Since then, the original source and I have done some more research and it seems highly unlikely that this picture is of a recent church burning. Allegedly, the image is of people burned in a gas explosion. I found this page that linked to this page; you will observe that the latter page no longer works. I am sure some more sleuthing would allow me to get that missing information, but the fact that the former page is from a full year before the report I posted, and has the same image, strongly suggests that the two do not go together.
About five years ago I published a collection of essays that is no longer available for purchase. The collection is titled after the essay below. It is not, as far as I know, something I’ve published elsewhere. I was thinking of it recently and decided it should be dusted off. It seems as relevant today as when I first wrote it.
That Which Atheism Becomes
Some might say that I just like to argue. The truth is that I believe that ideas have consequences and some consequences are more severe than others. Arguing, or more precisely, debating, these ideas helps everyone on all sides of a position understand a position better. In theory, if you could of got Bin Laden to sit down to have a nice debate you could of aroused for him some of the critical consequences of his beliefs and demanded that before he acted on them he had a much firmer basis. According to many Muslims, such a basis does not exist. I will leave that issue to them to sort out. But Bin Laden does have this going for him: he takes a belief to its rational conclusion. There are many dangerous beliefs out there that people consider harmless simply because they aren’t taken to their rational conclusion.
As I argued above, all the religions and most of the world’s people deal honestly and seriously with the problem of death, but I should like to point out something truly unique about Christianity: it believes that at a specific place at a particular time in our history, God himself- knowing perfectly well what an offense death was- dealt death itself a death blow. He came to earth in a real place at a real time and interacted with real people that we can know from real history and really died and really rose from the dead and really promised to share that victory with anyone who will really accept the medicine he really offers.
In my view, since death is the common denominator for all of us and the one thing that stands in our way of ultimate and meaningful happiness, it is a proper subject of intensive human scrutiny. If there were hope, real hope, that there is an ultimate answer to death, then it is worth doing everything in your power to find out, and if one finds that hope to be more than plausible, but actual, seize upon it.
Here is the part of Mark’s argument where I saw a parallel: the KSM trial won’t be a ‘show trial’ because the outcome isn’t rigged. I retorted that there was no doubt in my mind that if KSM was declared innocent, whether on the merits of the case or because of a technicality, there was no way that KSM wouldn’t end up in custody again, which is in effect an unfair trial under the constitution, for if a person is declared innocent under the constitution, he is free to go. Mark replied that what happens after the trial is irrelevant to the fairness of the trial.
I will leave aside other aspects of the conversation which you can read for yourself.
I find this to be an interesting argument that seems to be the same argument that many atheists appear to be running with when they decide that it is likely that God doesn’t exist because a loving, omnipotent and omniscient God wouldn’t allow such horrible evils to occur.
What is the alternative? Let us imagine that every time someone did an evil thing, God swooped in and prevented it. If this happened, would we imagine that that person really had free will?
One of the enduring criticisms against Christianity is that it is anti-knowledge, education, and learning. This blog has taken aim at this criticism before, most notably taking Richard Dawkins to task for his misuse of an Augustine quote ostensibly about ‘curiosity.’ I currently have an open challenge to Dawkins to repudiate his use of that …
So ABC’s “V” was on again tonight. I enjoyed it. It lacked the same punch as the first episode but I still liked it. It seems a little hurried to me. Maybe there are too many commercials? I’ve seen other hour long shows that seemed to really carry a narrative so I know its possible. I can’t put my finger on it with “V” but it isn’t enough (yet) to push me away from future viewings.
In my previous post, I hoped that I would see some metaphysical conversation. Perhaps its too early in the series, but there wasn’t much in that regards. Ie, unlike the first episode, this one seemed to lack substance. It still got me thinking anyway. I will now outline some of those thoughts.
The visual effects are far superior to the previous incarnation of the series. Indeed, far superior to any show from the 80’s and earlier. The miracle of CGI!
But isn’t it interesting that we are able to recognize that just because the space ships we see hovering over American cities in this show, despite their incredible life like detail, are fictional? This uncanny ability (most) people have is interesting given our “Seeing is believing” society. There is a great deal on television, movie, and computer screens that appears to be absolutely real. Yet, we know it isn’t.
The number one thing killing Christianity in America today:
All the rest of the things on the list tie back to this. The Christian Church exhibits constant lovelessness in much of what it does. Many readers will jump to the idea that Christians are very loving, and to an extent, I agree. Many readers will find the assertion nauseous because they think of ‘love’ as some wishy washy sentiment. Both sets of readers misunderstand me. One of my contentions is that Love itself is misunderstood, because unlike other doctrines, this one has not been systematically explored from the Scriptures. We all act as though we intuitively know what ‘love’ is. In fact, we have culturally driven notions that are derived from hundreds of years of romanticism. The Bible- the New Testament in particular- portrays a love that is much different. It is earth shattering, and embodied in the activities of the early Christian Church.
None of this should be construed (though it will be, to my chagrin) as a repudiation of all the things we currently do to ‘show’ we love God. It isn’t. If we were doing those things AND loving our fellow Christians… to the death… there would be no problem.
But, I contend, we aren’t doing that. God tells us that if we love him, we’ll love the brothers. We have it stuck in our head that if we love him, we’ll love him.
But that’s not what he said, and that is why outsiders, ultimately, do not find Christianity credible. Indeed, it is why Christians themselves are dubious, and in fact, sometimes falling away altogether.
From my experience dealing with secularists, ‘true believing fanatics’ is really a redundancy to them. A fanatic is, virtually by definition, someone who truly believes what they say they believe. ‘Humility’ in practice means, someone who doesn’t act on what they believe.
My response to the gent was brief:
Is your belief system a fact?
Clearly, if your belief is that all beliefs that claim to be fact must be debunked, then it is also true that this very belief that all beliefs must be debunked must be debunked.
Important caveat: the following is written BY A CHRISTIAN and pertains ONLY TO CHRISTIANS, and then, ONLY THE CHRISTIANS THAT TAKE THE BIBLE AS THEIR FINAL AUTHORITY. I hope that is sufficiently clear.
1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Sprinkled throughout the Scriptures is evidence of God’s fondness for a certain order of interaction with the human race. The idea that judgment begins with the family of God is not isolated to Peter and the idea that there are stages in judgment is not isolated to the apostles. For example, Jesus himself alludes to it in Mark 7 when he at first refuses to minister to the Syrophoenician Woman, saying, “First let the children eat all they want.”
In light of what I have said above it may come as a surprise that I have a very high view of science. But it’s true. I believe that you need the right tool for the job and in many cases that tool is empirical scrutiny. But other jobs require other tools and no hemming and hawwing will change that. For some jobs a hammer, for others a screwdriver and others, pliers. You may have found that sometimes one gets lucky- a screwdriver is best for screws but at last resort a hammer did the trick. But try changing your lightbulb with a hammer and tell me how that goes. 😉
Let the hammer pound nails and the screwdriver drive screws and air compressor pump up the tire: the right tool for the job, and be wary of anyone who insists on using just one tool for all jobs, and watch out especially if they don’t want anyone looking over their shoulder while they are ‘at work’ and even berate you for suggesting other approaches.
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” GK Chesterton
I was thinking to myself how hard it is to be ‘good’ and how easy it is to be ‘bad.’ For the introspective nonChristian, especially in today’s day and age where great pains are expended to eliminate both concepts, that nagging voice of conscience is still quite audible. Have you ever actually tried to follow through on everything your own conscience demands? Never mind the words of an old book or the collective pronouncements of a bunch of religious wingnuts, what about your own conscience? Try to be entirely good, even by your own standards, for just a day. I think you will discover that it is extraordinarily difficult. But not living up to your standard is easy. So easy. Doesn’t this require an explanation that covers all the facts?