In discussing faith and science Higgs went on to say I don’t happen to be one [a believer] myself, but maybe that’s just more a matter of my family background than that there’s any fundamental difficulty about reconciling the two.
(HT: David Robertson)
Stephen Kelly, in an article entitled Does Dr. Who feature a god for our times assesses how a country that has turned its back on its God(s) resorts to making up new ones.
The article concludes
And that’s just it, isn’t it? In the absence of an interventionist God, people simply make their own. After all, when presented with such an abyss, you fill it with whatever you can. Even if that does happen to mean someone who now thinks bow-ties are cool.
As GK Chesterton once said
For when we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing, we worship anything.
The problem with atheism is that as ideas go it’s a perennial underachiever – the Tim Henman, if you will, in the world of ideas. Wherever it has been tried it has been found wanting, not least because as a ‘negative’ philosophy it is unliveable and unloveable. The absence of belief in a transcendent reality finally collapses into a celebration of nothingness.
So what is an atheist to do? Alain de Botton has hit on an idea – why not should steal all the good ideas from the world of religious belief and pass them off as your own.
De Botton, author of soon to be published Religion For Atheists, has written a piece for the Guardian in which he comments that ‘Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone‘ and that therefore ‘the wisdom of the faiths belongs to all of mankind, even the most rational among us, and deserves to be selectively reabsorbed.’
It doesn’t take much by way of intelligence to recognise that there is nothing particularly rational about such a statement. After all ethical ideals depend upon reasonable foundations for believing them and compelling reasons for protecting them. Atheism is a denial that any such foundations exist and so any morality or virtue is so to speak built on sand and so easily swept away. Unlike de Botton, the New Atheists recognise that religious ideas cannot simply be stuck on.
Yet atheists who have experienced and benefited from the values they have inherited from Christianity find it so hard to let them go.
Roger Scrutton in An Intellegent Person’s Guide to Philosophy admits;
The ethical vision of our nature gives sense to our lives. But it is demanding. It asks us to stand up to judgement. We must be fully human, while breathing the air of angels; natural and supernatural at once.
A community that has survived its gods has three options. It can find some secular path to the ethical life. Or it can fake the higher emotions, while living without them. Or it can give up pretending, and so collapse, as Burke put it, into the ‘dust and powder of individuality’. These are the stark choices that confront us, and the rest of this book defends the first of them – the way of high culture, which teaches us to live as if our lives mattered eternally.
As yet, I offer no philosophical justification for taking this apparently objectivist stance. For the moment, it is enough that, in practice, it seems to work.
One hopes, as a Christian, that such thinkers who find the fence they sit on so uncomfortable will land safely on the side of the God who alone makes life liveable.
Atheist and Oxford University Philosopher exposes the real reason Dawkins won’t debate William Lane Craig
I attended the lastest leg of the William Lane Craig ‘A Reasonable Faith‘ tour at Birmingham University last night where we enjoyed a good-natured, informed debate between Professor Craig and Professor Millican of Oxford University.
At least the philosophers at Oxford University think William Lane Craig worthy of respect and debate, unlike of course Richard Dawkins.
The Oxford Don and Philosophy lecturer Daniel Came, who caused a stir earlier in the year suggesting Dawkins might well be considered a coward for refusing to defend his views under scrutiny from Dr. Craig, a written a response to Dawkins vitriolic attack on William Lane Craig on the Guardian website a couple of days ago. Came exposes the real reason as to why Richard Dawkins will be avoiding the forthcoming debate in Oxford.
Came concludes ‘the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life.’
So Richard Dawkins has already given his excuses as to why he doesn’t want to defend his arguments in the God Delusion in Oxford against William Lane Craig. In his misleading article in the Guardian he writes;
‘Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t.’
That’s a remarkable statement, and a totally misleading one, from a man who shared a platform with Lane Craig less than a year ago in a panel debate in Mexico. Has Dawkins forgotten? Or maybe he thinks it was all a delusion?
Mind you AC Grayling also tried the same trick of denying he had ever debated Lane Craig until his ‘error‘ was exposed.
Good on Sam Harris and Christopher Htichens and others for standing up for their beliefs in recent debates with Lane Craig shame on Dawkins for being unwilling to defend his beliefs even on his own doorstep. Maybe Mexico paid better?
Thomas Prosser has written in last week’s Guardian on the sinister under-belly of the Church – the Christian teen camp!
In his article Christian teen camps are wicked, innit he writes of how ‘Tens of thousands of British teens flock to such festivals and they have become an established fixture of the ecclesiastical calendar’
And what disturbs him is that ‘the Christian teen camp also aims to bring them to the Lord. This it does in industrial numbers according to the camps. Thousands are said to make decisions for Christ every year. Our prodigal island is slowly brought back to God as he transforms our teens’ lives one by one.’
So why is he so trubled? He give two reasons.
Firstly that ‘the evangelical tactics used at such camps are on occasions manipulative’
He describes how ‘Sermons at such camps often take the form of wild orations that aim to wear down the resistance of the audience to the message.’
‘After having their emotions softened, hypnotic music typically sounds out in subdued lighting as youngsters are urged to come to the front and give their lives to Christ.’
‘None of any of this is fair to teens: young people have a right to choose their religious beliefs without being subjected to strategies that emotionally exploit them.’
So his concern is the emotional exploitation of teenagers. Well even if it were true that there is some level of emotional exploitation at these week long events why single out Christianity as evil in this regard. What about the emotional exploitation of teenagers that takes place 52 weeks of the year on our TV screens and in the media? Don’t ‘young people have a right to choose’ there too?
Are we going to ban X-Factor or Britain’s got talent because it deludes teenagers in droves into thinking that they will one day be famous and that the dream of making it big will come true? Are we going to ban TV programmes such as Secret Diary of a Call Girl starring Billie Piper because it sells the myth that selling sex is a positive career choice?
Are we planning to ban under-18’s from going on Haj or fasting during Ramadan?
I don’t hear Prosser calling for the banning of Internet pornography that has caused immense damage to teenagers of both sexes. Natasha Walter wrote Living Dolls’ in 2010 in which she interviews Jim who describes his addiction to porn
‘I was about 14 and I would find them and wathc them when I was alone in the house. Constantly. I was unable to think of women except as potential pornography.’ Now an adult he comments that pornography ‘has destroyed my ability to have intimate relationships.’
She cites one recent study in Canada in which it was revealed that ‘90% of boys aged 13 and 14 and 70% of girls the same age had viewed pornography.’
We could take about under-age sex that has led to an alarming rise in STD’s amongst teenagers, binge-drinking, anorexia, and so on all of which are fuelled by images in the media. We could ban Hollyoaks and Bratz Dolls and lads mags and risqué pop videos, all of which exploit children and teenagers in unacceptable ways and all in the name of making money.
People choose to go on Christian teen-camps and it’s pretty obvious to children and parents alike what you’re going to get. If only the media offered the same choice, sadly not.
But it is Prosser’s second point that is truly alarming.
The real reason he dislikes these camps is that he is intolerant of Christianity. His problem with Christian camps is that they teach orthodox Christianity – shock, horror!
‘The second objection we should have to the Christian teen camp is that the youth lingo and guitar riffs conceal messages that could be damaging to young people.’
‘Could the real “wicked” in Christian teen camps actually be their effects on teens’ emotional wellbeing?’
So at the end of the day Prosser’s argument is essentially ‘I don’t like Christianity’ because of what it teaches and that’s about it. It’s striking that the only aspect of the Christian message he chooses to mention is that one day we will be judged for our actions, which is of course an aspect of Christianity. But that is not at the heart of these camps. The good news of Christianity is that at the heart of the universe is not the cruel indifference proposed by Dawkin’s atheism but a God of incredible love who has loved us in Christ. I wonder what Prosser makes of the sermon on the mount that so inspired Martin Luther King? I wonder whether he thinks it’s damaging to teenagers to hear of a God who because he loved and served us in the death of his son now sends us out into the world to love and serve our communities? Surely there is no more appropriate message for teenagers this summer!
Such articles are well worth reading to Christian teenagers in our churches. It’s good to discuss the strengths and obvious weaknesses of such journalism. The patronizing, condescending tone and the suggestion that the teaching of Christianity should be banned to under-18’s will create a few laughs as well as demonstrating the thinly veiled contempt for a life-changing and community-transforming message.
Like Richard Dawkins such journalism is a great asset to Christians the world over.
A short clip from the film Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Looks a really interesting film.
The Guardian gave it 5 stars after reviewing it at Cannes film festival describing it as ‘visionary cinema on an unashamedly huge scale: cinema that’s thinking big‘. The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and is due for release in the UK on 8th July.
When the apostle Peter wrote a letter to Christians who found themsevles increasingly on the margins of society, mocked and even insulted here was his advice;
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
In our increasingly secular society how do we respond to the growing numbers of people who are not just sceptical about Christianity but are downright hostile? How do we answer militant atheists who think no good thing comes from believing in God and that the only good religion is a dead one?
Well we should answer their arguments and there are good books worth reading and giving away on why Dawkins and Hitchens et al. are wrong. But maybe we have one knock-down apologetic argument that atheism cannot answer – the power of a transformed life.
The great defender of the Christian faith, Francis Schaeffer, said ‘the greatest apologetic is love’.
The one thing that atheism cannot explain or understand or rubbish is the extraordinary power of a transformed life.
So when the Guardian this week ran a story on the remarkable work of a church who decided to pour out their lives in sacrificial service of drug-addicts and prostitutes it was a great reminder that maybe Peter was right. When the pastor of a bible-teaching, Jesus-preaching church also says ‘”The real issues are how we should express and find love for the outcasts and the downtrodden” the world even as it accuses Christians of doing wrong still sees our good deeds and acknowledges something remarkable is going on.
John Harris author of the Guardian piece writes;
A question soon pops into my head. How does a militant secularist weigh up the choice between a cleaned-up believer and an ungodly crack addict? Back at my hotel I search the atheistic postings on the original Comment is free thread for even the hint of an answer, but I can’t find one anywhere.
The last Roman Emperor who viciously persecuted the church was Julian. He hated Christians with a vengence but even he conceded;
[Christianity] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.
An interesting article in today’s guardian.
“Every time I see a mosque or a temple going up,” Rev. Bryan Scott says “I think, ‘That should be a church.'”
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