June 21, 2011

Dawkins's Double Standard

I remember this one debate I watched with Richard Dawkins in it, and there is one comment he makes that has always irked me. Not in terms that I found it challenging, but it could easily be answered and wasn't. (For those of you who don't know, Dawkins in currently the leading atheist populariser. His popular works include The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion.)

Dawkins believes that religion is fundamentally evil, and seems to think that atheism can rid the world of atrocities, or at least come close to it. He loves to reference examples where people have used religion as an excuse for genocide, murder, war, and all sorts of naughty things.

However, whenever someone points out that the USSR was passionately atheist, and that there were many atrocities which occurred within that country, Dawkins cries foul. Let's see if I remember what he says correctly... "There is a difference between an atheist doing evil, and someone doing evil who happens to be atheist."

Uh huh. Here's a few things I would like to say to Dawkins: First you seem to think that there was no cultural/political context to things like the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition. Are you so ignorant as to think that such an argument doesn't work against the very examples you bring up?

Second, the USSR didn't just happen to be atheist. They were Marxist, and atheistic materialism formed the foundation for Marx's theories. Marxism was an application of atheism (not a necessary one, I grant you, but it is still the foundation of it). The USSR even persecuted some purely on the grounds of not being atheist (see example here). Exactly how is that different from the Spanish Inquisition?

To this, Dawkins also said something along the lines of "I see no natural path from an atheistic perspective to any evil. No one will ever blow themselves up in the name of atheism"

Well, OK Rich. I will grant you that no one would ever do that. Additionally, no one ever blew themselves up in the name of Islam either. They did it in the name of Allah. Muslims don't worship Islam, and Christians don't worship Christianity. No religious zealot ever did something in the name of their religion. They do it in the name of their God.

Atheists worship science and human progress, and though there aren't any atrocities someone would commit in the name of atheism, there are lots and lots of atrocities that someone could use atheism to justify in the name of science and human progress. Here's a short list: human guinea pigs, euthanasia (not just of elderly, but also the disabled), eugenics, genocide, and quite frankly war. After all, in atheism human life has no intrinsic value. How hard is it really to justify atrocities with that simple idea?

June 19, 2011

I am not my father

This is my very first Father's day as a father, and I cannot help but feel distant from the title. Marty is now only 2 months old, so it is not like it I should be more used to it. However, when I think of myself as a father, I think of my own father, and how different we are.

Probably the strangest thought that I have had so far was thinking that I wasn't big enough. Yesterday I got up out of bed and heard Marty in the next room crying and I thought, "I'm his father. Wait, I can't be his father. I'm not tall enough" I would like to reiterate that I had just gotten out of bed. I immediately saw the foolishness in the thought and had a good chuckle at myself.

But I found that the root of it was memories of looking up at my Dad. I mean literally looking up at him. I think there is still this part of me that hasn't come to terms with being an adult yet. This whole father thing is really challenging that part of myself, something that I thought I had already put to bed years ago (Get it? Putting my inner child to bed? Eh... never mind). I have always been told that having a child matures you very quickly, and I think I am just beginning to see why.

June 18, 2011

A Couple of Interesting Links

This is a very interesting Creationist look at genetics from behtyada: Postdiluvian Genetic Variations. I am not knowledgeable enough about genetics to be able to confirm or deny this, but it is interesting none the less.

Also, I had a bit of a debate with a Calvinist recently. Here are the various posts:
  1. Initial post

  2. My first response

  3. His reply

  4. My final response:
It will be interesting to see if he says anything else, but like I said in my final response, I am not going to say more than I have, except maybe here.

Should Faith Be A Factor in Politics

My friend Chris recently wrote this post on this subject, and I believe he expressed himself very well. I also completely agree with him. My faith forms the very basics of my ethics and morality. I can I ignore such things like my morality when voting for persons who are going to influence not only my life, but every person around me?

My last post was dealing with my view of war and killing, and how it differed between the Church and the government. Many people saw this as a contradiction, and one person noticed a similarity with Martin Luther's theology of Two Kingdoms.

However, I don't think that my view is really that official. The Church is an ideological institution. It's design and purpose is to house, educate, and equip God's people as they represent Him in the world and spread His Kingdom and influence through the love of Christ. The government is a pragmatic institution. It's design is to protect people from threats foreign and abroad, and to develop an social infrastructure (i.e. common currency, roads, etc) to enable society to function. Violence is never a good thing, but it is sometimes very practical and necessary.

As a Christian, when I vote and consider public policy, I am weighing out two things: morality and practicality. I don't expect the government to be able to defend people without being violent (even though appeasement strategies worked so well in the 1930s). I also don't expect there to be a law against every sin in the Book (laws are meaningless if they can't be enforced, and immoral if they can't be enforced morally).

These are things that have to remain in tension, not because it is some grand mystery on how they work, but because how that tension plays out may vary from situation to situation.

June 5, 2011

The Bible And The Government

I recently read a post over at Mason's blog that talked about the Myth of Redemptive Violence. Mason is a strong pacifist, and I have a lot of respect for him (that's why I read his blog). However, this is an issue that I have often disagreed with him about, and I just want to explain my thoughts in more detail.

First off, I think that violence is alien to the Christian perspective. Christianity is by nature pacifist. Jesus taught about loving your neighbor, turning the other cheek, and forgiving those that do you wrong.

Second of all, violence is very common in the Old Testament. The only OT book I can think of which is devoid of violence is problably Song of Songs (maybe Job since the only violence is done by looters).

At first glance, this appears to be a contradiction. Personally, I think this is a dialectic.

Barth Having Both

Barth was a early 20th century theologian, and one of the theological greats of our time. Oh, and he loved dialectics, and often pushed them. A dialectic is a kind of theological mystery: something which is clearly true, but impossible to explain in words. Specifically, it is when to opposite things are equally true in such a way that you can't simply explain how the work together. Instead, you need to affirm both and let them live in tension.

In the case of violence: violence is bad. It is unilaterally bad. It is also sometimes necessary. Perhaps I simply read too many comic books, but sometimes someone just needs to be stopped. Nonviolence is great when you are the one in the crosshairs, but when it is someone else, I don't see how it is justifable to not do whatever you can to protect that person.

However, that doesn't mean that it justifies you. Maybe in human courts, but if you strike any person down, even for a righteous cause, you have defiled yourself. I agree with Mason that the idea of redemptive violence is a myth. David's hands were so defiled that he wasn't allowed to build God's temple. However, just because something defiles you, it doesn't mean it shouldn't have been done. After all, the priests were often defiled while performing sacred acts. How much more would one be defiled after striking down on made in the image of God?

Ok, On To Government

One thing I definately believe though is that the Church should be pacifist, and the government should not be. It is the government's principle job to protect its citizens. That is why it exists. It is the Church's job to represent Christ: self-sacrifice.

I believe in the seperation of Church and State, because the Church should be holy, and cannot be defiled in the necessary tasks of governing a fallen world. One of the reasons why the Catholic Church became so corrupted was because it became a political entity. One of the reasons why the NT is so pacifist is because it never deals with state polity. One of the reason why the OT is so violent is because it deals extensively with state polity.

Both must coexist, and remain in tension. As long as humanity remains unsubmitted to God as the one true king, violence is going to remain being an ugly reality. It is one we should never approve of, but it is one that we also cannot avoid.