"The world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief ... ." "Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."--Stephen Weinberg in "A Free-for-All on Science and Religion," by George Johnson, Science Times, November 21, 2006.
"[Dawkins] wants to make respect for belief in God socially unacceptable ... ." "I'm quite keen on the politics of persuading people of the virtues of atheism ... ." "Highly intelligent people are mostly atheists."--Richard Dawkins
"Harris argues that unless belief in God is eradicated, civilization is likely to end in a murderous sea of religious warfare ... ." "At some point, there's going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God."--Sam Harris
Reference for last two quotes on page 7: "The New Atheism?" The Christian Post, http://www.christianpost.com/article/20061125/23675_The_New_Atheism%3F.htm by Albert Mohler, Jr.
These quotes are not from obscure, uneducated, unpublished authors. Stephen Weinberg is a Nobel laureate in physics. Sam Harris is the author of two books on the best seller list--The End of Faith: Religion and Terror and the Future of Reason, and Letter to a Christian Nation. Richard Dawkins is a professor of biology at Oxford University and author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, both best selling books. Dawkins claims "the number of nonreligious people in the United States is something near to 30 million ... . That's more than all the Jews in the world put together. I think we're in the same position the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was a need for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people who had the courage to come out. I think that's the case with atheists. They're more numerous than anyone realizes." Some atheists are now proposing that parents who indoctrinate their children with belief in God need to be prosecuted for child abuse.
Gary Wolf in the November 2006 issue of WIRED magazine writes "Religion is not only wrong; it is evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there's no excuse for shirking." Wolf goes on to say that "Bad ideas foisted on children are moral wrongs." Wolf maintains that evangelism by atheists "is a moral imperative."
The Does God Exist? program began in 1968, and we began this journal in 1972. In 1968 we were saying to the Church that there was a need to wake up to what was happening as religious error and inconsistency was producing atheists at an accelerated rate. It has now gotten to the point where we would hope that even the most isolated of religious writers and teachers would realize we have to start responding openly to the challenges of atheism. Sitting in church buildings and entertaining ourselves with social activities and entertaining musical performances is not going to meet the challenges being forced upon us by atheism. Education is the only answer to what is happening, and people like Dawkins, Harris, Wolf, and Weinberg are the darlings of the mass media, so the battle to get people to hear the messages to counteract overt atheism is going to be increasingly difficult.
Much of what is being said by atheists is simply a misrepresentation of the facts. Much of what they say attempts to avoid evidence. Some of what they say is absolutely true, but applies to atheists as well as to religionists. We would like to try and address a few of these ideas here with the hope that our readers will do their own study and make their own responses to the growing atheist attacks in their own communities, schools, and periodicals.
In his book End of Faith, Sam Harris maintains that "religion represents the most potent source of human conflict, past and present." Robert Kuttner says "The crusades slaughtered millions in the name of Jesus. The inquisition brought the torture of millions more. After Martin Luther, Christians did bloody battle with other Christians for another three centuries." Dawkins repeatedly contends that all of the world's conflicts in recent times are caused by religion, and he lists the Middle East, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Kashmir, and Sri Lanka which he says all "show the vitality of religion's murderous impulse."
The first problem with these kinds of statements is that they are profound exaggerations of the real situation. We frequently hear the Salem Witch Trials held up as an example of the horrors of religion, but how many people died in those trails--thousands? In reality, fewer than 25. How many died during the Spanish Inquisition? The answer is around 5,000. The number killed during the Crusades is debated to be anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000, depending upon who one listens to. The fact is that none of these terrible things that happened in the religious conflicts of history numbered in the millions. We do not want to minimize the terrible things that have happened or are happening. Any kind of war is terrible, and it is tragic that people will not place a premium on human life and stop the killing.
How many have been killed in the name of atheism, or by political figures that justified their killing of enemies in atheistic beliefs? Diniesh D'Souza, the Rishwain Research Scholar at Stanford University says that over 100 million people were murdered in the name of a religion-free utopia by Mao Tse Tung, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, and Adolf Hitler. Harris and Dawkins attempt to blame medieval Christianity for Hitler, and try to dismiss Stalin and Mao as "little more than a political religion." This does not work well at all since no one like Hitler arose in the 2,000 years before Nazi Germany and all of these leaders espoused the destruction of religion as a part of their belief system.
Trying to blame religion for most of the wars that are called religious wars is another uninformed act. One of my atheist friends that I worked with for many years when I was in the atheistic movement was traveling in Ireland some years ago. He got into a dangerous situation one night when a group of men stopped his car and threatened him with guns, knives, and clubs. The leader of the group dragged my friend from the car, and with a gun pointed at his head screamed, "Are you a protestant or a catholic?" My friend, being an atheist, thought he had a chance in this situation so he cried out as loud as he could, "I'm an atheist; I don't believe in God!!" Without missing a beat, the man with the gun grabbed my friend by the throat and yelled at him, "A Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?"
The point here is that the war in Ireland and in fact most of these
kinds of wars are not predominantly about religion. My friends
who live in Ireland tell me that in reality a large percentage of
people on both sides are atheists. Religion is not popular among
most of the youth in this area--a fact I can support from the programs
we have presented in the United Kingdom. Rival claims to
territory, power, self-determination, and ethnic rivalry are the
sources of the conflicts. This is even true of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you could remove the "God gave
us this land" mentality of the Hamas and orthodox parties in Israel,
the battle would still go on. I have had a number of students who
are atheists but who are of Jewish heritage go back to Israel to fight
the battle over Palestine, and certainly in their minds the battle is
not a religious one.
There is no question that some horrible things have been done in the name of God. The fact that atheism has done even worse things does not negate the problems of religion. Drawing attention to the horror of religious warfare or talking about the errors of historical religious figures does not address the fundamental issue of "Is there a God, what is that God like, which God are we talking about, and what does belief in God offer in a positive sense?"
The fact of the matter is that there is a wealth of scientific evidence for the existence of God. The Does God Exist? ministry attempts to organize and offer a small part of that evidence. None of the statements by the atheists we have been quoting deals with the issue of evidence. Denigrating someone or some system is not a response to what that system offers as evidence. We would agree that indoctrinating a child with a religious viewpoint is unwise and frankly in today's world will usually be unsuccessful. That is true of atheistic belief systems just as it is of religious systems. What needs to be done is to offer the evidence in such a way that the child can make his own choice about what the evidence supports. The atheists we have quoted are just like the religious fundamentalists in that they want only their view presented and no other options given. Doing a distorted history lesson is not an exercise in offering evidence to aid in making decisions.
What is the cosmological evidence for the existence of God? What are the moral arguments for God's existence? What has to be the nature of God, and what evidence do we have that this nature in reality does exist? What is the result of following a system that is based on belief in God? These are the fundamental issues--not the question of whether the war in the Middle East is bad or not.
The only positive response to atheistic challenges is the teachings of Jesus Christ. Notice that we did not say "Christianity." Much of what is called Christianity is not that at all. Many man-made systems call themselves Christian and contradict the teachings of Christ. The Crusades were in diametric opposition to the teachings of Christ. No one following the teachings of Jesus would bomb an abortion clinic, support the Ku Klux Klan, or support woman or child abuse.
What the teachings of Christ do is to move us to serve others. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he told them to do likewise, and the good done by Christians following the commands of Jesus is massive. We have reviewed several books in this journal in recent years that explore all the positive things that have been done in the name of Christianity: Under the Influence (March/April 2003) and What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us? (November/December 2006).
Jesus also commanded Christians not to be the aggressors in personal conflict. Even the skeptics of Christianity know about such teachings as turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving your enemies (see Matthew 5-7). Statements of violence may be found in the writings of other religious figures, but not in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Where does atheism and atheistic theories lead? Dawkins states outright that in his view evolutionary theory must logically lead to atheism. Francis Collins strongly refutes this in his book The Language of God (see March/April 2007 issue, page 21). If survival of the fittest is your mantra, why would you do anything to support and ensure the survival of the less fit? Neil deGrasse Tyson recently presented a slide show to an atheist group with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects. He suggested that these terrible pictures were testimony to the belief that nature was blind and that there is no intelligent overseer in control. The question of what causes both these defects was never broached, and the big question of who is caring for these babies and their families was never discussed. Some atheists have viewed abortion as the only answer to this question, a position we have discussed in our series of books on pain and suffering (see our catalog) The fact is that atheism offers no solution and no help to these kinds of problems other than killing them. Christianity offers those of us who have suffered a child born with birth defects (as your author has) not only help in dealing with the problem, but with a world-view that helps us accept it.
The new atheism and its war on religious belief may be a good thing. In the nearly forty years we have been involved in this ministry we have been phenomenally unsuccessful in awakening the Church to the challenges of disbelief. This has been true even though most churches and families have experienced the loss of children due to the challenges of faith. Perhaps the abusive and vitriolic nature of the attacks by Harris, Dawkins, Wolf, Weinberg, and others will finally wake us up. The big question is how many of our children will we have to lose to atheism and the consequences of rejecting faith in the meantime.
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