Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category
Racism, human trafficking, and abortion all share a common source to their evil – the fundamental denial of human dignity – more specifically the creator endowed dignity of being made in the image of God. This is unilaterally accomplished by carving out groups of people (by ethnicity, gender, vulnerability, or age) who are classified as sub-human and therefore not treated as equal human beings.
Racism denies the image of God in a particular ethnicity, people group, or tribal affiliation. It seeks to make the persons of such groups or affiliations lesser than your group or affiliation. In doing so it assails the inherent worth endowed by God. There are several idols at work in racism – power, control, pride, and ironically likely both self-love and self-hatred.
Human trafficking denies the image of God in humanity by treating certain humans as not being human at all, but rather property. All sense of dignity and worth must be deconstructed in order to justify the human as property. There are several idols at work in human trafficking, most notably, greed, power, control, and lust.
Abortion denies the image of God in those of a certain size, age, gestation, or relative level of “wantedness.” The human is made to be sub-human because it is small, young, not yet viable, and has not travelled the magical 6″ journey down the birth canal that suddenly and mysteriously imbues it with life, human rights, and legal status. Their are several idols at work here, most notably, lust, selfishness, comfort, and escape.
While perhaps difficult to personally engage heavily on all three fronts, I find it ironic that my own age demographic seem inclined to care about the first 2 of these 3 and not the third. I don’t know if this is for reasons of ignorance, idolatry, apathy, or all of the above. It will be interesting how history plays itself out on this particular issue… but I am willing to wager that our grand children will think of abortion with a similar disdain that our generation holds toward the Holocaust.
The Banality of Evil and Our Cultural Morass
I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to cut up our children for the pursuit of the ideal body, the next ladder rung of the career, or the perfect orgasm. I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to allow persons to be treated as property for sex or for unpaid work for the pursuit of cheaper goods, uncommitted and intimacy-less sex (rape). I hope we would see ourselves as being more dignified than to allow other ethnicities to be treated as less worthwhile, less valuable, and sub-human for the pursuit of feeling good about one’s own tribe at the expense of another tribe.
There is a certain banality to evil that lulls us into going along and getting along. It was the same banality that anesthetized the very bright German people into the wholesale slaughter of persons categorized as sub-human.
What we want is what we worship and what we worship controls us. This is true if we are pagans, atheists, agnostics, or Christians. We are all slaves to our wants. Those wants drive our ideas… And ideas have consequences… Often dire ones.
What the heart loves, the will chooses, the mind justifies – Thomas Cranmer
Pope Francis, in a letter to the founder (Dr. Eugenio Scalfari) of popular Italian newspaper La Repubblica (think USA Today of Italy) wrote the following:
As for the three questions you asked me in the article of August 7th. It would seem to me that in the first two, what you are most interested in is understanding the Church’s attitude towards those who do not share faith in Jesus. First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that – and this is fundamental – God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision. (Full text translated to English by La Repubblica can be found here)
This has to be one of the most bizarre statements every written by a Pope. In my reading in both the English and the Italian of this letter, Pope Francis seems to be asserting an argument something like this:
1. God’s mercy has no limits – contingent on the sincere contrition of the heart
2. Sincere contrition of the heart means obedience to own’s own conscience
3. Obedience to the conscience involves the perception of good and evil
4. A sincere contrite heart is the one does what is right in the eye of his own conscience
5. Pope Francis cannot judge the atheist (Dr. Scalfari) and by corollary any other person(s) who are obedient to their consciences
I am pretty sure I am not taking the Pope’s comments out of context, nor being uncharitable to the argument. If taken to the logical conclusion anyone on Earth who feels like they are a good person in their own eyes should (or at least could) be a part of God’s kingdom. This kind of argument does not square with the Gospel or even Catholic dogma. In my experiences talking with people about spiritual matters nearly all feel that they are a “good person” and would self-affirm that they are obedient to their own conscience.
The Love of God, Liberalism and the book of Judges
Pope Francis’ seems to be attempting to make a case that the central tenet of the Christian faith is the Incarnation of Jesus and that the most important element of the atonement is the love of God:
Christian faith believes in this: that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open the way to love for everyone. Therefore there is a reason, dear Dr. Scalfari, when you see the incarnation of the Son of God as the pivot of Christian faith. Tertullian wrote “caro cardo salutis”, the flesh (of Christ) is the pivot of salvation. Because the incarnation, that is the fact that the Son of God has come into our flesh and has shared joy and pain, victories and defeat of our existence, up to the cry of the cross, living each event with love and in the faith of Abbà, shows the incredible love that God has for every man, the priceless value that he acknowledges. For this reason, each of us is called to accept the view and the choice of love made by Jesus, become a part of his way of being, thinking and acting. This is faith, with all the expressions that have been dutifully described in the Encyclical.
* * *
In your editorial of July 7th, you also asked me how to understand the originality of Christian Faith as it is actually based on the incarnation of the Son of God, with respect to other religions that instead pivot on the absolute transcendency of God.
I would say that the originality lies in the fact that faith allows us to participate, in Jesus, in the relationship that He has with God who is Abbà and, because of this, in the relationship that He has with all other men, including enemies, in the sign of love. In other words, the children of Jesus, as Christian faith presents us, are not revealed to mark an inseparable separation between Jesus and all the others: but to tell us that, in Him, we are all called to be the children of the only Father and brothers with each other. The uniqueness of Jesus is for communication not for exclusion.
In this sense, coupled with the argument above, Pope Francis seems far closer to Unitarianism or liberal Protestantism than he does Catholicism or anything from the New Testament. This is some kind of vague pure love of God version of Jesus who is the nice Galilean homeless guy who challenged the status quo and broke social norms so we can all sit around the campfire holding hands singing kumbaya. This is the pure love of God version of Jesus that doesn’t really care about sin… as long as you feel good about obeying your own seared conscience.
There was a time when God’s people did what was right in their own eyes… :
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 17:6 ESV
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21:25 ESV
… and it was a total mess.
The Good News
To be crystal clear, Jesus’ death on the cross makes no sense for anything but the paying for the sin of His people and the transfer of His perfect life in return.
The Good News is that Jesus was perfect so that you the imperfect might have your law-breaking wiped clean and Jesus’ perfection deposited into your account. His death is what wipes away the penalty of law-breaking and His perfect life is what makes His people Holy in the eyes of God.
Trevin Wax over at the Gospel Coalition has a great piece entitled, “Being True to Yourself is Living a Lie.” The gist of the article is that much of pop culture today – everyone from Disney to Lady Gaga – is espousing that being true to oneself is the highest virtue. He sites some of the following examples from Disney and Gaga:
- Cinderella singing about her dreams and being true to her inner princess
- Mulan refusing to fit into cultural stereotypes
- Ariel longing for a world she wasn’t created for
- Aladdin becoming the prince he pretended to be
Music only reinforces this message during the teenage years. For example, Lady Gaga’s anthem “Born This Way” celebrates our urgings and longings:
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
The underlying assumption here is that the highest virtue of life is authenticity to self.
Nietzsche, Disney and Lady Gaga
This kind of assumption has its roots in neither Disney films nor Lady Gaga’s music. The roots of these assumptions are found in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche essentially espouses the most consistent (as consistent as anything can be within a framework that has no God and by corollary no Truth, no fixed axioms… etc.) atheistic system. Nietzsche is one of the few atheists that actually says that morality is contingent on God’s existence. For him, because God does not exist, neither does morality and morality is nothing but a human construction that is keeping humanity from evolving beyond humanity. For Nietzsche, he wants humanity to shed itself of morality and embrace power and dominion over weaker humans. Only when a few will be cruel and domineering over weaker humans (humans who still embrace morality, Truth… etc.) will humanity start the process of becoming like the overman (the overman is to humanity what humanity is to the apes – the next step in our evolutionary biology). Here is the KEY – The key to embracing power… The key to rejecting morality and its chains… The key to evolving and walking the tightrope towards the overman… is AUTHENTICITY TO SELF. (For more on this you can read a piece I wrote entitled – Why Nietzsche is Helpful for the Christian)
The Problem with Authenticity to Self
The big problem with authenticity to self is that we are children of Adam. As children of Adam, being authentic to ourselves means we should embrace all our sin patterns and call them good and healthy. What happens if we apply the lyrics of the Lady Gaga song to the man who is attracted to little boys or girls?
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
What happens if we apply these lyrics is that pedophilia is not only not wrong, it is rather virtuous and good – for I am merely exercising my authenticity to my personhood as a son of Adam. Margaret Sanger was just being authentic to her feeling that certain races and genetic material was inferior and therefore ought to be prevented from birth or eliminated from the womb. Hitler was just being authentic to his extreme hatred in his heart for the Jews, gypsies and homosexuals. Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Albert Fish, Ted Bundy, and the Zodiac were all just expressing on the canvas of the murdered bodies their authentic personhood as sons of Adam.
Calling all the sinful, disobedient, law-breaking, twisted and harmful desires of our heart good is not just unhealthy it is dangerous to society, the thriving of culture and the reality of the Gospel.
The Good News
The good news is authenticity is a virtue in the new life we have when we are adopted into Christ’s family. We are given the mind of Christ, the Holy Spirit, God’s book, and a community of people to grow and flourish. Authenticity means living in light of being no longer a son of Adam but a son of the King – one who has been set free from the mind of sin and death and is free to become a slave of Christ.
Recent test at CERN shows some evidence of new atomic/subatomic element(s). The data is statistically significant at 3 standard deviations so far, however, the gold standard in particle physics and astrophysics is five standard deviations. Hence, some have remained cautious about the findings thus far. In a similar vein, here is an interesting piece on neutrinos.
Two shot in British nuclear submarine. Reminds me of Capt. Rameus’ classic line, “Be careful what you shoot at in here… some things don’t react to kindly to bullets”
Stephen Moore writes in WSJ, “We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers”
Fascinating case of a baby born at 21 weeks, 9.5 inches long, and less than 10 ounces… and still going strong.
Interesting book review from Ed Stetzer- “5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them”
Bernard Lewis has a nice piece in the WSJ entitled, “The Tyrannies are Doomed”
Infographic: Failing schools across America
“Unreasonable Doubt” – Examines the roots of atheism
John Piper gives a few thoughts regarding what Koran burning is analogous to and what it is not analogous to.
NYT infographic on reducing our nations inflated bugdet. While we are on the subject here are two proposals that inspired the aforementioned infographic: Fiscal Commission’s Co-Chair Proposal and Illustrative Savings.
There is a fairly large controversy brewing over both the TSAs use of full-body scanners and their substantially more aggressive pat-downs. I have actually had one of the full-body scans before and poked my head around to see the image (much to the dislike of TSA) and it was pretty invasive. A man in California got a tape of his encounter with TSA after refusing the scan and getting the new ‘special’ patdown. He gets arrested and faces substantial fines for warning the TSA employee not to “touch his junk.”
Doug Wilson has a nice piece entitled, “Populism and Common Sense.”
Besides the fact I think morality and atheism are completely incompatible, I like Christopher Hitchens. Andrew Anthony has a very well-written piece on his current thoughts during his battle with stage-iv cancer.
NY Post has an article on Hookers for Jesus, a ministry seeking to get sex-workers off the streets of Las Vegas. An interesting read.
Facebook jumping into the email forray. I wonder if this will end up being part of the ever-expanding wedge between younger and older web-users where younger generations employ Facebook over email to communicate. Maybe I am a bit out of touch but I fail to see this being very successful for Facebook for anyone older than 22. Their current message platform is horrendous to work with and often crashes after you have composed substantial portions of text – so much so that before I hit “send” I always copy all of my composed text because I have lost it so many time.
Comical video which attempts to explain quantitative easing. I should note there is some misinformation in the video. The Fed regularly buys/sells assets to change the amount of base money. However, in this case the amount is specified ($600,000,000,000.00) rather than dealing with overnight interest rates. Given there are rather alarmingly high amounts of ties between Goldman Sachs and the Fed as well as Goldman Sachs and the Obama administration, it would be an alarming precedent for the Fed to buy its own treasuries from itself.
App of the week: Google Voice by Google – after months of dragging its feet, apple finally let this app hit the iTunes store.
Ken Block, Ford Fiesta, Awesome:
Al Mohler reflects on the life and death of former atheist turned theist, Anthony Flew.
Norway makes “Most Humane Prison.” Flat screen TVs. High end design…
22-week Italian baby survives abortion and lives for two days.
Christian preacher arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin.
Inflation up 2% in March 2010.
Fascinating BBC reader write-in article on 40 ways people still use 3.5″ floppy disks (including the Mexican, Romanian, Panamanian, and British governments).
Ligon Duncan’s 6 exhortations to the pastors of the next generation. (HT: JT)
All of the audio from last weeks Advance 2010 conference.
The Supreme Court might be “Protestant-less” for the first time ever.
Dollar re-designed by a graphic designer… its pretty awesome.
Find out how wealthy you are compared to the rest of the world.
“We are Wall Street and We are More Vicious Than Dinosaurs.” Well-written, pardon the authors triumphalism.
Infographic about where all our tax dollars go.
12 most awkward family photos Mother’s Day edition. 5, 6, 8, and 9 are particularly awkward… and what is that animal in #8?
So, I’ve been chewing on some Nietzsche for the better part of the last 8 months (I mentioned a few things I was struck by here) . I think Nietzsche is very helpful for Christians and is worth reading/understanding. There are at least four reasons why this is the case:
First, Nietzsche is helpful because he presents a worldview almost completely antithetical to Christianity. From my experience, total opposites often have a lot in common and typically this is the case because opposites employ the same categories to divergent conclusions. Nietzsche takes many of orthodox Christianities’ categories and turns them on their head. He preaches the opposite of the Sermon on the Mount, encouraging master morality over slave morality. He preaches that humanity has killed God through our lack of worship of God and as a result there is no such thing as good/evil, right/wrong, or black/white because all of these depended on God for their existence. He preaches that all that humanity has is power through the assertion of one’s will.
Second, Nietzsche and Christianity have a few common assessments and aims (The Fall, Telos, and Pleasure). In my opinion, there is definitely a sense of the brokenness of things in Nietzsche’s philosophy. While not coming from a theistic framework, he sees that humanity needs to rise above its current pitiful state to something higher. While he might not refer to the ubermensch as redeemer of humanity, it is certainly Nietzsche’s telos for humanity. Nietzsche and the Christian see very eye-to-eye when it comes to a promotion of life-affirmation (given, from very different angles). Some may accuse Christianity of being prudish or oppressive but they haven’t read C.S. Lewis on joy, Jonathan Edwards on affection, or John Piper on Christian hedonism. Both Nietzsche, Lewis, Edwards, and Piper all put forth a very life-affirming, full-bodied, joy-filled, and pleasure-seeking vision of life.
Third, Nietzsche is correct in his assessment that the death of God necessitates nihilism (a rejection of all morality). For Nietzsche a large portion of his philosophy was devoted to the reevaluation of everything in light of the death of God (particularly morality). Unlike the New Atheists who want to have their cake and eat it too (atheism with some semblance of morality), Nietzsche obliterates this notion. Nietzsche rejects all transcendence in light of the death of God, for if God is the only transcendent thing/being in existence, then the death of God also destroys anything transcendent. The only meta-narrative (for Nietzsche) left is the assertion of power and pleasure in the face of the harsh world.
Fourth, Nietzsche’s worldview is horribly unlivable. The unlivability of the Nietzschean worldview is probably the greatest critique of his thinking. I won’t even delve into the fact that Nietzsche spent the last decade of his life severely mentally ill and institutionalized (as this has been abused by Nietzsche’s critics). It is no great secret that Nietzsche’s most faithful disciple was Michel Foucault. Foucault was an influential post-structuralist and post-modern thinker who sought to live Nietzsche’s worldview to its logical end. Power and pleasure were at the center for Foucault and Nietzsche and as such Foucault delved deep into the world of homosexual sadomasochism. It was not uncommon for Foucault to have 6-12 such encounters in a single night (facilitated by the bath-houses of 70s era Southern California). He was quite open and would brag about his sexual power and prowess. He was one of the first public figures to die of AIDS. He wanted to die in his native Paris and upon his triumphal entry to his city, 2 million people lined either side of the Champs-Élysées. Those celebrating his return carried posters with Foucault’s motto, “Be Cruel.”