Monday, December 16, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 232a: Questioning the agenda of the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) -- Is "religion" properly seen as "but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds" . . . or is this an exercise in turnabout accusation, well-poisoning atheistical bigotry?

Last time, when we looked at the Freedom From Religion Foundation's poster put up in the Illinois Legislature at Advent Season:

. . . we questioned the implied accusation and bigotry against the Christian faith by making the comparison, what if at Hanukkah, the same had been done with the direct statement that "Judaism is . . . "

That comparison is not just a hypothetical example.

For, some time ago, the late Christopher Hitchens argued to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, that Torah verses will also be found that make it permissible to murder secular Jews as well as Arabs" in order to convert the West Bank zone of Judaea and Samaria into a radical Jewish theocracy. This of course alludes to troubling OT war-texts that have been of painful concern to many Jews and Christians alike for many years. Boteach responded:
. . . any Rabbi who was to praise a Jewish murderer would be fired from his post and banished from his community. The Torah is clear: 'Thou may not murder' (Exodus 20) and 'Thou shalt not take revenge' (Leviticus 19).
Second, no Biblical story of massacre, which is a tale and not a law, could ever be used to override the most central prohibition of the Ten Commandments and Biblical morality. Murder is the single greatest offense against the Creator of all life and no Jew would ever use a Biblical narrative of war or slaughter as something that ought to be emulated. In our time Churchill and Roosevelt, both universally regarded as moral leaders and outstanding men, ordered the wholesale slaughter of non-combatants in the Second World War through the carpet- bombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, and Tokyo. Truman would take it further by ordering the atomic holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How did men who are today regarded as righteous statesmen order such atrocities? They were of the opinion that only total war could end Nazi tyranny and Japanese imperial aggression. They did it in the name of saving life. Which is of course not to excuse their actions but rather to understand them in the context of the mitigating circumstances of the time. I do not know why Moses would have ordered any such slaughter even in the context of war. But I do know that the same Bible who relates the story also expressly forbids even the thought of such bloodshed ever being repeated.
(In short the antisemitism concern raised above is not just theoretical, for here we see a case of outright blood libel from one of the top several New Atheist spokesmen that takes advantage of high feelings on the admittedly thorny Arab-Israeli conflict, to slip in the poisoned rhetorical knife. So, it was entirely in order for Dr Torley of Uncommon Descent to ask Dr Dawkins, who used these texts as an excuse not to debate his strident anti-Christian claims in his The God Delusion with Dr William Lane Craig: "would you be willing to debate the topic of God's existence with an Orthodox Jewish rabbi holding such a view [as Boteach's]? Would you be prepared to look a rabbi in the eye and tell him, "Your God is a genocidal monster"? Or do you also consider rabbis holding such views to be beyond the pale of civilized debate, and would you shun them as you have shunned Professor Craig? "  [It is ALMOST needless to say, that there are no responsible Christian leaders who would take the same texts as a mandate for mass slaughter. (Cf. discussions here on.)])

What, then, is really going on here?

The obvious, projection to effect a turnabout accusation in light of a strong need to distract attention from the implications of the inherent amorality of evolutionary materialism.

For instance, the dean of the New Atheists, the now retired Simonyi professor for the public understanding of science,  Richard Dawkins, has gone on record in Scientific American since August 1995 as follows:
 Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose . . . . In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [[ “God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 - 85.]
Likewise, Cornell Professor William B Provine, at his February 1998 Darwin Day keynote address at the University of Tennessee (yes the same state where the Scopes Monkey trial was held in 1925), went on record (apparently oblivious to the implications that would reduce the human mind . . . including his own! . . . to utter irrationality driven by blind deterministic and/or chance forces):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . 
The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .
In some ways, Nobel Prize holder, Sir Francis Crick was more subtle but even more self-refuting, in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:
. . . that "You", your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons." This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing. [[Cf. dramatisation of unintended potential consequences, here.]
But plainly, if Sir Francis is included in the circle of humanity he has just painted, this dramatically undermines his own thought. 

This is why ID thinker Phillip Johnson responded that Dr Crick should therefore be willing to preface his books: “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” (In short, as Prof Johnson then went on to say: “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[In Reason in the Balance, 1995.])


But there is more.  In critiquing Provine's remarks from a Judaeo-Christian perspective, Kyle Butt brings out a significant implication:

Provine’s . . . [[address] centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (Provine, 1998).

It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally as clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Mr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended . . . . [[However, i]f it is true that naturalistic evolution cannot provide an ultimate foundation for determining the difference between actions that are right and ones that are wrong, then the door is wide open for subjective speculation about all human behavior. [[Rape and Evolution, Apologetics Press, 2005.]

In short, it seems that the shoe is actually pretty much on the other foot.

For, it is plain that we have rights that are indeed binding obligations that demand that we respect one another. That is, we are under universally acknowledged moral government -- just look at how the atheist screams even louder than the rest when he or she imagines his or her rights have been violated!

In short, OUGHT is real.

But that brings to bear a problem, for OUGHT needs to be grounded. Grounded in a world-foundational IS that can properly bear the weight of OUGHT.

Space, time, matter, energy, blind chance and mechanical necessity obviously cannot ground such.

Indeed, after thousands of years of debates on the subject there is only one serious candidate to be such an IS: the inherently good creator God who is our Lord and Just Judge.

Where, in the most relevant sense, religion is not empty superstition at all, but the response of gratitude, worship and service that we owe to that good God.

But, someone will predictably object: look at all the crimes, wars, oppressions, injustices and hypocrisies that religion has sponsored!

(After all, that is the new atheist partly-line talking point that is being pushed all around us today. )

To which the first retort is:  look at all the crimes, wars, oppressions, injustices and hypocrisies that religion atheism -- once it gained state power -- has sponsored!

 You see, the problem is not religion per se (though religious people and institutions can fail horribly) or atheism by itself. No, it is that as Solzhenitsyn -- having suffered in the gulags of the officially atheistic Soviet Union -- noted: the line between good and evil passes, not between classes, races and nations, but through the individual human heart.

That, is our real problem: we are finite, fallible, intellectually and morally struggling, too often ill-willed and utterly unwise creatures who far too often stubbornly refuse to learn from sound counsels, conscience, history or our own experience. 

Where the next problem is that power tends to corrupt, and absolute -- unlimited, unaccountable -- power corrupts absolutely.

So, a first step forward (more to follow)  is to lay off the toxic slogans and face the troubling darkness in our own hearts, then we can begin to turn from evil to the good in repentance and renewal.

I think the great scholar of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, is wise in his epochal 1990 essay, The Roots of Muslim Rage :
 . . . The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty -- not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst. The treatment of women in the Western world, and more generally in Christendom, has always been unequal and often oppressive, but even at its worst it was rather better than the rule of polygamy and concubinage that has otherwise been the almost universal lot of womankind on this planet . . . . 

In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation. We do not hold Western medical science in general, or Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Alzheimer in particular, responsible for the diseases they diagnosed and to which they gave their names.

Let us heed that hard-bought wisdom, and let us proceed in a more balanced spirit. END