Cal Thomas Spanks Bush (film at 11)

Cal Thomas has a column at Townhall.com in which he responds to George W. Bush’s remarks (reported here) about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. In a nutshell, Thomas gives the president a stern rebuke.

It is one thing to try to reach out to moderate and sincerely peaceful Muslims. It is quite another to say the claims of your own faith are of no greater importance than the often contradictory claims of another faith. If we all worship the same God, the president should answer the call of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden, convert to Islam and no longer be a target of their wrath. What difference would it make if we all worship the same God?

Ow, that has to hurt. You think Thomas might be close to getting an inkling about why separation of church and state is a good idea? Who wants a theologian like Bush defining what Christian doctrine is? Thomas clearly doesn’t. No sane person should. But that’s what we’ll get if we turn America into a “Christian nation”. In the 2,000 year history of the Christian church, not once has the yoking together of church and state failed to produce a church that is politicized, corrupt, and and doctrinally perverse. It’s why the colonists originally came to the New World in the first place–to escape from the “Christian nations” of Europe. But somehow they never learn. If only they had a wise, omniscient Spiritual Being to speak to their hearts and counsel them against making the same mistake yet again…

 
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XFiles Friday: A taste of things to ensue

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, pp. 26-27)

Let’s pick up where we left off last time.

Faith covers a gap in knowledge. And it turns out that atheists have bigger gaps in knowledge because they have far less evidence for their beliefs than Christians have for theirs. In other words, the empirical, forensic, and philosophical evidence strongly supports conclusions consistent with Christianity and inconsistent with atheism. Here are a few examples of that evidence that we’ll unpack in the ensuing chapters:

I can’t wait for the chapters to ensue, can you? Just look at these examples:

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Repeat after me: “Correlation is not causation”

A writer in Canada’s National Post tries to spread some fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about whether or not it’s a good idea to measure religion’s claims against the infallible standard of self-consistent truth.

In today’s Post, feature writer Charles Lewis writes about a new survey by University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby that shows that religious believers are more likely to place a higher value on virtues such as friendship, courtesy and patience.

Professor Bibby argues its because religion is good at spreading and exposing many of these values and as society turns away from religion many of these values aren’t being spread. The possible effects on society could be quite negative…

Except, of course, that the nations where religion is weakest are the nations that are at the top of the list when you measure certain key indicators of societal health (as Sam Harris mentioned before). Professor Bibby leaps to the conclusion that religious belief causes the spread of “virtues,” ignoring the possibility that, in a society that commonly presents religion as being virtuous, people who are naturally virtuous are more likely to gravitate towards religion. Notice, his study does not show any correlation between being exposed to religion and becoming more virtuous than one was previously. It simply shows a higher tendency to be (or at least, to report oneself as being) more virtuous if one is more religious, in a nation with a significant religious culture. Would he get the same results in Norway? Doubtful.

 
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Mrs. Coulter’s Latest

By the way, while visiting Townhall.com for a review Chuck Colson’s laughable boast, I came across an ad touting Annie Coulter’s latest book, entitled If Democrats Had Any Brains They’d Be Republicans.

Isn’t that cute? I’m sure it will be a big seller among the kind of people who think that sort of remark is “biting wit.” I can’t remember the last time I was on the receiving end of a zinger of that caliber. Then again, I’m pretty hazy on most of the things that happened to me prior to starting kindergarten.

 
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Faith and Evidence: Brandon replies

I am pleased to see that Brandon is willing to continue the discussion on faith and evidence, albeit somewhat reluctantly, apparently. It’s a thoughtful response, and I’m delighted to address it, though it does start off with a rather strange assessment.

[F]or ‘The Professor’ it is a personal point, defending reasoning actually made. For me it is not; it’s rather more abstract, an interesting case, ‘in the wild’, of an interesting form of fallacious reasoning…

I’m not sure why Brandon thought it would help his case to begin by “poisoning the well” with insinuations that I’m taking things personally instead of impartially and objectively, as he asserts is the case with himself.  But the discussion improves somewhat after this point, so let’s just let that pass.

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Nietzsche Would Laugh [at] Chuck Colson

A surprising number of blogs are grabbing Chuck Colson’s latest column from Townhall.com. Apparently, Christians think he scored some major points with this one, though if you look at what he wrote, and the number of times he contradicted himself, it’s hard to imagine what any of those points might have been.

One of the biggest obstacles facing what’s called the “New Atheism” is the issue of morality. Writers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have to convince people that morals and values are possible in a society that does not believe in God.

If that’s one of the biggest obstacles faced by the “New Atheism,” no wonder it’s doing so well. Data like the 2005 UN Human Development Report make it easy to demonstrate, as Sam Harris puts it, “that atheism is perfectly compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that religious faith does nothing to ensure a society’s health.”

Even Colson admits that this is true, though he tries to make it sound like it really isn’t.

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Christians ponder how to respond to atheistic “evangelism”

The Christian Post has an interesting article about

S. Michael Craven, president of the Center for Christ & Culture, wonders if it is the actions of Christians that are causing nonbelievers and seekers to doubt the existence of God…

“Has Christianity become so politically defined that true faith and the person of Jesus Christ is obscured in the minds of many?” he asks in his latest weekly commentary. “Is it possible that Christians are conducting themselves in such a way that the spiritually seeking are looking anywhere but to Christ?”

No, the problem is that Christ is conducting Himself in such a way as to not show up in the real world. If Jesus would only behave as though he believed what men say about him in the Gospel, there wouldn’t be any need for Christians to engage in any mental self-flagellation over their failure to live lives good enough to make people think Jesus exists. The reason more people don’t turn to Christ is because he does not show up for anyone to turn to. And those that do “turn to Christ” are really only turning to Christians (i.e. the people who really do exist), which is why Christians worry about tweaking their marketing campaign whenever faith starts to wane.

It’s fascinating how clearly Christians can see the link between their own behavior and people’s faith in Christ, without ever acknowledging, even to themselves, that they are manufacturing this “faith” out of their own efforts. But at least Craven seems to realize, at some level, that the Church is now beginning to pay the consequences of having sold itself to the Republican National Committee.

 
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Two less Christians in Baghdad–your tax dollars at work

If there’s one thing the Iraq war is good at, it’s reducing the number of Christians surviving in the mostly-Muslim country. In the latest incident, two Christian women were killed by US-paid security guards.

BAGHDAD – Guards in a security convoy opened fire on a car at an intersection in central Baghdad on Tuesday, killing two Iraqi Christian women then speeding away, police said. The Iraqi government said preliminary reports indicated a Western security company was behind the shooting.

Remember, the US is in Iraq because our Christian president thinks he is on a mission from God:

I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did. Sharm el-Sheikh August 2003

Gee, thanks George. And thank God for us too, will ya?

 
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Whose definition of faith?

More irony. Shortly after posting the XFiles post where Geisler and Turek claim that faith is belief without evidence, I found a post complaining that the “faith = belief – evidence” idea is a “meme” that atheists are using to unfairly slander Christianity. Now, the day after responding to Lee Siegel’s charge that Dawkins and Harris et al are attacking “the essence of religious belief,” i.e. “I believe because it is absurd,” I find another post (from “Brandon” at the Siris blog) trying to put the blame back on unbelievers for saying that faith is the alternative to evidence. Responding to my post, the writer says.

In fact, it’s easy enough to see that the author has made a fairly elementary mistake in reasoning in attributing the position that faith is belief without evidence. He takes passages like this from Geisler and Turek:

You may be thinking, “The atheist has to muster a lot more faith than the Christian! What possibly could Geisler and Turek mean by that?” We mean that the less evidence you have for your position, the more faith you need to believe it (and vice versa). Faith covers a gap in knowledge.

And concludes from it that they are saying that faith is belief without evidence. But this is logically excluded from what they actually say here; if the less evidence you have for your position, the more faith you need, it follows that you can have faith with evidence.

You might think, given his quotation from my post, that he had actually read it. You might also think, from reading the above, that I was arguing against the idea that faith and evidence can co-exist. But in at least one case, you’d be wrong, because if you read my post, you’ll find I said the following.

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Civilianity

In a post on the Positive Liberty blog, Jonathan Rowe points out that America’s Civil Religion is Not Christianity.

Jim Babka sent me a great article from an orthodox Christian source that well understands America’s Civil Religion is not Biblical Christianity. Writing about the tension between America’s civil religion and orthodox Christianity is one of my specialities. In my last post I noted President Bush’s notion that all religions worship the same God “may not be an authentically Christian belief, but it is an authentically American belief.” This article explains the tension in detail…

What a great insight! People who advocate “One Nation Under God” and other such establishments need to be made aware of the fact that what they’re establishing is not Christianity but Civilianity: a pseudo-Christian cult that has the form of godliness but denies its power. For example, when President Bush teaches that all gods are the same God, that’s Civilianity, not Christianity. When Justice O’Connor writes that “under God” in the pledge is merely a historical relic of purely ceremonial deism, that’s Civilianity, not Christianity.

Civilianity as a competing religion seeking to displace Christianity as our national religion. That’s an insight that just might help some of our fundamentalist friends understand why it’s in their own best interests to build up the wall of separation instead of trying to tear it down.

 
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