Peace on Earth?

There's a local park/pond that graces a particularly busy intersection here in town. It's kind of the unofficial center of the town; the place by which you can locate yourself with respect to anything else around here. On the lawn, during the Christmas season, a number of displays were erected to celebrate the impending holidays of various groups: a gaudy Christmas tree, a Jewish display with a menorah, and a large display from the local atheist club, who describe themselves thus, "A group that provides support, outreach, meaningful discussion, opportunities for activism, friendship, and fun for fellow atheists." The display read, "Our hope for the holidays: peace on Earth."

Now, first of all, I'd like to thank the local atheist group for their kind, timely message. Many other secular/atheist organizations have been plastering the public space with deliberately provocative messages that do little more, I imagine, than let these folks feel really satisfied with themselves and offend the people that they take to be idiots. Not this local atheist group. They decided to be kind and offer well-wishes of peace on Earth, a sentiment with which I whole-heartedly agree (after all, I follow its Prince)! Especially during a time that can be so chaotic and self-centered, the desire for peace is a lovely standout.

I wonder, though, whether the desire for peace can really be explained or justified on an atheist worldview. I suspect that it cannot. When the atheist expresses a desire for peace on Earth, he is, on his worldview, merely stating his preference. But he isn't giving us any reason why we ought to share it. He can say that he desires peace on Earth, but he can't give me a reason that I should desire it. To hope for peace on Earth is very much like having hope for root beer with lunch.

Allow me to put it a bit differently. On atheism, peace on Earth isn't, in any objective way, better than mayhem on Earth. And any of the obvious reasons (with which I agree, by the way) are insufficient. "But mayhem causes pain and misery and suffering." That's true. It sure does. But if atheism is true, then so-the-heck what? There exists no objective moral law that mayhem would violate. Those who cause mayhem face no ultimate justice. They just get the spoils of their mayhem, whatever they are, in the here and now. Why should such people prefer peace to mayhem, when mayhem pays the bills? In fact, that's how some people operate, like the Mafia or the Hell's Angels. They live not for peace, but for the spoils of mayhem.

To be sure, we all know that the thugs are wrong. And that what they do is wrong. It's so obvious that it's almost impossible to believe otherwise.

Statements of ultimate, however, objective value are off limits to the atheist. He must borrow from the theistic worldview in order to use them. On his own, without the help of God, his statements about what is good or better or worse are nonsense. They express nothing more than his local preferences. "Peace is superior to mayhem" has no more existential heft than "chocolate ice cream is superior to vanilla ice cream."

Sure, friend - - you prefer peace to mayhem. I do, too. But I can tell you why it is better; you can only say why it's different.

Something Off My Chest

Listen, my beliefs about God are not diminished or threatened by your rhetoric, name-calling, rudeness, slander, ganging up, or mockery. You will not bully me into abandoning any of my carefully considered positions.

Sure enough, it feels great to swarm together under a banner to 'attack' the 'enemy.' We all like to be on the 'winning' team. And it feels great to marginalize the 'enemy' as idiotic, archaic, un-evolved, simpletons, thereby elevating your view without having to do anymore real intellectual lifting. But the simple fact is that this is the behavior of partisans; of hooligans; of grade school bullies. It is either the last resort of somebody who's losing the argument, the primary strategy of somebody who's unwilling to open his ears, the flippant dismissal of the willfully ignorant, or the self-important name-calling of the knows-too-little-to-know-how-little-he-knows.

So I KNOW what I believe and why I believe it. And, I'm even willing to have my mind changed about it. It will NOT be, however, on the basis of small-minded tormenting or strong-arming. I love truth, evidence, and reason too much to be browbeaten out of my beliefs.

Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church: Whom does the hate hurt the most?

I've been thinking a lot about it. I've been losing sleep over it. It's made me sick to my stomach. And the more I think about it, the more sleep I lose, the more my guts tie themselves in knots, the more sure I am that I have no idea what the solution is. Well, I'm not sure what the right solution is, I suppose. I've dreamt up all kinds of potential solutions, usually involving bullets, poisons, elaborately planned apparent accidents, and so on. Though I'm not sure any of these would please the Lord, one thing I'm growing more certain of is that the Phelps family needs prayer.

After hearing a number of interviews with his children, including ones who have defected from the Phelps clan, as well as the venom that flows so effortlessly from the tongues of his grandchildren, I see that they have been deceived by their wretched devil of a 'father.'

Ol' Fred, as far as I am concerned, is an evil man. He has enslaved his family as his army of hate. He has taught them of a god who laughs as he casts his children into hell and loves only those who do their best to hate the world as much as he does, expecting nothing less from his children then their immediate and boundless allegiance in his hateful destruction.

I've noticed that it's difficult to see a boundary where Phelps ends and his god begins. It seems to me that the god of Phelps is a mystical projection of himself. He has warped and deceived his family into worshipping…him. Phelps is described by his estranged son as a 'rageoholic' who is addicted to anger. He has abused (emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically) his family into serving and fueling his addiction.

So I think about who has been harmed most by the un-reverend. The list is a long one, to be sure. And it includes so many who have been truly and deeply affected by Phelps and his slave army. They include, very obviously, the homosexual community who need the love of Christ (and deserve His love and grace as much as I do), not the hate of Phelps; the families of the fallen American heroes whose funerals have been desecrated by the Phelps clan, the Christian community at large who is working to earn a reputation of love and service, the citizens of Topeka who deserve a single quiet day, the people whose ears are treated like toilets by the putrid bile spilled out by Phelps lips, God Almighty whose name and nature are being spat on and trampled under the feet of these hateful people. The list, heart breaking-ly, goes on.

But I think that those who have it worst are the Phelps progeny. They need our prayers and our love. (I'm less sure about Phelps, himself -- and find it difficult to have sympathy for him and his soul. Perhaps that's something for me to work on.) His family never had a choice. They were brainwashed and abused by a hate-filled megalomaniac into doing the devil's work in God's name. It's hard to imagine what could be worse than this. To earn hell by doing 'god's' work…to think that you are securing yourself a place in the Kingdom only to hear, "I never knew you! Depart from me…" 

I don't know how to end the whole Phelps "God Hates XYZ" nonsense. If anybody figures it out, I'm all ears. In the mean time, though, I'll pray morning, noon, and night for the Phelps family and do my best to trust the Lord to deal with them as He sees fit. Join me…?

The New Atheism

So. "New Atheism." What's the deal? What's the strategy? Why's it called 'New'? What does it mean for me?

I'm so glad you asked :)

The New Atheism is, as you might have guessed, a new movement in… derp… atheism. Atheism, as you know, is the positive belief that there is no God. The New Atheism, though, stands in contrast to what can be called the old atheism. The old atheism was aimed at religious tolerance, but in dislodging religion from the public. The idea is that religion has no place in policy making, verdict rendering, public schools, displays, etc. Apart from that, though, personal - that is, private - faith and religious practice were not targets. Private religion was tolerated, though seen as superstition akin to faeries and goblins.

Zip forward to just this decade and you'll see that the New Atheism is decidedly (and purposefully) different. Taken from, the definition of the New Atheism is:
Intolerance of ignorance, myth and superstition; disregard for the tolerance of religion. Indoctrination of logic, reason and the advancement of a naturalistic worldview.

What's to say to this but, "Wow" ?! Does that strike you as, uh, pretty rough? The defining characteristics are "intolerance" and "indoctrination?" They will tell you, though, that the reason that religion is evil is because of intolerance and indoctrination. This obvious (and indescribably frustrating) contradiction aside, let's analyze (break apart) this definition some more.

Intolerance of ignorance, myth, and superstition. This sounds pretty solid and confident, but look again. It is so absurdly rigid and absolute, that nobody ought to reasonably condone it. Do they really refuse to tolerate ignorance, myth, and superstition? I don't think that anybody could or should want to. First of all, it seems that an out-and-out intolerance of ignorance would lead to a lot of reading, since we can presume that we all suffer from degree of ignorance. To be intolerant of it is simply silly. The opposite of ignorance is total knowledge -- omniscience. So, really, only God could be intolerant of ignorance. What an asinine thing to say - intolerance of ignorance. Furthermore, intolerance of myth and superstition. What?! Really?! The word intolerance is just way too strong - it's inflated language (remember this, it'll be important soon). 

Disregard for the tolerance of religion. Well. That's strange. I mean - okay. If you want to disregard tolerance of religion, but who cares if you do? I don't. At least I'm pretty sure I don't. This claim is weaker than it is intended to be because, really, who cares if these folks disregard the tolerance of religion. But it is telling, indeed. Remember this, it'll be important soon.

Indoctrination of logic, reason, and the advancement of a naturalistic worldview. Now, wait a minute. You can't just slam "uh…andanaturalisticworldview" in there on the end as though it follows reasonably from the beginning of the list. It might as well say "Indoctrination of logic, reason, and bananas." Simply bolting "naturalistic worldview" onto the list does not make it somehow co-equal with logic and reason! There's no (positive) guilt by association here, pal. A naturalistic worldview simply does not obviously fill out the list that begins with "logic" and "reason." Maybe "mathematics" or even "scientific investigation" would suit the list, but naturalism is a totally different thing than logic and reason. Think of it, if you were reading a recipe and it called for sugar, flour, milk, and rocks - you would be justified in questioning the last ingredient. Just because "rocks" is on the list doesn't make it food!!! But remember this, it'll be important soon. 

So. Here's the important bit. The New Atheism is not (I repeat- NOT) an intellectual/academic movement. It piggy-backs onto the academic and intellectual world as a parasite. Consider this (remember the things I said to remember? They're important now). The definition of the New Atheism is not (and it's important to note this!) something like:
Propagation of the well-established truth of reality by all means of investigation: philosophical, scientific, ethical, intuitive, etc.

Notice, the definition says nothing about the truth! It looks nothing like, "We are going to do our best to figure out what reality is really like and then teach everybody about it." Rather, it says what it will and will not tolerate, disregard, and indoctrinate. the New Atheism is…wait for it…an attitude. And it's a poo-tinky one at that! It is self-righteous, hostile, arrogant, and bullying.

Imagine the stones on these guys! Intolerance and indoctrination - when carried out in the context of religion - are the most loathsome of acts. But these guys, they (alone) are allowed to indoctrinate and be intolerant, even though these are the VERY THINGS they stand against! My head hurts I'm so frustrated with this! "When anyone else does it - purest of evil, when we do it - height of enlightenment"

This is all I'm going to write about it now. In the next couple of weeks I'm going to write another installment on this topic - a Part Two - but for now, I'm going to stop thinking about it. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail them to me. I would greatly appreciate them as they will be very helpful for Part Two.

The last thing I will say is this, do not fear the New Atheist movement. It's like a big, scary lion with a loud roar and no teeth (or claws…thanks Whit...). Trust me in that and sleep well knowing that we are well grounded in our faith in Christ and that He has shown us the Truth. Pray for softness of heart for the New Atheists so that they can see it, too. 


What Are We Doing, America?

I have a bunch of intertwined thoughts racing through my mind right now. In order to keep the following from turning into the incoherent ramblings of a crazy person, I’ll do my best (forgive me if I stray) to keep on just one topic.
The United States belong to the citizens, not to the government.
There it is. My cliché-sounding stock phrase. But please don’t touch that dial! Instead, allow me to explain.
A wise man once taught me the following lesson. That a society can exist anywhere on a continuum between Moral Autonomy and Political Authority. At 100% to the left (not politically, only graphically) is complete Moral Autonomy. No government. Anarchy. At 100% to the right is complete Political Authority. Omni-government. Totalitarian rule.
As you read that, I’m certain that you immediately imagined where we, the U.S.A, lie on that continuum. What we don’t recognize is that there’s another point to consider. Equally as important as where we sit on the slide is how we got there. In America, we got there by giving away rights and responsibilities to the government. And this (to an extent) is a very good thing indeed! People require a government in order to live freely. In the States, we enjoy freedom that few others do. Very few others. Anyhow. It went something like this: We started — in theory, not in practice — with a society of complete freedom (moral autonomy) and decided that, for the benefit of everybody, we would grant a number of responsibilities and a measure of authority to a common government. The duty of this government would be to protect the citizenry in the free exercise of their God-given rights. You know: Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.
But now that’s changed.

Now Americans believe that government exists to create new rights for them, and to solve their problems…” - George F. Will, Newsweek

Thanks for the insight Mr. Will. It’s true! Look around, man! I’m not assigning any value (some are good, others not-so-good. I’ll let you decide which is which.) to the following things, but these are just examples of new rights, responsibilities, and problems to be solved that we’ve come to expect of our government:

- Education
- Marriage
- Privacy
- Employment
- Economic Strength
- Fairness (not justice)
- Equality (Economic, racial, sexual, etc.)
- Not to be Upset or Offended
- Happiness (not the pursuit of happiness)
- Ease of Life
- Etcetera

Okay. Everything that I typed previously serves the following point.
Every THING - right or wrong, good or bad, necessary of frivolous - that we cede to our government, moves us further toward the right-hand side of our political continuum. Political Authority. Government rule.
Every thing that we give the government to do is one less thing that we have the independence to do ourselves! What’s more, Capitol Hill is crammed to the rafters with people who could hardly care less about - wait for it - Y O U. I’m not a total cynic. I’m sure that there are also wonderful representatives who sincerely serve their constituencies. But there’s an overwhelming concentration of career politicians who care about authority and cash. And we all know it.
In the States, we don’t decide on most issues, rather we decide who will decide. And these people who we’ve chosen should have a healthy fear of us. But instead of us being responsible for our lives and making sure these crooks (or idiots, I’m flexible) do what we’ve entrusted them to do - we issue authority and expect them to take care of us! On a much smaller scale, that’s like handing your life-savings over to a stranger and trusting him to invest it wisely - mostly because you don’t want that responsibility for yourself! He couldn’t give two rips about you and your well-being. You complain when he uses your money to grease a few palms, take a few vacations, buy a few gifts, throw a few parties… But you never check in and you keep sending him your cash.
We’ve given the United States to the government, but it belongs to us, folks. I don’t know how to get it back. I’m not sure how you remove the entitlement center of a few hundred-million brains. I do know, though, that the more we let the government do for us, the less freedom we have.
We are frantically and excitedly giving away the freedom that we have so enjoyed. That’s bad enough, but we’re also giving away the freedom of the following generations of Americans.
Our kids won’t be as free as we are now.
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