

The ship depends entirely on volunteers, with a rotating core of 1,000 crew and 2,000 volunteers from more than 40 nations, including surgeons, dentists, nurses, mechanics and school teachers, all of whom pay up to £300 a month for the privilege of living and working on board. The charity has a strong Christian ethos – at the ship’s entrance you encounter a framed prayer, Isaiah 60:18: ‘No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.’

Dr Gary Parker, the chief medical officer works 70- to 80-hour week and has no house, no car, no life savings and no pension.

I don’t do this for the praise and gratitude of others. I care for these patients because they have value.

‘In this job, I have to prefer others above myself and I do.’

Parker has seen local children mutilated by rebels, and other outcast because of such disfiguring but treatable conditions as cleft palates. He is a world expert on head and facial injuries caused by war.

Of the people on this boat, 90% are committed followers of Christ. Perhaps 10% aren’t, but most of the surgery we carry out here in Sierra Leone is on Muslim patients. Our core values are Christian but we are not here to proselytise. We are here to save lives.’

On his office wall is a small oil painting of a surgeon at work with Jesus standing over his shoulder, his hand guiding the doctor’s.

We are rescuing them from the curse of the night. Allowing them to walk in the light, giving them their face and their humanity back.’

This video link from Mercy Ships own website contains an account of the visit of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone to the ship along with a speech of thanks from the President for the work of Mercy Ships.

 

Aug 23, 2011
neil

The gospel of unbelief – Why the very things New Atheists fight for belong to Christian thought

Without doubt David Bentley Hart’s book Atheist Delusions The Christian Revolution and its fashionable enemies is the best thing I have read in response to the New Atheism. Less a critique of their views it is a scholarly rebuttal of their scandalous historical revisionism which attempts to present Christianity as a force for evil in the world by a scholarly demonstration of how Christianity transformed every aspect of society.

Hart’s thesis as set out in his introduction is as follows;

Among all the many great transitions that have maked the evoltion of Western civilization..there has only been one – the triumph of Christianity – that can be called in the fullest sense a “revolution”: a truly massive and epochal revision of humaniti’s prevailing vision of reality, so pervasicve in its influence and so vast in its consequences as actually to have a createad a new conception of the world, of history, of human nature, of time, and of the moral good.

Although a ‘historical essay’ more than a philosophical response to the New Atheists he does, along the way, highlight the flawed logic of their thinking. It is a short section on morality in the opening chapter that I would like to quote at some length.

What I find most mystifying in the arguments of the authors I have mentioned [Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins], and of others like them, is the strange presupposition that truly secular society would of its nature be more tolerant and less prone to violence than any society shaped by any form of faith. Given that the modern age of secular governance has been the most savagely and sublimely violent period in human history, by a factor (or body count) of incalculable magnitude, it is hard to identify the grounds for their confidence.

It is not even especially clear why these authors imagine that a world entirely purged of faith would choose to be guided by moral principles remotely similar to their own; and the obscurity becomes especially impenetrable to me in the case of those who seem to believe that a thoroughgoing materialism informed by Darwinian biology might actually aid us in forsaking our “tribalism” or “irrationality” and in choosing instead to live in tolerant concord with one another. After all, the only ideological or political faction that have made any attempt at an ethics consistent with Darwinian science, to this point at least, have been the socialist eugenics movement of the early twentieth century and the Nazi movement that sprang from it. Obviously, stupid or evil social and political movements should not dictate our opinions of scientific discoveries. But it scarcely impugns the epochal genius of Charles Darwin or Alfred Russel Wallace to note that – understood purely as a bare, brute, material event – nature admits of no moral principles at all, and so can provide non; all it can provide is its own “moral” example, which is anything but gentle.

Dennett, who often shows a propensity for moral pronouncements of almost pontifical peremptoriness, and for social prescriptions of the most authoritarian variety, does not delude himself that evolutionary theory is a source of positive moral prescriptions. But there is something delusional nonetheless in his optimistic certainty that human beings will wish to choose altruistic values without invoking transcendent principles. They may do so; but they may also wish to build death camps, and may very well choose to do that instead.

For every ethical theory developed apart from some account of transcendent truth – of, that is, the spiritual or metaphysical foundation of reality  – is a fragile fiction, credible only to those sufficiently obstinate in their willing suspension of disbelief. It one does not wish to be convinced, however, a simple “I disagree” or “I refuse” is enough to exhaust the persuasive resources of any purely worldly ethics.

Hart continues

Compassion, pity and charity, as we understand and cherish them, are not objects found in nature, like trees or butterflies or academic philosophers, but are historically contingent conventions of belief and practice, formed by cultural convictions that need never have arisen at all.

They [the New Atheists] are inheritors of a social conscience whose ethical grammar would have been very different had it not been shaped by Christianity’s moral premises…and good sense should prompt them to acknowledge that absolutely nothing ensures that, once Christian beliefs have been finally and fully renounced, those values will not slowly dissolve, to be replaced by others that are coarser, colder, more pragmatic, and more “inhuman.”

 

Aug 17, 2011
neil

‘I never hear an atheist give me any answers’ – Piers Morgan takes on atheism on CNN last night

Piers Morgan gives Penn Jillette a run for his money on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight as they discuss God, atheism and the question of origins alongside Penn’s new book God, No!

Aug 16, 2011
neil

Atheism turns out to be too simple

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying that it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

CS Lewis – Mere Christianity

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