Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I wish you a most blessed Christmas

The year end has not sneaked up on me – it just came so fast I never saw it coming. So I will be off for a few weeks, retreating to the back of beyond, away from phones, power and broadband. Christmas, ah yes, I will be escaping the debate on whether it is inclusive or not to not include references to Christ in Christmas, or to ask if the season should be renamed Spendfest … I will miss the exchanges here, I appreciate the stimulating comments you bring – thank you.

So, a few days ahead of time I want to wish all my visitors a very happy and blessed Christmas, a time to relax and refresh the spirit.

God bless you all!


Monday, December 10, 2007

Am I a secret atheist?

There is a lot said by some atheists that I agree with, to the extent that you may even ask if I have aligned myself with the dark side.

Some atheists say:
" the bible is not actually accurate or true" – and I agree;
" religion has been used as the reason for war and atrocity" – and I agree;
" I could not believe in a God who inflicts suffering on the scale we see it today in the world" – and I agree;
" God did not communicate with us in an unambiguous way – he could have made it easier of us" – and I agree;
" that the creation story in the bible is a myth and that evolution happened" – and I agree;
" that Christians can't agree among themselves on doctrine" – and I agree;
" there is no proof that God exists, in the end you need faith to believe" – and I agree;
" it is illogical to believe in a God that is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, it creates irrational states" – and I agree;
" God could have given unambiguous proof of His existence" – and I agree;
" God could have eliminated evil from this world" – and I agree;
" that an atheist could do any moral action done by a theist and could hold any moral view held by a theist" – and I agree
" that the burden of proof lies with one asserts that there is a God" – and I agree
" you can't categorically prove that anyone had a religious experience" – and I agree.

So I guess I must be an atheist!

… yet …

I understand that the bible is neither inerrant nor literally true, it, together with other religious texts and the tradition of the Church form God's revelation to us.
I know that some people have used (and some still do use) religion to divide, to spread hate and horror and I know that doing that is contrary to Christ's teaching.
I know that there is suffering on a massive scale in this world and that most of it brought about by people exercising their freewill to win power or resources and in so doing go against Christ's message of love and I know that if we all responded unselfishly in love to the plight of others the world would be a much better place for all. I understand that freewill is one of the greatest gifts we have and that we seriously abuse it.
I know God has left space for us to work on his revelations to us to establish the truth in our hearts rather than superficially from a precise text. He has given us the choice of believing or not.
I know about evolution and I have some understanding about the elements of creation, I appreciate the fine balance in the laws of physics and the code system around DNA that I know there is room for a creator in a rational view of the world.
I know the Christian church is fragmented with some deep divisions, some a clear result of human weakness and greed, but I can't escape the common teaching of love for one another even if it is obviously not universally practised.
I know there is no absolute proof that God exists, in the end you need faith to believe, in the same way you need faith to believe there is no God. Needing faith implies choice, choice establishes our moral character. I can't prove there is a God but I am open to accepting the preponderance of evidence that there is.
I know the tri-omni atheist arguments are superficially attractive, but I know they are not new and that scholars far wiser than I have confronted them and debunked them and that I can read and assess their arguments for myself – I get to choose what I believe.
I know God could have given us absolute proof that He existed and then we would have had no choice but to believe.

I know the idea of a world without evil is superficially tempting, but one without freewill and without consequences would be a world without learning or growth, like an eternal living death. I am pleased God was wise enough to spare us that.
I know you don't have to believe in God to be a good person, I just don't see why people who don't believe in an after life would want to do anything other than maximise selfish pleasure within whatever social constraints they choose to acknowledge. I know Christianity preaches a selflessness that is exemplified by those who have given their lives for strangers and I admire that.
I understand about teapots, I have reviewed the evidence that there is a God and accepted it. I also accept that those who assert that there is no God have taken on that burden of proof and note that I am yet to be persuaded by them.
I know you can't prove a religious or metaphysical experiences, but people I know, trust and respect have had them and I believe them sane - I have too and I think I am sane – I know St. Paul would have been crazy to fake his conversion in order to change from persecutor to persecuted, as would have been Wilbur Wilberforce in faking his conversion experience to take on the might of the slave trade at the expense of his health.

So what does that mean? That I am aware of the most powerful of atheist arguments (I have not listed them all above, nor dealt with each fully) but I can see where they are coming from and I still believe in God. While the exact nature of my belief may not be all that conventional I can still say I believe there is a God.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's not about the science

Drawn by what I saw as a common position on a/theism I recently read Joe Hinman’s testimony on his DOXA site http://www.doxa.ws/Theology/Testamony.html

While I note some similarities between his journey and my own, what struck me most was some of the revelations we seem to have shared – call them insights if you will, but I know I could not have got there myself.

Now the specifics are different but the messages are similar.

Firstly that of a form of universality. I was struggling with the idea of a right or wrong religion – everybody should be able to get to heaven, right? But why then did Christ appear to teach exclusivity. JH got his revelation from Romans 2, I got mine from John 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

In a moment of clarity I can only explain as a revelation I saw this passage to mean that God was about truth, a message and that the ‘Word’, the message was all important. For Christians the ‘Word’ is manifest in Christ, but the same Word is revealed to all, each in their own way – this makes all religions potentially true; the test of their validity lies in their alignment with what can be referred to as God’s greater purpose (not going into a silly debate about differences and discernment – either you want to see it or you don’t).

When Christ speaks of Him being the “the way the truth ..” etc He refers to the Word which while it is Christ also extends beyond Christ to all. Christians (actually the Jews) had the privilege of a very close encounter with the Word, I have no idea how close the encounter may be for other faiths, but I am certain that the Word, the message of God by which we can all come to know God has been revealed to all.

Now this may not be a scholarly interpretation of the passage, but it was what was revealed to me by the passage.

A second revelation JH and I share is that different things can mean different things to different people – the bible has to be the quintessential example – but also that we don’t have to be in exact agreement to share a belief in God.

How then do I explain the diversity of religious teaching – they can’t all be right. I don’t really have to, there is a core message that all can come to and there is human distortion of the message by all who have tried to pass it on – me included, right here and now.

What the experience did show me was that we have a spiritual component that is capable of far more than our conscious (or even sub-conscious) selves. Sometimes, we manage to see through what ever separates us – a veil is a good analogy – and life is different, everything is different. Of course we now know where in the brain the interface is active. Science has yet to find the other end of the “phone line”, the spirit – and is most unlikely to ever do so.

This is of course where the big difference between atheist and theist lies. Not in a belief in God, yes that too, but the real nub of the difference is in the existence of a spiritual realm.

This difference leads to some irreconcilable differences between atheist and theist.

1) The atheist is limited to an intellectual position. Theists can intellectualise their position but they have a spiritual dimension that the atheist cannot acknowledge.

Unfortunately this difference often leads theists to limit their argument with atheists to intellectual debate – I for one have been guilty of this. We need to get over it and accept that our personal spiritual experiences are part of our belief. The fact that we can’t “prove” them to others is of no concern – faith is a personal thing, a bit like love; I love my wife, can’t prove it to others in conclusive intellectual terms but it is true.

2) The atheist view tends to be absolute – there is no God. I won’t go into the strong/weak atheist position because while some people may be making up their minds, they are listening to people who have usually stepped off the fence. The problem with an absolute position is that it has to be defended in its totality. A tired child not wanting to walk may say “there is sand in my shoe” (yes I live in a country where children encounter sand) – a parent’s response may “no there isn’t” but victory is the child’s when an examination of the shoe eventually reveals a single grain tucked away in the lining.

Any single spiritual experience defeats the atheist position. Hence the intense argument against miracles and the rather gratuitous “I am sure they believed that is what it was” response to all personal experiences.

Thethird and crucial revelation JH and I share is that of the importance of freewill. We may differ in the detail but the thrust is the same. This revelation is important as it addresses the Argument of Evil which is a cornerstone of maintaining an atheist belief. In essence one has to elevate the worth of freewill above that of human suffering. Atheists argue that if we suffer through the exercise of freewill (our own or that of others) but that God could have prevented it by making us “all good” and placed us in a world with only positive outcomes. They argue that God was therefore in error in giving us freewill as the consequences outweigh any benefits, present God as condoning suffering (not omni-benevolent) and at the very least being impotent in its prevention – all leading to a case that there is no God.

Without going into the detail, as I now see it, freewill is what enables growth. To curtail any negative outcome from the exercise of freewill God would have to:

i) deprive us of all choice
ii) or only enable choices with options that all had exactly the same value to everyone directly or indirectly associated with the choice now and in the future (absurd, if all options have an equal outcome for all and for all time then there is really no choice)
iii) Micro manage every situation in violation of all physical laws at all time – it would be OK to skydive sans parachute, fire would not burn, guns could not kill etc.

Yet we live in a dynamic world with laws of nature that work and we grow/learn intellectually and with increasing experience. Reason renders the no freewill option either absurd or of no possible value – so we have the opportunity to make choices; do good or harm, see the consequences and learn, all of which enables to draw us closer to that which we call God or to distance ourselves from God. We can make choices that have negative outcomes for us and/or others. God has revealed (through the “Word”) how we ought to try and live our lives and has provided ongoing coaching in the form of a connection with the spiritual realm, the Holy Spirit of the traditional Christian Trinity. So God has not abandoned us to our plight, plus there is prayer and the opportunity that gives us to draw on its power (not in an unlimited sense) to improve outcomes.

This leads us back to the fundamental difference between atheist and theist – belief in a spiritual realm. Religion is not the issue that really divides us, nor is the bible or its interpretation. IF we agree that there is a spiritual realm then we can resolve the other issues in time.

A problem that atheists seem to have in coming to grips with a spiritual realm is their starting point. Most start from within the context of a particular religion and test the minutia of the religion – if they find inconsistency or flaws in logic, out goes the baby with the bathwater. The true starting point is to seek an answer to the existence of a spiritual realm. This is the fourth revelation we share – although it is not as obvious as the others. Once we have found our answer to the existence of the spiritual realm we can then seek the religion or group which best provides us with a platform from which to exercise it. Interesting that JH and I both ended up near the Catholics, but that can only be of interest.

Of course in seeking the answer to the existence of a spiritual realm we should use the right tools. We are looking for evidence of mainly personal relationships, maybe involving groups. Atheists are content to point science at the question and chuckle “told you so” when science can’t prove a spiritual realm exists (they usually omit to mention that “inconclusive” works both ways). But science is not the right tool – we do not use it judge works of art, we understand it has limitations but persist in trying it on a realm it is not relevant to.

Enough – peace to all.


Monday, November 12, 2007

It looks like a religion, it barks like a religion

Naughty of me, but when I found the First Church of Atheism I just could not resist this post.

You have the seminal texts,
you have the evangelists complete with click to donate web sites,
you need faith to believe (well strong atheists anyway - weak atheists need faith not to believe),
you have the regular meetings,
you have the T-shirts,
now you have the church www.firstchurchofatheism.com complete with ordained ministers,

... and you still don't have an atheist religion?

Peace - Hamba kahle


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why does he do that?

I have been trying to find the time to do a full post, but alas …

So as a teaser, I can’t go past the lecture I heard recently by Sam Harris, regarded by some as the more balanced of the big three atheist evangelists. I could and probably should devote a whole post to the nonsense of Harris and his fellow travellers, but for now I will pick one example from the lecture that really lit up my nonsense filter.

Sam Harris is fond of this quoting Luke 19:27 to prove his point that the NT promotes horrors, if your nonsense filter has too fine a setting you can pick it up at minute 17 - or you can play a game of spotting the interweave of truth and deception in the preceding 17 minutes, but it will be boring!

Any sensible reading of the whole parable Luke 19:11-27


makes it obvious that the words in verse 27 are those of the king in the parable and relate to the citizens referred to in verse 14. But not so for Harris who presents them as a decree by Jesus to kill those who do not submit to his rule. Come on … is this an example of the intellectual high ground claimed by reasonable, rational and logical atheists?

Now don’t you just wonder why Sam Harris resorts to intellectual fraud of this type? Why, if the teachings of Jesus are, as he says, evil, does he have to make it up? How is Harris different from the religious fanatics or Christian evangelists he so roundly condemns for using similar tactics?

Perhaps a healthy dose of atheist scepticism would go a long way to revealing the true nature or intent of the atheist evangelists. Should we not be asking what the likely impact on society is of such divisive preaching – or of any divisive teaching for that matter. More so, should we not ask why Harris et al want to discredit the “love thy neighbour” message of Christ and replace it by one of division and intolerance?


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Been busy in the salt mine

Being too busy to post on the blog is perhaps rude as it implies that I value what distracts me as more important than those who honour me with visits and their opinions. It would indeed be rude to elevate my needs above the calls other make on my time, but it is often uncomfortable to adjudicate between those demands. So please accept my apologies, no offence intended. As recompense I have now posted reply comments on:

Atheism, the emperor's new clothes.

OK, I rose to the bait

Time wasted? An apology

"Damascus Road"

Atheist argument - finely crafted, but lacking

So does God exist?

An advantage of having been away is that I had to re-read the posts and comments and that hopefully brought some clarity. As I result I have not necessarily responded point by point but rather tried to focus on what I now see as the core issues.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Atheism, the emperor's new clothes.

I am sometimes a bit harsh on the evangelical Christian fundamentalists and recently I wondered if that was fair. My main concern about the fundamentalist churches is that they raise their flock in a very simplistic cocoon of faith – one that relies entirely on faith to resist the intellectually flawed but seductive atheist argument. “I don’t believe it, you can’t be right” is their only defence – like lambs to the slaughter. Unfortunately with the free availability of information and opinion on the internet that approach is no longer good enough.

I am reminded of when the Roman Catholic Church did not want the laity to read the bible without a priest present in case they misinterpreted it. The Catholics always knew the bible was neither literal nor inerrant, they knew one needed to be guided through it. Well with Vatican II that went out and Catholics were encouraged to read the bible – they started to trust the people to get it right. Unfortunately they did not really put in place the mechanisms to allow for the questions and debate – the Church had the theology, ever evolving, but it was there to help answer the questions – it was just not accessible to everyone. So many a “good Catholic” found themselves floundering on the rocks of finely crafted atheist argument.

Perhaps there is a lesson for both Catholics and evangelicals. Trust the people with knowledge, open up the bible for them and encourage them to think, question and debate – their faith will be stronger for it! If we shed the social politeness of not talking about religion, if the depth of Catholic theological thinking was made available to “the masses” then the pseudo-rationality of atheism would soon be seen to be no more than the emperor’s new clothes.

Theism has nothing to fear from the challenges of atheism, but the fear itself. Whenever I delve into Catholic theology in response to some question I can’t answer (and there are lots of them) I am always impressed by the fact that its is not a new question for the Church – they have ”been there done that” – the answer is there, unfortunately often buried, but there. Often the answer surprises me - the issue raised by the atheist is actually valid, but the interpretation they place on it is not at all persuasive. The “clever”, “rational” and “scientific” arguments of atheism may challenge our thinking and that is good, but armed with knowledge we soon see that they do not have the substance to undermine our faith.

As I have progressed along my faith journey, its highs, lows and my doubts, I have found my faith (the conviction that there is a God) growing stronger as each challenge is more easily dismissed than the previous. Even more to my surprise though, is that I have also been more strongly drawn to the Catholic Church, warts and all, as the vehicle for my faith.

I now understand why some 10 years ago a Methodist I knew who had a crisis in their church ended up becoming a Catholic. His explanation is now familiar to me, ‘the Catholics had thought it through and just keep on thinking”.

That said, on reflection there are those who for whom the more black and white approach of, say the Baptists, is what works well for them. Perhaps we do need the range of denominations to fulfil the different faith journeys of each. BUT Reality Check!!! A whole lot do get derailed – from every denomination. Everyone can do it better – faith yes, but faith with accessible knowledge.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

OK, I rose to the bait

Recently challenged to acknowledge that I had considered that "maybe there is no God" and to provide a single shred of evidence that God existed I feel obliged to respond.

Firstly lets us agree that if there were proof absolute either that God did or did not exist I would not be writing this post. Secondly, let us agree that evidence should not be limited to scientific laboratory evidence. Science is able to confirm that certain things are testable and repeatable, that is, empirically verifiable in the present. A belief in the intangible is clearly an inappropriate subject for scientific investigation.

I would say that “maybe there is no God, on the other hand maybe there is” is the only valid starting point – note both sides of the coin. Indeed that has been the starting point for my theism. As such it meant I had to acknowledge and consider the existence of God as a possibility. This position is impossible for those who believe that there is no God (i.e. not the “I have no opinion” atheists whose commitment to their position is similar to mine on Barack Obama’s ability to make cheesecake).

When confronted with the question of miracles for instance, I had to approach with an open mind rather than “there is no God therefore there are no miracles”. In fact I thought that if one could establish with some confidence that miracles did occur then that would be a measure of evidence that God existed. If there was absolutely no evidence then it seriously questioned any interaction between God (at the time “God” undefined in my mind) and this world – a serious blow for the Abrahamic religions’ concept of God.

I won’t bore you with the detail of my research but as you may know, in order to be recognised as a saint in the Catholic Church the person should have at least two miracles attributed to their intercession – there are special cases such as for martyrs. The miracles are subject to considerable scrutiny with the appointment a “Devil’s Advocate” to challenge the evidence. As an illustration of the miracles try the healing in response to request for intercession by a priest that is one of the miracles attributed to St Faustian’s intercession.


The key point is that a panel of doctors declared the healing could not be explained by medical science (that includes ‘yeah this sometimes happens and we don’t know why). Included on the panel were two eminent (world renowned?) cardiologists; Dr. Valentin Fuster's from Mount Sinai's School of Medicine in New York City and Dr. Nicholas Fortuin, from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Now this is one of many examples, and I leave it to you to verify that this is not an isolated case. That it is not an isolated case is of course important. If all the doctors had established was that there was isolated unexplained event, no big deal but:

  • There is causality and
  • A pattern with other similar events

So now the choice is yours, as there is no proof absolute, either …

1) Blind faith atheist disbelief – it did not happen, conspiracy theory, ‘lies all lies’, whatever – it just is not true.

2) Preconceived atheist disbelief. It was a spontaneous recovery, mind over matter, whatever – it happens, we don’t understand it, but we don’t believe in God so it was not a miracle.

3) It was a miracle. The medically unexplained nature of the healing, the nature of the event itself, the evidence and the level of correlation and causality leads you to a rational conclusion based on the evidence – it was a miracle. That was the finding of those who examined the case in detail – plus it aligns with other similar cases.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Time wasted? An apology

Lacking the time to do a proper posting here, the one I have promised on why I believe in God for instance, I have taken what I see as the easy way out – visiting other blogs and making comments there. In particular I got caught up in what started out as an interesting discussion on faith but got bogged down by the closed minded approach of the blogger.

Was it a waste of time? In some ways yes, I was certainly not exposed to any new atheist thinking. In some ways no, I got reminded of the one of the fundamental flaws of much of the atheist thinking around. It is a problem in that it is irrational and limits discussion.

The problem is fundamentalism. Now many atheists deny that there is such a thing as an atheist fundamentalist because, being a non-belief it can’t be fundamentalist – whatever! The problem I see lies in the fact that atheist thinking is tied to the misconception of religious fundamentalists. Certainly that part of the atheist community that seeks to justify their atheism by discrediting religious belief, in order to establish a preponderance of evidence that God is unlikely to exist, seem stuck in what I see as a sort of time warp.

They have relied on the misconceptions of religious fundamentalists, usually Christian, but not exclusively.

In advance I apologise to those who have read my comments elsewhere for doing a cut and paste – my excuse is that I was side tracked when I have limited time to work on this blog – I consider myself castigated and will try and do better in the future.

So, what is chief among the misconceptions that I talk of:

1) The bible is the literal, recorded dictation of the word of God.

This enables the argument that the multitude of contradictions in the bible should convince us that there is no God. Problem is that the starting premise is flawed, the deduction a non-sequitur and so therefore the conclusion is false. The Catholic Church (for all its faults) teaches that the bible is not the sole source of Christian teaching, that the bible requires interpretation. Above all it is not to be taken literally.

It is the revelation of God’s teaching to a particular group. It is a collection of texts within an historical context. Yes I know some fundamentalist groups ignore this, but does that mean atheists should too?

The bible is seminal to Christianity, as other texts are to other revelations – and yes, guess what there are some texts of less merit than others and some plain phony texts. Again I draw your attention to the position of the Catholic church that the bible is not the only source of understanding about God. While the Catholic scholars can cope with the bible not being literal it seems that many fundamentalists can’t – perhaps they lack the benefit of the centuries of academic input that the Catholics have had.

I do not diminish the importance of the bible for Christians, but I do see it for what it is. Get the history and context right and it makes sense. The New Testament is primarily a collection of the sayings and works of Christ and the letters/writings of his followers, written about 60-110 AD and compiled around 360 AD. Yes Christians believe it was “inspired” but no, it is not a dictation from God recorded verbatim. There are dozens of sites, but for a quick intro try:


Recognising the origins of the New Testament why would it not have inconsistencies? It is intellectual laziness to draw the wrong conclusions from the inconsistencies – a conclusion that ignores the history in favour of the rhetoric! Why collect four of the gospels if any one was complete? What is consistent within the four gospels is the teaching of Christ – his message. Yes, at a semantic level there is debate, but at a conceptual level it is really clear.

There is little point in discussing the bible if it is seen as a literal dictation from God recorded verbatim. That is starting from a false premise! I would have thought that atheists would be inclined to the facts. If you have discredited belief in God through the improper use of the bible, then the fault lies with you, not the belief!

It is interesting to note inconsistencies in the bible – it is not valid to ignore the background of the texts when interpreting the texts and addressing the inconsistencies. To do so ignores the intent of assembling a collection of writings.

2) Multiple concepts of God.

Over time there have been, and still are many concepts of God in different religious communities. Some, such as Zeus have been discarded, others not.

This enables arguments based on contradictions but also one based on the variety of manifestations of God as being mutually exclusive/contradictory and therefore overwhelming evidence that there is no God. Again a flawed premise leads to flawed conclusions.

Multiple concepts of God – so what? Theology is an evolving field of study. Why should it not discard concepts found to be lacking and replace them newer thinking that better fits the evidence as happens in other fields of study. Fundamentalists do not do this – they tend to be locked into a simplistic literal bible (usually OT) concept of God. Atheist reasoning likes to trap theology in its past, it makes it easier to defend the atheist position. The path atheists travel has been travelled by theists who have reviewed the old thinking and sometimes found parts of it wanting. What theists have done is moved on with their thinking – sought new explanations of the evidence. I seldom see atheists challenging the current theist theology! OK, current theist theology is not of one mind. Indeed it is what one would expect in an environment of rational thought and weighing the evidence, so it is easier for atheists to stick with the fundamentalist OT God.

The view that I find fits the evidence of God is that God is not an individual but a collective consciousness with common purpose. This fits with Christian teaching about the Trinity and aligns with the possibility of multiple manifestations. or revelations of God. Is it “the truth” – I don’t know, but it fits the evidence and that is the best we can do. It a personal choice I have made that does address all the evidence, unlike the much of the fundamentalist and atheist thinking. The bible only addresses the Christian revelation of God, but there are many common elements with some other revelations.

Multiple versions of God would only support the idea that God is a human construct if the deductive stating point was that there was only one possible revelation of God. That would be a false premise from which to start.

It is my view that many atheists have their origins in religious fundamentalism – usually US Christian? – that their valid rebellion is against these teachings that do contain some serious flaws. Unfortunately they have then chosen to follow the less rigorously intellectual path offered by atheism. Again I see the baby going out with the suspect bathwater.

Back to the header quote of this site:

"An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion” Alfred North Whitehead.

Fashionable atheist opinion would benefit from "An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account ...".


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where have all the flowers gone?

Growing up in the 60’s protest was part of my life. The songs of the great poet Dylan (not Thomas you …) were on our lips.

I mourn the demise of protest! It is not as if there are no injustices to protest today! Hell we are spoilt for choice!

So where is the flower of youth today? What has captured their attention that injustice is of less importance?

I could surmise that there has been an erosion of (forgive my use of the easy term) genuine Christian values. In the affluent west have we replaced morality with materialism? We have certainly become a more secular society.

Secularism has its merits, but it has had its unfortunate consequences. We no longer speak of a greater moral truth; rather we have replaced it with the ethic of self: “If it works for me that’s OK, as long as there is no direct harm for others”. The problem lies in “direct harm”. Perhaps it is the “now” society that blinds us of the consequence of our actions, perhaps we have perfected too cleaver a definition of “direct harm” - - sort of like “I did not have sex with ...” …. …. …. But then perhaps if our politicians had really got the message of the greater moral truth we would not have been protesting in the 60’s


With God on our side

Take the time to listen to Joan Baez sing the Dylan song “With God on our side” everyone who practices a religion should do so every once in while to keep their perspective.

It is clear to me that many atheists are anti-religious rather than genuinely having that feeling of certainty that there truly is no God. But why should they not disavow God in the face of heaped evidence of injustice, no worse war and inhuman treatment and atrocities committed by those with God on their side? It is not enough for Christians to squeak out that those committing the atrocities are not real Christians or real Muslims or whatever – after all Christ taught that we would be judged by our actions. It seems that there is a reluctance among some religious to speak out (I would prefer "scream out") in protest against evil perpetrated in the name of God. Perhaps they fear their denunciation will somehow undermine God’s truth or their faith or affiliation.

We have atheists to thank for questioning religion and the acts carried out “with God on our side” … and yes we should thank them if they cause us to question our religious beliefs, in the hope that the questioning leads us to really understand the underlying precepts of the great religions of the world. There is a God, we should love God and our neighbour as ourselves.

It is a real pity that the anti-religious tend to throw out the baby (God) with the bathwater (religion) and end up as atheists.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Damascus Road

What really happened to St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Both Christians and atheists have expressed the view that his conversion could have been no more than an epileptic fit. What do you think?


Friday, July 13, 2007

Me intolerant?

Is intolerance the home of the misguided? I find it ironical that in climate which seems to revere individual rights intolerance is so rife. Political correctness is of course intolerant. So called “liberals” are often most intolerant of opposing views, just listen to a liberal politician. Atheist based religious intolerance is strongly evident around Christmas and Easter as they try to rid the world of an untruth and to free the population from the shackles of false belief (do I hear an echo of the Inquisition here?).

But my real question is why is intolerance thriving in an era when I thought we were trying to eliminate it – to honour the individual, democracy and freedom? – getting caught up in the spin am I?

My first reaction is to blame the media, of course. After all their influence has increased as they have become more pervasive. Also there is little doubt that parts the media are firmly aligned with various agendas. Consolidation of media ownership has also limited debate. But does all this explain an increased intolerance.

Perhaps there has not been a real move towards intolerance for intolerance sake – perhaps it is a defence. We are increasingly being spoon fed news and views at a superficial level. When last did you see a really good unbiased, in-depth, investigative doco on TV – and as for the magazine programmes …

So perhaps we are forming our opinions not on a solid base of our own reasoning, but rather on the opinions of others. If so we have little of substance with which to defend our views. So do we become intolerant of opposing views? Do we fear being shown up as suckers for some piece of “spin”?

There may be hope in the e-world with its ease of dissemination of opinion – this blog is an example. But perhaps the weakness of this medium lies in its very strength. There is too much information and opinion. It is not easy to find, often swamped by millions of hits in a Google search – I wonder if anyone will ever read this? Because of the proliferation of information the way we use the web for research can capture us. We tend to go to the top of the list of search results (= popular opinion), we tend to follow site links (= pools of similar thinking). This may lead us into the trap of being extremely well misinformed – and perhaps to believing we are right, after all we researched it thoroughly on the web! So if we are right, then they must be wrong. Well at this point what else can we do but make sure they are put right and while we are at it we should try to make sure they don’t spread their mistaken views. Of course we could just enter the debate and convince them of the merit of our argument, perhaps even accept that there are two sides here and one has to choose. No … that’s too hard and we really have to know what we are talking about.

Perhaps I should be more tolerant of intolerance.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Atheist argument - finely crafted, but lacking

In reality, the atheists have presented little by way of a case that there cannot be a God. The semantics is by its nature flawed. Consider the ‘Argument of Evil’ often cited as one of the most persuasive that God (but I note, not any God but a limited understanding of the Christian God) cannot exist. The argument is based on recognising the existence of evil and on the assumption that God is both omnipotent and benevolent.

Either God wants to abolish evil and cannot,

or he can but does not want to,
or he cannot and does not want to,
or lastly he can and wants to.

If he wants to remove evil, and cannot,
he is not omnipotent;
(and therefore not God, if God is omnipotent as defined)
If he can, but does not want to,
he is not benevolent;
(and therefore not God, if God is benevolent as defined)
If he neither can nor wants to,
he is neither omnipotent nor benevolent;
Finally if God can abolish evil and wants to,
how does evil continue exist?

This (and similar) argument seems to be used successfully by atheists to convert some religious to their creed. The problem with this argument is that it assumes absolute knowledge of the nature of God. It takes a simple fundamentalist view of God and the world, ascribing to God a narrow and simplistic set of emotions and “proves” by simple deduction that God cannot exist. What it in fact proves is that either the limited definitions of an omnipotent God or of a benevolent God are wrong or at least inappropriate, or if the definitions are right, then God cannot logically exist. It is an intellectually weak approach to ignore the possibility that the definitions are inappropriate, particularly since the definitions were chosen to support the argument they are used in. It argues that if God could eliminate evil but chose not to then God would not be benevolent and this would therefore be contrary to the nature of God so God cannot exist. The key assumptions that have to be proven for the above to be valid are that in order to be benevolent God would banish evil and that God is indeed benevolent as defined. I have not seen this argued even vaguely conclusively. But, if the definition is wrong what is the right definition or understanding of God? Well to date I have not found the definitive description of the exact nature and circumstance of God, but not knowing the answer has never been a good scientific reason for abandoning the question.

It is reasonable to ask theists if they have considered this question that apparently simply proves them wrong. A brief exploration of the Christian theist view (the easiest for me to access) shows that they seem to have no problem explaining that their God and evil are likely to co-exist. I understand that there are two threads to the Christian theist argument. Firstly that in Christian terms God created a society based on the exercise of freewill. To proscribe evil in that society would of course limit freewill. Further it can be argued that much of what we describe as evil is the result of inappropriate human exercise of free will. Besides, to me it seems irrational to contemplate a world with no evil – one could do anything and there would be no possibility of negative outcomes. Choice and the possibility of negative outcomes go hand in hand. So we have a conflicting choice for God to make around ‘benevolence’ – no freewill or no negative (evil) outcomes. Not a simple choice, but one that seriously challenges a simplistic concept of benevolence. The second thread, again referring to Christian teaching, is that Satan has been given rule on earth – this thread of argument does not work for me. One can take this literally, as fundamentalist Christians appear to, or one can be a bit more circumspect and try to understand it in context.

Evil, harm or horror, call it what you will, is the product either of misuse of freewill (clearly freewill creates the potential for evil) or the result of natural forces necessary for the working of a world subject to the laws of nature (fire burns). By permitting a world governed by natural laws which we seek to discover and given freewill to exercise that knowledge, evil is a very likely and on occasion the appropriate (or benevolent) outcome . We appear to have the freewill to make good or evil in our world. Looking around, we seem to stuffing it up with enthusiasm.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

So does God exist?

The interesting thing for me in the theist view is it implies that there is another world, subject to rules different from those that apply to this world. Such a world need not be subject to natural laws of physics as we know them, but could be metaphysical. It is here that I see the hub of the God debate. The fundamental argument around the existence of a God or Gods, is not the semantics around the definition of the character of such a God, but rather hinges on the existence of a world beyond that which is not necessarily manifest in our day-today physical existence. For the sake of simplicity I will refer to this other world a metaphysical realm.

The crux of the debate is the existence of a metaphysical realm, because if it exists, the existence of a supreme being, God or Gods (however the hierarchy turns out in that realm) is but a small and reasonably likely step. So does the metaphysical realm exist? On the one hand we have a lack of absolute scientific evidence that this realm exists, and on the other hand a large body of anecdotal evidence that it does. While a scientific approach would dismiss a theory proved to be wrong, in a true quest for knowledge we should be seeking an explanation for that which we cannot explain, rather than blindly saying if we can’t prove it exists, it does not. Indeed clinging to unpopular beliefs is the source of many of our greatest scientific discoveries. Certainly we do not yet have the knowledge to be certain of the existence of a metaphysical realm or not – and why should we?. We can’t prove it does exist, nor can we prove it does not exist, so we have to recognise the anecdotal evidence as all we have for now. After all, initially there was only anecdotal evidence that death camps existed under Hitler’s rule, but then …

Atheistic argument is that because of the wide diversity and sometimes contradictory opinion regarding the nature of God or the metaphysical realm amongst the religions they can’t all be right. Atheists argue that since they can’t all be right but they could all be wrong, they must therefore all be wrong. This seems to dispose of a good baby with some rather dubious bath water. Being true to the scientific method one should argue that there are many possible conclusions and that since a large body of people believe that there is a metaphysical realm complete with a supreme being (i.e. a God), but disagree on the nature of the realm and/or God, then there should be more exploration of the nature of the realm rather than dismissing it’s existence out of hand. This is indeed what modern theists appear to be doing, refining their view of who or what God is and how God fits into a metaphysical realm – a perfectly valid scientific thing to do. It is the proper scientific approach to the question.


Monday, July 9, 2007

It started at Easter time

Easter has been and gone amidst the usual cry of Christians claiming “the reason for season” and the anti-Christian lobby in full cry demanding the obliteration of everything religious from Easter. Claiming intellectual high ground atheists profess to have the answer and to be seeking an end to the mythical nonsense and a return to rationality. Did they have a point I asked myself? Atheism appears to have real appeal; it professes to be rational, logical and to embody the scientific method – it proves God does not exist. I had not thought much about people actually being right or wrong in their belief or not in God. Perhaps there really is an answer. Easter seemed like a good time to explore the atheists’ claims – it just took a bit longer than I thought.

What started out as a challenging intellectual quest for an answer, researching arguments around the existence or not of God, ended in the conclusion that it is actually matter of choice. A choice of how we weigh the arguments and evidence. In the final analysis, a choice of what we choose to believe. The atheist arguments, while presented as rational and logical are often little more than vain exercises in semantics. Atheist reasoning around the God question does not appear to hold true to the scientific method, drawing what seem to be inappropriate conclusions. The theist case structure is different. It does not seek absolute rational proof and relies in part on reasoning and in part on anecdotal evidence. Neither case is proven and a firm belief in either requires an act of faith.

I did not expect to emerge from my research really worried, but I am. There are elements within atheism that project a growing militant fundamentalism as scary as the worst of religious fundamentalism. Given their own way, militant fundamentalists on either side would see our liberty curtailed and knowledge managed by their own “thought police”. Reading some of the extreme atheist rhetoric it is not hard to imagine the return of the excesses of the inquisition or ‘the cultural revolution’ and their repression of religious groups. Perhaps I was naïve, I thought atheists stood for intellectual freedom, freedom of speech and association - clearly many do not.


Friday, July 6, 2007

To post or not to post

With this blog I hope to take a stand against accepting populist views without subjecting them to the same level of criticism than that to which we tend to subject traditional views.

Sociological change is ever present.

What drives it?

Government policy, the media, popular opinion … ?

One observes ideas taking root in populist thinking, gaining strength and growing to perhaps have massive impact on our lives. It becomes unacceptable to voice contrary opinions.

Examples include:

  • Feminism
  • Dry right market forces economics
  • Abortion
  • Women in the workforce - childcare
  • Atheism
  • Restriction on child play (at school and elsewhere) in the interests of safety
  • No fault divorce

I am not saying that there is no merit in some of these causes. Certainly I believe some to be misguided. All would have benefited from informed debate. As a result some may have been abandoned or at least modified. Informed debate of course goes beyond visiting a large number of web sites that essentially support one side of the argument. Interesting that so many sites discourage debate about their views, but seek comments that support their views. This blog encourages thoughtful debate in line with the rules for comments