Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi….It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
Parris is a journalist known for his refreshing honesty and this piece is a fine example. What’s not clear to me is, as an atheist, what Parris attributes the profound change in people’s hearts that he observes to and what therefore he means when he says ‘the rebirth is real.’ My prayer is that he and many others will not only recognise the life-change that alone the gospel can bring but see it for what it really is – the work of a gracious God. My hope is that he will see and come to share the sure and certain knowledge that at the heart of this universe is a God of love who in his Son has loved us and through his son offers us life and peace, joy and hope and that this message is not just the need of Africa but the need of all nations. That the gospel is the power of God to not only forgive sins but to transform people, societies and the world.
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 »
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.
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 »
Ideas have consequences. They refuse to stay on paper or merely live on in the minds of those who hear them in the lecture theatre, classroom or worship room. When it comes to matters of belief one of the tests for truth is livability; what sort of individuals and society does such a belief produce. Ravi Zacharias in his book The Real Face of Atheism has said ‘The realities of life, powerfully reinforce the viability of faith in God.’ Christopher Hitchens in his book God is not great: Religion poisons everything profoundly disagrees.
Recent evidence seems to suggest that Hitchens is on the losing side when it comes to the livability test. Toby Young in his blog in today’s Telegraph highlights the conclusion of a mammouth 5 year study into religion and it’s impact on society. The authors of the Continue reading »
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