Home » Intelligent Design, Religion » The Root of All Evil?

The Root of All Evil?

I am Richard Dawkins’ worst nightmare — a former militant atheist and Darwinist, who finally realized that everything he believed about everything that mattered was wrong. My conversion came from many sources, too numerous to outline in a brief post, but one of them was reason and examination of the evidence.

Since my conversion I have come to know many wonderful people whose lives have been transformed for good in truly miraculous ways through their religious faith. One of them is the pastor of our church, Gary Kusunoki, who is a true saint in the traditional sense of that word.

Gary founded Safe Harbor, an international relief organization. He has repeatedly risked his life to help “the least, the last, and the lost.” Gary and his wife have adopted two Sudanese daughters. The first was an infant on the verge of starvation who was brought into his medical clinic. (She was living on a diet of grass, not expected to live through the night, and she fit in the palm of Gary’s hand.) The second adopted daughter was shot and left for dead at the age of nine when the people in her village were massacred.

You can view Gary’s family at our Calvary Chapel website.

I am curious. Where are the Safe Harbor organizations founded by fundamentalist atheist groups like those promoted by Richard Dawkins? And how is pastor Gary’s religious faith the root of anything that could be construed to be evil? In my opinion, his faith is the root of sainthood.

Whom should I admire and attempt to emulate, Gary Kusunoki or Richard Dawkins?

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

67 Responses to The Root of All Evil?

  1. Gosh I liked to hear more of your testimony Gil!

    ex-Militant atheist, wow praise God.

    Maybe there’s hope for Dr. Dawkins after all…

  2. Gil,

    I am happy you have found fulfillment in your faith and life. I truly am.

    But you have to be careful holding up the church as a flawless example of good and morality. For example: How many athiest organizations were responsible for the inquisition? The knife has two edges.

    And I am confident there are those who love and respect RD as well and see him as a postive force in their lives. There are many things I respect about Dawkins, though I am a Christian.

    This sounds as if you see Dawkins as the poster boy for atheists. He is not. Do you know that Dawkins hasn’t supported the poor and needy? Do you know he hasn’t risked his own life to help others?

    Better question: Have you risked your life to help others?

  3. Gil, I too am more intersted in your story than in someone else’s. What evidence caused you to abandon materialism? What events in your life were involved?

  4. jpark and bFast,

    Denyse is working on my story. She is far more eloquent than I.

  5. “But you have to be careful holding up the church as a flawless example of good and morality. For example: How many athiest organizations were responsible for the inquisition? The knife has two edges.” – ScaryFacts

    1) Gil was not comparing works of evil, but works of good. I think Christianity wins hands over Atheism on that basis.

    2) It’s interesting that you have to go back several centuries, and across the ocean (assuming you’re North American) to find an example of Christian brutality.

    3) There is actually a rational explanation for good works done in the name of Christ. Good works are a product of Christian teaching, not the natural desires of its adherents, which they are urged to resist. Atheism permits anything, since there is no higher authority enjoining any atheist either to do good or restrain his/her evil impulses.

  6. Russ,

    Thank you for making a thoughtful post.

    You said:

    “1) Gil was not comparing works of evil, but works of good. I think Christianity wins hands over Atheism on that basis.”

    You may be correct, you may not be. Non Christians are not an “organized group” so you argument is from silence. But Gil was specific in asking where these “atheist” groups exist. I think you could likely include all sorts of socially conscious groups in many countries including government programs and international relief agencies.

    “2) It’s interesting that you have to go back several centuries, and across the ocean (assuming you’re North American) to find an example of Christian brutality.”

    If you are asking if Christians today are sometimes lacking in compassion, there are a number of examples. For instance: Take a look at the average church member in your own church today and ask yourself how much he has sacrificed for the poor. As a group the Christian population of the US doesn’t give 10% to their church, let alone the poor.

    I can provide specific examples from prominent Christians and Christian organizations, but I believe most people will realize the truth of this argument from the above.

    “3) There is actually a rational explanation for good works done in the name of Christ. Good works are a product of Christian teaching, not the natural desires of its adherents, which they are urged to resist. Atheism permits anything, since there is no higher authority enjoining any atheist either to do good or restrain his/her evil impulses.”

    Are you saying atheists have no morality? I can demonstrate atheists, for example, have a lower divorce rate than professing Christians. Is this considered in your morality?

    My point is still made…if you want to discredit Dawkins by saying atheists don’t help people–the same argument can be made against Christians. If you want to demonstrate the truth of Christianity then you need to provide positive proofs of Cristianity rather than simply saying “he’s an evil atheist.”

  7. Gil was simply countering Dawkins’ claim that religion is ‘the root of all evil’. Neither he or russ was trying to ‘demonstrate the truth of Christianity’ through the morality of Christians, or the immorality of athiests.

    BTW, I suspect athiests have a lower divorce rate because they get married less.

  8. “Gil was simply countering Dawkins’ claim that religion is ‘the root of all evil’. Neither he or russ was trying to ‘demonstrate the truth of Christianity’ through the morality of Christians, or the immorality of athiests.”

    Yet, he challenged Dawkins to provide examples of atheists who have done things comparable to his own pastor. Yet, is he willing to provide evidence he is willing to do the same things he expects of atheist Dawkins?

    I have risked my life to share the gospel with others. Those who take that lightly I don’t treat with much respect.

    “BTW, I suspect athiests have a lower divorce rate because they get married less.”

    And you source for this is…?

  9. Amen, Brother Scary!

    An ideology can’t be defined by the actions of individuals that adhere to that ideology. That goes for atheism and Christianity. Just because you know a guy who did some good things who happens to be a Christian it doesn’t mean that all Christians are good and people who aren’t Christians are evil. There are plenty of “good” atheists and plenty of “bad” Christians.

  10. “BTW, I suspect athiests have a lower divorce rate because they get married less.”

    Um… no. He means the rate (%) of divorce among Christians is higher than among non-Christians. It’s not a raw number, it’s the percentage of marriages that end in divorce.

  11. “He means the rate (%) of divorce among Christians is higher than among non-Christians. It’s not a raw number, it’s the percentage of marriages that end in divorce. ”

    No, data demonstrates the Christians have a higher rate of divorce than Atheists.

  12. An ideology can’t be defined by the actions of individuals that adhere to that ideology. That goes for atheism and Christianity. Just because you know a guy who did some good things who happens to be a Christian it doesn’t mean that all Christians are good and people who aren’t Christians are evil. There are plenty of “good” atheists and plenty of “bad” Christians”

    Exactly my point cfrench. Thanks.

  13. ScaryFacts,

    For example: How many athiest organizations were responsible for the inquisition?

    That’s very narrow – The Inquisition, rather than atheist groups that behaved in the same manner as the inquisition, or worse. Plenty of examples of those – I wonder even bother naming them, since I’m sure you’ve heard them all before.

    Still, ‘Plenty of good atheists and bad christians’. Certainly, but those are by the christian standard – because there actually is a christian standard. There’s no real atheist standard to speak of; how can there be when you’re dealing with a group of people who are united in their belief that certain things do not exist, or effectively don’t?

    A good example – you talk about the comparative divorce rate of christians. Christians look upon divorce with varying degrees of negativity, that’s true. But do atheists? Are you saying that atheists would look negatively upon a thrice-divorced man? Couples engaging in premarital sex? Adultery? Polygamy?

    The list can go on and on. Mind you, I’m sure many atheists WOULD frown upon these things, some more likely than others. Would the stances be owed to their atheism? I would suspect not. In fact, it’s my experience – your mileage may vary – that ‘good atheists’ tend not to like to dwell on just where their ‘good’ comes from, and why it does – it’s important they assert it certainly doesn’t come from any god or religion, and change the subject. It’s an important disconnect, right up there with Dawkins professing belief in the strictest determinism, but admitting it’s strangely important for people to not actually believe it day to day.

  14. OT:
    For whatever reason one might want to look at divorce/marriage rates:

    The data in Exhibit 8 underscore the accuracy of conventional wisdom in the main: those who identify with one or another of the main religious groups are considerably more likely to be married than those who have no religion. Particularly the “no religion” group was far more likely to be either single, never married or single, living with a partner than any other group. Indeed, the “no religion” group shows the lowest incidence of marriage (just 19%) of all twenty-two groups. In sharp contrast, those identifying with the Assemblies of God or Evangelical/Born Again Christians show the highest proportions married, 73% and 74% respectively.

    http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty.....ndings.htm

    Stats at
    http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/images/image022.gif

    NO RELIGION
    19% married
    9 % divorced

    CHRISTIAN
    56% married
    9 % divorced

    CATHOLIC
    60% married
    9 % divorced

    Assemblies of God
    73% married
    10% divorced

    Evangelical
    74% married
    7% divorced

    Total US
    59% married
    9% divorced

  15. Hey GilD, I also admire pastor Gary as a man who truly walks what it means to follow Messiah. His faith was one of the beacons of light that kept me from abandoning the faith when I left my own conservatism…just one of those examples that there are real men of faith still around. I love his organization and the work they do. You’re blessed to have him as a pastor.

    Atom

  16. “If you are asking if Christians today are sometimes lacking in compassion, there are a number of examples. For instance: Take a look at the average church member in your own church today and ask yourself how much he has sacrificed for the poor. As a group the Christian population of the US doesn’t give 10% to their church, let alone the poor.” – ScaryFacts

    The word Christian can be defined in many ways:

    1. Anyone with the spirit of God.

    Unfalsifiable.. and thus near meaningless definition.

    2. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.

    Reasonable, but this definition also happens to include Adolf Hitler as well as, according to the Bible, false prophets, demons and satan himself.
    “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21

    3. Anyone who believes in, and follows the example of Jesus Christ.

    This is to me probably the best definition of a Christian. For even in the Bible it is written:
    “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” – Matthew 7:16

    In the days following 9/11, too often people see the danger of religious fanticism, without seeing the danger of indifference. While it may be true that Christians, defined as anyone who identifies with the Christian faith, doesn’t give 10% to their Church, let alone the poor, more often than not most of such professing Christians aren’t living as Christians at all, but rather as practical atheists. This is the opposite of religious fanaticism, the evil of religious indifference.

    “Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent. This frenzy of the indifferent is in truth a terrible thing; it has made all monstrous and widely pervading persecutions. In this degree it was not the people who cared who ever persecuted; the people who cared were not sufficiently numerous. It was the people who did not care who filled the world with fire and oppression. It was the hands of the indifferent that lit the faggots; it was the hands of the indifferent that turned the rack. There have come some persecutions out of the pain of a passionate certainty; but these produced, not bigotry, but fanaticism — a very different and a somewhat admirable thing. Bigotry in the main has always been the pervading omnipotence of those who do not care crushing out those who care in darkness and blood.” – GK Chesterton

  17. Jesus said the problem is with man’s heart. It wasn’t long before the sheep were fleeced and slaughtered. History shows us time and time again that the root of evil is man’s heart! Evolution and religion are often used as a justification for the evil, but if you look closer you will see that the motives are from the heart. The orthodox will never seek conquest, politics, murder, fights, steal, lust, etc because their hope is not in this world. If science can explain the actions of a man’s heart I’ll become an evolutionist.

  18. “Non Christians are not an “organized group” so you argument is from silence. But Gil was specific in asking where these “atheist” groups exist. I think you could likely include all sorts of socially conscious groups in many countries including government programs and international relief agencies.”

    This makes it more difficult, since many Christians are involved in otherwise secular aid organizations (like my wife, who worked many years at United Way, as did Jews, Muslims and more at her office). It still stands that atheists do not self-organize to do good, this makes sense since there is no need or desire to self-organize–why should they, according to their worldview? Remove the religious from the world and those altruistic (either selfish or inconsistent) atheists will have a real problem getting anything done (partially because there aren’t enough of them spread about). Remove the atheists and good will still flourish.

  19. I actually think the real problem with Dawkins’ POV is that he believes in the perfectability of man. He thinks one of the worst things Christianity teaches people is that they are bad and need to work against this.

    Of course, on this at least, the guy is an idiot because if you look at history, those endorsing this sort of perfectability of man nonsense, be it through education, ideology, economic method, sharia law, etc , have been those most expert at creating immense suffering and evil.

  20. Going back to the charitable giving topic for a moment, check this out:

    http://www.barna.org/FlexPage......pdateID=52

    “More than four out of every five adults donated some money to non-profit organizations last year. Eighty four percent made at least one donation during the year, which is a slight decrease from the 87% who did so in 1998. The people most likely to share their wealth with others were evangelicals (93%),…”

    and,

    “The people least likely to give contributions included adults who do not attend a church (27% of whom made no donations last year)”

    Well, while it is true that we all need to give more, it is certainly true that one set of beliefs leads to more giving than another, as demonstrated.

  21. WinglesS your post no16 -is a mirror .great quote from G.K.Chesterton.Can I use this post on my blog?
    Cheers.

  22. ScaryFacts

    Non Christians per se are not an organized group but that’s a straw man. Atheists certainly form atheist organizations and it’s those that Gil was asking about.

    Near as I can tell the only people these organizations are interested in helping are other atheists. The charitable works that typify Christian organizations appear to be absent from atheist organizations. That was Gil’s point and nothing at all you’ve said shows otherwise.

  23. Another quick note on Atheists. When Barbara Walters did her interview on Heaven and it aired on network tv (more on: http://www.beliefnet.com/story.....118_1.html)

    She interviewed Atheists, and even attended and filmed one of their “events”. Oh yes, they had a retreat and picnic, made to look like your standard church retreat. As if to say, we can have that fun and fellowship as well.

    The thing that struck me is that, as hard as they worked to gin up a sense of joy and frivolity, it just came across as pathetic. As if they, particularly the kids, were trying so hard to experience joy, but not quite getting there. It was painful to watch, I just felt a sense of sorrow.

  24. ScaryFacts: “For example: How many athiest organizations were responsible for the inquisition? The knife has two edges.”

    The common Christian had very little, if anything, to do with the Inquisition. Rather it was the Catholic leaders and heads of state who were responsible for the inquisitions (plural, there were several of them.)

    I would say that neither atheism or religion is the primary motive of such things. Rather it is the possessors of power (no matter what convenient guise it falls under) who do most of the damage to humans and society. Most people down thru history seem to just want to eat, sleep, work, have sex, travel, and play with their kids and grandkids.

  25. ScareyFacts: “Are you saying atheists have no morality?”

    Their morality is more or less derived from the culture they live in. What do you suppose atheists living in the Assyrian culture would have been like 2500 years ago? On what basis would they have been less cut throat and terrorizing?

    ScaryFacts: “I can demonstrate atheists, for example, have a lower divorce rate than professing Christians. Is this considered in your morality?”"

    That statistic is meaningless without also considing the marriage rate among atheists. You could go one further and point out that the divorce rate among gay people is much less than the average Christian. Again, meaningless without an accompanying statistic of marriage.

    If you are going to tout a statistic, it’s up to you to provide a meaningful context.

  26. “If you are going to tout a statistic, it’s up to you to provide a meaningful context.”

    Mike, if you are going to demand things like that, then you are going to ruin the general use of statistics.

  27. from no.1:
    ex-Militant atheist, wow praise God.

    No, surely not. The original post said that the impetus came from studying evidence, not revelation. I presume we want to say he had free will in so doing / changing beliefs, so God deserves no praise at all. Otherwise, every time someone moves from a faith to a rationalist position do we blame God?

  28. I often hear atheists or agnostics blame their unbelief on all the evil done in the “name of religion.” What they fail to realize is that MAN is corrupt – not God and not Christianity. God instructs us to

    *be forgiving (Matthew 18)
    * love (which means “an active goodwill”) my enemies (Luke 6:27)
    *do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27)
    *bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28)
    *pray for those who spitefully use us(Luke 6:28)
    *be giving (Luke 6:30)
    *do to men as I want them to do to us(Luke 6:31)
    *repay no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17)
    *live peaceably with all men as much as it depends on us (Romans 12:18)
    *obey laws (Romans 13:1), as long as they do not conflict with God’s laws

    These behaviors are far from evil and are actually necessary if we want to avoid living in chaos.

  29. Christianity recruits converts from a notorious pool. Starting with Jesus himself, missionaries and evangelists have always sought out the worst kind of people for converts. You don’t see many Great Men flocking to Christianity, but lots of outcasts, criminals and misfits.

    Atheism is a luxury that wretched men and women cannot afford. They bring many of their failings with them into the church.

  30. ScaryFacts: “Are you saying atheists have no morality?”

    No. But I’d say that materialist atheists have no basis for morality and therefore no basis to call anything “evil.”

    Their own world view tells us explicitly and repeatedly (and stridently, in Dawkins’ case…) that the world and everything in it—including us—has been created and preserved by a blind process which cares nothing about us or anyone else. Indeed it cannot care and cannot prefer one course over another, because it is non-thinking and amoral. We’re here because we’ve won the abiogenetic lottery and have no more value than any other chemical reaction that might be performed in a science lab.

    Given these facts, which from the Dawkinsesque perspective are not in dispute, what basis does he or any other materialist have to call anything “evil?”

    The best explanation for morality that they can come up with is a just-so story that goes something like this: we’re a social animal and somehow being altruistic conferred an evolutionary advantage. And so altruism (or “good” or “love” or some other moral value) was “selected for” and it developed over the millennia. A typical example is here: http://www.infidels.org/librar.....ermer.html

    What’s interesting though is to compare the standard story to what Sam Harris said in the Wired article a couple days ago. He says that there is:

    nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors.”

    Hmmm. The experts clearly tell us that the altruism is “good” and the rape is “bad.” No disagreement there, but what’s the basis for that distinction, when both were presumably created by the same unthinking mechanism for the same non-moral reason: to confer “evolutionary advantages for our ancestors?”

    C’mon: everybody knows rape is bad.

    Yes, but Why?

    The only way they can make this distinction is by applying a standard that is higher than either of them: a standard that stands over natural evolutionary processes, that is higher than these processes, that judges and evaluates some outputs of the processes as being better than others.

    It’s a tough position to be in: their own dogma informs them that no such standard exists—no such standard can exist. Their humanity tells them that they’re more than just very intelligent overgrown squirrels and that some things really are good and other things terribly evil. What to do?

    As a theist, I think I know where the standard comes from. At least I have a reason for believing in such a standard. The atheist, on the other hand–the rational man who stands on “facts and science”–can only say as Dawkins did recently that this is an example of “an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable.”

    Intolerable, indeed. For once I agree with Dawkins.

  31. littlejon,

    You said “I presume we want to say he had free will in so doing / changing beliefs, so God deserves no praise at all. Otherwise, every time someone moves from a faith to a rationalist position do we blame God? ”

    I think we are getting tripped up in semantics. While I don’t know what was in the mind of jpark320 meant by saying “praise God” since I have not yet received the mind reading mutation that would certainly be eligible for natural selection, I suspect he is not implying that God forced someone to move to faith. No, rather we are thankful that we have such a choice that is possible to us. Everyone must make a choice, that is the nature of life.

  32. “More than four out of every five adults donated some money to non-profit organizations last year. Eighty four percent made at least one donation during the year, which is a slight decrease from the 87% who did so in 1998. The people most likely to share their wealth with others were evangelicals (93%),…”
    I would assume the high percentage of evangelicals is due to the fact that churches are 501( c)(3) “charitable” organizations.

    As far as the inquistion:
    I don’t necessarily he was pointing the finger at the “common Christian,” he was merely pointing out the fact that religion was used to rally the troops… sort of like jihad. The leaders may have had their own motives, but it was done in the name of religion.

  33. “I actually think the real problem with Dawkins’ POV is that he believes in the perfectability of man…”

    What’s wrong with that?
    “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect…”
    Jesus seems to believe in the perfectability of man… he seems to command it. As Christians, I should hope that we believe in the perfectability of man. Jesus was a perfect man, right?

  34. Charlie

    The statistics you referenced certainly point to more marriages amongst those with “no religion” end in divorce. For every two married people in this group there is one divorced person. This is quite a bit higher ratio than any other group.

    However, it ocurred to me that there is a critical category missing in the “married” percentage for all groups. There should be a category for married (in first marriage) and married (not first marriage). There may be a much larger propensity to remarry quickly in religious groups (peer pressure perhaps) so that the divorced number is small at any one time but is much larger in comparison to those still in a first marriage.

    I suspect that is the case but without the data I don’t know if non-religious still come out with the highest divorce per marriage rate. The reason I’m suspicious is I’ve too often heard that one of every two marriages will end in divorce. Even if that’s exagerated the overall number of married/divorced for all adults is about six to one which is far more than the commonly tossed about number of one of two marriages ending in divorce.

  35. “Near as I can tell the only people these organizations are interested in helping are other atheists. The charitable works that typify Christian organizations appear to be absent from atheist organizations…”

    There are plenty of secular organizations that do charitable works:
    http://www.aclu.org/
    That one came to mind…

  36. For example: How many athiest organizations were responsible for the inquisition? The knife has two edges.

    Scary Facts wrote this. Well, the “real” facts are that probably around 100 (78 in one book; 150 in another) people died in two centuries and a half of the Inquisition, many by the Spanish Inquisition of which the Vatican had to suppress because of its excesses. The “Inquisition”, like Darwinism, is a complete myth made up by the same secularists who are firmly attached to Darwinism. While there is no excuse for this, how does 100 compare to 6 million Jews, or 3 million Cambodians?

  37. cfrench

    Secular isn’t the same as atheist. Try again.

  38. Hey Gil,
    Can’t believe I work about 1/2 mile from your church and drive by it almost daily when I go to Target.

    Small world!!

  39. cfrench,

    Yep, that humble ACLU organization that is dedicated to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and housing the homeless:

    http://www.amazon.com/ACLU-vs-.....38;s=books

  40. Secular is “non-Christian.” More broadly, it’s non-religion. This is what Dawkins promotes, not necessarily “militant atheism.” Why would atheists or agnostics be compelled to found religious organizations to do their charitable works? They wouldn’t… that’s why secular organizations apply here. You make atheism out to be religion, it’s not… hence Dawkins’ views on religion.

  41. cfrench,

    “There are plenty of secular organizations that do charitable works: http://www.aclu.org/

    I’m actually pretty sure there are some secular organizations that do charitable work. Or at least I was, until you chose the ACLU. Really, if that’s the best you have to offer, you may as well cite the Better Business Bureau – quite a stretch from the charity the original post was talking about, unless you’re trying on purpose to get some eye-rolling. :)

    As far as “Be Ye perfect” goes, that was a command – strive for perfection. But it says nothing about the perfectability of humans – certainly not in the way Dawkins seems to see it.

  42. 42

    Quick Fact: Atheists killed more people in the last century than all of the crimes of 2000 years of “church” history combined.

    http://www.godandscience.org/a.....ities.html

  43. cfrench,

    “Secular is “non-Christian.” More broadly, it’s non-religion. This is what Dawkins promotes, not necessarily “militant atheism.” Why would atheists or agnostics be compelled to found religious organizations to do their charitable works? They wouldn’t… that’s why secular organizations apply here. You make atheism out to be religion, it’s not… hence Dawkins’ views on religion.”

    Dawkins doesn’t promote militant atheism? Dawkins doesn’t treat atheism as a religion?

    All I can say is, you apparently don’t read much Dawkins.

  44. Near as I can tell the only people these organizations are interested in helping are other atheists.

    Dave,
    Near as I can tell most charitable Jewish organizations are only interested in helping other Jews. Ditto for Muslim organizations. Cross-cultural charity is a peculiarity of Christianity, particularly Catholicism. When was the last time you heard of the Buddhists building a hospital?

    At the same time, I’m not sure your dismal of “secular” is “not atheist” is as strong as you’d like it to be. Many charitable secular organizations exist and it is often philanthropically better to have fewer, larger organizations than many, smaller ones (which is why Buffet is roundly applauded by the non-profit sector for giving all his money to Gates) because it cuts down on administrtive costs and increases charitable output. Atheists, who are few in number, might find that current secular organizations fit their charitable goals and support those existing ones. One would need to look at charitable giving of atheists and compare that to religious people. That “atheist” charitable organizations do not exist really tells us little about the motivations of atheists.

  45. Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

  46. cfrench:

    Secular is “non-Christian.” More broadly, it’s non-religion. This is what Dawkins promotes, not necessarily “militant atheism.”

    Dawkins does indeed promote militant atheism. He even castigates people and organizations (even the NCSE!) that refuse to openly attack people of faith and their beliefs.

    DaveScot:

    Atheists certainly form atheist organizations and it’s those that Gil was asking about.

    That’s correct. I was referring to organizations that are explicitly formed on the basis of positive atheism. There may be some charitable operations comparable to Safe Harbor, formed by these groups, but I am not aware of them.

    littlejon:

    from no.1: ex-Militant atheist, wow praise God. (jpark320)

    No, surely not. The original post said that the impetus came from studying evidence, not revelation.

    I said that my conversion came from many sources, too numerous to outline in a brief post, but one of them was reason and examination of the evidence. There was also C.S. Lewis (and others), a Christian friend, Scripture, much reflection, my five-year-old daughter, and yes, the influence of the Holy Spirit. Christian theology teaches that no one can convert anyone else, and that no one can be solely reasoned into faith (although the influence of others and reason can be tools to that end). True conversion is only possible through the influence of the Holy Spirit. So, jpark230 gives credit where it is due.

    One person who had a big influence on me back in my atheist days was Dennis Prager, a religious Jew and talk-radio host who is a great defender of Christianity (like Michael Medved). Prager makes an interesting point: When someone commits a horrible, heinous crime, many people ask, What could have made this person go so bad? Prager says that it’s no mystery why people do evil. As vpr commented: “Jesus said the problem is with man’s heart.” The real question is, What makes people do good?

    Prager asks: “If you were walking down a dark street at night in a bad part of town, and a group of young men emerged from a building and started walking behind you, would you be comforted to know that they just came from a Bible study?”

    Lurker:

    Hey Gil, Can’t believe I work about 1/2 mile from your church and drive by it almost daily when I go to Target. Small world!!

    Come by and worship with us! We hold services at 8:30 and 10:30 AM every Sunday. And please introduce yourself. I’m the guy who plays keyboards in the praise band.

  47. Gil,
    Thanks for the invite. Our family worships at Saddleback already, but someday I might stop by and say “hi”. Perhaps we could grab a cup of joe at IHOP across the street.

  48. Dave,
    You are absolutely right about the limitations of the study I cited.
    I cited it to answer the challenge “is there any evidence that atheists have a lower marriage rate than religious people?”.
    Of course they do, less than a third that of the overall population.

    The much smaller studies, the infamous Barna polls which are used to make the claim that atheists have a lower divorce rate than the religious, are using a raw figure of divorce/1000 individuals. This is obviously skewed by the very much lower marriage rate of atheists.

    However, other data is available from the Barna Group which lumps these categories much more closely:

    Among those who have been married, more than one out of every three (35%) have also been divorced. One out of every five adults (18%) who has ever been divorced has been divorced multiple times. That represents 7% of all Americans who have been married.

    The research revealed that Boomers continue to push the limits regarding the prevalence of divorce. Whereas just one-third (33%) of the married adults from the preceding two generations had experienced a divorce, almost half of all married Boomers (46%) have already undergone a marital split. This means Boomers are virtually certain to become the first generation for which a majority experienced a divorce.

    Among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.

    “If we eliminate those who became Christians after their divorce, the divorce figure among born again adults drops to 34% – statistically identical to the figure among non-Christians.”

    Yet the survey found that the percentage of atheists and agnostics who have been married and divorced is 37% – very similar to the numbers for the born again population.

    http://72.14.253.104/search?q=.....ent=safari

    There is still some ambiguity in the wording. The first quote I provided gives the overall meaning to their phrase “married”. It means one who has been married.
    Without access to their raw data, and not finding any such resources, I have to assume that this is not a shorthand for “all marriages” and that it does not take into account the fact that some of those “married” who’ve experienced a divorce have not, in fact, experienced multiple divorces.
    The poll is not oblivious to this fact, as it does cite that “(18%) who has ever been divorced has been divorced multiple times ” (23% for born-agains) but the versions I have read do not give an accounting of this.

    Also, the 50% of marriages ends in divorce is a faulty statistic based upon comparing the marriages in one year to the divorces in that year.

    But researchers say that this is misleading because the people who are
    divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying, and
    that the statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates. In
    fact, they say, studies find that the divorce rate in the United States has
    never reached one in every two marriages, and new research suggests that,
    with rates now declining, it probably never will.

    The method preferred by social scientists in determining the divorce rate is
    to calculate how many people who have ever married subsequently divorced.
    Counted that way, the rate has never exceeded about 41 percent, researchers
    say.

    http://72.14.253.104/search?q=.....ent=safari

    Again, the same ambiguity in the wording, however, as this does not allow that a person who has been married and has been divorced
    may well have several failed marriages behind them.
    I’d like to assume that researchers are just giving us a shorthand and that this has been accounted for, but I can’t claim that.

  49. “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn… [i]f they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.”

    -Saint Augustine

  50. I am a Christian, but I sympathize with a lot of the things Dawkins says. Saint Augustine said it perfectly.

  51. Prager asks: “If you were walking down a dark street at night in a bad part of town, and a group of young men emerged from a building and started walking behind you, would you be comforted to know that they just came from a Bible study?”

    :lol: perfect!

  52. Prager asks: “If you were walking down a dark street at night in a bad part of town, and a group of young men emerged from a building and started walking behind you, would you be comforted to know that they just came from a Bible study?”

    Absolutely. Match. Game. Point, if by “religion” Dembski means modern Christianity. A few hundred years ago some Bible students would have had no problems hanging you by the neck until you were dead for various things we would laff at today.

  53. Dawkins shoots at too many targets, when his real point is against the predations of universalist, revealed, religions.

    As mike1962 notes above, Dawkins should really keep his powder dry with respect to Christianity, and probably could well spend some time reading Pope Benedict’s speech at Regensburg.

    Contemporary Christianity is almost wholly benevolent, and shows no signs of atavism. The Bible does indeed contain passages that would be considered perfectly awful if anyone actually paid attention to them anymore. But they don’t, and (extremely rare exceptions notwithstanding) aren’t going to.

    Islam, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. The very essence of the Q’uran makes it nearly impossible to ignore clear divine directions that make Mein Kampf appear benign in comparison.

    A poster above attributed the slaughters of Nazism and Communism to atheism. While superficially obvious, that is incorrect. Both Nazism and Communism are examples of Baroque (that is, elaborate, extensive and convoluted) Monarchic (argument from solely from authority) belief systems.

    Revealed religions are also Baroque/Monarchic. All B/M belief systems, when they get their hands on government power, become murderous. It just so happens that the Nazis and Communists got their run in the 20th century, when their predatory reach could meet their grasp.

    It is to Christianity’s benefit that it has never really held the reigns of power.

    Anyone care to guess what will happen if the mullahcracy gets its hand on nuclear weapons?

    Also, it is impossible to ignore the fact that believers are much more charitably active than non-believers.

    But claims to moral superiority are overblown.

  54. “What’s wrong with that?”

    The problem with Dawkins and others ideas of mans perfectability is that at base they embrace a notion that man is basically good and can fix his own problems through education or the proper redistrubtion of wealth, or the right sort of legal code.

    They deny that the problem with man is that he is fallen and sinful and in need of a savior, and instead that man is just misguided.

    That is radically different from the message of Christ and the Gospel.

    Man cannot fix his own problems.

  55. jwrennie:

    They deny that the problem with man is that he is fallen and sinful and in need of a savior, and instead that man is just misguided.

    That is radically different from the message of Christ and the Gospel.

    Man cannot fix his own problems.

    Anyone who thinks that he is “basically good” is completely out of touch with his sin nature. It was this realization (Christians call this the conviction of the Holy Spirit), that initially led me to reconsider my worldview.

    Christianity is totally antithetical to the popular contemporary view that “I’m okay and you’re okay, and all we need is more self-esteem.” Christianity is the ultimate in politically incorrect thinking. It teaches that I’m not okay, should be honest enough to admit it, and that self-esteem is pride and the root of many sins.

    I certainly don’t claim to have conquered all of this, and that’s why I go to church every Sunday. Church is AA for recovering sinners, and I’m one of them.

  56. frisbee,

    Revealed religions are also Baroque/Monarchic. All B/M belief systems, when they get their hands on government power, become murderous. It just so happens that the Nazis and Communists got their run in the 20th century, when their predatory reach could meet their grasp.

    The point of bringing up Soviet Russia, Mao’s China, eugenics and other points of athieistic infamy is primarily to answer several common claims against religion. But the most important one for this topic is that religion – Christianity in particular – is a unique enabler of terror, death, and oppression.

    That the Nazis and Communists – with strong atheist representation in the Nazis, and practically total uniformity of it among the Communists – were ‘Baroque/Monarchic’ misses the point. It’s enough to show that the rejection of so-called ‘myth and superstition’ does not preclude individuals or even whole regimes from committing barbarous, murderous acts. That atheist individuals or groups can become ‘Baroque/Monarchic’ is a strong theist rebuttal to the usual claims of innate reason and rationality of the negative view.

    As for the B/M nature of so-called revealed religions – I would argue that just about any strongly held belief, when held by people in a powerful governing role, can take on such a nature. The Christian (or even muslim, or – in some examples – buddhist) capability to do so as well says more about human nature than the faiths themselves, really.

  57. To Gil Dodgen: Congratulations, I’m glad you have found faith and meaning.

    I understand the apologetic nature of this webblog, hence the numerous mentions of Dawkins. But, I don’t think the demonization of all atheists as a class is helpful. Dawkins, on the other hand, is to be opposed vigorously due to his just plain rude attacks on religion. It is possible to be an atheist but admire religion for it’s utilitarian results in society. He is certainly not that kind of person.

    As to the frequent mentions of the sins of Christianty in the past (crusades, etc.), that is really old news. What matters today, which where we all live, is the present incarnation and nature of the Christian religion. The good outways the bad and to negate that effect presently and in the history of this nation is just to make a mistake. In America we have no state religion, but that doesn’t mean that the Christian religion hasn’t shaped the soul of this country. It has.

  58. All politics is religious in nature. All law is the imposition of someone’s morality, and a person’s morality is dependent upon their answers to “Where did we come from? What is the purpose to my existence? What should I be doing? What is real? Is this all there is?”

  59. bj: another name for “old news” is “history”. While I certainly agree that in general religion plays an overwhelmingly positive role in terms of developing the ethics of a people, I think that by its very nature (something revealed, something subjectively experienced, something open to various interpretations) it is vulnerable to gross misuse/abuse, and that this vulnerability should never, ever be forgotten or overlooked.

  60. nullasalus:

    I think we agree here. My categzorization of certain belief systems as B/M was solely to point out that there is a great deal in common between religions and Nazism/Communism. All have their revealed texts, priesthood, moral claims, and inevitable creation of exclusionary moral communities. The presence, or absence, of a supernatural being is not particularly important when it comes to the consequences.

    tinabrewer:

    You mean, like this?

  61. #19 jwrennie:

    I actually think the real problem with Dawkins’ POV is that he believes in the perfectability of man.

    That is abslutely not true. Whatever problems you may wish to attribute to Dawkins, the perfectability of man is not one of them.

  62. tinabrewer-another name for “old news” is “history”.

    Nicely put and point well-taken as is your whole post. Because of the points you mentioned, I think that all believers of any persuasion should daily make this simple statement, “I could be wrong.”

  63. frisbee,

    My categzorization of certain belief systems as B/M was solely to point out that there is a great deal in common between religions and Nazism/Communism. All have their revealed texts, priesthood, moral claims, and inevitable creation of exclusionary moral communities.

    When a ‘revealed text’ can be Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto, the priesthood can be party officers, the moral claims can be any claims whatsoever, and the exclusionary moral communities can be party or government membership, you’ve established that there’s a great deal in common between religions and just about any identifiable group that has or will exist.

    Though I would agree with the contention that atheistic belief systems, especially when institutionalized, have great potential (even inclination) to mimic the negative traits of religion in every conceivable way.

  64. “If you were walking down a dark street at night in a bad part of town, and a group of young men emerged from a building and started walking behind you, would you be comforted to know that they just came from a Bible study?”

    Sure, but wouldn’t it be pretty much the same if you knew that those guys were coming out a secular humanist meeting? Or for that matter, out of the local chess club? Of yoga class?

    On the other hand, what if you are a black person walking at night in a seedy, white part of a Southern town? Would you fear young men coming out of the local secular humanist meeting more or less than young men coming out the local Christian fundamentalist church? What if you were a transvestite – who would you fear most?

    Unfortunately it’s not that clear-cut, I think.

  65. nusallah:

    When a ‘revealed text’ can be Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto, the priesthood can be party officers, the moral claims can be any claims whatsoever, and the exclusionary moral communities can be party or government membership, you’ve established that there’s a great deal in common between religions and just about any identifiable group that has or will exist.

    That is not true.

    Within Communism, The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital were treated precisely as revealed, universal truth. Communism most certainly made moral claims, and all communist regimes encouraged cults of personality as deity figures. What’s more, as interpreted by the “priesthood,” the “revealed” claims were by definition true.

    All the elements of organized religion, including moral fervor among its adherents, were present in Communism (for a particularly extreme example, see North Korea, which has elevated the cult of personality to the realm of the supernatural).

    Nazism, as a tribal/pagan phenomena, didn’t make universalist moral claims, but Mein Kampf was treated as gospel truth, and Hitler attained the status of a deity.

    Many historians view both as religions, because it is difficult, unless one insists that a supreme being be the only qualifier, to describe the characteristics of a religion while excluding Nazism and Communism.

    The point at hand is that focussing on the atheism of either (far more questionable for Nazism, BTW) is to focus on by far the least important aspect.

    Had Marx the sense to invoke supernatural imprimatur, would things have been any different?

  66. Andrea: “Sure, but wouldn’t it be pretty much the same if you knew that those guys were coming out a secular humanist meeting?”

    Perhaps. But secular humanist meetings are essentially nonexistent, and therefore irrelevant. They have nothing to meet about. Belief in non-belief is a hard sell, since it produces no transformed lives.

    If secular humanism had been demonstrated to be a life-transforming philosophy, one should expect to find SH churches everywhere, because people would flock to it to find meaning and purpose in their lives. But there are none, because it’s spiritually bankrupt.

    Secular humanism is essentially nihilism, packaged with a pseudo-spiritual gloss. Most people recognize this.

  67. “Perhaps. But secular humanist meetings are essentially nonexistent, and therefore irrelevant. They have nothing to meet about. Belief in non-belief is a hard sell, since it produces no transformed lives.”

    Don’t dodge her argument.

    “If secular humanism had been demonstrated to be a life-transforming philosophy, one should expect to find SH churches everywhere, because people would flock to it to find meaning and purpose in their lives. But there are none, because it’s spiritually bankrupt.”

    Who cares… just because something sounds nice or is comforting or inspires one to do “good” things doesn’t make it TRUE.

Leave a Reply