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Education and atheistic propoganda…

This is in response to this article here, which discusses teachers’ opposition to sending out promotional material for an atheistic camp that was given to them- presumably without school endorsement- to distribute to students.

I will pass over the unspoken irony and more obvious and tired objection that if it had been a Christian camp or activity the ACLU would have been all blood and fangs.  That almost goes without saying.  But my general disgust with the thin skinned and easily offended atheist ‘minority’ dictating to the majority can be expressed against the Christian teachers in this story- provided that the school district also distributed Christian materials.  Doubtful, I know. 

I understand the problem of the conscience involved for these teachers and even the overly-sensitive ‘free-thinker,’ desperately and bravely seeking society’s approval for his position.  One does not like to further causes they don’t merely not support but positively rejects.  But it’s a school for goodness sake, and by most estimates, in the abstract, schools are supposed to be about learning new things and being exposed to new ideas- all, I suppose, in the context of excercising critical thinking skills. 

But that is not really what are schools are, anymore.  Continue reading

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Is religion dangerous? Continued thoughts…

This particular question has been coming up fairly often of late and has even been treated on my forum (www.sntjohnny.com/smf) and in an audio debate (hosted somewhere on this domain). When the question is carefully phrased we are helped greatly in answering it because there are some senses in which we could agree that yes, religion is dangerous, but disagree with the implicit charge that this fact is bad on its face. In the course of a single conversation you can usually expect definitions of ‘danger’ to change on you (logical fallacy of equivocation) over and over again.

For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to just take the one straight forward view that there are elements within religion that make it ‘dangerous,’ meaning that to act on the principles may result in consequences that some would find undesirable- and these may include other religious people as well. It is on the basis of there being truth to this that more and more atheists have taken to snidely ridiculing and dismissing religions everywhere, and of course Christianity included. It is here that I find myself scratching my head because as atheists marshal their examples the whole exercise appears disjointed.

The argument usually begins with the easy one- Islam. The dangerous ideology of Islam is considered exposed by events like 9-11 and many other bombings, beheadings, beatings, etc. I can get behind the notion that Islam is dangerous. From there the atheists take an interesting turn, lumping Christianity in with Islam as though the ‘dangers’ are comparative and equal on their face. Richard Dawkins’s “God Delusion” is a wonderful case in point as he moves from recounting Islamic atrocities to recounting Christian… uh… atrocities… like, for example, some Christians in Dover, PA, that used their rightfully earned positions as members of the school board to make a curriculum decision in support of Intelligent Design. Continue reading

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In Conformance to Reality: What does Virginia Tech ‘show’ us?

I’ve had quite a few things on my plate this last week so I didn’t have much of an opportunity to comment on the V-tech massacre, even if I had wanted to.  Having listened to some of the media coverage, I’m frankly glad that I wasn’t able to hear more.  The run to make political hay out of the event was atrocious in my view but I noticed that my own comments could have been percieved as more of the same.  I spent some time reflecting on what was different in my reaction and commentary and this post is part of the fruit of that reflection.

In brief, the critical distinction between my views and the views of many I heard is that in the first place, my views are actually in line with reality.  In the second place, insofar as everyone has compassion for the victims and their families, it is not the case that everyone has a ‘solution’ that is just as compassionate.  My response actually would lead to fewer mass shootings.  My compassion extends to the ones who live because their shooter was stopped earlier on.  I do not consider comments merely reflecting reality to be making ‘political hay’ because they are grounded in reality- it would not be political (per se) if I pointed out the laws of gravity, nor our best response to those laws when those laws are truly perceived.  If any of the rival viewpoints come in from that perspective, I will suspend my charge that they are politicizing the event.  I think I shall have to suspend it for very few.  I ought to probably share my comments now.  It will take a little explaining. Continue reading

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What? Something in a movie is historically distorted?

http://www.thestar.com/article/190493

The historian in this article lays out the implication that movie goers won’t know that the real history of the event is different than what is in the movie.  From the bits that I’ve seen of the movie, you’d have to be a real idiot to not know that the movie had blended history and myth.  That seemed to be the goal of the movie, and the historian’s essay cited above seems to not quite grasp that.

But the true irony is that nearly every person that sees the movie the “300” will know that the producers have played fast and loose with the facts but most of these same people think ‘there is something to’ Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.  In my years as an apologist I’ve fielded dozens upon dozens of questions about claims made in movies.  Stigmata was another one… people seem to be ready to believe anything that smacks of a conspiracy.

What amazes me is how one movie after another can come out spinning various conspiracies about Christianity and few historians wade out and straight forwardly say, “Well, that’s a historical distortion, actually…” and furthermore that people adopt what they see in the movies as their positions!

I guess you need to be wildly mythic like the “300” is to arouse the skepticism of our citizens, today.  How long will that last?  Perhaps in a generation movie goers will come back and watch the “300” and say, “You know, I think there is something to it…”

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According to Plan Means trusting the Planner

Naturally, when you get through Dawkins’s attempt to create a universal moral code apart from religion, he wants to add his private view that a little more flexibility about sexuality would be nice… so he adds that into his preferred new ’10 commandments.’  C.S. Lewis speculated that it is “Thou shalt not commit adultery” that burns people the most.  They can live with the ones against murder and theft. 

On another note, Dr. Dean Udell just took offense on his radio program to arguments that marriage is meant for procreation… “What about the infertile?!?” referring to a program in some state to require hetereosexuals who get married to have children within three years or else have their marriage annulled- “For after all,” he snidely jabs at social conservatives, “Isn’t that what marriage is for?”  Continue reading

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Blood on our Hands

The conversation in the US of late is whether or not we should pull out of Iraq or some other scenario.  It may seem that this is an issue segregated from religion and Christianity but I refuse to believe that one’s ideas- religious or otherwise- have no bearing on real life… indeed, if they did, they’d be fundamentally pointless.

Parallels to Vietnam have been made and in some respects I think they are accurate.  The problem is that the parallels are not extended far enough.  If we take a fairly common Liberal notion that our people in our own particular nation are not more valuable than the people of another nation, you see this principle extended in support of a withdrawal… “Who are we to impose our views on another?”  In fact, the principle, if it means anything, means that when we see people in another nation being ruthlessly oppressed it is not enough to hide behind our own particular flag and refuse to risk the lives of our own citizens to help them.  After all, our particular nation’s citizens are no more valuable than citizens in other nations… Continue reading

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Study Christian Apologetics in France

Some who know me know that I spent four weeks out of this last summer out of the country.  I spent the bulk of of that time in Strasbourg at the event listed below.  As I understand it, there are still openings available.  I recommend it for those seeking to expand their base of knowledge.  Dr. Menuge, who is presenting this year, is excellent.

The 11th International Academy of
Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights
July 10-21, 2007, Strasbourg France.
The academy offers a thorough, up-to-date training in the defense of the faith in the delightful, historic town of Strasbourg, France.
Topics in the 2007 program include:

  • The Apologetic Task Today
  • Philosophical Apologetics
  • Scientific Apologetics & Medical Issues
  • Historical Apologetics
  • Legal Apologetics & Human Rights
  • Literacy and Cultural Apologetics
  • The Apologetic of C.S. Lewis
  • Cults, Sects, and the World’s Religions
  • Biblical Authority Today
  • Open Discussion

The program is ideal for students, professors, pastors and professionals who seek to sharpen their skills in applying and defending the Christian faith in their vocation.
Deadline for Registration, February 1st.
For full information, see: http://www.surfoutsider.net/monty/
For brochures, contact: Dr. Angus Menuge (Angus.Menuge@cuw.edu)

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Trump vs Rosie

Is anyone else so disgusted by the media play on this that they just see the little blurbs and turn the channel, and leave the channel off for an hour just out of principle?

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Authority and Transcendence

Right now on TV they are having a special on the infamous Milgram experiment (link) which reminded me of a post I had in mind to write a couple of days ago.  The Milgram’s experiment puts to shame and disgrace the asinine, arrogant, and smug assertions of atheists that, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”  (Cogito quoting Weinberg). 

No, you really don’t.  And actually, since when do atheists possess an objective measure of ‘evil’?  What the Milgram experiment shows is that all you really need is an authority figure and participants that are used to deferring to the judgement and orders of that figure.  The Milgram experiment did not have ‘scientists’ justifying themselves based on religious scriptures or authorities.  In fact, apart from being a cautionary tale about the danger in general of deferring to authority, it is actually a very telling warning sign to my secular humanist friends that the deference to scientists in particular may be even more vulnerable to exploitation- and really, can we be so certain that they won’t exploit their positions of ‘authority’?

Secular Humanists try to paint themselves as free-thinkers who would never do something evil because they are enlightened, but what the Milgram experiment shows is that they absolutely would.  Having devoted nearly three paragraphs on this you might think that this is my point, but it’s not.  It’s related, but actually I want to build on it. Continue reading

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Christian Education and Apologetics

This is under discussion on my forum, here.

My own story is that I went through 12 years of Christian education and went to a Christian university to be a Christian pastor and promptly was reduced to atheism or something very close to it.  When I returned to Christianity it was with a desire to spare other Christians what I went through.  I don’t mean the normal period of inquiry that all people go through as they get older;  I mean the stupid beliefs- even and especially about Christianity and Christian theism- that I thought were perfectly sane.

I run across non-Christians all the time of various sorts that become belligerent when I suggest to them that whatever it is they mean by ‘Christianity’ and ‘theism’ that they are rejecting, it is not remotely close to what the historic Christian church has maintained.  They often say “I went to Sunday school all my life!  I think I know!”  Sometimes they’ve had formal Christian education like I have had, but if you note in my introductory paragraph there, this is not necessarily helpful.  Better than nothing?

That’s hard to say.  I am reading and reviewing Richard Dawkins’s “Delusion” and 95% of his representations of Christianity and Christian theism are not merely false, they are silly and almost make me feel embarrassed for the man.  And consider the success of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.”  And let’s not forget the success in the previous century of “The Celestine Prophecy.”  Books like the three that I have mentioned do not become best sellers if there is no market of people, who, like more than one person has said to me regarding “The Da Vinci Code,” “I think there is something to it…”

No, there really isn’t anything to it.  For a society allegedly saturated in Christianity, some of the worst displays of ignorance about Christianity arises among Christians themselves.  In my experience, the most strident atheists were raised in the church.  The largest market for weird and baseless views about Christianity are ‘churched’ Christians.

The old ways of doing Christian education simply must be re-evaluated.  The world has changed.  One thinks that if apologetics formed a larger part of Christian curriculums in the last century there would not be such a dire need for it now.

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It is what it is.

One day you receive a letter from an attorney indicating that you are being sued by a foe.  The news is traumatic.  A million thoughts course through your brain.  There a million things to do, but most of them can’t be done until you have more information.  In the meantime, you sit and stew in your new reality and you’re more or less helplessness to change it.

Except it isn’t a new reality.  The course of events leading up to your reception of the letter have been weeks, maybe months in the making.  In point of fact, your reality has been altered at this point for quite awhile.  The difference now is simply that you know of the new reality.  Is it better to have never known at all?  Or, now having known a little, is it better to swallow the bitter cup of knowledge whole?  In either case, you’ll be able to do nothing.  Is it better to have never known at all?

Here is the the unchanging question faced by Man.  It is the tug of conflict between emotions and the mind.   It is contact with the trancendentals, like Joy.  Reduced by material man to nothing more than chemical processes, one’s response to learning of a new reality cannot be changed- the processes occur inevitably, via the laws of nature.  But a man need not have his identity dictated by changes in circumstances.  After all, we are surrounded by ‘new realities’ all the time- things set in motion that we only at that moment become aware of.  What really changed other than your knowledge of it?  And if knowledge of it can by itself affect your being, surely it follows that one can balance that against other things you know- and so be the master of your mind.  To hold onto Joy as it is being snatched away.

That, is in principle, the truth of the matter… but perhaps the severity of the knowledge makes it difficult in practice.  Truly the most important battles occur within our own skulls, long before anyone glimpses the manifestations on our faces and in our actions.  The fact is, some things are the way they are, and there is nothing you can do about it except to take them the way they are.   “It is what it is” does not mean that ‘it’ changes you.  It could- but it doesn’t have to.  It could- if you let it.  It could- if you wanted it to.  It could- if you thought it would be good to be changed by it.  It could, could, could… it is what it is, but you are what you decide to be.

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Outright Lies, illiteracy, or just bad scholarship?

If you read my last blog entry, you saw that I went after Dawkins for unquestioningly accepting information he has been handed without investigating to see if the information is legit. One can wonder if his whole worldview is based on information handed to him pre-biased, and one can wonder further whether or not we should trust his judgment. In the course of that post I pointed out that just as we may be skeptical of his use of Judge Jones, we can and should be skeptical of his other material, and I included as an example his citation of Augustine through a source (almost certainly biased)- that is, Freeman.

Now, I have not read Freeman’s book, “The Closing of the Western Mind,”*** so I don’t know if Dawkins even managed to quote Freeman’s quoting of Augustine correctly. We’ll have to hope Dawkins’s scholarship was good enough to represent his own fellows. Here is the quote alleged to Augustine via Freeman:

“There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.”

Well, my curiosity was aroused to see if Dawkins had been willingly hoodwinked again by a source, so I went looking for this reference. Naturally, Dawkins does not cite where Augustine said it, but we can hope Freeman did. I went through three Google search results pages, scanning through one quoting of this same passage after another by skeptics, none of whom gave where Augustine said it (assuring, therefore, that they all got it from Freeman and he’s on their side, so he wouldn’t lead them wrong, right?!?), until finally I found one. One. I pray to God more atheists had the integrity to try to get to the bottom of the source, but I admit I stopped after the one.

Here is Mr. Pine’s page, and here is the quote: Continue reading

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Dawkins puts his foot in it

In my review of Dawkins’s book I have already insinuated that before we turn any attention at all to the man’s arrogance, his scholarship should be questioned. That is to say, we ought not consider his views on religion to be credible even in the slightest. An example to illustrate this surfaced that will run out of order for my reviews, so I am going to address it singly.

On page 133 we have Dawkins going after Behe saying, “Another of Behe’s favourite [sic] alleged examples of ‘irreducible complexity’ is the immune system. Let Judge Jones himself take up the story: ‘In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not ‘good enough.”

Even reading this passage the way that Dawkins presents it shows that not all cylinders are firing properly, here, not for Dawkins, nor for the ACLU, for in this passage the claim that ‘science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system’ is clearly distinct from the issue as to whether or not anyone has every talked about it! In other words, even as I read this passage from the ACLU, I detected that the accusation did not match up with what Behe was responding too. Examples like this make me pine for the good ol’ days when we could at least expect that the participants in such deep debates were literate.

Now, the literate reading this will now claim AHA! Guilty of the same thing! Dawkins says that this is Judge Jones but Sntjohnny has chalked it up to the ACLU. Twice! Yes, indeed. Continue reading

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Do not do tomorrow what you know is good to do today.

And by ‘good’ I mean in the theological, moral sense.

Over the last five years or so, the sntjohnny household has endured various sorts of troubles that were truly unpleasant.  To keep it in context, I should add that at least very little was ‘tragic.’  That has not been lost on me.  One of the things that has come out of the experience that I am glad to have is a better appreciation of the nature of generosity.  I have always seen generosity as a logical fruit of faith in Christ but I never understood or appreciated the fact that it is a legitimate spiritual gift (see, for example, Romans 8 and 2 Cor 8 ) .

I now understand that the gift of generosity is not mainly about being willing to offer support, but actually getting around to doing it.   In this regards, I certainly know that I lack.  I once had a thank you note ready to send out but by the time I sent it, the person had moved.  The letter was bounced back to me, and even google has prevented me from being able to track the man down.  (Mr. J. Paul, I have a letter for you.  Contact me, please).   In the course of time, I have seen how often people have expressed concern for me and my family and then simply never got around to doing anything.  On the other hand, even people of limited means who had the generosity ‘knack’ acted immediately, with whatever they could at the time.

I find it interesting, in fact, that I have seen more action out of people who are relative strangers than people right around me, sometimes people who saw me every day and counted themselves my friends.  I once received a very sizable check from a man who was not a Christian, who had never met me, who was opposite me on the political spectrum.  In other words, the last person I would have expected to do such a thing.  It was eye-opening.   It is not that people don’t care.  I think, actually, what happens is that everyone thinks that everyone else is doing something:  in fact, when everyone thinks this, it is nobody that actually does it.

It has been eye-opening for me, and it has had this effect on me:  even though I know I lack in this particular gift, I strive to do what I can the moment I think of it the moment I have identified a need.  I just don’t have the ability to sustain my sense of compassion.  It crumbles half the time just because of my lack of organizational abilities.  I bet people will relate to this.  However, there are more of us than there are ‘generous’ people, and so much good is not being done that only we can do.  We’ve got to step it up- especially those of us who are Christians.

This speaks to resource usage, of course, but it also speaks to giving someone a good word, or a needed word.  It can be anything, really.  Doing the right thing, no matter how small, at the right moment, is the best way to fill the world up with right things.  Doing the right thing tomorrow may be beyond the moment.  Maybe not- but if not, then do it if it still remains.

There is so much need in the world.  We can do much good if only we had the energy and alertness to pull it off.  The ‘generous’ among us have it in spades.  The rest of us may not have it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation then to work on it.

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