Monday, November 26, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 19: Answering to radical secularist "he hit back first" well-poisoning tactics -- the revealingly parallel cases of suing against the WTC Ground Zero Cross and complaining about a vandal putting horns on an atheism billboard promotion by the Freedom FROM Religion Foundation

One of the main callings of the church is the cure of souls through the grace and gospel of Christ.

In a civilisation subjected to radical attempts to strip the public square of reminders of the biblical call to penitent trust in Christ and transformation through the gospel call to the truth in love and purity, that requires diagnosis that may be uncomfortable and even unwelcome to the point of some taking umbrage. But, that does not by any means mean that we are to shrink back from telling the painful truth that we need if we are to be restored to wholeness as individuals and as a culture. Just the opposite; exploratory surgery may be painful and inconvenient to what we would rather be doing, but the alternative may be far worse.

A useful point to begin addressing the de-Christianisation challenge that now haunts our region and the wider civilisation, is the recent suit by the notorious American Atheists group founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, against the WTC Ground Zero Cross being restored to the 9-11 site and the Memorial/Museum being built there.

First, the WTC cross:

However, the attempt to bring the Cross back to the site -- remember, the final resting place of thousands whose remains were literally ground to powder during the collapse of the buildings on that awful Tuesday Morning -- has met with a lawsuit by atheists who are literally claiming to be made ill by the mere appearance of that oh- so- despised image, the cross.

(And, no, this is not lines from a movie script, it is reality.)

As Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) notes:
In the tumultuous days following the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, workers at Ground Zero discovered a sign of hope and comfort – a cross – two intersecting steel beams from Tower One of the World Trade Center standing in the midst of so much death and destruction.
In the decade since 9/11, the Ground Zero Cross has become a symbol of hope and healing for those who survived the terrorist attack, the families and friends who lost loved ones on that day, and the coworkers of the brave first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice.
This historical artifact of the 9/11 attacks is, lawsuit notwithstanding, going to be featured in the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Unfortunately, angry atheist syndrome has reared its ugly head again. As soon as the cross selection was announced the American Atheists organized filed suit, claiming it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The group actually claims that its members are experiencing “dyspepsia [upset stomach], symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish,” not from the devastating destruction of life caused by the terrorists on 9/11, but as a “direct and proximate result of the unconstitutional existence of the cross.”

That’s not a line from a blog post, a press release, or a fundraising letter; that is the actual legal argument presented by the American Atheists in their complaint . . . . [But,] while the lawsuit argues that it is unconstitutional to “plac[e] a religious symbol of Christianity on government-owned property,” it “fail[s] to note that the cross is actually a remnant of the ruins of the Twin Towers.”
Notice, these athiests actually object to the very EXISTENCE of that cross that was somehow found standing amidst the rubble of the collapsed towers, and which reminded those there that once, outside a city wall, our Saviour hung, unjustly on a cross, and turned one of the greatest evils into the greatest good: redemption.

That tells us their real target: the EXISTENCE of the gospel of the cross, and the scriptures and church that stand in testimony to the power of that gospel to transform hearts, minds, lives and civilisations with millions of cases in point, across twenty centuries and around the whole world.

At the same time, across the United States, the similar Freedom FROM Religion Foundation is complaining bitterly over the following defacement of one of their promotional billboards in Oregon:

A defaced FFRF billboard, in Oregon USA (The horns were added
by a vandal. This is childish misbehaviour and wrong.)
Obviously, whoever vandalised the billboard in a manner similar to a childish school notice-board prank was wrong.

But, with all due respect to freedom of speech, the most grievous injury in that billboard lies in the theme in the very name of the organisation: the smear that Bible-believing Christians are inevitably seeking to impose a right-wing tyrannical theocracy rooted in utterly false or even fraudulent claims, and must be stopped by lawsuits and the like.

If you doubt me, here is a sign posted by the same group at the Wisconsin State Capitol at Christmas time (and which was placed in the Washington State Capitol at the same season in 2008):

FFRF sign posted at Christmas season in two US State Capitols. (Now we know the root of the objections to Christmas.) Note the assumption that evolutionary materialism -- which is actually self-refuting and founded on questionable origins science claims and ideologically loaded assumptions -- is the only credible way to understand our world, and the historically unwarranted inference from this, that Bible-believing Christian religious views are essentially enslaving superstition. (Cf here for a recent discussion on the historical anchorage for the credibility of the gospel.) The issue of grounding morality on such an "evo mat" frame is ducked; even though since Plato in The Laws Bk X, this has been highlighted as perhaps the most dangerous social consequence of widespread evolutionary materialism and associated radical relativism; due to the link to the nihilist premise that might and manipulation make 'right.'  But then, it is always easier for such atheists and fellow travellers to claim to be the bright man's view rooted in "science" and to spew objections  than to sit at the table  of comparative difficulties. (HT: Wikipedia, fair use)
We are seeing here an attempt to rewrite the history of the rise of modern liberty and democracy, to paint the Christian faith as an enslaving tyranny, and to censor from the public square any reminder of the existence and significance of the Christian faith and gospel in our civilisation. Dechristianisation, echoing uncomfortably of the all too many similar attempts by destructive radicals from the days of the French Revolution on.

But, I find that it is the comments by atheists and fellow travellers on the article about the defaced billboard that are probably the best point to speak to. 

While, to do so comprehensively would require the writing of a fairly lengthy book -- and it is utterly unlikely that such would have the patience to work through a book, they predictably would look for the first point they could use to divert attention, lead off to a favourite strawman soaked in attacks to the man and set alight to cloud the air with poisonous, blinding, confusing, polarising rhetorical smoke -- it is important to lay out at least a framework that we can understand what is going on, and what increasingly will be pushed into our region from the North, on Cable TV, on the Internet, in textbooks, or even in requirements of so-called development or social upliftment projects

So, allow me to now clip a more or less typical cross section of street-corner or comment box talking points that catch my eye, and insert some relatively brief balancing and corrective points. The clipped points will be lettered, and the responsive ones numbered:

>> a:  since we tend to view any religious icon as quaint and mythologically historical, we don't tend to go around vandalizing religious objects or billboards.

b:  Atheists haven't generally been destroying the private property of religionists in a childish hissy fit, even as the latter have stigmatized and persecuted them through the ages to the present day.
1 --> Ducked: as we are seeing, radical atheists and fellow travellers are quite busily seeking to censor positive Christian messages from the public square (and also from the way the history of our civilisation is taught).
c: I really dislike it when they come around to gang-save me on my porch. And the three who interrupted me while I was gardening in September were quite summarily informed that they were Not allowed to go forth and be rude to all people.
2 --> The subtext of contempt and implied inference that to try to  share the gospel is "rude" are revealing. Sure, sometimes people are irritating, but the problem here is plainly that there is a rage at the gospel and God being taken out on handy representatives. (You would not dismiss, say, a door to door encyclopedia salesman as trying to gang-educate you [we notice the hint of a particularly heinous crime against the person . . . gang-rape], or as inevitably "rude.")
d: I have never had an atheist try to force anything on me. Christians, totally different story, always pestering you to believe what they believe. Organized religion is a fraud.
 3 --> Fraud, of course is deliberate deception to make gain at the expense of the misled. To use such a term here is simply out of order and disrespectful, and that is before we get to the issues that:
  • There is a good worldview level warranting case for taking the reality of God seriously, starting from the credible evidence that our observed world -- the ONLY observed world -- had a beginning [thus cries out for a begin-ner], is finely tuned in many ways to accommodate Carbon Chemistry, cell based life, and the further evidence that that life is, from the first living cell on up, similarly fine-tuned to function based on specific, complex organisation and associated information. Where in fact, say, the process that makes the workhorse protein molecules of life, is based on digitally coded information stored in DNA, transcribed to mRNA, transferred to ribosomes serving as assembly machines, and uses tRNA molecules as position-arm assembly devices that have a universal joint tool-tip loaded with amino acids by using the information stored in the configuration of the tRNA. Such a complex,step by step (algorithmic) process based on digitally coded information has just one plausible, empirically warranted source: design. And, that is rooted in the actual testimony of science (never mind the dismissals by those who would censor this out).
  • Indeed, the observed contingency and fine tuning for life of our observed cosmos and the similarly intricate nature of life in it, jointly point to an underlying root cause of being that is a necessary being, of sufficient power and intelligence to design and build a cosmos such as we inhabit and to then create in it life. One may indeed try to find an alternative to this, but one cannot properly exclude such a view from sitting at the table of scientifically viable alternatives to be taken seriously. But, sadly, that is just what today's atheists seem to be bent on doing. 
  • Furthermore, we find ourselves bound by the compelling force of ought (even though the problem of evils -- why is evil objectionable? . . . ), even when we try to dodge it through obfuscation: just look at how we habitually quarrel, by trying to either show someone in the wrong, or to excuse ourselves as not really being to blame. Seldom or never do we hear the monstrous dismissal, shut up you sheep and slide down my throat nicely. Similarly -- and the atheists are quick to do this -- we want our rights (real or imaginary) to be respected by one and all. But a right (if it is indeed so) is precisely a binding moral claim that we should be respected in light of our inherent dignity as human beings and neighbours.  Such demands that a credible worldview has in it a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, or else ought forever after would be groundless. (Where also metaphors like a worldview-raft always under partial repair, actually sit on a foundational ocean and its underlying principles and forces of floatation.) The only seriously viable candidate to date is the inherently good, wise and loving creator God.
  • There is further warrant for the historicity, passion and resurrection of Jesus with 500+ witnesses on record in eyewitness lifetime. That starts with the broadly accepted evidence that: 
(i) Jesus was crucified and died under sentence of Pontius Pilate in Judaea, c. 30 AD, 
(ii) he was buried, the tomb being found empty a few days later by  a circle of his women followers coming to carry out final burial rituals, 
(iii) from that day forward, he appeared to multiple disciples, many of whom became the leading witnesses of the gospel and who could not be stopped from their testimony not even by fire and sword, 
(iv) he also appeared to the key objectors James (his brother) and Paul (the first arch- persecutor) both of whom became leading witnesses and peaceful martyrs for the gospel. 
  • The only seriously offered explanation that can meet these credible facts (cf the comparative table and discussion here on in context) is the testimony in 1 Cor 15:1 - 11, which reads in key part:
1 Cor 15:1 Cor 15: 1 Now I would remind you, brothers,  of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.[ESV]
  • In short, the origins of the church in C1 and its otherwise inexplicable success in testifying to the gospel, are themselves evidence of the truth that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son as our Saviour. And indeed, there are millions of lives transformed by personally coming to know God in the face of the living Christ, which has as a matter of fact, repeatedly transformed lives, families, communities and even civilisations. That is a game-changing truth.
  • Clearly, this legitimises people freely associating in witness to such a pivotal and life transforming truth  and demands respect for it, in light of freedom of conscience, association and expression, even at community level. (Indeed, that renders highly questionable the sort of visceral hostility to the point of declared illness that we are seeing imposed on such communities by circles of militant, busybody atheists.)
  • Where also, we note that the objector would probably never dream of suggesting that one may freely generalise from the existence of embezzlers, shysters and quacks, that all bankers, lawyers and medical practitioners are quacks.
 4 --> As already highlighted, in the teeth of such, radical atheists are in fact busily censoring both education and the public square, resorting to lawsuits or to dominance of key institutions. So, it is simply disingenuous for this objector to claim "I have never had an atheist try to force anything on me." In fact, the truth is the exact opposite.
e:  we do want the public sphere free of your beliefs. Your christian beliefs are no more valid than any other belief. I suggest you consult the definition of faith, the basis for all religions: "Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on
spiritual apprehension rather than proof." And you don't see a problem there? Wow.
 5 --> This case actually admits to the intent of censorship, but seeks to "justify" it as keeping ill-founded superstitious beliefs out of the public square. Which immediately begs the question of the suppression of discussion of the warrant for Christian faith, as we already saw.

6 --> There is also a distortion of the proper meaning of Biblically rooted Christian faith, which is in the historic Christian context, trust in God in light of his credible word, rooted in sound conviction based on adequate grounds for holding it true that in fact God raised Jesus from death, with over 500 witnesses who could not be shaken. 

7 --> As the Apostle Peter put it in the face of his own impending martyrdom:
2 Peter 1: 15 . . .  I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . . . 

 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV (cf here on, on the prophetic element of scripture as an aspect of teh authentication of the gospel.)] 
f:  when you ask Christians to prove their beliefs, they say "it's in the Bible." Scientists have already been able to prove that the earth is many, many, many,, may , many, MANY times older than the Bible says it is. If they're so wrong on that one, why should I believe them on anything else?

 8 --> Strawman. This objection caricatures the easily accessible warranting case made for the Christian faith as though it were a circular argument rooted in "the Bible says." Yes, some who may not know much more than that may act like this, but that is hardly representative of the actual serious case made by informed Christians, which is not hard to find. So, at best, this is an irresponsible misrepresentation.

9 --> As a first-level video "101" summary, the reader is invited to watch Lee Strobel's popular level presentation here:

10 --> The second problem here is the demand for "proof." This opens up the way to a demand for accepting selective hyperskepticism -- an inappropriate degree of demand for warrant that cannot be met by empirical facts, when one objects to a particular claim. 

11 --> For, empirical evidence can only be warranted to the balance of the evidence, up to cases where there is no reasonable doubt. It is thus inappropriate to demand of such cases of matters of fact, warrant that is only appropriate to something like mathematics. And indeed, science is itself a case in point of something unable to meet the demand for absolute proof.

12 --> Thus, we immediately see the blunder in: "Scientists have already been able to prove that the earth is many, many, many,, may , many, MANY times older than the Bible says it is." As has been known since the days of Job, we simply were not there to directly observe the actual course of events at the world's founding, nor do we have generally accepted record of such. So, at best, we are dealing with the unobserved and the unobservable, reconstructed using various techniques held to give us a timeline of the deep past of origins.  

13 --> That is, on the grounds of the limits of warranting observable facts, we inherently can have no such ability to "prove" the age of the earth or the course of its development from its origin. But unfortunately, various models of origins and associated timelines and suggested events and mechanisms have been presented to the public as though they are indisputable fact as firmly established as the roundness of the earth (which is directly observed) or the orbiting of the planets around the sun (also directly observed). That is irresponsible, though it is commonly done.

14 --> Worse, we face an a priori imposition of evolutionary materalism -- typically disguised under the claim that it is a reasonable methodological constraint, methodological naturalism -- which biases what is accepted as science on origins. As Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin notoriously observed in a well-known January 1997 NYRB article:
 . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated . . . ["Billions and billions of demons," NYRB, Jan 1997. (Cf. more extensive cite and discussion here, if you imagine that this can be dismissed as "quote mining," or, worse, imagine that the wider context justifies such ideological censorship.)]
 15 --> No wonder, then that in his reply to Lewontin in November 1997, the ID thinker, Philip Johnson remarked:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

16 --> Johnson's aside on "Biblical literalism" brings us back to the issue of Young Earth Creationism, which is the pivot of the objection. The objector of course fails to appreciate or acknowledge that there is a reasonable range of views on Bible timelines and chronologies, and in so doing irresponsibly thinks that to dismiss a 6,000 or so year timeline for origins is sufficient to dismiss not only the account of origins in the Bible but everything that happens after Genesis in the Bible as well. This is another strawman tactic. (Where, the objector would be well advised to reflect on the limitations of reconstructions of the timeline of the past.)
g:  Atheism a Religion??? You're all a bunch of idiots. go talk to your imaginary friend, or the easter bunny.
 17 --> Atheism, manifestly, is often the ideological functional equivalent of a religion, with Evolutionary Materialism-dominated Science as its equivalent of a prophet.

18 --> The dismissal of God as the equivalent of a childish "imaginary friend," also reflects a subtext of irresponsible and superciliously dismissive contempt that fails to recognise that there is serious reason to at minimum take theism as a serious worldview option; even if one decides to object. 

19 --> But it is always so much easier to rhetorically resort to contempt-laced ridicule, and the talking point that to take theism and the God of the Christian Faith in particular, seriously, is to be ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked. 
h: There is no "evidence" about anything in the Bible. It's all based on belief. It's an entertaining work of fiction, not unlike a Batman comic (though as far as super heroes go, I'd be much more inclined to believe in Batman--I'm a sucker for that utility belt).

20 --> Blanket dismissal of actual evidence, and a similar resort to a loaded redefinition of "belief." It is telling that, say, the actual strongly supported historical evidence in Luke-Acts is dismissed without consideration as "fiction."

21 --> It is worth the while to now pause a moment and cite Paul Barnett's summary of the record of early non-Christian sources on the basic facts of the early Christian movement and particularly the existence of Jesus as an historical figure:
On the basis of . . . non-Christian sources [i.e. Tacitus (Annals, on the fire in Rome, AD 64; written ~ AD 115), Rabbi Eliezer (~ 90's AD; cited J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1929), p. 34), Pliny (Letters to Trajan from Bithynia, ~ AD 112), Josephus (Antiquities, ~ 90's)] it is possible to draw the following conclusions:
    1. Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judaea during the period where Tiberius was Emperor (AD 14 - 37) and Pontius Pilate was Governor (AD 26 - 36). [Tacitus]
    2. The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
    3. Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
    4. His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
    5. He was called "the Christ." [Josephus]
    6. His followers were called "Christians." [Tacitus, Pliny]
    7. They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
    8. It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]
    9. His brother was James. [Josephus]
[Is the New Testament History? (London, Hodder, 1987), pp. 30 - 31. Cf. McDowell & Wilson, He Walked Among Us (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993) for more details; free for download here.]
22 --> It is also worth the while to pause and cite the summary made by noted NT scholar Craig Evans, in his 2004 University of Calgary Benthal public lecture, on the state of informed opinion on the scholarship on the historical quality of the NT in our day:
The story told in the New Testament Gospels—in contrast to the greatly embellished versions found in the Gospel of Peter and other writings— smacks of verisimilitude. The women went to the tomb to mourn privately and to perform duties fully in step with Jewish burial customs. They expected to find the body of Jesus; ideas of resurrection were the last thing on their minds. The careful attention given the temporary tomb is exactly what we should expect. Pious fiction—like that seen in the Gospel of Peter— would emphasize other things. Archaeology can neither prove nor disprove the resurrection, but it can and has shed important light on the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and missing corpse . . . .
Research in the historical Jesus has taken several positive steps in recent years. Archaeology, remarkable literary discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and progress in reassessing the social, economic, and political setting of first-century Palestine have been major factors. Notwithstanding the eccentricities and skepticism of the Jesus Seminar, the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable, especially when properly understood, and to view the historical Jesus in terms much closer to Christianity’s traditional understanding, i.e., as proclaimer of God’s rule, as understanding himself as the Lord’s anointed, and, indeed, as God’s own son, destined to rule Israel. But this does not mean that the historical Jesus that has begun to emerge in recent years is simply a throwback to the traditional portrait. The picture of Jesus that has emerged is more finely nuanced, more obviously Jewish, and in some ways more unpredictable than ever. The last word on the subject has not been written and probably never will be. Ongoing discovery and further investigation will likely force us to make further revisions as we read and read again the old Gospel stories and try to come to grips with the life of this remarkable Galilean Jew.
i: your god needs better public relations. If your omnipotent deity can't reach out and convince even 50% of the Earth's population that it exists, then it has some serious limitations.

23 --> This objector has the shoe on the wrong foot. It is we who -- in the face of accessible and adequate evidence to show us our duty to the truth and the right -- are on trial. And, we are responsible to respond appropriately to that evidence, as say we can see from Paul in his statement to the Areopagus Council in Athens, c. 50 AD:
 Ac 17: 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,2  25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for  
                    “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;3
            as even some of your own poets have said,  

                    “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’4 

 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” [ESV]
24 --> We can easily join with those who dismissively mock, or join with those who always want more and more evidence, no degree of reasonable warrant ever being close to enough, or we can join those who, on hearing the evident truth, turn to him who is Lord and Saviour, finding salvation, deliverance and transformation.>>

We can therefore see how a seemingly impressive cluster of atheistical arguments collapses on closer, informed scrutiny. But that is the first problem -- too many of us are simply not informed.

The second is like unto it.

We seem to be blissfully unaware of lessons of history regarding the potentially destructive implications for evolutionary materialist secularist ideologies for our civilisation, despite the warning by Plato speaking in the voice of the Athenian Stranger in his The Laws, 2350 years ago:
Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors:  (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

[[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny. )] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.
We need to learn, and we need to heed such warnings in good time to prevent re-living some of the very worst chapters of history yet another time. END