February 2020
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
242526272829  

Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible
  • Archive for the 'Secularism' Category

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism

    Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    While traveling I saw a review for Alvin Plantinga new book “Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.”   Checking out the comments on Amazon.com, I noticed a discussion, and decided to jump in.   Here are my replies, with links back to the notes I am replying to. The passages in quotes are taken from the note to which I am responding.

    In reply to Paul L. LaClair post:

    LaClair,

    I was checking out this book and started following this discussion. I found your comment to calcidius that “Most people who say they believe in a god admit they have to rely on “faith,” since they can’t prove it” as particularly problematic for the following reasons,

    “Most people” — the fallacy of an appeal to the people. What “most people” say is irrelevant to the truth of a proposition, particularly in the discussion here as “most people” do not think deeply about the philosophical underpinning of their beliefs.

    Then there is the contrast of faith and proof. Proof is a very vague and ultimately subjective concept. What does and does not constitute proof varies from situation to situation, and from person to person. In its general sense, proof is simply the level of evidence needed to conclude that something is true.

    Faith, on the other hand, is not a basis for belief, but a reliance on a belief that causes someone to act. In the realm of religion, a person can intellectually believe that God exists, but if that believe has no impact on their life, they do not have faith. However faith is not limited just to religion. Everyone has faith in what they believe, and they structures their lives accordingly, even the scientific naturalist.

    While it is possible to have a blind faith in the absence of, or even counter to, the evidence, not all faith is blind. Faith can be supported by the evidence. An engineer could calculate that a bridge will support him, but it is faith in his calculations that allows him to cross the bride.

    This is where the contrast of faith with proof is so problematic. It is one of the reasons I rarely talk about proof, preferring rather just to speak of evidence. Is there proof for god? While this would depend on the standard of proof being used, for simplicity sake, I will say no. But the absence of proof should not be taken to mean the absence of evidence, and I do believe that there is evidence for God. In fact, I believe that a theistic worldview has the least problems of all the various ways of understanding reality, including scientific naturalism, and thus is the best explanation.

    You can see this difference in your statements such as,

    “Good scientists hold many of the questions open, and then make judgments about which avenues of inquiry are most likely to be productive. A reasonable scientist does not spend her time trying to figure out whether ‘God did it’”

    But what is “reasonable” and “most likely to be productive” will depend strongly on one’s world view. Thus for example, when considering questions such as the origin of the universe, or the beginning of life, should a scientist be seeking to discover what happened, or should they limit themselves only to natural explanation for these questions? Scientific naturalism argues the latter.

    Spirituality & Religious Behavior & Life

    Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    There is a direct correlation between spirituality and religious behavior and how we see and feel and react to the world around us.  Those who pray on a daily basis, and attend religious intuitions on a weekly basis,  are happier,  healthier,  more content, more satisfied in their job,  closer to their families, and have a better outlook towards the future. If you ever wanted evidence that spirituality and religiosity has a direct impact on how we regard life,  its  right there in the book for you.

    Frank Luntz, discussing his book “What America Really Want … Really” with Dennis Prager Sept 15, 2009 Hour 2 on Prager’s paid site .

    In and Just Like

    Friday, March 27th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    It is very common to hear Christians talk of impacting the world for Christ.  Or to talk of how we are to be in the world but not of the world.  But the latest numbers  from the Barna Group clearly show that the impact is the other way around.  Rather than in but not of, American Christianity is becoming in and just like.

    Given that the government mandated secular worldview is so prevalent in the culture, it is not all that surprising to find that only 34% of Americans believe in absolute moral truth, or that half of Americans believe that the Bible is “accurate in all the principles that it teaches.”  What is disturbing is the inroad such beliefs are making into the church.

    In the survey, “Born Again Christians” were those who said “they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today and that they are certain that they will go to Heaven after they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior.”

    While born again Christians who were asked the same question did better than Americans at large, it was not much better.   While half of Americans did not believe the Bible was accurate, 21%  likewise did not believe the Bible to be accurate.  As for the belief in absolute moral truth,  even a majority of born-again Christians, 54%,  no longer accept that.

    The Barna Group’s uses these and four other beliefs, such as Jesus lived a sinless life, to define a Christian world view.  Those who hold all six beliefs are then said to have a Christian world view.   Based on this the survey shows that only 9% of Americans have a Christian world view. Born again Christians do better, but not much.  Only 19% of Born Again Christians could say that they hold all six beliefs.

    In a broader perspective, this decline in belief has been going on for sometime.  It reached a low point in the mid 1990s when only 7% of American held a Biblical world view. The trend reversed somewhat climbing back up to 11% by 2005,  but now is back down to 9%.

    Worse however, are the statistics for the younger generations.  Those in the 18 to 23 year age group, commonly called the Mosaic generation, were virtually completely secularized, as less than one-half of one percent had a biblical world view.

    Now those pushing the secular world view, would undoubtedly say that was because of the superiority of the secular world view and that people are just rejecting the false superstitions of the past.  But then they would say that, wouldn’t they.  Ultimately I do not think they can be blamed, any more than you could blame a prosecutor if you lost a trial where the evidence was on your side, but your defense lawyer never bother to get up to present  your side of the case.  

    I do believe the evidence is on our side.  In some cases very clearly.  In fact, in my classes on critical thinking I would use the rejection of absolute morality as an  example of how people don’t really think through what they believe.  

    I would ask how many in the class believed in absolute moral truth, and would get results similar to those found by Barna.   I would then ask if torturing babies for fun was inherently wrong, or was a matter of opinion where for some it was wrong, but for other it might not be.  With the exception of one student,  all the students in all the classes where I asked this considered torturing babies for fun inherently wrong, and the one who didn’t was not very comfortable with his conclusion but was being honest with his belief that there was no absolute moral truth.

    Thus with one simple question I was able to almost completely turn around people’s thinking on absolute morality.  Granted, winning over the culture will not be quite as easy as this, but on  the other hand it is not the insurmountable problem that some seem to think, nor is everything lost.

    Still the Church is like the defense  attorney with a strong case to make who never presents it. Josh McDowell, in his book The Last Christian Generation, discusses how many young people see church as little more than a place to go with a lot of fun activities, but with little impact on their lives.   This is also seen in the very large number of people who leave the church when they leave home.

    Yet it need not be this way.  The Church not only has the truth, but in many cases the preponderance of the evidence to back it up.   Yet sadly many Christians have the attitude of ‘I already believe’ so they don’t need to learn about things like doctrine or apologetics.  In fact, it is not only quite sad, but very telling, that many Christians do not even know what the word  apologetics means.  Given this, the results from Barna, are really no surprise.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Christianity In America?

    Friday, March 6th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    As I point out in my forthcoming book, Preserving Democracy, one of the things that surprised Alexis de Tocqueville, when he came to what was then the new country of America, was religion. As he wrote in his classic, Democracy in America, “Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention;” As de Tocqueville noted, it was not just that Christianity played an important role in peoples’ lives, it played a key, though not direct, role in the political life of the country as well.

    “Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but nevertheless is must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions.”

    In the system of checks and balances set up by our founding fathers one of the checks was religion, not as a part of the government, but as an important force apart from the government. This way it could serve as a checks on government, lest government get too large and itself infringe on liberty. As John Adams put it, “Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other.”

    Given this it should be of no surprise that those who push the hardest for the removal of religion from public discourse, also tend to push equally hard for a larger role for government. By definition a larger government means less liberty, but in the upside down world we live in they often cast their attack on, and suppression of, religious belief in the terms of freedom.

    This sort of inverted thinking is once again on display in the Obama administration’s decision to rescind the federal regulation that protects people’s “freedom of conscience.” The regulation prevents health care professionals who are morally opposed to abortions from being forced to participate in them.

    It is interesting that those who so loudly proclaim themselves to be pro-choice are so quick to deny choice to anyone who does not agree with them, and to do so in the name of freedom. The reaction of some supporters of the administration’s actions was that health care professionals “should perform the duty needed to the best of the patients interest or change profession.

    Of course this suits them very well. They would love to get rid of doctors and nurses that point out inconvenient facts, such that the fetus is not just a lump of tissue, but a genetically distinct human that is by any normal definition of life, alive. Or facts such as in the case of some late term abortions a living human does not need to be aborted as it could live on its own. Such facts do put a damper on the party line. Once only those who supported abortion remained, then they could say, “but doctors and nurses don’t have any objection to abortion, why do you?”

    If freedom of conscience is forbidden here, how about other more controversial areas? One state already allows euthanasia. If the supreme court were to suddenly find a right to die in some hitherto unchecked penumbras of the Constitution, would all doctors and nurses be required to kill their patients when they requested it? If not, why not?

    We have seen this principle in other areas. In Massachusetts, the Catholic Charities of Boston was one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies and specialized in finding homes for children who were hard to place. But they were forced to close by the state. Why? Because in the new age of enlightenment, the idea that the best way to raise children was for them to have a father and a mother in a loving committed relationship, could no longer be allowed. This outdated notion has been officially declared to be discrimination against same-sex couples.

    The more these new ideas of rights and freedom are imposed on America, the less free people will become, and the freedom to choose certain professions will be eliminated for Christians of conscience. Medicine is clearly threatened by this change. It is not hard to see that teachers will not be far behind as they will increasingly be forced to push same-sex relationships as an equal option for children. Anything less would be discriminatory.

    Even professions one might not expect will be affected. For example, in New Mexico a Christian photographer found herself before the New Mexico Human Rights Division when she declined to photograph a commitment ceremony for a same sex couple. As a result she facing a possible injunction forbidding her from ever again refusing such a ceremony, in addition to thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    The real danger with so many of the radical secularists is that they don’t just have opinions they express and argue for, they tend to cast everything in terms of rights. As such, to disagree with their opinion is to infringe on some right and is therefore automatically discriminatory. Since it is discriminatory, the power of the state can and should be used to suppress it. Throughout history, people have always been free to do what the ruling power agreed with. Unless we are vigilant, that will be the only freedom we have left in America.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXXII

    Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    In my extended review of Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” I have finally reached the last chapter, “In Conclusion: The Need for a New Enlightenment.”  Hitchens opens the chapter with a discussion of a quote by Lessing, where he says that given the opportunity to know all truth, he would reject the offer in favor of pursuing the truth, even knowing he would remain thereby in error.  Of course this raises the question of why pursue something if obtaining it is not the goal. 

    But for Hitchens this is not a question of a choice between “All truth” and the pursuit of truth.  Hitchens equates knowing “all truth” with faith, and for him the question becomes a choice between faith and reason, faith and modernity, faith and technology, and even a choice between faith and civilization itself. 

    Of course this is a false choice.  I am religious and I certainly do not claim to know all truth.  Far from it and I spend much of my time pursuing it.  But this error goes to the heart of the atheist’s argument, and so in an odd sort of way it is fitting that Hitchens end his book with this error. 

    In reality it is not that those who are religious claim to know the truth, are dogmatic, blindly accepting certain truths, lack skepticism, or do not have a passion for inquiry.  There are certainly some who are religious who would fit this description, just as there are some who don’t believe in god for whom this would also be an accurate description.  Frankly some of the most closed minded and dogmatic people I have run into have been militant atheists.  Not all to be sure, but the simple fact is that these traits can be found amongst all groups, atheist and theist alike. 

    Those who believe in God can seek the truth and can learn and grow just like atheists.  As many have pointed out, including a few atheists, science had its roots in the Judeo-Christian worldview and many of the earlier greats minds of science, like Kepler, Newton, and even Galileo were Christians.  The real problem is not that we don’t search for truth or look at the evidence, but rather that theists reach different conclusions and consider other possibilities, possibilities that are prohibited in the atheist’s materialistic worldview.

    And that is the real problem.  Christians make no bones about it, we have a worldview, a framework in which we evaluate the evidence and apply reason as we strive to learn the truth.  Atheists claim that this shapes how we look at things and the conclusions that we reach; which is quite true, for that is exactly what frameworks do. 

    Where the atheists go wrong is that they also have a framework, a framework in which the only thing that exists is the material universe governed by natural law.  The atheist worldview shapes how they look at things and the conclusions they reach, just as much as the Christian worldview does for Christians.  Frankly, it probably affects them more.  While most Christians realize that they have a worldview, most atheists not only don’t, they frequently deny it.  For them, they don’t have a worldview that shapes their thinking, they just have reality, and see everything else as wrong, all the while claiming confidently not to be dogmatic, but open minded. 

    For the atheist, the existence of God, the supernatural, that we have a soul, etc., does not fit into their worldview and so for them, these things not only do not exist, they cannot exist.  While they are adept at pointing out problems in the theist worldview, any problem, lack of evidence, or evidence to the contrary for the atheist worldview, is simply ignored with the claim that “we will figure it out someday.” When it is demonstrated that the odds against the things they believe must have happened are unimaginably large, they just cling tightly to the minuscule possibility at they happened, however small.  Their worldview permits nothing else.  In fact they sometimes reply, as some have with the origin of life, that however small the odds, it must have happened because we are here. 

    While they are quick to attack religions for their irrational beliefs, often going to the point of casting this as a battle between faith and reason, their attacks are often themselves irrational, which  I have repeated pointed out, is the case with Hitchens.  The real problem in seeing this as a battle between faith and reason,  is that atheists have a distorted definition of faith, which is in reality for them, simply a belief in something that is false.  But that is not faith.  Faith is trusting something to the point of acting on it.  In the Christian worldview, you have faith in God by following his teachings, the first step being accepting Jesus as your savior. 

    Atheists have faith in their worldview just as much as Christians do in theirs.  Which worldview is right? Well I have written two books, Christianity and Secularism and Evidence for the Bible laying out my view of the evidence.  On the other hand, as I have show many times here, Hitchens arguments are based on sloppy thinking, errors and irrationalities, and thus hardly provide a firm foundation for his claims.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXIX

    Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    I am continuing in my extended review of  Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” and his defense of atheism in chapter 17.  As I pointed out last time, given how he has attempted to attack religion in the first sixteen chapters, this is pretty much a no win situation for Hitchens, as he has put himself into a box he cannot now escape.  Still that does not deter him from trying, and what follows is a highly selective view of history, in which he attempts to justify his claim that these secular regime, hostile to at least traditional religions and boasting of their scientific foundations, were in fact actually religious rather than secular. 

    Much of Hitchens’ supporting evidence is inconsistent and is at best little better than “grand conspiracy theory ” type thinking that attempts to find the sinister hand of religion pulling the string behind these otherwise  benign atheist fronts.  But some of the problems that run throughout this chapter can be seen in a couple of revealing quotes.  On page 241, Hitchens acknowledges that “Many Christians gave their lives to protect their fellow creatures in this midnight of the century, but the chances that they did so on orders from any priesthood is statistically almost negligible.” 

    This sentence alone is would be enough to fatally damage Hitchens claim. He attempts to write off these Christians who died to protect others, not to mention the many others who likewise risked their lives without dying,  as acting “in accordance only with the dictates of conscience,” hoping thereby to exclude the influence of religion upon their actions. But does religion consist solely of following the orders of a priesthood? 

    It is just a fact that many Popes throughout history have condemned persecution of the Jews by Christians, and that within Christian Europe , the further a Jew lived from Rome, and thus the influence of the Church, the more they were at risk from persecution. This does not absolve Christianity from guilt when it comes to the persecution of the Jews, nor should it.  But if Christians acting in direct contradiction to the dictates from the Rome, can still be seen as religious in their persecution of the  Jews in the Middle Ages, how can Christians risking their lives to save Jews in the 20th century, be seen as secular, simply because they were nor explicitly ordered to do so by a priesthood?  The double standard implicit in Hitchens’ argument is staggering.

    Ultimately, Hitchens’ argument ignores the role of religion in shaping one’s conscience, and one’s sense of duty to our fellow creatures.  Are we really to believe that these Christians who risked their lives to save others, did so completely independent of Biblical teaching such as Lev19:6’s, command not to stand idly by the blood of your  neighbor,  or Jesus’ teaching concerning the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

    And of course, in a nice little sleight of hand,  Hitchens deftly diverts attention away from just whom these fellow creatures needed to be protected from. So what we have here is Christians  risking, and in some cases sacrificing, their lives to save their fellow human being from atheist regimes that sought their extermination, and Hitchens wants us to conclude from this that atheism is free from blame and that religion was actually the culprit.  Talk about turning things upside down.

    From here Hitchens further attempts to make his case by claiming that “those who invoke ‘secular Tyranny in contrast to religion are hoping that we will forget two things: the connection between the Christian churches and fascism, and the capitulation of the churches to National Socialism.” (pg 242)

    This is a classic example of a seemingly devastating point that is really quite meaningless.  Fascism, in the mid-1930s was a large an popular movement with many supporters even in the United States.  Given the size and popularity of  Fascism and number of Christians in Europe, it is hardly surprising that there were some connection between some Christians and Fascism, and in fact there were some Christians who were strong supporters of the fascists. But that hardly makes fascism a religious movement or Christianity responsible.  To put this in perspective it is also a fact the same could be said about Jews, but would anyone seriously claim that Fascism was therefore a Jewish movement?

    The simple fact is that if you look the major leaders of fascism, and communism for that matter, they were atheists who were seeking to apply the principles of science to the governing of society. The intellectual roots of these movements were solidly grounded, not in religion, but in the dialectic materialism of Karl Marx, the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, and philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, particularly on the death of God as an idea that should have any influence us. These leaders, both political and intellectual, saw religion at best as merely a tool to be exploited to achieve their aims, and at worst a competitor to be eliminated.

    As for the capitulation of the churches, this sadly is true, and it is a major mark against the church that it did not do more to resist such evil. But however bad the churches failure, and it was bad, it was still a failure of omission.  Thus Hitchens argument is in reality that the Christians, not atheist are responsible, because the Christians did not do enough to stop the atheists.   A very strange argument indeed.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXVIII

    Friday, January 16th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    In my extended review of  Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” I have finally reached chapter 17. At this chapter Hitchens has finished his main arguments against religion, the vast majority of which were examples of religious people behaving badly. Of course this leads to a natural question of what about atheists who have behaved badly.   So here Hitchens attempts to show that same standard he has used to attack religion, somehow does not apply to atheism.

    He sums up the situation writing, “When the worst has been said about  the Inquisition and the  witch trials and the Crusades and the Islamic imperial conquests and the horrors of the Old Testament, is it not true that secular and atheist regimes have committed crimes and massacres that are, in the scale of things, at least as bad if not worse?” (pg 229)

    Hitchens begins his defense with one of his typically sarcastic and false, comments that “it is interesting to find that people of faith now seek defensively to say that they are no worse than fascists or  Nazis or Stalinists.”  (pg 230).  Hitchens “inexpensive observation” (pg 230) makes a number of errors key to this entire discussion.  The first is that the argument against secularism is not that the crimes of the secular regimes equaled those of religion, but that in a single century they far exceed those of Christianity in 20 centuries.  The Spanish Inquisition one the classic examples of the  crimes of Christianity resulted in the deaths of about 2000 people.  While a terrible crime these number hardly even compare to the 11 million dead in the concentration camps of Hitler, whose crimes don’t even compare to those of Stalin and Mao who were responsible for  the deaths of well over 100 million people.

    More importantly whereas the crimes of Christianity were the result a mixture of corruption in the church and barbaric nature of the past, the crimes of these secular movements occurred in the  enlighten modern times, and were much more inherent to these regimes, than corruptions within them. So there is hardly any equating going on. 

    Primarily such arguments against secularism are aimed at showing the problems with atheist attacks in two ways.  First, even if everything atheists said were true and characterized correctly, this would not argue in favor or secularism as secularism’s record is far worst.  Second it shows the inconsistency, and thus illogical nature of the secular arguments, for the same reasoning can equally be used against them.  Thus in reality it is not so much an attack against atheism per se, but rather atheist’s reasoning.

    Following his initial remarks Hitchens proceeds with his main line of defense  by first attempting to link these secular regimes to religion, writing, “For most of human history, the idea of the total or absolute state was intimately bound up with religion.” (pg 231)  There are a whole range of problems here, not the least of which are historical.   But there is more fundamental problem with this whole line of argument, for no matter how one attempts to make it there are tremendous problems. 

    First is the question of whether these secular movements were religious.  If these secular regimes which were strongly anti-traditional religion were in fact religious,  then one must have a definition of religion that is broader than just a belief in one or more Gods, a definition of religion that would include atheism.

    Now, as I discuss in my book , Christianity and Secularism,  I believe such a broader understanding of religion to be more accurate, and that atheism is at least fundamentally religious.  But if this is the case, then atheists are either arguing against their own views, or their arguments must only apply to some religions, not all. Either way there are problems.  The only other option would be to try and claim that their brand of atheism was not religious like these other types of atheism, but that would certainly involve special pleading.   

    On the other hand if these secular regimes were not religions, but only adopted a characteristic of religion,  there are still major problems. For such characteristic to be found outside of religion would mean that these characteristics were not and of themselves religious but rather something that could be found in religious movements or non-religious movements, and thus could not be held against religion.

    This in fact is a problem with most atheist arguments against religion, and is found throughout Hitchens’ book.   That such evils can be found in religious people, in the end is little more than a confirmation of the biblical teaching that we live in a fallen world corrupted by sin, and that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Rom 3:23)

    However if this latter line is taken, the argument against secularism remains, for while these evils can be found in both religious and secular people, the secular regimes of the 20th century rejecting religious morality, and instead looking to science as there guide committed the greatest evils the world has ever know.

    Based on Hitchens’ discussion, he seem to fall into the latter category, ultimately arguing,  not so much against religion, but against “the totalitarian mind-set” that has “‘total answers to all questions.”  While it allows Hitchens to distinguish his view of atheism from these other type of atheism, it likewise excludes all traditional religions that do not share such views. In short, we find that most of his arguments against religion have really been again something else.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XIX

    Friday, October 17th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

     Listen to the MP3

    Continuing in my extended review of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” After having dealt with the Old Testament, in chapter seven, chapter eight takes on New, claim it “Exceeds the Evil of the ‘Old’ One.” Hitchens starts by claiming the New Testament is “a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events” and that this has been borne out by Biblical scholarship. (p 110)

    But not content to make this point, Hitchens follows it with a gratuitous insult claiming, ‘this arguments takes place over the heads of those to whom the ‘Good Book’ is all that is required.” and as an example, refers to a unnamed governor of Texas whom he quotes as saying “if English was good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me.” (p 110)

    The quote sounded to me like one of many smears spread by atheists and agnostics to attack believers. Such bigoted smears have a long history and are so entrenched into the culture that some are even taught in schools. For example, I was taught as a kid that Columbus had to battle the ignorance of Christians who believed that the earth was flat. This is a complete myth as was shown by the Historian Jeffery Burton Russell, in his book Inventing the Flat Earth. Still it is not at all uncommon to hear atheist and agnostics continue to perpetuate this and other anti-Christian myths.

    As for Hitchens’ quote, I checked the back of the book for a reference and found none. I then read a discussion that I found on snopes.com a great place to check out urban legends, which pointed out that this quote was questionable as it had been attributed to a number of different people. A person in another discussion I read claimed that they had found the exact quote at NewsPaperArchive.com in a article published in 1927, but the article attributed the quote to a person from Arkansas, not Texas, and it was said as a joke. I would have check out this article but NewsPaperArchive.com is a paid site that charges $99 to join. So lacking any specific citation, it would appear that this quote is just another in a long line of myths used to attack Christianity.

    As for his other insult that his argument concerning biblical scholarship was “over the heads of those to whom the ‘Good Book’ is all that is required.” (pg 110) there is a problem. If Hitchens qualification of “to whom the ‘Good Book’ is all that is required” refers to those who reject or ignore everything not in the Bible, then this refers to such a small faction of Christians as to be irrelevant. On the other hand if this is meant to refer to Christians in general, then it is simply false.

    This brings me to the main problem with Hitchens argument concerning biblical scholarship, it is one sided and outdated. As for being one-sided, it would appear that to Hitchens biblical scholarship consists only of those who are critical of the Bible. Though, in his defense, one of the problems with liberal scholarship, is that it is very insular, ignoring for the most part criticism, problems and issues raised by conservative scholars. As I point out in Chapter Two of my book, Evidence for the Bible, there are some serious problems with the claims of liberal scholars.

    More damaging to his claim is that, while earlier liberal scholarship was very critical of the NT, believing the books to have been dated long after the events as Hitchens claims, later scholarship has reversed this to some extent and more recent scholarship has been pushing the date of the writing back to, and in some cases even earlier than, the traditional dates. For example, liberal scholars of the 19th century dated the Gospel of John as late as 170 A.D., long after John had died. Then a fragment of the Gospel was found dating 125-130 destroying the later dates. More recent scholarship points to a date somewhat earlier than the traditional date in the 90s, with a few scholars even arguing for a date in the 50s or 60s.

    The simple fact is that, rather than being over their heads, scholarship plays and important role in many Christians’ understanding of the Bible, and contrary to the impression Hitchens gives, many scholars are believing Christians who see their scholarship as deepening their faith. Now I know that Hitchens is aware of these Conservative scholars as he has debated some of them. But rather than a reasoned discussion of the evidence for and against his position, we get one sided pronouncements that ignore any scholarly disagreements, followed by a few insults to try and stifle any debate.

    What makes this even more problematic is that Hitchens is claiming to be arguing for the rational over the irrational. But a one sided presentation filled with invective is not what one would call the epitome of rationality and in the end Hitchens comes off somewhat as parent vainly arguing do as I say, not what I do.

    After taking time to attack and ridicule Mel Gibson for making The Passion of The Christ, what follows is then a one sided rehash of many of the common objections raised by skeptics. And that is where I will pick up next time.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XVII

    Friday, October 3rd, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

     

    Continuing in chapter six of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” I come to his discussion of the specific arguments for design.  Again there is a great deal of hyperbole and ridicule that one must wade through, and given the subject matter, a great deal of it is somewhat ironic.  Hitchens attempts to claim that it is theists that have been forced into this argument “with great reluctance,” and that atheists “have to improve our minds by the laborious exercise of refuting the latest foolishness contrived by the faithful. (pg 80-81)

    Hitchens would do to well to seriously read Jonathan Wells’ book Icons of Evolution in which Wells exposes a number of not only foolish arguments, but distortions, errors and in many cases outright fraud that has been and continues to be used to defend evolution.  The many examples documented by Wells are not obscure pieces of evidence, but well known and commonly cited examples,  such as that evolution is mirrored in the development of an embryo, or the Pepper moths that changed from white to dark because of pollution, both of which are in fraud category.   Yet, despite the fact some of these have been known to be false for decades, and in the case of the embryos for over a century,  these and the other examples in the book were still being used in standard biology textbooks at least as late as 1998.

    Nor is this simply a problem of the past. Hitchens, himself falls victim to one more recent examples is this string of myths used to support evolution, a supposed computer model that proved the evolution of the eye.  The simple fact is that there was no such program, nor, more importantly, could there be, at least any time soon, for reasons we will come to in a moment.

    In Hitchens defense, apparently he was relying on Richard Dawkins here who popularized this error.  Once the error was pointed out, atheists were quick to claim that Dawkins was only partially in error, for he was referring to a mathematical model develop by Nilsson and Pelger which he merely confused as a computer program.

    The differences between the study and a computer program aside, the problem with Nilsson and Pelger’s paper as a proof for evolution is the same that would plague any computer model; it is based on a whole series of assumptions which go to the core of the theory of evolution. If you accept all of the assumptions, that is, if you already accept evolution, then the paper will make a plausible case. But in the end, the conclusion of the paper is only as valid as the assumptions that are behind it.  It can at best only say how the eye might have evolved if all the assumptions were correct. It is hardly a proof of evolution as Hitchens was falsely led to believe.

    Unfortunately this is how much of evolution is defended. Pieces of information are distorted, expanded, or in some cases even created, and then strung together as so called proofs of evolution.  Anyone who dares questions this alleged evidence is ridiculed, attacked and rejected.  If they persist and expose the error, then we are told the error really doesn’t matter anyway.

    To further compound his problem, one of the points Hitchens makes against design, apparently unbeknownst to him,  is a major problem for evolution.  Hitchens quite correctly states that, “a theory that is unfalsifiable is to that extent a weak one.” (pg 81)   

    The problem of Hitchens is that evolution is unfalsifiable for two reasons.  The first is that it depend heavily on imagination.  A great deal, if not the vast majority, of what we think of as evolution, is not based on what we actually know happened, but on what scientist imagine might have happened.  Since we have a great capacity for imagination, evolution has a rich texture of what might have been, especially given how little we really know about the prehistoric past.

    Hitchens might object to this by claiming that evolution is science, and therefore must pass peer review and conform to the evidence. But modern science is not the open-minded investigation atheists like to claim. It is a narrow-mind and oppressive system that will severely punish any who question the current orthodoxy, as Pamela Winnick shows in her book A Jealous God.  One of the quickest ways to lose funding for your research, your job, and your livelihood is to raise a question about evolution.

    As for the evidence, there is in reality very little, and more importantly any potential problems are brushed aside with the claim that future research will resolve them. Even worst is the often used argument that we are here therefore evolution must have happened. The bottom line is that evolution is unfalsifiable.

    Sure if you interpret all evidence to fit your theory, let your imagination fill in any blanks, strenuously ignore any problems, and suppress any criticism so that only believers of evolution, or at least those who will not voice any doubts, can be considered scientists, then evolution will seem to be firmly established.  And yet, despite this the evidence for design grows stronger, not weaker, the more we know.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

    Hitchens – God is not Great XII

    Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

     

    Continuing my extended review of Christopher Hitchens’, “God Is Not Great,” after the first two examples in chapter four, which, as I have show fail to make Hitchens’ claim that religion is hazardous to health, Hitchens proceeds on a tour of the strange and obscure; the practice of some Islamic clerics of issuing a package deal for marriage and divorce certificates permitting men to legally marry and then an hour later divorce a prostitute; the killing of cats in the Middle Ages because it was thought that the Black Death was linked to black magic, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal of blood transfusions, among others.  Hitchens sums up his view when he says, “The attitude of religion to medicine, like the attitude of religion to science, is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile.”  (46-47)

     

    This brings us to the second of the two fallacies mentioned in an earlier post, Hasty Generalization.  The fallacy of Hasty Generalization occurs when you try to derive general rules form what are inherently individual cases or very small samples. For example, when driving, a man or woman cuts you off, and based on that you claim that all men or all women are bad drivers. That is essentially what Hitchens is doing here.  Some religious people, or even some religious groups, have practices that are harmful to health; therefore religion in general is harmful to health.

     

    But there is an even deeper problem for Hitchens. Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning.  The do not necessarily mean that the conclusion is wrong, only that a particular way of justifying a conclusion does not work. More troublesome for Hitchens is his claim that religion must be hostile to medicine, for it is clearly false and easily demonstrated as such.

     

    While it is true that here have been some groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientists who have been hostile to some or all of medicine, they are hardly the norm. In fact the norm at least within Judaism and Christianity has been the opposite.  If Hitchens were correct that religion’s attitude to medicine “is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile,” then why are there so many Christian hospitals? Why are there so many Christian and Jewish doctors and nurses? Why do so many churches sponsor trips to third world counties to provide health care, clean water, and basic sanitary practices?

     

    Hitchens points to the superstition that surrounded the Black Death, though he does concede that “We may make allowances for the orgies of stupidity and cruelty that were indulged in before humanity had a clear concept of the germ theory of disease.” (pg 47) But has the noted Historian Will Durant points out, while a few clergy hid in fear, “the great majority of them faced the ordeal manfully” (Will Durant, The Reformation, pg 64) and thousand gave their lives doing what little they could for the sick, for it would be over 500 years from the first outbreak before the cause was finally determined.

     

    Even with the germ theory of disease things are not quite so clear.  In school I was taught the germ theory was a clear victory of science over superstition the latter coming in the guise of spontaneous generation.  On more than one occasion I have been told by atheists that it was also a victory of atheism over religion. Nothing can be further from the truth.  In fact, as I recount in my book Christianity and Secularism, the view of those atheist has it backwards.

     

    The Germ theory was put forth by Pastor, and defended by Lister, both of whom were Christians, while the opposition to the germ theory came from secularist who needs spontaneous generation to explain the origin of life apart form religion.  It was only after Darwin’s theory of evolution was adapted to try and explain the origin of live that the opposition to the germ theory was finally dropped.  In this case it was the secular, not the religious, who were a hazard to health.

     

    To be clear, I do not use this example as an attack on secularism, but rather to show that the traits Hitchens is attacking in religion, are not inherently religious traits, but traits that extent to all of humanity, including even atheists.

     

    Towards the end of Chapter four, Hitchens summarizes his argument as, “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women, and coercive towards children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”  It is very true that far too many examples can be found of religious people who fit into these categories.

     

    But it is equally true that even more examples can be found of religious people who not only do not fit into these categories, but precisely because they were religious have argued and fought against these very things, some even giving their lives in the process.  Just to take the first one, violence, during the Middle Ages the Church sought to limit the violence in the wars between the European kingdoms, and it is just an historical fact that the weakening of the Church in the Renaissance, brought about a marked increase, not a decrease in violence. In short Hitchens’ claims are not only logically fallacious and at their core irrational, they are just wrong.

     

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

    Christianity and Secularism

    Evidence for the Bible