The American Enlightenment 6

John Adams said:

The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

Thomas Paine said:

The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing and admits of no conclusion.

The Bible: a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalise mankind.

The Christian system of religion is an outrage on common sense.

The Church was resolved to have a New Testament, and out of the loads of rubbish that were presented it voted four to be Gospels, and others to be Epistles, as we now find them arranged.

This is the rubbish called Revealed Religion!

Thomas Jefferson said:

I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.

Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.

George Washington said:

Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.

James Madison said:

During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

In no instance have the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.

Benjamin Franklin said:

I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absented myself from Christian assemblies.

Theodore Roosevelt said:

To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against that liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life.

Of statism, mortality, and infinite discontent 5

Victor Davis Hanson has a good article at PajamaMedia on how socialism – or “statism” – is failing all over the world (as it must: what cannot work will not work), just as America is being led on to the socialist ramp down to poverty and serfdom.

We agree with much that he says – as we often do with this insightful and well-informed writer – but there is one point on which we take issue.

Here’s part of what he writes:

Survey the world’s statist systems of every stripe, from soft to hard. One sees either failure and misery or stasis and lethargy. At the most extreme, a North Korea is turning into a Neanderthal society where subjects eat grass. Castro’s Cuba is imploding, and the Great Leader in his dotage is now renouncing his communist catastrophe. Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela proves that an even an oil-rich exporter can destroy itself with self-imposed socialism.

India progressed only when it adopted free markets. People do not outsource 1-800 numbers to socialist paradises. No need to review the Soviet collapse or the change in China from a peasant to a wealth-building capitalist society. Europe for a while longer works despite (rather than because of) democratic socialism. From Germany to Greece, Europe is moving away from the encroaching public sector that has nearly destroyed the European Union.

So the trend of the world — even after the meltdown of September 2008 — is away from statism, except in the United States. I don’t say that lightly or as a slur, but empirically. The Obama administration has absorbed large sectors of the auto industry and some segments of banking and insurance. The student loan program is federalized. …

The percentage of GDP that is government-run will markedly increase; the trillion-plus annual deficits, in gorge the beast fashion, will force higher taxation to pay for redistributive payouts and entitlements — or inflate the currency to erode saved capital. The UN is worshiped and reported to. Allies are now neutrals, and enemies are courted. We seek to prove that we are not “exceptional,” but simply one among many — a sort of socialist approach to foreign policy where all nations are the same.

Symbolically the president, before and during his tenure, has called for “redistributive change,” “to spread the wealth,” and openly suggested that, at some arbitrary point (known to him alone, but apparently sufficiently high enough to allow Costa del Sol and Martha Vineyard vacations) one need not make (as in, keep one’s earnings) additional income. I could go on, but you get the picture: Obama would like to take us down a path that leads inevitably to a Greece, even as the world is racing away from it.

He goes on to list five dangers of socialism.

One of them is under the heading of Demography. It suggests how socialism may explain shrinking populations.

When one demands cradle to grave care, a classical (now scoffed at) reason for childbearing (to change diapers for those who might one day change your own in gratitude) is destroyed. And if there is no struggle to create income and savings (the state provides all needs; the state ensures against all risks; the state takes away most income; the state gobbles most inheritance), why worry about transcendence or passing anything along to children — or why children at all?

So far, so good. If people are supplied with everything they need to survive, what should they strive for, what do they live for? Some might set themselves their own purposes, but many may be content to lie in the lap of the state and purr. And growl and grumble too, of course.

But Hanson goes on:

Agnosticism leads to a shrinking population and vice versa. If the state is the god, and defines happiness as social justice in the material sense, then the here and now is all that matters. The state defines morality as the greatest good for the greatest number — as it sees it.

Lost is a sense of individual tragedy, self-sacrifice, personal accountability for sin and transgression, and appreciation for a larger world beyond and after this one. A society that does not believe in a hereafter will be sorely disappointed that the state never quite satisfies its appetites. We see that hedonism well enough from Greece to California. “Never enough” (Numquam satis) is the new de facto motto.

No sane person loses a sense of individual tragedy. Everyone is doomed to die. Everyone, from the moment of his birth, suffers. And everyone in the course of his life does harm to other people, strive though he might not to. We are all hurt, and we all inflict hurt. An apt title for a biography of Everyman would be Poor Bastard!

Everyone endures disappointment. No appetite can ever be completely satisfied. Everyone has longings that are not material.

Almost everyone suffers remorse – which is an acceptance of personal accountability for wrong-doing. (Maybe not the Christian torturers and burners of heretics, and other such tyrants defending The Truth, religious or political.)

There is no world beyond or after this one. Death is the end of life. Death defines life. That is the meaning of “mortality”. A being can only be said to be alive if it can die.

The universe is a thing. No mind exists in it except the human mind, which is to say successive multitudes of mortal human minds. Only in each of us, embodied by the same dumb stuff as everything else, is there a self-conscious, reasoning, inventing “mind”. Strictly speaking, mind is a verb; it is an activity of the human brain that emerged at this end of an immensely long process of evolution.

The realm of the mind is infinite. Forever discontented, the uniquely human imagination roams wide. It discovers galaxies and electrons. It tries socialism and regrets it. It invents gods and heavens and hells – but they remain imaginary.

Unless someone can prove otherwise.

Jillian Becker September 15, 2010

The climate of unreason 0

We often quote Melanie Phillips, chiefly her columns in the Spectator, because we often think she is right. We also admire and are grateful for her courageous writing against – among other controversial subjects – the Islamic conquest of Europe, most notably in her book Londonistan.

In her new book, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power, she  expresses opinions on religion and science that we  do not agree with, though we find quite a lot of other ideas in it that we like.

She writes of “the climate of unreason”. Unfortunately, with this book she is contributing to it.

Here is what she writes about ‘Islamism’  – a concept invented by non-Muslims to avoid offending Muslims, or their own sense of fairness, or both, when they’re speaking critically of what Muslims do and believe:

I have used the word “Islamist” to denote those who wish to impose Islam upon unbelievers and to extinguish individual freedom and human rights among Muslims. There are, however, scholars who hold that Islam is an inherently coercive ideology and that therefore “Islamist” is a meaningless word that creates a false distinction. It is not my purpose here to enter that particular argument. I use the term “Islamist” not to make a theological point but to allow for the acknowledgment of those Muslims who support freedom and human rights and who threaten no one – and who are themselves principal victims of the jihad. I believe it is very important to acknowledge the existence of such Muslims who have a peaceable interpretation of their religion, just as its is very important not to sanitize and thus misrepresent the doctrines and history of Islam as a religion of conquest.”

While we welcome her plain assertion that Islam is a religion of conquest, we can only wonder who these Muslims can be who embrace the religion but not its ideology of conquest and forced submission, since that is what it is about and all that it is about.

She goes on:

The book explores the remarkable links and correspondences between left-wing “progressives” and Islamists, environmentalists and fascists, militant atheists and fanatical religious believers. All are united by the common desire to bring about through human agency the perfection of the world, an agenda which history teaches us leads invariably – and paradoxically – to tyranny, terror and crimes against humanity.

Again we are largely  in agreement with her, but are surprised by the inclusion of atheists in her list. “Militant” atheists, she says. Perhaps on the model of “Islamists” she could have constructed the word “atheism-ists” to distinguish them from those atheists “who support freedom and human rights and who threaten no one”.

Who are these militant atheists? Where are they placing their bombs? We know that there are atheist progressives, atheist fascists, and atheist environmentalists (just as there are atheist conservatives, atheist libertarians, atheists altruists), but we had not noticed that it is atheism they are trying to impose on the rest of the world. Collectivism, yes. Poverty, yes. World government, yes. But atheism – who says so, when and where, and above all, how? Her book, though it deals with some left-wing atheists whose political views we strongly disagree with, does not tell us.

In Memoriam: Antony Flew, Philosopher of Atheism 8

[Photo: John Lawrence]

Antony Flew, the philosopher, atheist, and defender of freedom, died on April 8, 2010, at his home in Reading, England. I knew him, to my pride and delight, for many years. We would meet a few times a year (we both served on the Council of the Freedom Association, as I still do), and wrote to each other frequently about books, events, issues, campaigns, tactics. On politics and religion we saw eye to eye. We were both atheist conservatives. He was a classical scholar, more widely and deeply erudite than anyone else I’ve ever known. And he had the humility of true greatness. When I asked him to write the introduction to a new edition of a book I was editing on, and against, Karl Marx (The Red Prussian, by Leopold Schwarzschild) he told me that he was not the best person for the task, and gave me a short list of experts who, he insisted, knew more than he did and whose names would better grace the book. Only when they’d all declared themselves unable or unwilling, Antony said he would “do his best” to write a good introduction – and a very good introduction it is.

Obituaries on both sides of the Atlantic say that Antony Flew was the world’s most famous atheist, and that he suddenly changed his mind and declared that God exists after all.

It is true that he did say this. But he never said it when he was in his right mind.

It would have been unkind of me to write what I am about to write while he was alive. Yet I think it is absolutely right that I say it now, because it’s necessary to do him justice. So I declare that the reasoning by which he arrived at his certainty that God does not exist was never cancelled or reversed by the sloppy arguments of his senility.

Of his many books, the one that matters most for his reputation as an atheist is God & Philosophy. It was first published in 1966. Later editions appeared at intervals, the last in 2005. To judge by the new introduction he wrote, he was as sure of his atheism then as he had been in 1966.

In 2007 a new book appeared under his name titled There is a God. The subtitle crows: How the world’s most notorious [sic] atheist changed his mind. The authorship is ascribed to Antony Flew “with Roy Abraham Varghese”. But no one who has read God & Philosophy with attention could possible believe that There is a God was a product of the same intelligence. Either the powers of Antony Flew had faded away, or some other mind engendered this work. In fact, both those things happened. It has emerged that he did not write it. He had spoken, and other hands had written. He could not even remember what was in it. And of that failure of memory and general weakening of his mental faculties, the actual writers had taken advantage.

There is a God is distinctly written for an American readership. It refers, for instance, to the Red Sox. I’d have bet a mint that my friend Tony Flew had no idea who the Red Sox are – Chinese school-boys, he may have supposed.

According to Dr Richard Carrier, who tried to ascertain from Professor Flew himself whether he had really “found God”, the authors of There is a God are Roy Abraham Varghese who is known for his work on “the interface between science and religion”, and Pastor Bob Hostetler – two people with a big blunt axe to grind.

Carrier’s detailed account of how Flew claimed he was, but then again was not, converted to belief in a creator-God when certain scientific facts were brought to his attention, makes the whole sorry story plain. Carrier records that the philosopher admitted to finding the subject “too hard” to deal with; that he failed to remember anything about There is a God; that he repeatedly contradicted himself. He tells us about the bewildered old man being awarded a prize by an Evangelical Christian University. (The Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth, bestowed on him by the university of Biola at la Mirada, California.) The prodigal son returned! Much rejoicing in Christian circles. As if the willingness of a senile man to concede – on and off – the existence of a creator-God, were all the proof they needed to shout in the face of atheists and sceptics: “There, you see? If even he can see it now, you should not have the hubris to think you know better and continue to deny it!”

How insecure these believers must be in their belief!

Carrier writes: “It is certainly possible that Flew looked at ten drafts [of There is a God]. I see no reason to believe Flew was able to understand or even recall what he read.” Flew admitted to having “a nominal aphasia”. But it was more than “nominal”. “Flew could not even recall the arguments of the book , not just who made them or what his sources were.”

Carrier found that whenever Professor Flew himself stated his position, it was always to reaffirm his atheism. Statements to the contrary were never made by him directly, though one at least, firmly insistent that he really had changed his mind, was put out by the publisher on his behalf.

However, I know it was not a total scam. I know that at times he did think he had changed his mind.

I saw him soon after the book appeared and asked him was it true he now believed in God.

“Yes,” he replied, “but not the Monster”.

I understood of course what he meant by “the Monster”. He had rejected the Christian God while still in his teens because he could not reconcile the evil in the world and hell after it with a beneficent deity. Such a deity could only be a Monster. His father, a Methodist minister, was distressed by young Antony’s rejection of his faith, but Antony said, as he was to repeat throughout his life, that he had to go “where the evidence leads”. Now he told me, only the existence of “an intelligence” can explain the nature of the universe. This intelligence, this non-monstrous god, made the laws of nature and then had nothing more to do with his creation – the theological position known as deism.

In God & Philosophy, there is a section on “Order and Design”, in which the author asks the question: “Does order in nature itself presuppose an Orderer?” Elegantly and fully he reasons over a few pages that it does not. (This is not the place to quote his reasons, but I hope to whet some appetites for seeking them in the book.) “So we conclude that order in the universe by itself provides no warrant whatsoever for trying to identify an Orderer.”

The meticulous arguments are abandoned as though they had never been made, in the later book There is a God. The reason given there for belief in a creator God, is that the author has learnt about DNA, about its “enormous complexity”, and sees that there must have been an Orderer who made the universe! He also sets out the “fine-tuning” argument. Both the arguments, from “irreducible complexity” and “fine-tuning” have been thoroughly refuted.

Then there is the “Stratonician presumption”, as Flew himself named it after the Greek philosopher Strato of Lampsacus, the third head of Aristotle’s Lyceum, who formulated it. The presumption is that in explaining the world you can do without entities that are not necessary for the completeness of the explanation. In God & Philosophy, Antony Flew does not find it necessary to call in God or gods.

But suddenly, in There is a God, such a supernatural being becomes essential to explain the world’s existence. *

From Antony’s point of view these pressing believers had not done him a disservice. He told me that there was to be a TV documentary about him and his conversion. He was innocently surprised at the attention he was getting, and the unexpected windfall it brought with it. He was paid what seemed to him a very large sum of money. He had never been a rich man, and he was happy for his wife and daughters that they would have this fund at their disposal. (This most generous-hearted of men was painstakingly frugal: every letter he posted was in a re-used envelope with a label stuck over the old address.)

So there’s the picture. A pair (or more?) of American Christian Evangelicals (and a Jewish theologian and physicist, Gerald Schroeder) had worked on him rather than with him, when he had become mentally frail, to produce this cancellation of a lifetime’s thought. In his dotage, these Evangelicals battened on to him, dazzled him with science that was utterly new to him – the big bang, DNA – and rewarded him like a Pavlov’s dog when he gave the response their spin elicited. He was subjected to intellectual seduction, much as Bertrand Russell was by Communists in his senile years.

What seems to me intolerably sad and wrong is that the reputation Antony Flew ought to have, as an atheist philosopher who brilliantly defended atheism throughout his long and distinguished professional life, is now to be replaced by a phony story that he who had been a convinced atheist changed his mind. Is the man who defended atheism better than anyone since David Hume, to be remembered as a deist?

Is this to be allowed to happen – that he be remembered as a man who saw the error of his atheist ways and became persuaded that there was a God – simply because he suffered a softening of the brain in his last years? The truth is that the Antony Flew who conceded the existence of a “creator-intelligence” was not “the Flew” – as he liked to allude to himself – that he had been at the peak of his powers. His faculties were deteriorating, his memory came and went unreliably, he was confused, bewildered and – because he was in a state of decline – taken advantage of.

His handwriting became shakier. He put letters to other people in envelopes that he addressed to me. (They probably got the letters I was supposed to receive.) When I sent him the print-out of an article I had written deploring the Islamization of Britain, he sent it back to me a few weeks later as an article of his own that he would like me to comment on. When he was to meet me and a few colleagues at a certain old club on Pall Mall (the famous street of clubs in the heart of London) which he must have visited dozens or even hundreds of times, he couldn’t find it. A search party rescued him and brought him to the meeting. He had become unsure of himself. He did not always remember, or possibly even grasp, points put to him in a discussion.

But what an enthusiast he forever was for ideas! His face would light up, his voice grow urgent with excitement. A passionate intellectual who was always gentle, always courteous even in the heat of argument, Antony Flew was the epitome of a reasonable man. Or I should say that is what he had been, and that is the way he should be remembered, this great philosopher and atheist. (His country bestowed no honors on him. I think he should have been made Companion of Honour, which is in the sole gift of the sovereign. England deserves her great men ever less!) Even those who disagree with his atheism must surely acknowledge in the name of justice and decency that his achievements, not his late and lamentable capitulations which seemed to cancel them, should be what he is remembered for.

Jillian Becker  April 18, 2010

*

*Here is a sample of the “reasoning” of these Christian ghosts, writing in the name of Professor Flew:

“I put to my former fellow-atheists the simple central question: ‘What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a reason to at least consider the existence of a superior Mind?’

Easy reply: manifest purpose.

They state in his name that the immaterial, ie mind, cannot come out of the material.

Reply: How can the material come out of the immaterial – ie matter out of “Mind” or “God”?

Relax and enjoy 5

On the reasonable assumption that most of our readers are atheists and at least some of them are old, we quote part of an article by Joseph Epstein, great story writer and essayist.

He hands on, in his own words, the drift of a philosopher’s advice on how to face the last of life:

In the last stage of life, even with the cheeriest outlook, it isn’t easy to keep thoughts of death at bay. Consider, though, the advice of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.), who lent his name to the school of Epicureanism but who was, in my reading of him, the world’s first shrink. Epicureanism is generally understood to be about indulging fleshly pleasures, especially those of food and drink, but it is, I think, more correctly understood as the search for serenity.

Epicurus, who met with friends (disciples, really) in his garden in Athens, devised a program to rid the world of anxiety. His method, like most methods of personal reform, had set steps, in this case four such steps. Here they are:

Step One: Do not believe in God, or in the gods. They most likely do not exist, and even if they did, it is preposterous to believe that they could possibly care, that they are watching over you and keeping a strict accounting of your behavior.

Step Two: Don’t worry about death. Death, be assured, is oblivion, a condition not different from your life before you were born: an utter blank. Forget about heaven, forget about hell; neither exists — after death there is only the Big O (oblivion) and the Big N (nullity), nothing, nada, zilch. Get your mind off it.

Step Three: Forget, as best you are able, about pain. Pain is either brief, and will therefore soon enough diminish and be gone; or, if it doesn’t disappear, if it lingers and intensifies, death cannot be far away, and so your worries are over here, too, for death, as we know, also presents no problem, being nothing more than eternal dark, dreamless sleep.

Step Four: Do not waste your time attempting to acquire exactious luxuries, whose pleasures are sure to be incommensurate with the effort required to gain them. From this it follows that ambition generally — for things, money, fame, power — should also be foresworn. The effort required to obtain them is too great; the game isn’t worth the candle.

To summarize, then: forget about God, death, pain and acquisition, and your worries are over. There you have it, Epicurus’ Four-Step Program to eliminate anxiety and attain serenity. I’ve not kitchen-tested it myself, but my guess is that, if one could bring it off, this program really would work.

Posted under Atheism, Commentary, Philosophy by Jillian Becker on Friday, April 16, 2010

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On religion 5

One of our readers and commenters, bornagainpagan, sent us a link to this American Thinker article. We thank bornagainpagan. It is well worth reading. But on several points we take issue with the author. (Please read it all, as we are only quoting the parts we particularly want to comment on, and do not wish to give a distorted impression of the whole.)

We want to reply to, not quarrel with, a fellow atheist. We would be foolish to deny the historical importance of religion, especially of Christianity and Judaism to the West (and we greatly value the Bible as literature). But we do not think that religion as such, or any particular religion of any particular culture, has ever been, or ever could be, a force for good, even though good people might feel motivated by it.

Rational thought may provide better answers to many of life’s riddles than does faith alone. However, it is rational to conclude that religious faith has made possible the advancement of Western civilization. That is, the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition. To the extent that the West loses its religious faith in favor of non-judgmental secularism, then to the same extent, it loses that which holds all else together.

We strongly disagree. First: By “the Judeo-Christian tradition” is always meant Christianity, and we think – as Edward Gibbon demonstrates in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – that Christianity brought a thousand years of darkness down on Europe. Next: Secularism does not have to be non-judgmental. It is actually  impossible to be non-judgmental. Even to choose to be what a person thinks is non-judgmental is to make a judgment. Third: We believe it was the Enlightenment (starting with the Renaissance) – ie the bursting out of the confining Christian world-view – that made possible the real progress of the Western world, towards ever more scientific knowledge and, with luck, a continual shrinking (though never of course to the total vanishing) of superstition.

Arguably the two most defining and influential Christian concepts are summarized in two verses of the New Testament. Those verses are Romans 14:10 and John 8:32.

Romans 14:10, says: “Remember, each of us must stand alone before the judgment seat of God.” That verse explicitly recognizes not only each man’s uniqueness, but, of necessity, implies that man has free will — that individual acts do result in consequences, and that those acts will be judged against objective standards. It is but a step from the habit of accepting individual accountability before God to thinking of individual accountability in secular things. It thus follows that personal and political freedom is premised upon the Christian concept of the unique individual exercising accountable free will.

Did not the Athenians of pre-Christian antiquity, the fathers of philosophy and science, recognize the importance of the individual? Was not Greek democracy based on the counting of individual choices? One does not have to be accountable “to God” to live in civil society, treat others respectfully, and obey objective law.

John 8:32 says: “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Whatever the theological meanings that have been imputed to that verse, its implicit secular meaning is that the search for truth is in and of itself praiseworthy.

No, that is not the implicit meaning. The very particular meaning is that the truth is the Jesus cult. And it isn’t, of course.

Although I am a secularist (atheist, if you will), I accept that the great majority of people would be morally and spiritually lost without religion. Can anyone seriously argue that crime and debauchery are not held in check by religion? Is it not comforting to live in a community where the rule of law and fairness are respected? Would such be likely if Christianity were not there to provide a moral compass to the great majority? Do we secularists not benefit out of all proportion from a morally responsible society?

An orderly society is dependent on a generally accepted morality. There can be no such morality without religion.

We don’t know what is meant by “spiritually”. Morality need not depend on religion. In fact, no religion has a history or a literature that fits with the morality any of the so-called “moral religions” preach, certainly not those “moral religions” themselves. Enlightened self-interest and the practical requirements of civilized existence are strong regulators of human behavior.

Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?

Some of the ten commandments are indeed concise. (Moses did not of course “bring them down from the mountain” except in a symbolic sense.) But the concise ones are the same as far more ancient laws. The crimes “Moses”  forbids were held to be crimes by the time Hammurabi had the punishments for them codified.

Those who doubt the effect of religion on morality should seriously ask the question: Just what are the immutable moral laws of secularism? Be prepared to answer, if you are honest, that such laws simply do not exist! …

The secular laws are the laws of the state. They are intended to be moral. They are not immutable. The values of a culture that underlie law may seem immutable, but in our time many “Western values” have been turned upside down or inside out. Liberty? Justice? Loyalty? Modesty? Chastity? Decency? Erudition? Profundity? Bravery? Self-reliance? – to name but a few – are they now, consciously or unconsciously, valued by most people in Western societies?  Most Americans may agree intellectually that they ought to be: Europeans are more likely to deride them.

For the majority of a culture’s population, religious tradition is inextricably woven into their self-awareness. It gives them their identity. It is why those of religious faith are more socially stable and experience less difficulty in forming and maintaining binding attachments than do we secularists.

Are they and do they? It may be the case, but we haven’t observed it.

To the extent that Western elites distance themselves from their Judeo-Christian cultural heritage in favor of secular constructs, and as they give deference to a multicultural acceptance that all beliefs are of equal validity, they lose their will to defend against a determined attack from another culture, such as from militant Islam. For having destroyed the ancient faith of their people, they will have found themselves with nothing to defend.

We cannot see how an irrationality like Islam can be fought by another irrationality like Christianity. Religion as such is and always has been a common cause of war, persecution, massacre, cruelty, oppression, and waste of human potential.

What we really need to defend, especially now under the onslaught of Islam, is our culture of reason. We need to teach it to our children. What any individual does with the gifts and burdens his culture bequeaths him is inescapably a choice that he must make.

Atheist Ireland 3

Such a transformation has come upon Ireland, not long ago so staunchly Catholic.

When did it come? With prosperity? With mass immigration?

From Creeping Sharia – a website we recommend to our readers – we learn this:

Ireland is to hold a referendum on removing a blasphemy ban from the constitution, the justice minister announced yesterday.

At the beginning of the year, the republic introduced legislation making blasphemy a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£22,800).

Interesting that the constitutional ban needed to be augmented by legislation. And then, so soon after the new law is passed, the referendum is proposed.

The law defines blasphemy as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted”.

The referendum will be held this autumn.

The advocacy group Atheist Ireland welcomed the decision today. When the law became operational, Atheist Ireland published 25 blasphemous statements on the internet to challenge it, including Richard Dawkins calling the Old Testament God a “petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; … a capriciously malevolent bully” …

Atheist Ireland chairperson Michael Nugent said: “This is a positive move by the minister. We look forward to the autumn referendum as part of our overall campaign for an ethical, secular Ireland. We ask all reasonable citizens to work together to ensure that the referendum is won.

“We reiterate that this law is both silly and dangerous: silly because it is introducing medieval canon law offence into a modern pluralist republic; and dangerous because it incites religious outrage and because its wording has already been adopted by Islamic states as part of their campaign to make blasphemy a crime internationally.

“The blasphemy reference is one of several anachronisms in our constitution that will ultimately need to be changed. Other examples are the religious oaths that prevent atheists from becoming president, or a judge, or a member of the council of state.”

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Islam, Muslims, News, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 23, 2010

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The ominous sound of prayer 1

We think praying is ridiculous.

President Harry Truman may not have been an atheist but he had a healthy suspicion of the religious:

“When I hear them praying extra loud, I always go out and check the lock

on the smokehouse.”

Posted under Atheism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Thursday, January 14, 2010

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Nor piety nor wit 3

To be a political conservative and also an atheist in America may be uncommon but it isn’t difficult.

Our conservative principles are: individual freedom, small government, strong defense, free market economics, rule of law. Belief in them doesn’t need belief in God as well.

We find it perfectly easy to agree with the political opinions of religious conservatives. We just don’t share their faith in the existence of the supernatural.

We don’t take offense when one of our fellow conservatives talks about his or her religion, though we may be embarrassed for them if they become mawkish. We are thinking of courageous, principled, competent Sarah Palin, witty Ann Coulter, vigorous defender of freedom Glenn Beck, and above all Brit Hume, whom we have long listened to on Fox News with respect and gratitude for his political knowledge, insight, and judicious wisdom.

Actually, so unmawkish is Brit Hume, so seldom does he say anything about himself, that we didn’t even know he was a devout Christian. Then, on Fox News Sunday, speaking about the disgrace of poly-adulterous Tiger Woods with kindness and sympathy, and intending only to suggest a source of comfort for the great golfer, he said:

The extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be: Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.

To this, we hear, the ‘secular left’ took exception. Some of them absurdly spoke of a Constitutional requirement that ‘church and state’ be kept separate as a reason why it was wrong for someone to recommend his religion when appearing on television.

Conservatives leapt to Hume’s defense, and the defense of Christianity. –

Here’s Cal Thomas:

That is a message shared for 2,000 years by those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. It apparently continues to escape the secular left that Christians feel compelled to share their faith out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for them (dying in their place on a cross and offering a new life to those who repent and receive Him as savior). In a day when some extremists employ violence to advance their religion, it is curious that many would save their criticism for a truly peace-bringing message such as the one broadcast by Brit Hume.

And here’s Ann Coulter:

Hume’s words, being 100 percent factually correct, sent liberals into a tizzy of sputtering rage, once again illustrating liberals’ copious ignorance of Christianity.

On MSNBC, David Shuster invoked the “separation of church and television” (a phrase that also doesn’t appear in the Constitution), bitterly complaining that Hume had brought up Christianity “out-of-the-blue” on “a political talk show.”

Why on earth would Hume mention religion while discussing a public figure who had fallen from grace and was in need of redemption and forgiveness? Boy, talk about coming out of left field!

What religion — what topic — induces this sort of babbling idiocy? (If liberals really want to keep people from hearing about God, they should give Him his own show on MSNBC.)

Most perplexing was columnist Dan Savage’s indignant accusation that Hume was claiming that Christianity “offers the best deal — it gives you the get-out-of-adultery-free card that other religions just can’t.”

In fact, that’s exactly what Christianity does. It’s the best deal in the universe. (I know it seems strange that a self-described atheist and “radical sex advice columnist f*****” like Savage would miss the central point of Christianity, but there it is.)

God sent his only son to get the crap beaten out of him, die for our sins and rise from the dead. If you believe that, you’re in. Your sins are washed away from you — sins even worse than adultery! — because of the cross. …

With Christianity, your sins are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean and your eternal life is guaranteed through nothing you did yourself, even though you don’t deserve it. It’s the best deal in the universe.

We cannot understand how any intelligent person can believe in God. We are baffled that even unintelligent people can believe in the immaculate birth of Jesus, or that he came alive again after dying (what does ‘death’ mean if not the end of life, what does ‘life’ mean if not that which can die?), or that a certain Jew born in the time of Augustus Caesar was divine. We wonder at (inter alia) the way Christians can overlook inconvenient passages in their scripture, such as (Matt 10.34) ‘I come not to bring peace but to bring a sword’; ignore the fact that Christianity invented Hell (for whose eternal torment if Christ is forgiving and if his crucifixion saved mankind?); bluff themselves that you have only to believe that Christ died for you and your sins are ‘washed away’.

Whatever wrong you’ve done you’ve done, people: live with it, try to learn from it and try not to do it again. It can never be ‘washed away’ from you. Tough for Tiger, tough for all of us. But when you die you won’t go to hell, you’ll be dead.

As Omar Khayyam, an atheist apostate from Islam (or his translator Edward Fitzgerald) wrote, being, to use Ann Coulter’s words, 100 per cent correct:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

For once we dislike something Brit Hume has said, but we defend – if not quite to the death – his right to say it.

No offense meant, none taken 8

In a recent post on attempts by Jews to ‘remove Christmas from the public square’, Paul Mirengoff of Power Line – one of our favourite blogsquoted the historian John Steele Gordon as saying: ‘It has always seemed to me that it was not Jews but atheists (a religion of its own in that it is a belief system that is untestable) who have led the charge against public celebrations of Christmas as an “establishment of religion”.’

It is with the parenthetical assertion about atheism that we join issue. Atheism is not ‘a belief system’  – it is the absence of belief in the supernatural. The statement ‘God does not exist’ is not provable, but that does not make it a religious statement, a statement of faith. God’s non-existence does not impinge on any aspect of an atheist’s life or thought. It is not just that God is not watching or does not care. He is not there, at all, ever. The Christian deity lying in a manger, the miracle of the oil in the Hannukah candles, the flying Santa Claus are all  in the same category of idea: incredible, imaginary, supernatural. If an atheist wants such religious symbols to be banned, he or she is showing an irrational superstitious belief in their power, and deserves ridicule.

If some atheists object to any display of fairy folk, or God folk, or magic objects – provided worship of them is not required – it is not because their non-belief is offended, but because they decide to put on a show of being offended in order to make political points, to flex their political muscle. Such atheists are almost certain to be on the Left. I would guess that the Jews who object to nativity displays in public places at Christmas are also politically motivated, and that they too are on the Left. I cannot see how the deification of a Jewish boy should cause religious offense to those who do not believe it. Other people’s irrationality is their own business. Religious offense-taking is the hall-mark of leftist victim politics – and is invariably fraudulent.

C. Gee  December 29, 2009

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Judaism, Progressivism by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, December 29, 2009

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