H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, was introduced in the Senate Tuesday April 28th, and is slated to reach the House floor for a vote Wednesday. The bill would expand existing hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
David Limbaugh, in his TownHall article, showed cause for concern when he had this to say:
Color me, also, alarmist, but I think the main purpose of this bill is to demonize and criminalize thought, especially the politically incorrect belief that homosexual behavior is either abnormal or sinful. It is to make an emphatic societal statement that this belief constitutes “hate” and possibly to lay the groundwork for outlawing speech expressing this belief, including from the pulpit.
I hardly think I’m being hysterical here. The practice of criminalizing peaceful expression of this belief has already occurred in other nations — including Sweden, Canada and Great Britain — and even in our own Philadelphia.
New York City authorities ordered the removal of billboards — citing an anti-harassment ordinance — that displayed various biblical versions of Leviticus 18:22, such as the New International Version’s rendering, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari reportedly publicly condemned the language in the displayed verse as “mean-spirited” and “hate speech.”
Others believe the warnings being raised around the proposed bill are not warranted, Trina Hoaks of the Atheist Examiner had this to say in an April 21st article:
As is to be expected, certain evangelical Christians are focusing on the “sexual orientation” portion of the bill, which only proves their hatred and allows their true motives to shine through. They are opposing this bill and encouraging others to do so by inciting irrational fears and beliefs in people. (Sound familiar?)
They said “[they] believe prosecutors and anti-Christian groups will use loop holes in the proposed legislation to muzzle the church from speaking out on Biblical standards of morality which are shared by most Americans. Unnecessary lawsuits will bring a chilling effect to the free speech and religious liberty of our churches and of our members.” Actually, there is little chance of a “loop hole” that will permit this to come to pass.
Consider, if you will, what they fail to point out – Section 10 – The Rule of Construction (the last item of the bill) says, “Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
And, to further drive home my belief that this point is being omitted intentionally from their conversations is that when I pointed this out to one of them via the internet, my comment was promptly deleted.
Gotta love those righteous Christians!
Warnings to be taken seriously? Or fear-mongering to disguise hatred? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below.
Editor’s Note: A summary of the arguments made during the debate can be found here.
Premier Christian philosopher Dr. WIlliam Lane Craig and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens will be debating the question “Does God Exist?” April 4th at Biola University. A live webcast of the event will be shown, and can be purchased here.
What if the atheists are right? What if our Universe, the Earth, mankind, and you and I all exist by mere chance? What if, as Carl Sagan put it, “the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” and with nothing beyond the physical universe, Richard Dawkins was correct in stating “we are on our own in the universe…. humanity can expect no help from outside”?
Point 1: If the Cosmos is all there is, then all that is will die.
“Earth has been habitable for 4.5 billion years and only has a half billion years left.” That’s the conclusion of Pennsylvania State University professor James Kasting. According to Professor Kasting, “Astronomers always knew that the oceans would evaporate, but they typically thought it would occur only when the Sun left the main sequence – that will be in five billion years. However, my calculations show the oceans may evaporate much earlier.”
What will happen after our planet can no longer support life? Professors Peter Schröder and Robert Smith predict that “In a few billion years, the Sun will fuse the last of its hydrogen into helium, turn into a red giant and expand to 250 times its current size.” Initially, there will appear to be hope for the now lifeless planet we call home, as the gravitational pull from the Sun will be loosened, enabling the Earth to widen its orbit and escape being enveloped by the Sun. However, this widening orbit will cause a “tidal bulge” on the Sun’s surface. This bulge will “lag just behind the Earth in its orbit, slowing it down enough to drag it to a fiery demise.”
Tens of billions of years later, according to astrophysicists, “the sun will have shrunk to a white dwarf, giving little light and even less heat to whatever is left of Earth, and entered a long, lingering death that could last 100 trillion years—or a thousand times longer than the cosmos has existed to date. The same will happen to most other stars, although a few will end their lives as blazing supernovas. Finally, though, all that will be left in the cosmos will be black holes, the burnt-out cinders of stars and the dead husks of planets. The universe will be cold and black.”
“By the time the final chapter of cosmic history is written—further in the future than our minds can grasp—humanity, and perhaps even biology, will long since have vanished. Yet it’s conceivable that consciousness will survive, perhaps in the form of a disembodied digital intelligence. If so, then someone may still be around to note that the universe, once ablaze with the light of uncountable stars, has become an unimaginably vast, cold, dark and profoundly lonely place.”
Is this really our great hope? That all that we know, all that we love, all that we are… may live on one day as nothing more than a faint and distant memory, drifting aimlessly through a cold, dead nothingness? If “the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” then what else IS there to hope for? Since there is no God, there is no outside force to intervene. We, the Earth, and the Universe will ultimately share the same fate… death.
Point 2: If atheism is true, then man’s search for meaning is in vain.
Psychoanalyst and Nazi concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl spent the later part of his life developing a psychological technique he termed logotherapy, which he developed by studying his and his fellow prisoners’ psyches during his years in concentration camps. His work was focused on “the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning,” which he detailed in his book Man’s Search For Meaning
How essential is this search of meaning to man? Frankl summed up his findings by saying that “this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man,” and yet if, as William Lane Craig points out in his book Reasonable Faith, “mankind is a doomed race in a dying universe,” what ultimate meaning could there be in the existence of anything or anyone? Perhaps one could say that they have “influenced others or affected the course of history,” but while their life “may be important relative to certain other events… what is the ultimate significance of any of these events? If all these events are meaningless, then what can be the ultimate significance of influencing any of them?” If there is no God, there can be no meaning.
This is why many atheists compare man’s search for meaning to questions like “what is the meaning of a cup of coffee?” To distinguish ourselves in any ultimate sense from an inanimate object is nonsensical, we both simply exist, neither one having any ultimate reason for existing, and neither holding any more inherent value than the other, which brings me to my next point.
Point 3: If there is no immortality and no ultimate moral authority, then all things are permitted.
Humanist philosopher Richard Taylor points out in his book Ethics, Faith, and Reason that “to say that something is wrong because . . . it is forbidden by God, is . . . perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong . . . even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable. . . . The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” The only way that something can be wrong in any real and objective sense, is if a God exists to declare it to be so.
If there is no God, and we have no ultimate moral authority to turn to, then what possible right could any of us have to declare anyone or anything wrong? We simply exist, and prefer one thing or the other. Truly, there exists a more or less consistent set of moral laws that we all subscribe to (a point we will explore later), but with no binding moral authority, choosing to acknowledge and behave according to these rules is nothing more than a valueless fact. Ghandi chose to follow these rules, Hitler didn’t. Is Ghandi a better person for doing so? Only in the sense that the majority of our species have decided it to be so. Was Hitler wrong for killing six million Jews? Most would say yes, but what of the minority of people that would say no? If God does not exist, then moral judgment is nothing more than opinion.
And what of injustice? If there is no God, the only punishment that can be given to someone that desires to do evil is in this life. There is no ultimate justice, only the hope that to some extent evil will be punished and good will be rewarded through government, society, etc… As insufficient as these entities are in combating and punishing evil, what happens when even they are taken away as a hindrance to evil? Consider the story of Christian missionary Richard Wurmbrand, who was tortured for his faith in the prisons of communist Romania, as he reflects on the beliefs and actions of his atheistic torturers:
I often asked my torturers, “Don’t you have pity in your hearts?” They usually answered with quotations from Lenin: “You cannot make omelets without breaking the shells of eggs,” and “You cannot cut wood without making chips fly.”
I said again, “I know these quotations from Lenin. But there is a difference. When you cut a piece of wood it feels nothing. But here you are dealing with human beings. Every beating produces pain and there are mothers who weep.” It was in vain. They are materialists. For them nothing besides matter exists and to them a man is like wood, like an eggshell. With this belief they sink to unthinkable depths of cruelty.
The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward for good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communist torturers often said, “There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.” I heard one torturer say, “I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.” He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.
— Richard Wurmbrand: Tortured for Christ
19th Century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyovski explored the impact of atheism in his work The Brothers Karamazov. At one point, a character recounts the statements of one of the brothers:
“Let me …. tell you another little story, this one about Mr. Ivan Karamazov himself, an interesting and characteristic story, I think. Well, not more than five days ago, in a company consisting mostly of ladies of our town, he solemnly declared, in the course of a discussion, that there was nothing on earth to force men to love their fellow men, that there was no law of nature that a man should love mankind, and that if there was love on earth it did not stem from any natural law but rather from man’s belief in immortality. And here he added parenthetically that if there was any natural law, it was precisely this: Destroy a man’s belief in immortality and not only will his ability to love wither away within him but, along with it, the force that impels him to continue his existence on earth. Moreover, nothing would be immoral then, everything would be permitted, even cannibalism. He went even further, finally asserting that, for every individual — people like us now, for instance — who does not believe in God or immortality, the natural moral law immediately becomes the opposite of religious law and that absolute egotism, even carried to the extent of crime, must not only be tolerated but even recognized as the wisest and perhaps the noblest course…”
“Just a minute!” Dmitry shouted unexpectedly. “I want to get it straight: crime must be considered not only as admissible but even as the logical and inevitable consequence of an atheist’s position. Did I get it right?”
“You’ve got it right,” Father Paissi said.
In her essay Existentialism and Dostoevsky, Katharena Eiermann summarized Ivan Karamazov’s contention as, “if there is no God, everything is permitted.” Wurmbrand’s atheistic torturers understood this tie between God, immortality, and morality, and with no outside entity to stop them in this life, they were left without any fear of punishment, and the result was seen in the 18 wounds to Wurmbrand’s neck, back and chest he showed to the U.S. Senate upon his return to America. If atheistic evangelist Richard Dawkins was right in declaring that belief in immortality was “dangerous nonsense,” and thus that there is no immortality and no supernatural creator, then are not all things (including the acts performed by these Communist torturers) permitted?
Editor’s Note: Introduction to the VOR Series The Basics.
You believe that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that only those who place their faith in Jesus will find salvation after death. As a Christian, you believe these propositions not because they make you feel good, but because you think that they are true. Before I point out some of the problems with these beliefs, I would like to acknowledge that there are many points on which you and I agree. We agree, for instance, that if one of us is right, the other is wrong. The Bible is either the word of God, or it isn’t. Either Jesus offers humanity the one, true path to salvation (John 14:6) or he does not. We agree that to be a true Christian is to believe all other faiths are mistaken, and profoundly so. If Christianity is correct, and I persist in my unbelief, I should expect to suffer the torments of hell. Worse still, I have persuaded others, and many close to me, to reject the very idea of God. They too will languish in “eternal fire” (Matthew 24:41). If the basic doctrine of Christianity is correct, I have misused my life in the worst conceivable way. I admit this without a single caveat. The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are.
— Sam Harris: Letter to a Christian Nation
Sam Harris and the militant atheists of our day are not stupid. Neither are the Orthodox Jews, agnostics, theologically-liberal Christians, or the host of others who have openly rejected the message of the gospel. The burden of proof is on us, the disciples of Jesus, to tell the world His message, and prove that there is no reasonable response to that message other than to fall down and worship Him as Lord. The VOR series, The Basics, is my attempt at doing just that.
Obviously, not everyone will believe what we have to say, no matter how much evidence we provide, and God is not someone that is to be analyzed and discussed as if He were a mere concept, or a hat-in-hand deity in desperate need of people to believe in Him, just waiting to answer every arrogant and haughty “intellectual” question we can come up with… but giving silly, illogical, or inadequate reasons for believing this remarkably radical and supernatural message we carry gives respect neither to the message itself, nor the people to whom we bring it. As Paul said, if Messiah is not raised, we are of all men most to be pitied, for we are giving people false hope, and giving up our lives for a lie.
Let us then strive after the truth, wherever it may lead. For then, we will know the truth, and the truth shall set us free.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
When I debated atheist Christopher Hitchens recently, one of the eight arguments I offered for God’s existence was the creation of this supremely fine-tuned universe out of nothing. I spoke of the five main lines of scientific evidence—denoted by the acronym SURGE—that point to the definite beginning of the space-time continuum. They are: The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Expanding Universe, the Radiation Afterglow from the Big Bang Explosion, the Great galaxy seeds in the Radiation Afterglow, and Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
While I don’t have space to unpack this evidence here (see I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist), it all points to the fact that the universe began from literally nothing physical or temporal. Once there was no time, no space, and no matter and then it all banged into existence out of nothing with great precision.
The evidence led astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow—who until his recent death was the director of the Mount Wilson observatory once led by Edwin Hubble—to author a book called God and the Astronomers. Despite revealing in the first line of chapter 1 that he was personally agnostic about ‘religious matters,” Jastrow reviewed some of the SURGE evidence and concluded, “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”
In an interview, Jastrow went even further, admitting that “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. . . . That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
Jastrow was not alone in evoking the supernatural to explain the beginning. Athough he found it personally “repugnant,” General Relativity expert Arthur Eddington admitted the same when he said, “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”
Now why would scientists such as Jastrow and Eddington admit, despite their personal misgivings, that there are “supernatural” forces at work? Why couldn’t natural forces have produced the universe? Because there was no nature and there were no natural forces ontologically prior to the Big Bang—nature itself was created at the Big Bang. That means the cause of the universe must be something beyond nature—something we would call supernatural. It also means that the supernatural cause of the universe must at least be:
· spaceless because it created space
· timeless because it created time
· immaterial because it created matter
· powerful because it created out of nothing
· intelligent because the creation event and the universe was precisely designed
· personal because it made a choice to convert a state of nothing into something (impersonal forces don’t make choices).
Those are the same attributes of the God of the Bible (which is one reason I believe in a the God of the Bible and not a god of mythology like Zeus).
I mentioned in the debate that other scientists who made Big-Bang-related discoveries also conclude that the evidence is consistent with the Biblical account. Robert Wilson—co-discoverer of the Radiation Afterglow, which won him a Noble Prize in Physics— observed, “Certainly there was something that set it off. Certainly, if you’re religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.” George Smoot—co-discoverer of the Great Galaxy Seeds which won him a Nobel Prize as well—echoed Wilson’s assessment by saying, “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the Big Bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”
How did Hitchens respond to this evidence? Predictably, he said that I was “speculating”—that no one can get behind the Big Bang event. I say “predictably” because that’s exactly the response Dr. Jastrow said is common for atheists who have their own religion—the religion of science.
Jastrow wrote, “There is a kind of religion in science . . . every effect must have its cause; there is no First Cause. . . . This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implications—in science this is known as “refusing to speculate.”
Hitchens admits the evidence but ignores its implications in order to blindly maintain his own religious faith (watch the entire debate at CrossExamined.org here). How is it speculation to say that since all space, time, and matter were created that the cause must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial? That’s not speculation, but following the evidence where it leads.
Dr. Jastrow, despite his agnosticism, told us where the evidence leads. He ended his book this way: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
An atheist reluctantly admits that Jesus is the answer in Africa in this December 27th Times Onlinearticle:
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem – the crushing passivity of the people’s mindset
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I wonder if Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris will soon be willing to admit that “the rebirth is real”? Or does one need to witness the impact themselves, as this man has, in order to come face to face with reality? And as far as Africa is concerned, how will the spread of the hyper-prosperity gospel message affect the good testimony that Christianity has built there? Leave a comment below and share your opinion.
Editor’s Note: In an effort to educate followers of Jesus regarding what is going on in the wider culture, we share news that we think the people of God should be aware of, from a Kingdom perspective. Unless otherwise stated, we make no endorsements of the links, media, organizations, or people we report on.
ATHEISTIC DOCUMENTARY “RELIGULOUS” RELEASED
On October 1st, Bill Maher, liberal satirist extraordinaire, released a documentary called Religulous which attempts to mock religious belief, and promote disbelief (literally… www.disbelief.net is promoted on their website). It’s met with generally positive reviews, with Roger Ebert saying: “I report faithfully that I laughed frequently. You may very well hate it, but at least you’ve been informed. Perhaps you could enjoy the material about other religions, and tune out when yours is being discussed. That’s only human nature.” Dr. Craig Hazen of Biola University has written a good review of the film, offering critiques of its main points against Christianity, and declaring that it “seemed to fall pretty flat in the laughs department—like it was appealing to an audience that may have been amused by it twenty years ago” . He also adds:
Well, if it’s not very funny, then what does it have to offer? Nothing, really, except a chance for Maher and Charles to make a fast buck (glad I got my ticket for free). Maher is pitching this film as mavericky—telling the truth about religion that everyone else is afraid to address. But Religulous is nothing more than filthy, nudie, druggie, and obtusey. There is little to laugh at and nothing to learn (except maybe that if you quit being religulous you get to act like Caligulous).
British atheists are planning to evangelize their disbelief on London’s buses by buying ads that proclaim “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Relevant news articles can be found at The Washington Post and BBC News.
The campaign started as a response to bus advertisements that directed people to a Web site that declared that those who do not believe in God will spend “all eternity in torment in hell.” The initial goal was to raise 5,500 pounds, enough for 30 bus ads for 4 weeks, but so many donors came forward that they raised 80,000 pounds and expanded the project. Richard Dawkins, possibly the world’s most prominent and outspoken atheist, donated 5,500 pounds and said on his website: “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think — and thinking is anathema to religion.” Another donor left the comment “Spread the word, and consign this superstitious nonsense to the dustbin of history! America, are you listening?” on the group’s campaign website.
The surprising thing about the project is not that it is being done, anyone that has followed the “new atheism” movement over the past few years expects to see atheism evangelized… what’s really interesting is its “positive” message. While the question of whether anything can truly be “positive” without God can be raised, its simple message of encouraging people to stop worrying and enjoy life is much less angry and mean-spirited than most of that which is propagated by the likes of Dawkins and his disciples. Though Dawkins’ jab at the stupidity of religion reassures me that he hasn’t changed his ways, and makes me wonder if he had little say in determining the slogan and would have wished the sign was a tad more aggressive and condescending.
Fellow followers of Jesus, let us impact our culture with the gospel of our Messiah, whether it be though documentaries, bus ads, or whatever else is at our disposal. Unless we stand up and submit that which we believe into the cultural landscape of ideas, while giving people viable reasons to believe, we will continually be left on the defensive. As Dr. William Lane Craig wrote with regard to his work in philosophy:
It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved.