Tag Archives: Materialism

Who is more responsible for the mass murders of history? Christians or atheists?

This is presented as an exchange with one of my commenters in response to the story about the nurse in the UK who was suspended who offending a patient by asking to pray for the patient.

Here is the initial post, provocative, but regular atheist readers know that I am a lamb, and this is just a trick to get first-time atheists to comment so that I can engage them.


Here is the first rebuttal from the challenger:

1) I have never read so much rubbish as I just have. Are you seriously saying that Atheists are responsible for the deaths of millions of people and yet you include none of the religions whose wars have led to countless more deaths?

2) [Wintery Knight paraphrases]: What did Christians do to stop Hitler in WW2?

3) [Wintery Knight paraphrases]: But isn’t Christianity supportive of wars of aggression such as conducted by Germany in WW2?

4) There have been many good and bad, of faiths and of no faith yet so worried are you by the simple wish of some people to have church and state separated that you use half truths, leave out pertinent facts or omit them altogether. Some of you will even lie.

If that is the face of your christianity, then it is of little wonder that people turn away from it, either by finding another faith or by having no faith at all.

5) Your example of the nurse above, mentions nothing of the fact that she was asked by the patient to stop and or that she has a record of trying to impose her beliefs on those who wish to have none of it or are content with their own faith and have no need or desire for the zealotry displayed by this woman or indeed for others who feel they have a right to inflict their views on others.


And my first rebuttal:

Thanks for your comment. Sorry I had to edit your comment a bit, I hope I didn’t change the meaning of what you said. Now don’t be too unhappy, with me, let’s have a dialog, at least for a bit.

Here’s my response:

1) Here’s my source for the 100 million deaths due to communism, an atheist system that represses free expression of faith. I can provide you with citations of atheist leaders in communist countries explaining how war flowed from their atheist views that the universe is an accident and humans are just animals and morality is a sham. I am only interested in defending Christianity, so for this point I need you to give me the list of wars started for specifically Christian reasons, and then show me in the Bible where Jesus sanctions these wars. I also need a body count for each war in your list. You can include a body count for the Inquisitions and the witch trials, as well. Thanks.

2) On atheism, where is the moral standard that allows you criticize what the Nazis did? Let me help. Is it your personal opinion? Or is it the evolved standard in place in your culture at this time? Or is it an objective standard that governs any culture at any time in history? I need to know what you mean by right and wrong, on atheism, before I answer the charge. Next, please find for me the part in the Bible where Jesus urges his followers to engage in wars of aggression and genocide.

3) Again, I need an explanation, on atheism, for why wars of aggression are wrong, then the Bible verse that shows where Jesus supports wars of aggression and genocide. These things are not forbidden on atheism, (nothing is), but they are forbidden in Christianity.

4) Again, on atheism, what do you mean by good and bad? Also, we do not have an official church in the USA, so we do have separation of church and state. How do you think that separation of church and state should limit the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech and to freedom of religious expression? In short, why do your unhappy feelings justify the removal of fundamental human rights, rights that are grounded in God, and not grounded anywhere on atheism, I might add.

5) What do you mean when you say that the nurse was imposing her beliefs? Do you mean that speaking freely to people should be controlled by the state? If not, how do you propose to prevent people from speaking freely about whatever they wish?

Thanks. Take it easy, we’ve got time.


And her second rebuttal:

Well, I’m disappointed that you felt a need to rewrite my original email but I can’t say I’m too surprised.

I’m sorry, but when you said you had sources for the hundred million deaths caused by Atheism, I thought it would more than just a website sponsored by a discredited former U.S. President whose actions have led to the deaths of many of his fellow countrymen and women but also to thousands of Iraqis and who has postured on the world stage but done nothing for humanity.

You ask me for proof of wars started for specifically christian reasons. Well, I could start with the second Roman invasion of Britain, which also included most of Western Europe. Not a nice time to be an unbeliever of any sort, unlike during the first Romano invasion. We can then move on to the Crusades and the invasion of the Arab nations there with the subsequent savagery that attended them. Next? How about the Spanish Armada and the French/Spanish war with Britain based purely because one of our kings fell out with the catholic religion, and we should surely remember the Spanish Inquisition, that was a nasty little war all in itself.

Let’s see, we’ve got the British civil war, again, over religion. I’m ignoring wars in Europe that don’t directly affect the UK, by the way. But let’s not forget the Spanish invasion of South America and the mindless violence that erupted from that. Or indeed, the murder of thousands of North American Indians, all done with the blessing of the church. Two examples which could justly be called Holocausts.

We have various wars with Europe after that, but mostly over Empire (but yet again, an endeavour vigorously encouraged by the church) until we come to the Great War where it was your christian duty to fight the hun as much as it was your christian duty to fight the French/British/American troops, moving swiftly on to the second Great War, where Hitler’s troops invaded Europe, sent millions to the camps, all with the motto “Gott mitt uns” giving the delusion that their “work” would be approved by a higher authority and all the while, the church, either protestant or catholic did nothing. How many dead is that? Who knows but even Stalin’s excesses are reckoned to be around the 20 million mark, leaving 80 million others according to your figures. I very much doubt China lost eighty million during the Chinese Revolution.

There have been various smaller atrocities around the world, all in the name of religion. You ask me to show you in the bible where jesus specifically sanctions these wars. Why should I need to do that, it’s your religion, and others, that have caused these wars and it has been the interpretation of those biblical words which have caused so much harm in this world. I don’t need to specify anything, you need to defend your argument about the interpretations based on this book of your god. Mind you, what is your view on Gods instruction to Moses to go out and kill everything of the Amalekites? I believe that is in your bible.

As for asking me to provide specific casualty details, well, I think asking me to provide the casualty list for an invasion two thousand years ago is being a bit silly really, you know I can’t provide such a list any more than you can. There are, of course, estimates, such as those for the English Civil War in which it has been said the dead and injured equalled that of the Great War. But then, in the examples you quote, there aren’t specific casualty lists, only approximations.

As for Atheism, why shouldn’t atheists have as good a knowledge of right and right as any one else, such as Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus or even Christians. You don’t have to be a christian or be religious at all to be aware of a moral code which embraces right and wrong. Again, I fail to see why I should provide you with quotes in the bible where people are urged to wage war, if there are any, again, you know as well as I do that the interpretation of that book by its readers who use it as the sole authority on what’s right and wrong, go out and do harm. I doubt very much there are any parts of the bible where it says go out and torture to death all those who do not believe but that’s the very thing which was done in your gods name during the Spanish Inquisition and by others throughout history. You know this, yet you argue that it doesn’t happen. I find it quite odd.

As for the nurse, she was asked by the patient not to pray or proselytise yet she ignored that specific request. She had the right to speak freely, and still does, but when a person is asked not to do something and that person ignores that request, then you are not speaking freely, your are impinging on another persons rights and no matter what your belief, you don’t have that right.

Now, ‘m pretty sure, that you will alter this reply as you did my first post into something that fits your particular world view of atheism and Christianity but all it will show me, is that your faith in religion is so fragile, that you feel you have to shield it from any fully justified criticism. As others of your ilk do, the truth will be distorted, facts will be omitted or presented in a poor light and you will think you have done the will of your god. You will, of course, have done nothing of the kind, unless your god is a cruel vindictive being which you claim he isn’t.

For me, all this nonsense about militant atheism and religion under attack is puerile and arrant nonsense. The hierarchy of the various churches see their comfortable positions under threat from a congregation now doing a bit more than just turning up and kneeling and are trying to cloud the issue with a smokescreen about how their religion is under attack. Which it isn’t.


And my second rebuttal:

Atheism’s record

Here is R.J. Rummel, a professor of political science at University of Hawaii:

With this understood, the Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these. Most of the deaths, perhaps around 39,000,000 are due to lethal forced labor in gulag and transit thereto. Communist China up to 1987, but mainly from 1949 through the cultural revolution, which alone may have seen over 1,000,000 murdered, is the second worst megamurderer. Then there are the lesser megamurderers, such as North Korea and Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Obviously the population that is available to kill will make a big difference in the total democide, and thus the annual percentage rate of democide is revealing. By far, the most deadly of all communist countries and, indeed, in this century by far, has been Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his crew likely killed some 2,000,000 Cambodians from April 1975 through December 1978 out of a population of around 7,000,000. This is an annual rate of over 8 percent of the population murdered, or odds of an average Cambodian surviving Pol Pot’s rule of slightly over just over 2 to 1.

In sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century’s international and domestic wars. Yet the probable number of murders by the Soviet Union alone–one communist country– well surpasses this cost of war. And those murders of communist China almost equal it.

Communism is a worldview that explicitly repudiates the truth of religion and the idea that man is created in the image of God. If God is dead, all things are permissible. Atheism, historically, has been the moral foundation for mass murder and genocide.

Christianity’s record

For all of your examples, no link to the Bible was even attempted. The assertions that wars were conducted for religious purposes was made, but not substantiated with a single piece of evidence.

I’ll help you again with a list. There are only a few areas where Christian doctrine appears to have been a factor:

– the Crusades (between 2 and 100 thousand according to Encarta, I say about 30 thousand)
– the Inquisition (about 2000 dead)
– the Salem witch trials (about 25 dead)

I won’t worry too much about the 25 dead from the witch trials. Let’s take a closer look at the others with the help of Dinesh D’Souza, who has sustained these points in debates against Hitchens and other prominent atheists:

The Crusades:

“The Crusades were a belated and necessary Christian enterprise to block Islamic invasion and conquest. Remember that before Islam, virtually the entire Middle East was Christian. Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Jordan—these areas were predominantly Christian. The Muslims conquered the region, and then Muslim armies invaded Europe, conquering parts of Italy and virtually all of Spain, which the Muslims ruled for nearly 700 years. The Muslims over-ran the Balkans and were at the gates of Vienna. Edward Gibbon, no friend of Christianity, says that if the Christians hadn’t fought back then, today at Oxford and Cambridge—and by extension Harvard and Duke—we’d all be studying the teachings of Muhammad in the Arabic language. Western civilization, then called Christendom, was mortally threatened. The Crusades, for all their excesses, helped to prevent this disastrous outcome.”

The Inquistions:

“Well, the best scholarship on the Inquisition shows that approximately 2,000 people were killed by the Spanish Inquisition over a period of 350 years. I would never apologize for the Inquisition, which I think represented a terrible strain in late-medieval Christianity. I am glad that Christianity is different now, and the closest thing you have to a religious inquisition today would be something like the regime of the ayatollahs in Iran. Still, how can you even compare the casualties of the Inquisition to those of the atheists’ regimes? Even a second-rate atheist despot like Pol Pot killed more people in a month than the Inquisition managed to do in three centuries.”

More on the Crusades here.

Do belt buckles on SS troops prove anything?

Here is a historical assessment by Dinesh of Hitler’s vicious hatred of Christianity. Also, I recently wrote a post where I contrasted the morality of an authentic Bible-believing Christian with an authentic Darwin-believing non-Christian. The morality you inherited today in the West is a morality left-over from the prominence of Christianity in the last few centuries. It is based on Christian ideas, and explicitly so, ideas that have NO GROUNDING on atheism.

Please explain to me how a 3-word inscription on belt buckles undergirded Hitler’s wars of aggression, and explain the real record of his hatred of Christianity in his own actual writings. On your view, you would have to argue that Barack Obama is a Christian, because he claimed to be one. Don’t we actually have do some scholarly study to link external activities directly back to specific Biblical teachings in order to claim that there was a meaningful link? If I taught my parrot to claim to be a Christian in his speeches, would he also be a Christian?

What is the ground for a moral standard on atheism?

Again, you had nothing to say here because there is no standard of morality on atheism. None. Atheists do what they please. Indeed, that is the whole point of it – to rebel against morality. If you would like to try again to tell me where is the content and being of the atheist moral standard, I would be delighted to hear.

Until then, the moral language you use in praising this and condemning that is literally meaningless gibberish. There is no standard that you can use, on atheism, in order to praise or denounce anything in the world, past present and future. I offered you 3 alternatives for the source of the moral standard, you declined to answer. Answer the question, please. Where is this moral code that atheists follow? What is the reason for following it when it goes against their own self-interest? What does it matter, on atheism, whether atheists follow the moral code, or not?

Are you familiar with the concept of “heat death of the universe”. Eventually, the usable energy in the universe will run down and no life will be possible. This occurs whether atheists act one way or another. What does it matter for atheists ultimately if they act this way or that way? Is it not the case that what is rational, on atheism, is for atheists to simply do what pleases them most at any given moment? What reason is there, given the meaningless of life on atheism, for putting selfishness second and morality (and you need to point me to the atheist moral standard) first?

The nurse

If you ask someone to shut up, and they don’t shut up, do you then remove their means of earning a living? Do you imprison them? Do you torture them? Do you murder them? Do you remove their fundamental rights by means of state coercion?

Or, do you grow up and realize that in life you are going to hear things you disagree with and that is not a justification for destroying the fundamental liberties of individuals by imposing fascism on individual values.

This is where the impulse in atheism that justifies mass murder and genocide comes from. You feel strongly in the removal of the fundamental rights of those who disagree with you. The idea of tolerating other views seems wrong to you. Instead, atheism seems to bring out the fascist impulse, and you use the very means that you condemn in others against those who have different beliefs than you do. Show me where this idea is in atheistic prescriptions of morality. (I.e. – where is “you ought to love your enemies” on atheism?)

Here’s an idea: how about going out right now and finding the first evangelical Christian you meet and buying them lunch in order to listen to why they are a Christian and what it means to them? I did that 3 times with atheists this week, and will be posting the results of my interviews in a highly-anticipated series about what atheists think. All of these atheists are my personal friends, they know my real identity and could blow my cover at any time. Do you have any Christian friends that you love with all your heart? I do. Love for enemies is explicitly taught by Jesus in the Bible.

Conclusion

Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed responding to it. Please comment again soon, I won’t mind to hear your ideas. Differences of opinions are welcome here!

UPDATE: I gave her the last word here.

Denyse O’Leary tells about Uncommon Descent’s contest to win FREE STUFF

Denyse has started up a contest over at Uncommon Descent where you can win the following stuff:

10 DVDs of Expelled,courtesy the producers.

10 DVDs of Privileged Planet, courtesy the producers.

5 subscriptions, including back issues, to the excellent Christian/theistic science and culture mag, Salvo, complete with recent back issues, courtesy the editor-in-chief.

I already have those DVDs but I want the subscription to Salvo.

Now, what must I do to win? Denyse says:

I will pose a question based on a recent news story, and ask for responses within two weeks. I will publish the winning response in a subsequent post.

You must go to Uncommon Descent and register to comment. (You will not receive any solicitations – at least none that originate from us.)

Rules:
1. No more than 400 words in response. I will select the response I find most interesting and print it as a post. Be succinct.
2. New ideas impress me, even if I disagree. Rants and myths don’t. Re abuse: Uncommon Descent is not competing for Troll Hole of the Year, so …
3. I will not correspond with anyone about the award. My In Tray is already a natural disaster. If you don’t win, try again. And who knows, if this contest takes off, I may be offered more prizes.

The first question will come shortly.

Well, according to Denyse’s latest post on Colliding Universes, the first question is here!

This is Contest Question 1 for Earn Free Stuff: Does the multiverse help science make sense – or simply destroy science?

Question: For a free copy of Expelled, is this a way to do science? Note, you must register at Uncommon Descent to comment.

She has a link to an article that will help you answer, plus you can read my posts on the multiverse:

OK, now get right to work on your answer, and I’ll work on my answer. Denyse says that each contest will last about two weeks!

By the way, Denyse is a professional writer and editor. So watch your spelling and grammar!

How well do Darwinists do in debates with skeptics?

UPDATE: Welcome Post-Darwinist readers! Thanks for the link Denyse!

I thought that I would introduce a couple of my favorite critics of Darwinian fundamentalism, Stephen C. Meyer and Jonathan Wells. Here they are debating with Michael Shermer. I like Michael Shermer for two reasons – fiscal conservatism and engagement with his opponents. I’ve seen him MC sessions at Christian conferences. So let’s give him a chance to make his case.

Biographies of our debaters

Michael Shermer

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com), the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Shermer received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991).

Stephen C. Meyer

Stephen C. Meyer is director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, in Seattle. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin of life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences. Previously he worked as a geophysicist with the Atlantic Richfield Company after earning his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Geology.

Jonathan Wells

Jonathan Wells has received two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. He has worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California, and he has taught biology at California State University in Hayward.

Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he conducts research on the ecology of plant populations and the evolution of adaptations…. He received his doctorate in genetics at the University of Ferrara in Italy, his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Ph.D. in philosophy of science at the University of Tennessee.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Let’s start with a short 15-minute debate between Michael Shermer and Stephen Meyer, moderated by Lee Strobel.

Meyer starts with these points:

  • the origin of the universe implies a Creator who exists outside of time, space and matter, because he created time, space and matter
  • the physical constants and ratios of physics must be fine-tuned in order to support the minimal requirements for life
  • the cell is filled with molecular machines that are identical to machines built by humans, such as rotary engines
  • the cell contains biological information in the DNA, and the origin of this information cannot be explained by evolution

Shermer makes these points:

  • we should never infer intelligent causes, we should keep searching for a materialistic explanation and say we don’t know until we find an explanation that allows me to continue to be an intellectually-fulfilled atheist
  • who made the designer?
  • maybe the big bang will be overturned and then we can go back to the eternal universe that I want to be true in spite of the evidence
  • we can speculate (without any experimental evidence) about alternative theories of how the universe got here, unlike the standard big bang theory which is backed by multiple lines of scientific evidence

Then a dialog ensues:

Shermer: The design of life is sub-optimal – if God did it, it should be perfect, with no trade-offs between non-functional requirements, just like Wintery Knights’ software architecture designs and Java code are perfect

Meyer: There is no such thing as a perfect design. Software architects, like Wintery Knight, who have studied software design, will tell you that non-functional requirements must be traded-off against one another. (Source: Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University)

Shermer: Let me commit the ad hominem fallacy by attacking the motives of intelligent design proponents instead of dealing with their arguments and evidence.

Meyer: Two can play at that game, since evolutionists are atheists and secular humanists. But who cares? let’s stick to the arguments and evidence, ok?

Strobel: Meyer, are evolution and Christianity compatible?

Meyer: No, because evolution requires that the natural processes that create the diversity of life be random and unpredictable.

Shermer: Well, maybe the natural forces could be caused by the designer but in a totally undirected and undetectable way, so you Christians could have blind faith and we could run the public square.

Meyer: But Darwinism says and that no design is detectable in those processes, so they processes cannot be actually directed on Darwinism.

Shermer: But the designer could use natural selection and mutation.

Meyer: If so, then why did Darwin explicitly reject God having a role in these processes?

Shermer: I don’t believe in God because there isn’t enough evidence and it would require too many changes in my life. I like having autonomy from God and his moral demands. Also, we must always prefer material explanations, we can never infer that an intelligence played a role. I will only allow you to have two explanations of natural phenomena: 1) God didn’t do it, or 2) we don’t know.

Meyer: I like that you allow “we don’t know” as an explanation if we don’t know, because that is a rejection of dogmatic explanations that don’t fit the available evidence. But the arguments for design are based on what we do know, not what we don’t know – science gave us these arguments – and the progress of science has only strengthened them.

Conclusion

Well, I think it’s pretty clear who won, and who had the evidence! I like Michael Shermer, though, and I hope that he comes around to our point of view in time. At least he’s willing to debate, and he has a pretty moderate view compared to other Darwinian fundamentalists.

Other debates on Darwinism vs intelligent design

Michael Shermer debates Jonathan Wells at the pro-Darwinism Cato Institute (in 7 parts), MP3 audio is here.

Massimo Pigliucci debates Jonathan Wells for the pro-Darwinism PBS, downloadable video and audio.

John Lennox debates against Michael Shermer about the existence of God.

Further study

Here are posts on cosmological argument and the fine-tuning argument. I’ll respond to hopeful, but unwarranted, speculations about quantum mechanics and chaotic inflationary models, which I will be blogging about later. I’ll blog about molecular machines in a future post.

An essay on the origin of biological information by Meyer is here and a debate between two software engineers on it is here. I’ll also mention Meyer’s forthcoming book Signature in the Cell. Don’t forget about the upcoming debate between William Lane Craig and Francisco Ayala!

By the way, William Lane Craig has also debated Massimo Pigliucci on the topic “Does God Exist?”.

UPDATE: Did you see my post on why Darwinists don’t allow debates like this to happen in school classrooms?

Is the concept of moral obligation intelligible on atheistic materialism?

Commenter ECM sent me this post from Uncommon Descent about the is-ought fallacy, and the difficulties that atheists have grounding morality on worldview in which only material things exist. The post is written by Barry Arrington. He is summarizes an argument based on some of the comments from an earlier post.

Barry introduces two assumptions:

(1) That atheistic naturalism is true.

(2) One can’t infer an “ought” from an “is.” Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.

Given our second assumption, there is nothing in the natural world from which we can infer an “ought.” And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s nothing in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

This makes sense to me. If only matter exists, and the whole universe is an accident, then where would an atheist get this idea that the current arrangement of matter ought to be any other way? Matter just is. This concept of “ought to be” is totally alien to an atheistic worldview where everything is matter, because moral obligations are non-material.

The article goes on: (I added the number 3)

Add a further uncontroversial assumption: (3) an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action. This is just the standard inferential scheme for formal deontic logic.

Basically, he is saying that an action is permissible so long as there is no moral obligation against that action. Can you see what’s coming? (I added the number 4)

We’ve conformed to standard principles and inference rules of logic and we’ve started out with assumptions that atheists have conceded. And yet we reach the absurd conclusion: (4) therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action.

And let’s be clear about why this is bad for atheists:

If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan “if atheism is true, all things are permitted.” For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

Let me just add one more point. How are we supposed to be morally obligated to perform any action if we are pure matter? Meat machines don’t have free will. We would just be strings of dominoes falling forward, with no choice whether to fall or not. And even if we could somehow choose, our choices have no ultimate moral significance.

So, what does morality mean to atheists, then?

A while back, I listed some quotes about morality on atheism, taken from atheists who have actually thought through the consequences of atheism for rational moral behavior.

Here is a quotation from Richard Dawkins:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

Of course, atheists can sense the objective moral standard that God has built into every person. But their materialist worldview undercuts the meaningfulness of moral values, moral duties and moral accountability. And people just don’t act morally once morality has become irrational for them. Acting morally is hard.

What ends up happening to atheists is that they only do the right thing for pleasure, or to avoid social punishments. Once the pre-supposition of materialism has destroyed the rationality of morality, it becomes impossible for atheists to answer the question “Why be moral?”. Any atheist who continues to act morally is living inconsistently with their own worldview – and that is not sustainable in the long run.

Atheistic assumptions wear down the awareness of the moral law that atheists started out with, so that they begin to advocate for obviously immoral things, like the suppression of freedom of inquiry. Eventually, the guilt becomes so strong that they exchange authentic moral values like chastity and sobriety for cheap narcissistic fads like recycling and yoga.

The case of William Wilberforce

Consider this article from the Wall Street Journal about the abolitionist William Wilberforce.

In fact, William Wilberforce was driven by a version of Christianity that today would be derided as “fundamentalist.”

…William Wilberforce himself, as a student at Cambridge University in the 1770s and as a young member of Parliament soon after, had no more than a nominal sense of faith. Then, in 1785, he began reading evangelical treatises and underwent what he called “the Great Change,” almost dropping out of politics to study for the ministry until friends persuaded him that he could do more good where he was.

And he did a great deal of good…[h]is relentless campaign eventually led Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a law shortly after his death in 1833, making the entire institution of slavery illegal. But it is impossible to understand Wilberforce’s long antislavery campaign without seeing it as part of a larger Christian impulse. The man who prodded Parliament so famously also wrote theological tracts, sponsored missionary and charitable works, and fought for what he called the “reformation of manners,” a campaign against vice.

Even during the 18th century, evangelicals were derided as over-emotional “enthusiasts” by their Enlightenment-influenced contemporaries. By the time of Wilberforce’s “great change,” liberal 18th-century theologians had sought to make Christianity more “reasonable,” de-emphasizing sin, salvation and Christ’s divinity in favor of ethics, morality and a rather distant, deistic God. Relatedly, large numbers of ordinary English people, especially among the working classes, had begun drifting away from the tepid Christianity that seemed to prevail. Evangelicalism sought to counter such trends and to reinvigorate Christian belief.

…Perhaps the leading evangelical force of the day was the Methodism of John Wesley: It focused on preaching, the close study of the Bible, communal hymn-singing and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Central to the Methodist project was the notion that good works and charity were essential components of the Christian life. Methodism spawned a vast network of churches and ramified into the evangelical branches of Anglicanism. Nearly all the social-reform movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries–from temperance and soup kitchens to slum settlement houses and prison reform–owe something to Methodism and its related evangelical strains. The campaign against slavery was the most momentous of such reforms and, over time, the most successful.It is thus fitting that John Wesley happened to write his last letter–sent in February 1791, days before his death–to William Wilberforce. Wesley urged Wilberforce to devote himself unstintingly to his antislavery campaign, a “glorious enterprise” that opposed “that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature.” Wesley also urged him to “go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”

Wesley had begun preaching against slavery 20 years before and in 1774 published an abolitionist tract, “Thoughts on Slavery.” Wilberforce came into contact with the burgeoning antislavery movement in 1787, when he met Thomas Clarkson, an evangelical Anglican who had devoted his life to the abolitionist cause. Two years later, Wilberforce gave his first speech against the slave trade in Parliament.

…This idea of slaving as sin is key. As sociologist Rodney Stark noted in “For the Glory of God” (2003), the abolition of slavery in the West during the 19th century was a uniquely Christian endeavor. When chattel slavery, long absent from Europe, reappeared in imperial form in the 16th and 17th centuries–mostly in response to the need for cheap labor in the New World–the first calls to end the practice came from pious Christians, notably the Quakers. Evangelicals, not least Methodists, quickly joined the cause, and a movement was born.

William Wilberforce believed that slaves were made in the image of God – that they were embodied souls who could be resurrected to eternal life. Wilberforce believed that the purpose of human life is to freely seek God, and to be reconciled with God through Christ. He wanted all men and women to have the opportunity to investigate and respond to God’s self-revelation to them.

Further study

You can read more about Wilberforce’s beliefs here and his public activities here. And you can still see modern-day abolitionists, like Scott Klusendorf, acting out their Christian faith. Only today they’re called pro-lifers.

A good paper by Bill Craig on the problem of rationally grounding prescriptive morality is here.

Reviews of Christopher Hitchens’ book

I saw this book review about Christopher Hitchens’ book “God is Not Great”, written by Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason.

The post is here. Here is an excerpt:

Let me say something that isn’t very pleasing to think about Religion isn’t false just because it’s cruel.  Even if every one of Hitchens’ accusations were accurate, they don’t disprove the truth of religion.  God might be a cruel being who does delight in manipulating man.  In that case, Hitchens’ claim that “religion poisons everything” might be true, but his real claim is that God doesn’t exist.  And that just doesn’t follow from every evil example of religion.

What standard of morality is Hitchens using to judge God and Christians as evil? If it is his personal preference, then who cares what he thinks. If it is the current fashion of the culture he is in in this time and place, who cares? That “standard” will change as time and place changes. It’s convention. But, if it is an objective moral standard that exists independently of what individuals and cultures think, then God exists to make that design for the way the world ought to be.

Next excerpt:

Hitchens says religion is evil, and he does mean evil and sin.  He freely uses moral language to pin the blame right where he believes it belongs, but he never explained how he, as a materialist, can use moral language and mean them as moral terms that all mankind are beholden to….

As I mentioned, Hitchens professes materialism, believes it’s proved.  He freely makes moral accusations against religion and religious people.  He freely admits contempt, and, given what he believes, that would be the proper response.  He accuses religion of sins and evil.  These are real, objective categories for him, not his personal sentiment.  He never explains how, as a materialist who believes in a world of only what science can explain and prove in the physical world, he can lay claim to morality.  He ignores the grounding problem, the explanatory power of a view of reality to account for the features in it.  Morality, the way Hitchens is using it, has no material explanation.  How does he account for the prescriptive, universal nature of morality, not merely descriptive?  His humanism won’t get him there because that can only offer a descriptive, contingent account – whatever is is morality.  On this major flaw alone, it’s justified to ignore anything Hitchens claims because his view of reality can’t lay claim to morality.

Melinda wants to know how Hitchens’ can help himself to the notion of rationality on a materialistic worldview. After all, if materialism is true, humans are pure matter. Everything humans do is causally determine by their genetic programming and sensory inputs. But that behavior is targeted towards survival and reproduction not reasoning about the external world.

She writes:

There’s more to the grounding problem, too.  Is rationality material?  He can’t even ground the rationality he sees as the crown of human progress.  If man is purely material, then he’s a machine programmed by nature, c-fibers firing, acting according to the laws hard-wired by his biology.  He lauds the “chainless mind,” free from religion.  Yet in his view of reality, man is chained by determinism with no escape.  There is no rationality because there is no option to behave, think, believe any way other than we do.  There’s no point in even trying to persuade religious people to believe and behave different since we’re also just acting the way we’re programmed to.  Indeed, even scientific inquiry that Hitchens offers as the hope of mankind is nonsense since only one conclusion is predetermined by our programming.

And it goes on from there. I’m looking forward to the (not yet planned) debate between Melinda Penner and Christopher Hitchens! Because I think she could kick his butt with half her brain tied behind her back.

If you want to get ready for the debate today between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, check out my analysis of the 11 arguments Hitchens made in his opening speech in his debate with Frank Turek. You can also watch or listen to a preview debate that was held in Dallas recently between Craig, Hitchens and some other people. Biola University is live-blogging the debate as well.

UPDATE: I was just chatting with Brian Auten of Apologetics 315, and he recommended this review of Hitchens’ book by Douglas Groothuis. This is a 28-minute audio clip.