CAMWatch: Why atheism is irrelevant

I just posted a reply to Anthony Horvath’s latest post, but there is one sentence in there, on a slightly different topic, that I think deserves a closer look and a post of its own.

[T]hough I don’t for a minute believe that atheism was irrelevant to Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot’s atrocities, the really critical ingredient is that it was forgotten or denied that people will tend to do bad things and so no checks and balances were erected that could have countered some of the abuses that followed.

Mr. Horvath can believe as he chooses, but the fact of the matter is that atheism is irrelevant to the atrocities for the simple reason that theism is irrelevant to atrocities, as can be documented by observing three simple facts. And since theism has no influence on whether or not a person will commit atrocities, the lack of theism (atheism) has nothing to do with it either.

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The broad brush at CAM

We haven’t looked at the Christian Apologetics Ministries for a while, so let’s swing by and see what’s up. Scroll past the advertisements and marketing material, and sure enough, we find Mr. Horvath up to his old tricks again.

Over the last decade, I have noticed an increasing number of atheists arguing about the evils of religion and usually citing examples from Islam. Does that even begin to make sense? The whole notion of ‘religion’ is ridiculous on its face because of the many absurdities and abuses we find in Islam?

Now, by itself that’s not an unfair objection. Christianity deserves to be ridiculed because of the many absurdities and abuses we find in Christianity, and not just because of those found in Islam. Few things in life can match the delicious irony of a trinitarian calling someone else’s beliefs “absurd,” for instance. But notice: in accusing “atheists” of painting with too broad a brush, Mr. Horvath himself is guilty of painting atheists with his own broad brush–and it’s not a flattering color, either.

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Who is stalking whom?

Now this is interesting. Apparently Anthony Horvath has taken to following me around the Internet so that he can spread rumors that I’m a stalker (just because I comment on things I find on the Internet and respond to the things other people say about me).

I guess if you can’t address my evidence, you can at least try and assassinate my reputation behind my back. Christianity in action folks.

(Horvath’s comments are attached to this post, by the way.)

 
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Apologetics vs. Bible-based faith

I’ve been browsing through some of the articles at the Tekton Apologetics Ministry site, and found this article by James Patrick Holding on “Why Bible Critics Do Not Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt.” He begins by advocating that skeptics be treated with skepticism.

Whenever you run across any person who criticizes the Bible, claims findings of contradiction or error — they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. They have to earn it from you.

That’s actually some pretty good advice. Skepticism, after all, means having the mental self-discipline to insist on evidentiary support instead of just taking people’s word for things. What Holding is doing here is urging Christians to become skeptics themselves. That’s a good start. But you’ll never believe what justification he offers for why Christians should be skeptical of the skeptics.

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Some good stuff at last

I am delighted to see Anthony Horvath posting some genuinely worthwhile material over at the Christian Apologetics blog. Since I’ve been critical of some of his posts in the past, it’s only fair that I draw everyone’s attention to his triumphs as well.

I wanted to gather in one spot a handful of interviews with Pullman. I have to imagine that there is a list somewhere with them, but I could not find them. They all make for interesting reading and I have drawn some excerpts from them.

The rest of the post consists of Pullman interviews and they are indeed interesting reading, especially his reactions to Narnia (which I used to love when I was I Christian–I’d read through one book in one sitting and then sigh and think, “Now why can’t the real Jesus be more like Aslan?”). Anyway, highly recommended reading, so be sure and stop by.

 
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Sntjohnny-on-the-spot

I’ll say this for Mr. Horvath: he may be reluctant to defend Jesus on his blog, but let me post something that reflects poorly on Horvath himself, and he’ll get a rebuttal posted almost in the time it takes to type it in.

Herr Professor gives an overview of the fantastic elements in the Pullman series and then quotes me when I say that in the Pullman series there is no line between reality and fantasy.

This is as clear an example of Herr Professor’s terrible reading abilities as one can get. My line about there not being a line between reality and fantasy was not in association with the witches and ‘magic’ of the Pullman series, but rather the working principles that undergird the Pullman series – which certainly are presented as reality.

It seems Mr. Horvath, despite his criticism of my “terrible reading abilities,” is unfamiliar with the common practice of lending plausibility to one’s fantasy stories through incorporation of realistic elements. He also seems to think that Pullman’s stories, rather than leaning on familiar topics in order to enhance verisimilitude, is instead a plot to advocate certain strange and dangerous ideas as being the way things really are. His original post even spells out for us precisely what this insidious plot allegedly is:

The real danger of the Pullman series is that it prepares the young, thinking person, to believe that even if Jesus rose from the dead, that still would not be evidence for the existence of God, or for the truth of Christianity.

And how did Pullman pull off this particular bit of subliminal brainwashing? By writing a story in which God was a real character, and in which the vaguely-referenced events of the ancient Bible stories might actually have occurred, or in other words by portraying God as real, and the Biblical events as largely accurate (though misinterpreted). Wow, that’s sneaky, eh?

What Pullman did was to imagine a world in which God was real, and did interact with the real world in ways that are consistent with the rest of reality. That’s an idea that’s fatal to Christianity, which has always protected God by hiding Him in a supernatural realm that, by definition, is inaccessible to scientific study and verification. Pullman’s “many worlds” setting rips away the veil that walls God off from man, and invites us to imagine what would happen if modern scientific techniques were able to observe actual interactions between a divine being and the natural world.

It’s no wonder Horvath finds this concept so alarming. Truth is consistent with itself, and once we allow ourselves to consider all the ways a real God would have a scientifically-detectable impact on the natural world, as Pullman portrays Him as having, then one can hardly help but notice how inconsistent the real world is with the Gospel. It’s not that a genuine resurrection would fail to be evidence for Christianity, it’s that God cannot survive in a world that requires truth to be self-consistent.

 
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Insidious plot found in The Golden Compass

Anthony Horvath is up to his old tricks again, this time with an article on the insidious threat lurking between the covers of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. According to Horvath, this series of books, beginning with The Golden Compass, is even more dangerous than the Harry Potter series.

If we take an example like Harry Potter, whom the author of that article also decries, the difference between the threats is easy enough to detect: Rowling did not present her series as potentially being reality, nor does anyone- even young readers- think that it might be, whereas in the Pullman series, what he presents is explicitly something that he believes could be real, and by connecting with claims that students will hear described as scientific (Ie, Evolutionary theory and the Multiverse), students are led to think the same. There is no line between reality and fantasy, here.

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False beliefs lead to bad consequences.

By a curious coincidence, the Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society has popped up in my Alerts email again, this time with a sly insinuation linking “social Darwinism” with the Finnish school shootings.

Do beliefs have implications? Many people argue in the negative. “His private life has no bearing on his ability to operate in the job”….But what about a person’s views on the deeper things in life, their worldview, their noetic structure? Can these things really have no effect on their actions?

Finnish school shooting: Student social Darwinist dies…

Notice the way this brief post insinuates that evolution is somehow responsible for the school shootings, without actually making any kind of rational argument that would establish a causative link. That’s because the argument is incredibly lame. It’s like saying that right-handedness is a source of moral corruption, because the shooter was right-handed, and even fired the gun with his right hand. All this argument needs to be complete is a reference to Hitler being right-handed as well.

There is one point with which I will agree, however. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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One last note on the Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society

There was one point at the end of Mr. Admin’s last comment. It was a change of subject, so I’m putting it in a separate post, but I think it would be fun to respond to.

Returning finally to science — I note you didn’t answer or even engage with my points about science having no answers to the origin of life, or the universe, or morality, or human rights. This is why I am an ex-atheist — because atheism is bankrupt; it provides no answers.

He’s partially right. Biology and genetics, like mathematics, meteorology, chemistry, and other branches of natural science, do not provide moral guidance. Math, for example, will tell you how to add up the numbers on your tax forms, but math alone cannot make any recommendations as to whether or not you ought to cheat on your taxes. If you do decide to cheat, math will give you the knowledge you need in order to manufacture a set of numbers that adds up to the total you pick, but it won’t complain about your decision to do so. I guess in Mr. Admin’s book, that means that math is bankrupt and provides no answers, and ought to be abandoned by people of conscience. I wonder if his chequebook balances at the end of the month?

He’s wrong, of course, about science having no answers about the origin of life and of the cosmos. It’s not that science has no answers, it’s that science’s answers are currently incomplete and significant questions remain. Like so many other creationists, Mr. Admin sees the existence of the question as being proof that there is no answer. He does not (or cannot) see an open question as an opportunity to explore and investigate and find new answers that we didn’t know before. It’s a typical conservative Christian objection, and it’s worth mentioning as a real-life example of how Christianity promotes a mental environment that is hostile to scientific advancement.

 
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Our old friends at the Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society

Just on a whim, I decided to swing back by our old conversation at the Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society, to see if he responded to my last comment there. He did indeed.

The answer is, Professor, that you are right. Christians should be appalled, and far more opposed, to those who bear false witness in the name of Christ. What do you suggest I do about it from here in New Zealand?For example, money-preaching televangelists like Benny Hinn survive because a lot of Biblically-ignorant people give the guy lots of money. Many Christians ministries have critiqued and heavily criticized this cretin but what do you do next? Blow up his home? Assassinate him? That may be the Islamic way, but not for Christians.

Apparently, Mr. Christian Admin has already spent some time thinking about how to deal with Benny Hinn! But he’s right, it is unfair to blame Christian New Zealanders for the sins of American Christians. Only I never did that. My comment was that creationism demonstrates the fact that God does not show up in real life, because if He did, Christians wouldn’t need to resort to lame arguments like quibbling over whether or not some poorly-understood, prehistoric, pre-human events might possibly be interpreted as possibly reflecting some kind of possible interaction by something that may have been like some kind of deity–possibly.

It is Mr. Admin, and not Benny Hinn, who was trying to use anti-Darwinism as an apologetic for God, though I’ve no doubt Hinn would gladly agree with him. And it’s the kind of argument you have to use when you can’t point to any verifiable instances of God actually showing up in the real world.

But wait till you hear his rebuttal to my observation that God does not show up in real life.

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