I don’t hate atheists. I don’t like arguing for the sake of arguing and don’t have a ‘thing’ about winning a debate. I discourse with atheists because I love them, and because I believe that I am right in my belief that God is going to call this world to account and if we do …
Atheists have a problem. Ok, they have lots of problems. 🙂 But this one is a big one: how to explain morality. Now, for some reason atheists remained confused on some basic aspects of the issue. It is common to hear from their camp something to the effect, “We do not need God to be …
When I was in college there was this guy 2 1/2 times larger than me… a philosophy major, as I recall… appropriately named ‘Animal.’ I remember having a debate about pain with him. I argued it was all in our minds- just a brain state- and not real. Animal said, “Come here, and I’ll show you unreal pain.”
While I was of the mindset that there were just “brain states” or just “subjective opinions” or just “one’s political views”, I was a liberal. When my mindset changed, so did my ‘political’ stance. This is a realization that congealed more than ten years after the change had happened. Was it just me? Correlation does not prove causation, and yet I see the same ingredients in the conservatives and liberals I meet. What made my mindset change?
I wouldn’t say it happened over night but there was a singular ‘event’ that proved the catalyst. One should understand that at the time, I was a Christian, an apologist, a Christian religion teacher. But I still entertained many viewpoints we’d call ‘liberal.’ The catalyst arose out of my never ending quest to make sure that when I talk about something, I actually know what I’m talking about. In the general course of that, I read a great many writings of Communists, Nazis, and to a lesser extent, the ‘fascists.’ Here I discovered something frightening: these people were advocating many of the same things I was advocating, and for the same reasons.
We live in a curious time. Good people who are otherwise sane entertain the notions that Lee and Loughner embraced and acted on. Over against those notions they have some memory of the bloodsport of the 20th century and are keen to avoid it a second go around. What they don’t ask is: “Maybe it isn’t just one particular application of these beliefs that ought to be discredited… maybe the beliefs themselves should be chucked?”
Let us imagine that someone believed that all people with red hair should be killed because they aren’t really people. You talk to him. He’s a perfectly pleasant fellow. Very sane. “So, you aren’t going to actually kill any red haired people or advocate that others do?” you ask him. “Of course not,” he says. That’s a relief, of course. “Why believe it if you won’t carry it out?” you persist. “That would be horrible. I would feel terrible,” he says. “Hmmm,” you might say, “Perhaps the fact that you are deeply uncomfortable with wiping out those with red hair is because even though you say they aren’t people, in fact, you think they are. Why not then dispense with your belief that they aren’t really people?”
Something very much like this is at the root of much thinking among secular humanists. They don’t really believe what they’re saying. If they did, we’d all be in a lot of trouble and they’d probably go a little nuts.
In the nearly 20 years or so of debating with various kinds of non-Christians, I have often encountered a way of thinking that I think is self-evidently flawed, but oddly common nonetheless. What I mean is this: as soon as you press the point, they drop the principle, recognizing it can’t be maintained as tightly as was presented. A moment later, or in another conversation, the principle is re-presented.
The principle is this: that a proposition is true if it explains something. Or, a belief is to be preferred if it explains something. Or, the better belief is the one that explains the most.
At first blush, this principle seems pretty solid. After all, don’t we give weight to an idea, hypothesis, or theory if it provides an explanation for something else? If I come across the body of a clearly murdered person and the evidence points to another person who is known to have hated the victim, wouldn’t we say, “Well, that explains that. He hated him.” ? Well, yes. It does explain it, but it still doesn’t follow that he actually murdered anyone. The time honored tradition for hanging a murder verdict on someone does include motive- but also means and opportunity. Merely having a hypothesis that ‘explains’ the facts does not prove the hypothesis. One must corroborate it. If it cannot be corroborated, it doesn’t follow it isn’t true. We just have to be careful how we weight it. We certainly would not (or ought not) sentence a man to death for it.
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.
I will agree that the language of ‘right and wrong’ won’t work with many kids today, but that is because hitting them with that language when they are 15 is 15 years too late. Of course it won’t work then. If kids are instilled with an understanding of ‘right and wrong’ from early on they will already be able to see through ‘cool’ things. The language of ‘right and wrong’ does not preclude the ‘dangers of sexting’ nor the dangers of any other destructive behaviors.
As it happens, behaviors traditionally believed to be ‘wrong’ also correlate with nasty consequences. It is ‘wrong’ to steal a car, even if its cool. Also, if you don’t steal a car- surprise!- you won’t be thrown in jail. Guess what? If you don’t have sex before your wedding and your spouse does likewise you won’t have to worry about an STD. See how this works? Funny how the ‘traditional morals’ that society has seen fit to dispense with tend to coincide nicely with creating the results we basically want. Funny how dispensing with those morals tends to create all sorts of nasty consequences we don’t want.
The great modern aim is to dispense with the traditional morality and still avoid the nasty consequences that tend to follow after they’ve been thrown out.
Good luck with that!
“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?
Atheists and secular humanists quite obviously argue that we humans are all alone and that humans themselves determine their worth, their value, their ‘intrinsic’ dignity. The problems with this ought to be self-evident but atheists are crafty folks. History reveals clearly that humans can change their minds about the ‘worth,’ ‘value,’ and ‘rights’ of humans (usually other humans). For example, the Nazis depersonalized the Jews with consequences I need not expand on. Atheistic communist regimes depersonalized dissidents and capitalists with consequences I need not expand on. The atheistic apologetic on the point is that actually this goes to show the dangers of ‘religion.’ For, you see, anyone who ever does anything nasty, no matter what their ideology, is, by definition, acting religiously. In this way, atheists can always keep their hands clean.
However, it misses the point. The fundamental point has to do with our basis for decrying what the Nazis and communists did. If humans themselves are the sole and final arbiters for determining and dictating human value then no one can complain about what humans decide. Oh sure, the do complain. But in doing so they betray the inconsistency of their position.
We chose life.
Our daughter is almost two years old now and I can testify that the joy she brings completely overwhelms the troubles associated with her condition. (Like Heaven triumphs over Hell, ala Lewis’s The Great Divorce) And really, how different is this from any other non-disabled child? All children bring troubles- but we have them anyway. A disabled child might have more troubles- or they might not, rather, the troubles are of a different sort. But the joys outweigh the troubles out of proportion. More troubles equals more joys. See the parable of the Prodigal Son.
With this experience in mind and wishing that I could do something to persuade others to make the same choice that my wife and I did, I have written a book, and it is now available for purchase.
I’m pretty sure that the founders of this country had a similar view. They wouldn’t recognize the bloated thing we have today. One can guess what they’d say or do. (I have some guesses). Let us just assume that no one even tries anymore to have good, moral, proper, principled reasons for passing legislation any more. That has been abandoned. In its place are just two basic principles: 1. Will the legislation make money for the government (or those donating to officials)? 2. Will it extend the government’s reach?
This weekend I read one of the scariest things I have heard coming out of the Global Warming crowd. That is saying something. I have documented elsewhere on this blog some other things they’ve said, like comparing denying man-made Global Warming to denying the holocaust. This is so disgusting I almost sat down and wrote a book exposing the various principles at work in it but stopped when I thought of at least one that is already written: C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.
In summary, the London Times article references a certain Jonathon Porritt, a Global Warming burearucrat who reportedly says,
“I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate,” Porritt said.
“I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible.