Friday, May 16, 2008

Atheist ideas have consequences, too

I want to check this out further, but evidently my alma mater Biola University hosted a debate between Princeton's Dr. Pete Singer and Dinesh D'Souza on atheism.

I'm curious about it because my impression is that D'Souza, whatever his other strengths, is not a spokesman for evangelical Christianity. His essay strikes me as being pretty self-congratulatory, which isn't the first time his writing has made that impression on me.

That aside, he makes the absolutely correct connection between Singer's atheism and his monstrous ethics, his advocacy of infanticide, his devaluation of human life that doesn't meet his criteria for usefulness. Singer (reportedly) doesn't want a connection made between his atheism and those positions. But, of course, there is a connection — because ideas have consequences.

This is modern atheism. Its currency is deep denial.

Modern atheism wants to affirm the butt end of the rope heartily, while denying its inexorable and necessary connection to the noose at the other terminus.

14 comments:

Carlo said...

Ideas Have Conseuences - That's part of a title I think of RC Sproul's books which I hope to read someday...

I do not know about D'Souza's faith but he is from what I know a very well articulated person in many political issues. He is a Charles Krauthammer light. Charles Krauthammer is a brilliant minded conservative,but sadly, an evolutionist and atheist. Which brings me to my point. There are atheists who are not infanticides or abortionists. But I think it does stand to reason that if you are an atheist, how can you find any meaning or purpose in life. I think it’s a logical view from atheism why you would be for infanticide.

I don't know, maybe Krauthammer is an oddball. It may be worthwhile Dan to look up Krauthammer on the internet and do a google search and see if you can find anything between his ethics and his athesim. I know that Krauthammer did support embryonic stem cell research at one time (Krauthammer is paraplegic) but then later applauded the President for taking a strong stance against it because research has been found to create stem cells without using embryos.

DJP said...

Sure. Of necessity, ALL ATHEISTS have some moral structure. They were created in the image of the God they deny, and live in the universe crafted by that same God.

What I am saying is that it is impossible for an atheist to enunciate and defend transcendent morality. Not impossible to talk and talk and talk about, but impossible to defend, given their worldview.

So Krauthammer's some kind of pro-life, Singer's pro-death. < shrug > Whatever. It's personal preference versus personal preference, settled only by who has the most power — if there is no infinite-personal God.

Carlo said...

Agreed.

Stefan said...

Dan: Your point is very similar to that made in a Christian Century article linked to in March at Triablogue: Amateur atheists: Why the new atheism isn't serious.

Gilbert said...

"This is modern atheism. Its currency is deep denial."

Get rid of the word "modern". Denying God has come in various flavors, but in the end, it's man's sad attempt to reconcile his way out of personal responsibility for his actions, stemming from his/her beliefs.

OT: You know, we in America cry "separation from church and state", from atheists and supposed Christians, and yet houses of worship are used as polling places,even in the liberal University city where I live.

God DOES mock foolishness. I just shake my head.

The Doulos said...

Interesting. I've been teaching a Biblical worldview class and this is exactly the overarching principle: a person's theology (theism or atheism at root) is the basis for their understanding of every other worldview category. Philosophy, psychology, ethics, law, politics, you name it. Singer is just a visible example of this principle.

Short Rebellion said...

ok, DJP,
You cannot say that humans were created in the image of god. Nobody has ever seen god, or even knows what he looks like. If you look back to you basic science classes, you will find that humans are classified as Homo Sapiens, and that we are evolved from Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals, etc.

You should know that atheists don't act civil just because they are afraid of going to hell, we act civil because we understand it is the right thing to do and no one has the right to commit crimes against others. I don't need blind-folded fear to tell me what is goo and what is bad.

Carlo,
In your first post, you ask how atheists can find any ,meaning in life.
What's your reason for living? I think life is for us to enjoy, this is the paradise we have- enjoy it! I guess christians think that if they act right, they will go to heaven, or to hell if they sin.
Who doesn't sin? everyone's version of the bible's word is different who's to say if your or mine is wrong? According to your standards I will go to hell for not believing in god- I know, my friends have already told me.
Right, back to my original point,
I find life to be good just by itself, I don't need any ideas of some superior intelligence to be happy. I believe I can think for myself, and whatever some crazies in back when wrote doesn't matter to me as far as my religion. Remember, they could have said anything back then, how would we know if we are reading it in the right context? Have you ever read Shakespeare? It's almost impossible to understand without a teacher telling you their portrayal of the character's words.

Gilbert,
I don't deny god to pretend that I won't have to pay for all the bad things I have done wrong. I know that if I do something serious, the police will take me away and i will have deserved it. If I do something small, I still know that other people will not just act the same. You know if you bad-mouth someone or whatever, others won't want to be around you, society will shun you, there will be punishments in various ways for various things. We all know this to be true.

I do my own research and I have my own beliefs which I hold to be true. Don't just assume that atheists don't have anything to live for, have no reason for morals and are simply trying to escape from punishment. I happen to be one, what's the consequence for my actions going be?
Just thought I'd give you my opinions about your views on atheists. Thank You.

DJP said...

You're welcome to share your thoughts, SR, but it'd be nice if you had some idea of what it is that Christians think. Then you could interact with the reality, rather than a hasty, boilerplated caricature.

First of all, I don't think there's a one of us who believes in "god." I don't even know what you mean by that. Christians aren't polytheists or pagans, by definition. We believe in God; the name is capitalized, because it is a proper noun, referring to a specific person, the God revealed in Scripture and in Jesus Christ.

It's simple grammar. If you mean the God in whom Christians believe, the noun is capitalized. If you don't capitalize it, then it is an indefinite noun and requires a modifier such as "a" (i.e. "a god"). But in that case, you aren't talking about Christianity.

To the rest, there are simply too many misunderstandings to address easily in one comment. To pick a few:

No Christian says we are "created in the image of god." We are, however, created in the image of God. We can say that because God says it, and Jesus confirms it.

But you don't seem to have taken the time to learn what we mean by that, or why we believe what we believe, before rejecting it reflexively. Not very openminded.

Further, I don't think any of us "assumes" that atheists have no transcendent values, nor any valid purpose in life. We know for a fact that atheists have no transcendent values, nor any valid purpose in life. They cannot, by definition.

For a bit more on that, see the more recent piece on how Christopher Hitchens is forced to run on moral fumes.

CR said...

SR,

I’m going to answer your post in two parts.

Short Rebellion: I guess christians think that if they act right, they we'll go to heaven, or to hell if they sin.

Well, first SR, you don't have a completely accurate view of sin. We Christians, don't (or shouldn't) think if we "act right" will go to Heaven. You see, sin is not merely "we should do this" or "we shouldn't do that."

Sin is not merely getting drunk or doing drugs or what have you. Sin is failure to glorify God. Sin is failure to glorify God all the time every single day and in everything we do.

The reason why you don't see yourself as that bad of a person or that maybe you don't feel you're a sinner, is because you're thinking in terms of "sins" (getting wasted and drunk driving, cheating on an exam, sleeping with your best friend’s boyfriend, etc) rather than what the essence of sin is which is failure to glorify God.

Now, you may be a moral person (more moral than some professing Christians), you may have never done any of the kinds of "sins" above. You probably studied hard, got good grades. You probably love your parents. You may be a very moral and ethical person. That's all good and well.

But if you properly understood what the essence of sin is, you would understand that you are terrible sinner - as I am, because we do not glorify God all the time.

You see, most people think that the opposite of Christianity is immorality. That is not true. The opposite of Christianity is human morality - thinking that if we do some good things, that we will be acceptable to God.

The only righteousness that God will accept on judgment day, RS, is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The perfect life that Jesus lived and his death - that is the only righteousness that will be accepted on judgment day. And how we get that righteousness is if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, you say that life is to be enjoyed and we are to be happy and that is a true statement we are suppose to be happy but God created us to be happy in Jesus Christ. Now, you are young, so this is probably not in your radar, yet. If you talk to most older people, they are afraid of dying maybe not all because some just really suppress reality and do everything they can to not think of death (which proves they're afraid of dying). But why do most people, even atheists, fear death? If they were true to their beliefs of annihilationism and they just poof, disappear, Then there would be nothing to be afraid of. They lived their life and they would just get ready to not feel anymore pain or suffering. But they don’t feel that SR. They’re afraid of dying because in their heart of heart they sense judgment coming. They know they shouldn’t have done certain things or they should have done certain things and they know in their heart they will be judged for that. That comes from God, SR. God put that in them so they would run to him for salvation.

CR said...

SR: Remember, they could have said anything back then, how would we know if we are reading it in the right context? Have you ever read Shakespeare? It's almost impossible to understand without a teacher telling you their portrayal of the character's words.

This is not accurate SR. Ancient historians (like Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus and Tacitus) correctly noted that true history could be written only while events were still within living memory and they valued as their sources the oral reports of direct experience by involved participants.

For Greek and Romans historians, the ideal witnesses were not the dispassionate observer but one who had been closest to the events and whose direct experience enabled him to understand and interpret the significance of what he had seen. This is exactly what we have in the Gospel accounts. Mark's gospel for example, was written well within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses.

For example, Simon of Cyrene (the guy that held Christ's cross Christ's way to his crucifixion) in the gospel of Mark is cited as "Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus."

There isn't a good reason for Mark to have said this other than that Mark is appealing to Simon's eyewitness testimony. So, you see they couldn't have said "anything", because they could have said, "wait, wait, Simon, Simon, that name sounds familiar, wait, he's the father of Alexander and Rufus? I know who he is. Let's ask him if what Mark wrote is really true." What the gospel writers wrote, was verifiable eyewitness testimonies which were not written in the 3rd or 4th century because no one could have made up names like that out of the blue hundreds of years later. People would have spotted them as liars. These gospel accounts were written well within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses and while the events were still within living memory.

Anyway, here’s the thing. Remember what I said about none of us being able to glorify God like we should. What we could not do, God did, through his son Jesus Christ. You know, there were many people in the Old Testament that called out God’s name for mercy and not deserving it (deserving wrath instead) and they got mercy. There are many people today, like myself, that called out for God’s mercy and not deserve it (deserving wrath instead) and we got mercy.

But you know what, SR, Jesus didn’t get mercy. You may know the story. Jesus cried, My God, My God why have you forsaken me. Jesus got an eternal wrath meant for us, poured out on him instead because he is our substitute. God’s wrath and eternal fury being kindled in the bones of Jesus at the cross.

God is feeling indignation against you right now, SR. This is your only hope right now, SR, that you turn away from your own morality and turn to Jesus.

Short Rebellion said...

Thank you for the answer DJP, and I do realize that what I said was pretty rude and I am sorry for that bit.

When you talk about us, humans, being created in the image of God though, you seem to say it as though you mean by how we think and can reason. I however have taken it to be physically, and that cannot be done in my opinion. If you are talking in mental processes though, surely that would compare us as to being as smart and all-knowing as God.

I understand a little how you say that atheists have no purpose in life, but I disagree and think that the purpose must be just to live and enjoy it. Why would God put us here if not to be happy in our own place where we are the highest in the land. What if this is heaven? Could it be possible that we forgot our past lives and are currently living the dream. I just think that there can't be a sudden stop where we are judged right then and there as to how we will spend our eternity left. All religions seems to be similar and yet very different in nature, I refuse to believe that God would condemn all the others for not instantly seeing the truth when there is only opinion and not visible proof.

I have actually attended several different kinds of churches and most of my friends are very religious. I have found though, that each denomination of Christianity seems to contradict what the others say, even though they all come from the same source, the Bible. I talk to some people and they say how something is a sin, but when I talk to others, they say you must do that. I find some think that confessions is very important, others are baptized to erase all of their sins; even others tell me that I do not need to do anything other than to talk directly to God and repent. It seems like there are too many opinions and not enough facts to really support the belief in a god for me.

CR, I read what you said about fearing death and I think it is just natural for everyone to be somewhat anxious about such a huge change in their existence. I am not sure myself about what will happen after I die, but I do not think there will be a gate and a heaven or hell. I have a slight idea that there might be something, but it seems more probable to me that there is nothing. Even if there is, I don't see how we could possible know what it is like there or what happens during the process of getting there.

Yes, I do see some of your logic about how the Bible stories are true, but it still could be false. There is no way to verify those stories today and I doubt that back then others would have been able to find everyone and ask them all the needed questions. If the Bible is truth, then why do we have so many dying of cancer, AIDS, HIV, and now Alzheimer's disease. It seems that the prayers don't work to have our families cured. Why haven't we seem proof of God's existence since, don't you think he would have shown some proof to us not that society is generally going away from the churches, there are more people thinking outside their churches for ideas about our existence.

Have you ever heard of the Shroud of Turin, in Italy? So many people believe it to be the cloth placed over Jesus when he was buried. I have read articles, seen shows, and talked to people who have reasonable evidence that it is a hoax made by Leonardo Da Vinci. This could be used to show how many things with religion are usually faulty and cannot always be totally believable. There are always holes and the reasons given by believers is that you must simply believe, it must be true or else they have nothing to stand for.

I do not though appreciate you telling me that God is indignant at me, I do not believe that if there is a god, that anyone can just presume to know what he knows or thinks. There are too many people in the world who think they know what God thinks when it is only their own opinion and they use God as a way to make their beliefs stand out.

DJP said...

Welcome back, SR.

Once again, you've laid out a bewildering, though very interesting smorgasbord.

I'm also a bit frustrated by the fact that it's hard to convey "tone" in words. So please accept that I am saying this in a friendly, non-condescending way: you genuinely do not seem to "get" what Christianity is. Most of your challenges and criticisms reflect that fact.

I can believe that the churches you've been to may not have been very helpful. Of course, I have no way of knowing.

I wish you would read this, and maybe we could start there.

Pick one single thing you'd like to pursue from that, and maybe we can make a start there. Fair enough?

CR said...

SR,

Well, you've said a lot of things and it's hard to deal with all your issues you raised thoroughly and comprehensively on a blog. I echo Dan's thoughts that it would be best to pick one issue and go from there. But I'll do my best in short summary. But obviously I can't address every issue.

SR: If the Bible is truth, then why do we have so many dying of cancer, AIDS, HIV, and now Alzheimer's disease. It seems that the prayers don't work to have our families cured. Why haven't we seem proof of God's existence since, don't you think he would have shown some proof to us not that society is generally going away from the churches, there are more people thinking outside their churches for ideas about our existence.

It's important to understand that physical death and suffering was not dealt with in the atonement (Christ's work on the cross for atoning for the sins of those who would believe in him). It was not designed to stop physical death or suffering in the world. The Bible doesn't teach that anywhere. A Christian believer has to die (or suffer) exactly in the same way as everyone else. Christ did not bore all the consequences of sin, he only bore the penalty of sin (eternal death and suffering).

The other reason we have to die is because of the method that God has chosen to change bodies of believers in Jesus to make them immortal. I mean how could material bodies like ours subject to death and sickness and decay live forever? The apostle Paul explains that in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 15.

And this reminds me of something. The atheists worldview is a much more cold and real cruel worldview than that of the Christian worldview. I'll tell you why. There are some people in this world whose depravity is so great and so wicked, you think of the Mao Zedungs, Stalins, Hitlers. You think of the people in great high positions who manipulate the poor and most of these people live a life of comfort and ease and riches. And the atheists view is that well, poof - no justice. This is why the doctrine of Hell is so important, because without it, there would be no justice.

And I know you did not appreciate me telling you that God is angry with you, and if God spared his own Son, I might agree with you. But God did not spare Jesus. Three times, Jesus, asked his Father if it was in his will, that the Father would let the punishment he was going to bear, to pass away. If God didn't spare his own Son, what makes you think he'll spare you or that he would have spared me or anyone else?
There is a lot of people that mock or scorn's justice. I love God's justice. I'll tell you why. God punished my sins (past, present and future) onto the Lord Jesus Christ. And because he did that, it would be unjust for God to punish me in Hell now. Because he already punished Jesus for it. That's why I love God's justice. I don't love his justice because I take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. Not even God takes pleasure in that. Well, anyway, I didn't get to address all your issues. Yes, I've heard of the Shroud of Turin and I knew back in college it was fake. Most reasonable people did. But the shroud of Turin is not Holy Scriptures. It is a relic and we Christians do not (or shouldn't) put our faith in relics. The object of our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

DJP said...

Short Rebellion, I'd like to guide our discussion a bit, please. Rather than introducing a half-dozen complaints about general theism, I really would like to focus with you, and go somewhere.

Would you please read my October 22, 2009 6:52 comment, and respond?