Saturday, September 19, 2009

Atheism and Ethical Systems

Atheism is to ethics what dividing by zero is to mathematics: it doesn't produce a rational result.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Views on Evolution

My Statement of Faith

The stated purpose of the Bible can be plainly found in II Timothy 3:16. There it says, "All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Notice that no where in this verse, or any other, does the Bible claim to be a science textbook. The Bible exists to communicate God's will for mankind so that we may glorify Him and receive salvation.

As a Christian, I believe in Creation, the Fall of Man, the Flood, and other such pivotal historical accounts of the Bible. It is impossible to be a Christian and not accept these events as real. That said, I do not know just how literally Genesis's early chapters should be understood.

Now, to any well-meaning brethren who would raise the inevitable protest, please notice the myriad of sites on my Links page. I am way beyond the ignorance anyone might accuse me of for holding the beliefs I do.

I am convinced that God has deliberately hidden many things from mankind, including indisputable scientific evidence of Himself. Now, please do not mistake my meaning here. The heavens still declare the glory of God. There is sufficient evidence in our very existence and our tormented consciences to imply a Creator and the need for His forgiveness. None of us have an excuse to ignore God, simply because we can't prove his existence like a mathematical equation, much less understand his full nature. Nor should we stake our salvation on what we small humans can discover about the scientific accuracy of the Bible. As my earthly father is fond of saying, "Belief is not a problem of evidence, but a problem of obedience."

Furthermore, remember how God destroyed an entire generation of Israelites in the desert. They saw his plain, unambiguous power and yet did not believe. Their example has led me to embrace this axiom: To him who is given greater evidence, from him will greater faith be demanded.

For this reason, no giant crosses orbit the Earth as the late Carl Sagan suggested there should be. No 1-800 phone lines connect to the Heavenly Home Office for direct consultation. Why, then, is it any surprise that the Bible and science do not always agree? Their correlation is close enough, however, to convince me of the Bible's legitimacy. Certainly, the moral teachings convict me. Where difficulties arise we must walk by faith and not by sight if we want to please God.

Having affirmed my faith in the Bible and God, I will now state my beliefs regarding the evolution controversy. Evolution, I believe, is a fact of God's Creation. As a consequence of this conviction, I am a theistic evolutionist.

The Difficulties of My Faith

No doubt, my beliefs will come as a disappointment to many fellow Christians. The evidence for evolution, however, is so vast that I will not even bother going into it. If you dispute evolution's reality, I suggest visiting Carl Drew's site and Talk for more material on the subject than most people will ever bother with.

Please do not think that I am unaware of the difficulties in believing both the Bible and modern evolutionary theory. I have directly linked several articles that lay out seemingly ironclad reasons for why evolution is evil, contrary to God's nature, and thus impossible to accept. I used to agree with many of the arguments, until I realized the physical evidence told me I had missed something.

You see, for most of my Christian life I interpreted Scripture with the notion that there existed one right doctrine for every important issue. I had only to look hard enough for it. After all, did not the Bible say nothing was written that we could not understand and that on whatever point Christians might disgree, God would make plain to us?

The reality of the Bible, however, is hardly so accomodating. God, while being a Deity of order, has left enough ambiguity in His Scriptures to allow for multitudes of equally supportable, but mutually exclusive doctrines. Clearly, the Bible is meant to be sufficient for our salvation, but not necessarily a total understanding of every doctrinal issue. The issues of Baptismal Regeneration, Instrumental music in worship, and the number of cups for communion service come to mind.

Mansur Quotes

The only truth worth knowing is that which can give you eternal life. Everything else is just stamp collecting.

All the hammering objections to the Bible’s authenticity, the divinity of God, or His ideas of justice break on the anvil of this simple truth: you can argue the point with God on Judgment Day.

If the truth is not the Bible then the truth isn't worth knowing. Should you disagree, consider that Death with cure you of that opinion, one way or the other.

Survival is not enough.

Oblivion is not a satisfying end to life.

If a belief system doesn't offer you eternal life, then why bother with it?

Abuse of a belief system doesn't make that system invalid.

Anything is justifiable with Atheism, because Atheism's ultimate authority is Man.

Atheism is for people who complain when God holds their feet to the fire for doing what they know is wrong.

Belief isn't a problem of the evidence. It is a problem of obedience

Downsides to Atheism

The atheists are so keen on facing up to harsh realities. Here is what they face.

If you are an atheist, watch out for the true free thinkers.
Lose the belief in God with an eternal judgment and suddenly Right and Wrong cease to have meaning. There is, after rejecting God's imposition of moral law, only that which is pleasant and unpleasant.

Unfortunately, there will be plenty of people who realize, as you, that they are free to do as they please. Everyone is his own god in a Godless world. And like the despotic gods of Olympus, I doubt their idea of what is pleasant will take much into consideration your happiness, comfort, convenience, or possibly even your continued existence. So watch out for free thinkers. For every Positive Atheist, there is probably a Negative Atheist lurking nearby.

If you are an atheist, this is the best you can do.
If nothing lasts, nothing can have value. The joy of watching your child running in the park, the pride of graduating school, the thrill of your first kiss, the pain of losing your grandmother, the shame of being caught lying, the fear of death, and the restless wondering about your life’s purpose…all will vanish. Oh you can claim these things have value while you live, but this is fighting a war that you know is already lost. The best thing you can do is to enjoy what you have for as long as you can. Oblivion, however, is the destiny of all. You are, in the final analysis, helpless, hopeless, and absolutely pointless.

If you are an atheist, you could be right, but so what?
If Christianity turns out to have been a lie, then I suppose you could say I have wasted my time. But from the free thinker’s point of view, why should I feel bad? If my hope in Christ is futile and I’ve annoyed or even emotionally hurt everyone with my beliefs, what does it matter? The atheist himself guarantees that everyone will get over my unpleasant influence when they’re dead. Then again, if I’m right and we are all going to be judged, what a terrible thing it will be for the atheist?

If you are an atheist, could you be wrong?
What if you’re wrong? What if there is a God? Then you are probably going to hell. Given the possibility of hell, it makes sense to believe in God in the face of the Atheist’s charge that the burden of proof is on the believer. As though cosmic truth ever depended upon what we little humans thought.

How do we know Christianity is the right religion? A few necessary assumptions will quickly lead you to the Bible as the only logical answer. Assumption 1: The true religion will provide some kind of eternal life. If it doesn't, it was not worth following in the first place. Assumption 2: The true deity has hidden himself from science. Since we cannot find God unless he wants to be found, we must look for a divine revelation. Scriptures are widely held to be such revelations. Only a few have survived to this day.

If you are an atheist, why not take a chance?
There is a saying: Jesus will not disappoint you. If you believe and he really does exist, you’ll experience a heaven beyond your wildest imagination. If you believe and Jesus is a lie, you won’t care because you’ll be dead. Either way, you win as much as it is possible to win.

It’s only logical.

If you are an atheist, you say...
Carl Sagan once said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Truth, however, does not depend on what limited, fallible men can discover. In fact, there is so much we don’t know, it is literally scary. We don’t know how to live forever. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We don’t know what comes after death. We certainly don’t know whether or not there is a God. We can only choose how to interpret the vague sensory impulses feeding our brains. Personally, I don't see the point in choosing to not believe in God. You can't possibly win without Him.

Matrix Quotes

Seraph: Did you always know?
The Oracle: Oh, no. No, I didn't. But I believed... I believed!
-- The Matrix: Revolutions

Agent Smith: Can you feel it Mr. Anderson? Closing in on you? Oh I can, I really should thank you after all. It was, after all, it was your life that taught me the purpose of all life. Purpose of life is to end.
-- The Matrix: Revolutions

Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?
Neo: Because I choose to.
-- The Matrix: Revolutions

Christian Quotes

My project is the first scientific experiment in history to settle once and for all the question of God’s existence. As things presently stand, there may be signs of his existence but they point both ways and are therefore ambiguous and so prove nothing. For example, the wonders of the universe do not convince those most conversant with the wonders, the scientists themselves. Whether or not this testifies to the stupidity of scientists or to God’s success at concealing himself doesn’t matter.
-- Walker Percy, The Second Coming

I had far rather walk, as I do, in daily terror of eternity, than feel that this was only a children’s game in which all the contestants would get equally worthless prizes in the end.
-- T.S. Elliot

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
-- T.S. Elliot

All the beauty and joy we meet on earth represent "only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."
-- C.S. Lewis as quoted by Philip Yancey <

Perhaps God keeps us ignorant because enlightenment might not help us. We assume that we would bear suffering better if we only knew the reason behind it. But would we?
-- Philip Yancey

Perhaps God keeps us ignorant because we are incapable of comprehending the answer.
-- Philip Yancey

Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.
-- Philip Yancey

Faith demands uncertainty, confusion.
-- Philip Yancey

We have little comprehension of what our faith means to God.
-- Philip Yancey

God did not exempt himself from the same demands of faith.
-- Philip Yancey

Some people stake all their faith on a miracle, as if a miracle would eliminate all disappointment with God. It wouldn’t.
-- Philip Yancey

Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith either.
-- Paul Tournier

Commentary on Atheist Quotes

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.
-- Richard Dawkins

This sums up the most daunting obstical to my faith. The universe seems devoid of any solid evidence for God, except perhaps for the fact that it is here and that we are around to wonder who made it.
I cannot conceive of a god who rewards and punishes his creatures or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egotism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
--Carl Sagan

Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.
--Isaac Asimov, "On Religiosity", Free Inqquuiry magazine

I don't want a future life. I have never wanted a future life. I want to be dead when I'm dead and that's an end to it.
--Antony Flew (noted Atheist recently turnned Deist) as quoted by The Times

I decided to take these quotes together because they show a common sentiment of satisfaction with oblivion. I find it so strange that these men of renowned imaginations could not conceive of a heaven worth living for. Indeed, their attitudes are astoudingly arrogant. As individuals, they cannot even comprehend all the myriad concepts of known science in their 3 pounds little lumps of cerebral matter. How then should they expect to understand the mind of God and the promise of heaven?
People everywhere beseech gods and spirits for recovery from illness, for success in love or on the battlefield, and for good weather. Religion is a desperate measure that people resort to when the stakes are high and they have exhausted the usual techniques for the causation of success, medicines, strategies, courtship, and, in the case of the weather, nothing.... Believers also avoid working out the strange logical consequences of these piecemeal revisions of ordinary things. They don’t pause to wonder why a God who knows our intentions has to listen to our prayers, or how a God can both see into the future and care about how we choose to act. Compared to the mind-bending ideas of modern science, religious beliefs are notable for their lack of imagination.
--Steven Pinker

I particularly enjoy the last line accusing religious folk of having poor imaginations. As though all scientists were atheists or that philosophers of nearly every age had not considered those very questions.

God is intellectually superfluous, emotionally dispensable, and morally intolerable.
--John A.T. Robinson

God is intellectually necessary, emotionally fulfilling, and morally perfect. Intellectually he is needed to give purpose to our lives. Emotionally he is needed to supply everlasting joy. Morally he is necessary to correct the broken thinking of our age.

Man has learned to cope with all questions of importance without recourse to God as a working hypothesis.

Man has not! Nothing of value lasts without God. Without reunion with God as the end goal to all our endeavors as individuals and as a race, there can be no lasting point to our existence.

In questions concerning science, art, and even ethics, this has become an understood thing which one scarcely dares to tilt at any more. But for the last hundred years or so it has become increasingly true of religious questions also; it is becoming evident that everything gets along without "God," and just as well as before. As in the scientific field, so in human affairs generally, what we call "God" is being more and more edged out of life, losing more and more ground...
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God is just as necessary today as before the scientific age to explain why we are here and why the universe runs as it does. Simply because we have become proficient at describing the mechanics of his creation does not mean we are even one iota closer to explaining what the cosmos really is. What is anything in this world but a collection of self-consistent forces? When we get down to the level of strings in quantum theory, we are describing etherial forces which, for all we can tell, exist for no reason. Only God can give us a reason.

From Dan Barker, Author: Losing Faith in Faith

I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive:

For the record, I personally believe atheists have plenty of positive things to say, even if it all really boils down to, "have a nice day before you die." Some of my favorite authors are atheists. They predict wonderful fruits of science and societal engineering. Unfortunately, none of their rosey prognostications can save me from death and whatever lays beyond.

You are an intelligent human being.

Thank you for the compliment Mr. Barker. May I return it in kind. You are obviously a thoughtful individual and understand the importance of loving thy neighbor. If only we could redirect your intellect to loving God as well, then your life and love would at least have a chance to last for eternity.

Your life is valuable for its own sake.

Actually, there is no basis for saying that. Such is mere opinion, albeit a "feel-good" one.

You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind.
Who am I to derive meaning from myself? I can't preserve my personality against the ages. I would do well enough to pay off my mortgage before age devours me alive. And why isn't my pet dog Sparky more valuable? On what do I base my value? Traits that fade with time? As for purpose, if nothing lasts, everything is in vain. Your statement seems very arbitrary to me. It is a nice sentiment, but only that.

You are not inherently evil

A paraphrase from a Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic seems appropriate here. "Are children born evil? No, I think they are just quick studies."

-- you are inherently human, possessing thhe positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy.

Again we see the rosy promise of Atheism that can never deliver in my lifetime. As a Christian, I already do what I can to spread morality, peace, and joy, but no one seems to want it. I try telling people that the best way to stop AIDS and unwanted pregnancies is to keep sex in the bounds of marriage. Then, after those people have fatherless babies, broken relationships, and veneral disease, they blame me for not wanting to pay their welfare checks, medical costs, and classes that teach them how to put on a condom: something any competent 10 year-old could figure out. When it comes to footing the bill for their willful mistakes, I wonder that I don't hear them trailing out their classic humanist motto, "I am responsible for my own actions."

No, I don't think positive rationality has much of a chance against selfish, emotionally driven choices. What is needed is the conviction that only God's Word can provide to the human conscience. And even then, only those who want to listen will benefit.

Trust yourself."

An abundance of trust in myself is not the issue. If anything, I have too much of it. It is submission to God's better judgement on how we should run our lives that is the problem.

Thanks for the quote Mr. Barker. I hope you find your faith again.