The Good News

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Tag Archives: Richard Dawkins

Atheist’s Demeanor

 

David Hume, 1700’s

Richard Dawkins, 1900’s

Reference

Samuel Johnson, 1700’s

Mark Woods, 1900’s

 

The 18th century equivalent of Richard Dawkins was David Hume, philosopher.   Samuel Johnson was the Christian counterpart and contemporary of David Hume.   Samuel Johnson had many things to say regarding David Hume’s counters to the Gospel of Jesus and Christianity in general.

Samuel Johnson told his biographer Boswell: “Hume and other sceptical innovators are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expense… Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.” Read more of this post

The Dawkins Letters

A Christian response to The God Delusion by David Robertson. The Dawkins Letters — challenging atheist myths is published by Christians Focus Publication and is available from all mainstream and Christian bookshops as well as Amazon.

Richard Dawkins

The Atheist Delusion

John Gray

‘Opposition to religion occupies the high ground, intellectually and morally,’ wrote Martin Amis recently. Over the past few years, leading writers and thinkers have published best selling tracts against God. John Gray on why the ‘secular fundamentalists’ have got it all wrong

An atmosphere of moral panic surrounds religion. Viewed not so long ago as a relic of superstition whose role in society was steadily declining, it is now demonised as the cause of many of the world’s worst evils. As a result, there has been a sudden explosion in the literature of proselytising atheism. A few years ago, it was difficult to persuade commercial publishers even to think of bringing out books on religion. Today, tracts against religion can be enormous money-spinners, with Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great selling in the hundreds of thousands. For the first time in generations, scientists and philosophers, high-profile novelists and journalists are debating whether religion has a future. The intellectual traffic is not all one-way. There have been counterblasts for believers, such as The Dawkins Delusion? by the British theologian Alister McGrath and The Secular Age by the Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor. On the whole, however, the anti-God squad has dominated the sales charts, and it is worth asking why.

The abrupt shift in the perception of religion is only partly explained by terrorism. The 9/11 hijackers saw themselves as martyrs in a religious tradition, and western opinion has accepted their self-image. And there are some who view the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a danger comparable with the worst that were faced by liberal societies in the 20th century.

For Dawkins and Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Martin Amis, Michel Onfray, Philip Pullman and others, religion in general is a poison that has fuelled violence and oppression throughout history, right up to the present day. The urgency with which they produce their anti-religious polemics suggests that a change has occurred as significant as the rise of terrorism: the tide of secularisation has turned. These writers come from a generation schooled to think of religion as a throwback to an earlier stage of human development, which is bound to dwindle away as knowledge continues to increase. In the 19th century, when the scientific and industrial revolutions were changing society very quickly, this may not have been an unreasonable assumption. Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest may still believe that, over the long run, the advance of science will drive religion to the margins of human life, but this is now an article of faith rather than a theory based on evidence.

It is true that religion has declined sharply in a number of countries (Ireland is a recent example) and has not shaped everyday life for most people in Britain for many years. Much of Europe is clearly post-Christian. However, there is nothing that suggests the move away from religion is irreversible, or that it is potentially universal. The US is no more secular today than it was 150 years ago, when De Tocqueville was amazed and baffled by its all-pervading religiosity. The secular era was in any case partly illusory. The mass political movements of the 20th century were vehicles for myths inherited from religion, and it is no accident that religion is reviving now that these movements have collapsed. The current hostility to religion is a reaction against this turnabout. Secularisation is in retreat, and the result is the appearance of an evangelical type of atheism not seen since Victorian times.

As in the past, this is a type of atheism that mirrors the faith it rejects. Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights – a subtly allusive, multilayered allegory, recently adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster, The Golden Compass – is a good example. Pullman’s parable concerns far more than the dangers of authoritarianism. The issues it raises are essentially religious, and it is deeply indebted to the faith it attacks. Pullman has stated that his atheism was formed in the Anglican tradition, and there are many echoes of Milton and Blake in his work. His largest debt to this tradition is the notion of free will. The central thread of the story is the assertion of free will against faith. The young heroine Lyra Belacqua sets out to thwart the Magisterium – Pullman’s metaphor for Christianity – because it aims to deprive humans of their ability to choose their own course in life, which she believes would destroy what is most human in them. But the idea of free will that informs liberal notions of personal autonomy is biblical in origin (think of the Genesis story). The belief that exercising free will is part of being human is a legacy of faith, and like most varieties of atheism today, Pullman’s is a derivative of Christianity.

Zealous atheism renews some of the worst features of Christianity and Islam. Just as much as these religions, it is a project of universal conversion. Evangelical atheists never doubt that human life can be transformed if everyone accepts their view of things, and they are certain that one way of living – their own, suitably embellished – is right for everybody. To be sure, atheism need not be a missionary creed of this kind. It is entirely reasonable to have no religious beliefs, and yet be friendly to religion. It is a funny sort of humanism that condemns an impulse that is peculiarly human. Yet that is what evangelical atheists do when they demonise religion.

A curious feature of this kind of atheism is that some of its most fervent missionaries are philosophers. Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon claims to sketch a general theory of religion. In fact, it is mostly a polemic against American Christianity. This parochial focus is reflected in Dennett’s view of religion, which for him means the belief that some kind of supernatural agency (whose approval believers seek) is needed to explain the way things are in the world. For Dennett, religions are efforts at doing something science does better – they are rudimentary or abortive theories, or else nonsense. “The proposition that God exists,” he writes severely, “is not even a theory.” But religions do not consist of propositions struggling to become theories. The incomprehensibility of the divine is at the heart of Eastern Christianity, while in Orthodox Judaism practice tends to have priority over doctrine. Buddhism has always recognised that in spiritual matters truth is ineffable, as do Sufi traditions in Islam. Hinduism has never defined itself by anything as simplistic as a creed. It is only some western Christian traditions, under the influence of Greek philosophy, which have tried to turn religion into an explanatory theory.

The notion that religion is a primitive version of science was popularised in the late 19th century in JG Frazer’s survey of the myths of primitive peoples, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. For Frazer, religion and magical thinking were closely linked. Rooted in fear and ignorance, they were vestiges of human infancy that would disappear with the advance of knowledge. Dennett’s atheism is not much more than a revamped version of Frazer’s positivism. The positivists believed that with the development of transport and communication – in their day, canals and the telegraph – irrational thinking would wither way, along with the religions of the past. Despite the history of the past century, Dennett believes much the same. In an interview that appears on the website of the Edge Foundation (edge.org) under the title “The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion”, he predicts that “in about 25 years almost all religions will have evolved into very different phenomena, so much so that in most quarters religion will no longer command the awe that it does today”. He is confident that this will come about, he tells us, mainly because of “the worldwide spread of information technology (not just the internet, but cell phones and portable radios and television)”. The philosopher has evidently not reflected on the ubiquity of mobile phones among the Taliban, or the emergence of a virtual al-Qaida on the web.

The growth of knowledge is a fact only postmodern relativists deny. Science is the best tool we have for forming reliable beliefs about the world, but it does not differ from religion by revealing a bare truth that religions veil in dreams. Both science and religion are systems of symbols that serve human needs – in the case of science, for prediction and control. Religions have served many purposes, but at bottom they answer to a need for meaning that is met by myth rather than explanation. A great deal of modern thought consists of secular myths – hollowed-out religious narratives translated into pseudo-science. Dennett’s notion that new communications technologies will fundamentally alter the way human beings think is just such a myth.

In The God Delusion, Dawkins attempts to explain the appeal of religion in terms of the theory of memes, vaguely defined conceptual units that compete with one another in a parody of natural selection. He recognises that, because humans have a universal tendency to religious belief, it must have had some evolutionary advantage, but today, he argues, it is perpetuated mainly through bad education. From a Darwinian standpoint, the crucial role Dawkins gives to education is puzzling. Human biology has not changed greatly over recorded history, and if religion is hardwired in the species, it is difficult to see how a different kind of education could alter this. Yet Dawkins seems convinced that if it were not inculcated in schools and families, religion would die out. This is a view that has more in common with a certain type of fundamentalist theology than with Darwinian theory, and I cannot help being reminded of the evangelical Christian who assured me that children reared in a chaste environment would grow up without illicit sexual impulses.

Dawkins’s “memetic theory of religion” is a classic example of the nonsense that is spawned when Darwinian thinking is applied outside its proper sphere. Along with Dennett, who also holds to a version of the theory, Dawkins maintains that religious ideas survive because they would be able to survive in any “meme pool”, or else because they are part of a “memeplex” that includes similar memes, such as the idea that, if you die as a martyr, you will enjoy 72 virgins. Unfortunately, the theory of memes is science only in the sense that Intelligent Design is science. Strictly speaking, it is not even a theory. Talk of memes is just the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors.

Dawkins compares religion to a virus: religious ideas are memes that infect vulnerable minds, especially those of children. Biological metaphors may have their uses – the minds of evangelical atheists seem particularly prone to infection by religious memes, for example. At the same time, analogies of this kind are fraught with peril. Dawkins makes much of the oppression perpetrated by religion, which is real enough. He gives less attention to the fact that some of the worst atrocities of modern times were committed by regimes that claimed scientific sanction for their crimes. Nazi “scientific racism” and Soviet “dialectical materialism” reduced the unfathomable complexity of human lives to the deadly simplicity of a scientific formula. In each case, the science was bogus, but it was accepted as genuine at the time, and not only in the regimes in question. Science is as liable to be used for inhumane purposes as any other human institution. Indeed, given the enormous authority science enjoys, the risk of it being used in this way is greater.

Contemporary opponents of religion display a marked lack of interest in the historical record of atheist regimes. In The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, the American writer Sam Harris argues that religion has been the chief source of violence and oppression in history. He recognises that secular despots such as Stalin and Mao inflicted terror on a grand scale, but maintains the oppression they practised had nothing to do with their ideology of “scientific atheism” – what was wrong with their regimes was that they were tyrannies. But might there not be a connection between the attempt to eradicate religion and the loss of freedom? It is unlikely that Mao, who launched his assault on the people and culture of Tibet with the slogan “Religion is poison”, would have agreed that his atheist world-view had no bearing on his policies. It is true he was worshipped as a semi-divine figure – as Stalin was in the Soviet Union. But in developing these cults, communist Russia and China were not backsliding from atheism. They were demonstrating what happens when atheism becomes a political project. The invariable result is an ersatz religion that can only be maintained by tyrannical means.

Something like this occurred in Nazi Germany. Dawkins dismisses any suggestion that the crimes of the Nazis could be linked with atheism. “What matters,” he declares in The God Delusion, “is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheists, but whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest evidence that it does.” This is simple-minded reasoning. Always a tremendous booster of science, Hitler was much impressed by vulgarised Darwinism and by theories of eugenics that had developed from Enlightenment philosophies of materialism. He used Christian antisemitic demonology in his persecution of Jews, and the churches collaborated with him to a horrifying degree. But it was the Nazi belief in race as a scientific category that opened the way to a crime without parallel in history. Hitler’s world-view was that of many semi-literate people in interwar Europe, a hotchpotch of counterfeit science and animus towards religion. There can be no reasonable doubt that this was a type of atheism, or that it helped make Nazi crimes possible.

Nowadays most atheists are avowed liberals. What they want – so they will tell you – is not an atheist regime, but a secular state in which religion has no role. They clearly believe that, in a state of this kind, religion will tend to decline. But America’s secular constitution has not ensured a secular politics. Christian fundamentalism is more powerful in the US than in any other country, while it has very little influence in Britain, which has an established church. Contemporary critics of religion go much further than demanding disestablishment. It is clear that he wants to eliminate all traces of religion from public institutions. Awkwardly, many of the concepts he deploys – including the idea of religion itself – have been shaped by monotheism. Lying behind secular fundamentalism is a conception of history that derives from religion.

AC Grayling provides an example of the persistence of religious categories in secular thinking in his Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty and Rights That Made the Modern West. As the title indicates, Grayling’s book is a type of sermon. Its aim is to reaffirm what he calls “a Whig view of the history of the modern west”, the core of which is that “the west displays progress”. The Whigs were pious Christians, who believed divine providence arranged history to culminate in English institutions, and Grayling too believes history is “moving in the right direction”. No doubt there have been setbacks – he mentions nazism and communism in passing, devoting a few sentences to them. But these disasters were peripheral. They do not reflect on the central tradition of the modern west, which has always been devoted to liberty, and which – Grayling asserts – is inherently antagonistic to religion. “The history of liberty,” he writes, “is another chapter – and perhaps the most important of all – in the great quarrel between religion and secularism.” The possibility that radical versions of secular thinking may have contributed to the development of nazism and communism is not mentioned. More even than the 18th-century Whigs, who were shaken by French Terror, Grayling has no doubt as to the direction of history.

But the belief that history is a directional process is as faith-based as anything in the Christian catechism. Secular thinkers such as Grayling reject the idea of providence, but they continue to think humankind is moving towards a universal goal – a civilisation based on science that will eventually encompass the entire species. In pre-Christian Europe, human life was understood as a series of cycles; history was seen as tragic or comic rather than redemptive. With the arrival of Christianity, it came to be believed that history had a predetermined goal, which was human salvation. Though they suppress their religious content, secular humanists continue to cling to similar beliefs. One does not want to deny anyone the consolations of a faith, but it is obvious that the idea of progress in history is a myth created by the need for meaning.

The problem with the secular narrative is not that it assumes progress is inevitable (in many versions, it does not). It is the belief that the sort of advance that has been achieved in science can be reproduced in ethics and politics. In fact, while scientific knowledge increases cumulatively, nothing of the kind happens in society. Slavery was abolished in much of the world during the 19th century, but it returned on a vast scale in nazism and communism, and still exists today. Torture was prohibited in international conventions after the second world war, only to be adopted as an instrument of policy by the world’s pre-eminent liberal regime at the beginning of the 21st century. Wealth has increased, but it has been repeatedly destroyed in wars and revolutions. People live longer and kill one another in larger numbers. Knowledge grows, but human beings remain much the same.

Belief in progress is a relic of the Christian view of history as a universal narrative, and an intellectually rigorous atheism would start by questioning it. This is what Nietzsche did when he developed his critique of Christianity in the late 19th century, but almost none of today’s secular missionaries have followed his example. One need not be a great fan of Nietzsche to wonder why this is so. The reason, no doubt, is that he did not assume any connection between atheism and liberal values – on the contrary, he viewed liberal values as an offspring of Christianity and condemned them partly for that reason. In contrast, evangelical atheists have positioned themselves as defenders of liberal freedoms – rarely inquiring where these freedoms have come from, and never allowing that religion may have had a part in creating them.

Among contemporary anti-religious polemicists, only the French writer Michel Onfray has taken Nietzsche as his point of departure. In some ways, Onfray’s In Defence of Atheism is superior to anything English-speaking writers have published on the subject. Refreshingly, Onfray recognises that evangelical atheism is an unwitting imitation of traditional religion: “Many militants of the secular cause look astonishingly like clergy. Worse: like caricatures of clergy.” More clearly than his Anglo-Saxon counterparts, Onfray understands the formative influence of religion on secular thinking. Yet he seems not to notice that the liberal values he takes for granted were partly shaped by Christianity and Judaism. The key liberal theorists of toleration are John Locke, who defended religious freedom in explicitly Christian terms, and Benedict Spinoza, a Jewish rationalist who was also a mystic. Yet Onfray has nothing but contempt for the traditions from which these thinkers emerged – particularly Jewish monotheism: “We do not possess an official certificate of birth for worship of one God,” he writes. “But the family line is clear: the Jews invented it to endure the coherence, cohesion and existence of their small, threatened people.” Here Onfray passes over an important distinction. It may be true that Jews first developed monotheism, but Judaism has never been a missionary faith. In seeking universal conversion, evangelical atheism belongs with Christianity and Islam.

In today’s anxiety about religion, it has been forgotten that most of the faith-based violence of the past century was secular in nature. To some extent, this is also true of the current wave of terrorism. Islamism is a patchwork of movements, not all violently jihadist and some strongly opposed to al-Qaida, most of them partly fundamentalist and aiming to recover the lost purity of Islamic traditions, while at the same time taking some of their guiding ideas from radical secular ideology. There is a deal of fashionable talk of Islamo-fascism, and Islamist parties have some features in common with interwar fascist movements, including antisemitism. But Islamists owe as much, if not more, to the far left, and it would be more accurate to describe many of them as Islamo-Leninists. Islamist techniques of terror also have a pedigree in secular revolutionary movements. The executions of hostages in Iraq are copied in exact theatrical detail from European “revolutionary tribunals” in the 1970s, such as that staged by the Red Brigades when they murdered the former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.

The influence of secular revolutionary movements on terrorism extends well beyond Islamists. In God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens notes that, long before Hizbullah and al-Qaida, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka pioneered what he rightly calls “the disgusting tactic of suicide murder”. He omits to mention that the Tigers are Marxist-Leninists who, while recruiting mainly from the island’s Hindu population, reject religion in all its varieties. Tiger suicide bombers do not go to certain death in the belief that they will be rewarded in any postmortem paradise. Nor did the suicide bombers who drove American and French forces out of Lebanon in the 80s, most of whom belonged to organisations of the left such as the Lebanese communist party. These secular terrorists believed they were expediting a historical process from which will come a world better than any that has ever existed. It is a view of things more remote from human realities, and more reliably lethal in its consequences, than most religious myths.

It is not necessary to believe in any narrative of progress to think liberal societies are worth resolutely defending. No one can doubt that they are superior to the tyranny imposed by the Taliban on Afghanistan, for example. The issue is one of proportion. Ridden with conflicts and lacking the industrial base of communism and nazism, Islamism is nowhere near a danger of the magnitude of those that were faced down in the 20th century. A greater menace is posed by North Korea, which far surpasses any Islamist regime in its record of repression and clearly does possess some kind of nuclear capability. Evangelical atheists rarely mention it. Hitchens is an exception, but when he describes his visit to the country, it is only to conclude that the regime embodies “a debased yet refined form of Confucianism and ancestor worship”. As in Russia and China, the noble humanist philosophy of Marxist-Leninism is innocent of any responsibility.

Writing of the Trotskyite-Luxemburgist sect to which he once belonged, Hitchens confesses sadly: “There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb.” He need not worry. His record on Iraq shows he has not lost the will to believe. The effect of the American-led invasion has been to deliver most of the country outside the Kurdish zone into the hands of an Islamist elective theocracy, in which women, gays and religious minorities are more oppressed than at any time in Iraq’s history. The idea that Iraq could become a secular democracy – which Hitchens ardently promoted – was possible only as an act of faith.

In The Second Plane, Martin Amis writes: “Opposition to religion already occupies the high ground, intellectually and morally.” Amis is sure religion is a bad thing, and that it has no future in the west. In the author of Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million – a forensic examination of self-delusion in the pro-Soviet western intelligentsia – such confidence is surprising. The intellectuals whose folly Amis dissects turned to communism in some sense as a surrogate for religion, and ended up making excuses for Stalin. Are there really no comparable follies today? Some neocons – such as Tony Blair, who will soon be teaching religion and politics at Yale – combine their belligerent progressivism with religious belief, though of a kind Augustine and Pascal might find hard to recognise. Most are secular utopians, who justify pre-emptive war and excuse torture as leading to a radiant future in which democracy will be adopted universally. Even on the high ground of the west, messianic politics has not lost its dangerous appeal.

Religion has not gone away. Repressing it is like repressing sex, a self-defeating enterprise. In the 20th century, when it commanded powerful states and mass movements, it helped engender totalitarianism. Today, the result is a climate of hysteria. Not everything in religion is precious or deserving of reverence. There is an inheritance of anthropocentrism, the ugly fantasy that the Earth exists to serve humans, which most secular humanists share. There is the claim of religious authorities, also made by atheist regimes, to decide how people can express their sexuality, control their fertility and end their lives, which should be rejected categorically. Nobody should be allowed to curtail freedom in these ways, and no religion has the right to break the peace.

The attempt to eradicate religion, however, only leads to it reappearing in grotesque and degraded forms. A credulous belief in world revolution, universal democracy or the occult powers of mobile phones is more offensive to reason than the mysteries of religion, and less likely to survive in years to come. Victorian poet Matthew Arnold wrote of believers being left bereft as the tide of faith ebbs away. Today secular faith is ebbing, and it is the apostles of unbelief who are left stranded on the beach.

· John Gray’s Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia will be out in paperback in April (Penguin)

Originally published in the Guardian.

Another Gray article

The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism…

The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
(Paperback edition, Basic Books, September 2009)

“Berlinski’s book is everything desirable: it is idiomatic, profound, brilliantly polemical, amusing, and of course vastly learned. I congratulate him.” —William F. Buckley Jr.

Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness. And these authors are merely the leading edge of a far larger movement–one that now includes much of the scientific community. Read more of this post

New Atheism

New Atheism is falling from grace” The scientist and theologian believes that Galileo’s story has been distorted, and accuses Dawkins of “staining science.”

An interview published in Spain’s El País.  by Alister McGrath / El País

This article appeared on the Spanish newspaper El País on 19 March 2016.

Scientist and theologian, professor of Science and Theology in Oxford University, Image result for alister mcgrathAlister McGrath (Belfast, 1953) holds that investigators go too far when they try to deny God. Science and faith are compatible while one does not interfere in the other, he says.

Question. Has the religious dogmatism not fought against science for centuries?

Answer. Science has always had to fight against religious, political and social prejudices. Sometimes Read more of this post

The Dawkins Letters

A Christian response to The God Delusion by David Robertson. The Dawkins Letters — challenging atheist myths is published by Christians Focus Publication and is available from all mainstream and Christian bookshops as well as Amazon.

English: Richard Dawkins on a Richard Dawkins ...

Richard Dawkins

Alert!! Richard Dawkins not sure

Richard Dawkins is saying that he can’t be sure there is not a God.  Okay, we knew that was

English: Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane S...

Dawkins with girl wearing his t-shirt.

true all along.  Is this a move in his heart or just a media stunt, only the God in heaven knows right now.

Here is the article.

Richard Dawkins is Just too Busy

Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists ...

Richard Dawkins, world-traveling champion of atheism is just too busy to debate William Lane Craig.

I always said when invited to do debates that I would be happy to debate a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, an archbishop, indeed I have done those, but I don’t take on creationists and I don’t take on people whose only claim to fame is that they are professional debaters; they’ve got to have something more than that. I’m busy.

Atheists in America and Atheists in Sweden

There are many ex-Christians here on the internet relating their former Christian experiences.   But, as a Christian,  I’m sorry,  I see gaps/disconnects in their explanations of what they believed.   Even the very best one of them, Dr. Bart Ehrman, is illogical at times.

For instance I just read Ms Kirby:

Until 2003 I was a devout Christian. And I mean devout. I believed absolutely, and my faith was central to my life at that time.  Various clergy thought I had a calling to “the ministry”; one even suggested I might have a vocation to be a nun. Now I am an atheist: the kind of atheist who is predictably referred to by religious apologists as “outspoken” or “militant.”  So what happened?

What happened was four little words:  “How do I know?”

“I believe absolutely”  what does that mean?  “Various clergy thought I had a calling,”  but Ms. Kirby what did you think, what were your thoughts about calling?

“How do I know?”  Ah, and have I, the author of this blog, had struggles, morally and intellectually, absolutely.  BUT, to the ‘how do I know’ issues of can I truly know that what is recorded in the Bible question, I have time and again got the answers to my questions.  Did I search in a corner where no one else has access to the information/data that I have? No!  The data that I have available to me is available to everyone else out there if they want it.  And, maybe that is the real question, what data do you want?  Are you willing to take it at face value?

You see,  there is data that backs faith in Jesus–not sure about data behind other’s claims.  I laugh at those famous atheists, Hitchens (I don’t laugh at his current situation), Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others, who speak of faith and define it as blind faith–that is, something like “faith in faith” because they don’t believe there is any data to back any claims.  But,  there is data–lots of it and thus,  if Christians want them/need them, there are many “reasons” to believe based on this data.

Ms. Kirby titles another article on her “exodus” from faith: “Breaking out from the Prison of Religion.”  Okay, that is very interesting.  Makes me wonder if she really ever related to the Jesus that I know.  The One that said(translated from original): “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  Or, that said: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

What was Jesus referring to?   If you put his statements in context it is clearer that we as human beings are “bound”–bound in many ways–mainly in our thinking.  Some of us don’t seek even our own good–much less the good of others, of our community.  No, we just want to do what we want to do and be left alone.  I can leave you alone but I have to say that is a sign and a symptom of what Jesus came to relieve us of.  The oppression of our own mental/spiritual state of narcissism that He referred to as sin.   Lots of people don’t like that word–I do because I have recognized that I have those characteristics.  I am narcissistic and selfish.  I need to be liberated from that.  Jesus has begun that process in me.  Am I there?  Absolutely not!!!!

So,  if your view is that you need to be liberated from prison,  you never were in touch with the real Jesus.   Jesus does not put people in prison–he liberates people from the prison of sin and religion.  Jesus words talk about liberation and freedom.  He is the real liberator Paula Kirby.

In Mark 7  He talks about what is clean.   He was throwing everything he could in the face of the Jewish religious heirarchy.  If you read John 8 and John 10, you see that it was the religion establishment that wanted to stone him on the spot.   So,  don’t give me anything close to saying that Jesus imprisoned you and you did not say that in your article–only that religion imprisons.  Well,  you are right.  I have to agree.  Religion does imprison but Jesus liberates.

Now,  before you get the wrong idea–I go to church–a great church.
All that a great church is,  is a community of people having some of the
greatest values in the world that you can have–in common.   Do some
churches represent religion?  Yes.  But if you find one like mine you
can be liberated from religion.  “Whom the son sets free is free indeed.”

There is only one true church–made up of the followers of Jesus.  But there are many “churches on the corner”, there are physical structures where people gather.  That does not make those gatherings a part of THE church.  THE church is not governed or characterized by physical structures or physical boundaries.

Take these notes:

According to the survey, 15 percent of church members they are atheists, while a quarter of Swedish Church members identify themselves as agnostic.

The younger the members, the more likely they are to be atheists or agnostics.

Bromander pointed out that there is no requirement that church members believe in Jesus or any particular religious figure.

This data is from a survey of the Church of Sweden.  But are these people part of THE church.  The 15% are not.

Only 15 percent of members of the Church of Sweden say they believe in Jesus, and an equal number claim to be atheists according to the results of a recent survey.

Okay, that quote makes the point even more graphically.  15% of the church of Sweden are atheists.  Only 15% actually believe in Jesus Christ.   I hope the latter 15% are truly followers of Jesus but it is hard to know because they are with openly agnostic and atheist “members.”   Church membership does not make one a follower of Jesus obviously.   Knowing Jesus makes you a follower of Jesus.  Yes, knowing Jesus, knowing Jesus is sometime intimate.  It is not intellectual assent to his claims.  Knowing Jesus is something so intimate, that if you know Him, that’s not something that is going to ever be in the past tense.

So, yes faith in Jesus has an intellectual component but there is a faith component as well.   It is the faith component that brings you into a relationship with Him; that creates the intimacy such that once there, never could not knowing Him be a viable position.

God Strikes Back

Okay, Mr Dawkins got me going with this video.

He said: “they attack Darwin’s legacy, which they just don’t understand.” “They” in the context of Dawkin’s words are “Christians.” I agree, most Christians don’t understand Darwin’s legacy. I don’t understand Darwin’s legacy and I believe that the evolutionary theories are somewhat/partially true at a minimum. However, as mr Dawkins accuses Christians, so he, also fails to understand faith—and I would go further and say “in the least.” He does not care to understand faith.

However, some of Mr. Dawkins arguments aren’t even on the real issues. Faith is NOT, repeat NOT disproven nor dimished by advances in evolutionary theory. That is the straw man battle.   Advances in evolution theory say nothing about faith at all. What he needs to deal with is the theory of spontaneous generation. Why don’t we experiment with creating life from chemicals?  That would be a feat to crow about. But for evolutionists it may be a dead issue.   Proving mutations says nothing about creation or how we all got here in the first place.

Illustration of the Swan-necked bottle used in...

Swan-necked bottle used in Pasteur

Another totally falacious theory that Dawkins rides on is that faith is “blind faith.” That is, it has not evidence for foundation or support. That is a joke. Mr. Dawkins exists in 2010 and he is so ignorant of the faith legacy to say that?? So, it appears that pot is calling the kettle black or found guilty of what he is accusing people of faith of being.

And what about all the people who listen to Dawkins and just swallow it up, hook, line, and sinker. There is a great divide between those in non-faith communities and their heroes/leaders. There is also a great divide between those in the faith communities and their leaders. I think we all need to study and research the truth claims more than we do.

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