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Archive for the 'Morality' Category

Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXIV

Friday, December 5th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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I am continuing in my extended review of Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” and the question of whether religion makes people behave.   The core of his argument seems to be that religious people do at time behave very badly, while some noted atheists have behave quite nicely.  Therefore religion is not needed to behave.  

One of the problems here is of sampling.  As the historian Jacques Barzum pointed out, any review of history will show that the acts we like to label as inhuman in their cruelty, are far too common to warrant that label, and in fact are all too human.  Yet, when they are done by the religious, they seem to stand out and thus get more notice, whereas the good that the religious do is often taken for granted, for it is just expected.  But this very expectation argues against Hitchens.

A key misconception here is that religion does not make bad people good, it can however help and encourage people to be better.  Often the atheist attempt counter this by claiming that such argument mean that atheists must be immoral, and since not all are, such arguments must be false. While there is some  of truth in this argument, it somewhat misses the point. As I wrote in my book, Christianity and Secularism, “a person can be an atheist and still be a very moral person, and a person who does a tremendous amount of good.” (pg 179)

Ultimately it amounts to a question of foundations.  Where do morals come from. For Christians, morality is grounded in God. Whether one agrees with the Christian view of morality or not, at least for the Christian there is a foundation for their moral views. Atheists are critical of this foundation because they reject the existence of God. But what alternative do they offer?  What is their foundation?  They have none, or at least no consistent foundation.

Unlike the Christian the atheist is pretty much free to pick and choose whatever view of morality they like.   Again, since atheists often distort this point, let me be very clear, they are free to choose a view of morality that might be considered by most to be good, or one that most would consider bad, or even evil.   Many western atheists have in fact adopted a large part of the ethics of Western Civilization which is deeply infused with Judeo-Christian values. 

But as Western Civilization moves way from Christianity, and the moral foundation that it provides, as one would expect, the moral standards have weakened.   Atheists and some others would say that this weakening of the Christian view of morality is a good thing, but even if the atheist is correct, it is still a weakening.

One of the double standards that currently exists is that atheists  feel complete free to question Christian views of morality, and since they are grounded in a belief in God, to reject them as false because they are grounded in error.  But they are never asked to justify their beliefs, or the foundations for them. 

For example, the current hotly contested moral question is over the definition of marriage. The traditional view of marriage being between one man and one woman, is rejected as an imposition of religion, even thought it has been the virtually the unanimous view of all of human society until the last decade or so. Even cultures like ancient Greece that encouraged homosexuality, still saw marriage as  between an man and a woman.

In addition traditional marriage is based on a fact, though one that is often denied by the educated elites, that men and women are different.  From this fact flows the idea the best way to raise children is for them to have both a father and a mother in a committed stable relationship.  This was the reason for the government to get involved in marriage in the first place;  i.e., to promote such stable families for the raising of children.

But deriving from false idea that there is not real difference between men and women, critics argue that the role of father and mother are completely interchangeable. It really makes no difference, as long as there is love.

While it is acceptable to attack, ridicule and reject the traditional view, it is somehow illegitimate to question the other side, and it is considered especially unfair to point out their logical problems.   If love is all that matters, when why not three people who love each other? Why not a brother and a sister, or a father and a daughter?  Such question reveal the problem with their position.

But that is the reason for the double standard, for ultimately there is no foundation, and ultimately everything goes. Weaken the foundation and the structure will crumble.   When abortion was first legalized claims that it would lead to euthanasia were rejected as silly, though now we have euthanasia in various forms.  Many things that were unthinkable just a few years ago, are now coming to be accepted.

Where will it end?  As society slowly dismantles the Judeo-Christian value system, what foundation will be put in its place?  What core moral principles will be left and what sort of morality will be built on them?  It is very difficult to say.  But if history is any indication, the prospects are not good.

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

Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXIII

Friday, November 21st, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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I am continuing in my extended review of Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” and the question of whether religion makes people behave.   There is of course, as Hitchens points out a long list of Christians, to use Hitchens term, misbehaving.  But as I said last time, there are deeper issues here, which while fairly complicated can be summarized by into two areas. The first is just who is a Christian.   The second, is when a Christian misbehaves, are they doing it because of or in spite of their religion.

Concerning the first question, what does it mean to be a Christian.  From a theological point of view this is actually pretty easy, a Christian is anyone who has entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  While easy theologically, is not very helpful here. Only God really knows the heart.  We might have pretty good guesses about some people in history as to whether or not they were actually in a saving relationship with Jesus, but we cannot know.

While less theologically accurate a better definition for this question would be someone whose behavior was influenced by the teaching of Christ. While this initially sounds better, there are still many problems. 

For example what level of influence is enough to be considered a Christian. If someone once heard of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you”  and that sounded good to them so they decided it would govern how they lived their lives, would be enough to  count as Christian?

On the other  hand what about someone who attends church regularly, but more out of convention or tradition then out of any deeply held belief, and the teaching of Christ have little if any actual impact on how they live their life? 

Or what about someone who never attends Church and simply happens to have grown up in a Christian country and is influenced only to the extent that Christian teaching are pervasive in society?  Would a gang member who never attends church, but who wears a cross be considered a Christian?

Even within the church, is a person who seeks and gets church office, not out of any real religious belief, but out of a desire for power, prestige, money, etc, a Christian?  This is an important question because this would describe much of the church hierarchy during the Middle Ages, and the corruption in the church they brought about led to the reformation. 

To see the effect these questions have, lets consider one standard criticism of Christianity, all the atrocities committed by the Christians explorers of the New World.  Of these explores, who were the Christians?  Where they the ones who committed the atrocities frequently out of lust or greed, or were the priests, who wrote home complaining about how the native peoples were being abused and exploited, asking for the king or church or both, to end it. In fact the latter is one of the reasons these atrocities were so well documented.  Was it those seeking to exploit the native peoples, or those who resisted this exploitation, and who sometimes gave their lives trying to protect them?

But none of this seems to matter very much to Hitchens. They can be considered religious, they misbehaved, and the enough for his argument.  In fact in his haste to condemn religion and cast dispersions, he at time drifts into error and confusion, if not counter argument.

For example,  in writing about Islam and slavery, he references the comments of the ambassador of Tripoli to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, referring to the latter  two as “two slaveholders.”   Now it was true that Jefferson did own slaves, but Adams, being from Massachusetts didn’t. Even more confusing, Hitchens said earlier that Jefferson was a deist, which he labels the compromise position before Darwin and Einstein (pg 66) and elsewhere has argued that he may have been an atheist.  So just what was the point of calling these two men “slaveholders.”  Was it just a gratuitous slander?  Was it an attempt to show the hypocrisy of the Founding Fathers, or that American Christianity was no better than Islam?  This is one of the problem with Hitchens.  While it is clear he is attacking and smearing, often it is not always clear how those attacks and smears actually relate to his overall argument, at least in any rational way.

What makes it even more mystifying, is after nearly twelve pages of these examples, he finally comes to his argument, which  he starts by saying that “The first thing to be said is that virtuous behavior by a believer is no proof at all of … the truth of his belief.”  (p. 184-5) This is all well and good and Hitchens is quite correct here. What is mystifying is his following point where he claims, “By the same token, I do not say this if I catch a Buddhist priest stealing all the offerings left by the simple folk at his temple, Buddhism is thereby discredited.” (p. 185)  Oh, really?

The vast majority of his book, is how religious people have acted badly and how this discredits religion.  Remove that component from his book, or the other Neo-Atheist books for that matter, and you are left with very little. We will look at the rest of his argument next time.      

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

Hitchens – God Is Not Great IX

Friday, August 8th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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This week I continue my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great.” In Chapter Three, Hitchens addresses the question of why Jews and Muslims will not eat pork.  This question does not directly concern Christianity, but the overall discussion deserves some comment.


In this short chapter Hitchens quickly disposes of the normal justification for this law, which concerns health, a justification he calls, absurd. Hitchens is correct that the dietary dangers of eating pork, even in ancient times, are at best marginal.  In fact for some of the other prohibited foods, the dangers are non-existent, or at least no different than the dangers of acceptable kosher foods.  So while pointing to health reasons can provide some explanation in some cases, it is not a complete answer, and marginal at best for pork. 


Yet Hitchens explanations is hardly any better.  Hitchens believes that the prohibition grew out of a “simultaneous attraction and repulsion” for the pig; that the pig had very human qualities, including taste, that set it apart from other animals.  Hitchens believes that the prohibition followed a night of human sacrifice and cannibalism in which the participants clearly saw the similarities.  As Hitchens puts it, “Nothing optional – from homosexuality to adultery – is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting…have a repressed desire to participate.” (pg 40)


This statement is one of those generalized indictments that leaves me with more question than answers.  The claim that there must be a repressed desire to want to make something punishable is hardly any better than the health explanations, i.e. it might explain a few cases but hardly explains them all. Hitchens examples, homosexuality, adultery and then later prostitution, all involve sex, where his explanation is at least possible even if still questionable as this would not even be a good explanation for all sexual prohibitions. Does one really have to have a repressed sexual desire for children to want a child molestation prohibited? 


When you move beyond the realm of sexuality, his explanation is even less satisfying. Must one have a repressed desire for theft or murder to want them prohibited?  My guess is that Hitchens would claim that these do not match is initial qualification of “Nothing optional” but this qualification is so vague as to be meaningless.


In the end, natural justifications such as those pointing to health benefits or that given by Hitchens miss the point, though I believe that Hitchens unknowingly touches on a much more likely explanation. Hitchens defended the lack of a health hazard in pork, by pointing to those living around the ancient Jews who did eat it, for “ancient Jewish settlements in the land of Canaan can easily be distinguished by archaeologists by the absence of pig bones in their rubbish.”(p. 39) 


The Deuteronomy 14, which specifics some of these laws, begin with “You are the children of the LORD…you are a people Holy to the LORD your God.” The ancient Jews were God’s people Holy or set apart from those around them. This was the primary reason for the dietary laws, which included the prohibition on eating pork.  Of course there is the secondary question as to why individual items such as pork were on the list or while beef was not. But we should keep clear that this is a secondary question. Sometimes we can see possible reasons why particular items were or were not prohibited in either health, or the religious practices of other groups. But we must be careful not to focus on these secondary reasons to the point that we neglect the primary reason. 


There is a tendency when defending the Bible to fall into trap of accepting the assumptions of the critics, and thereby seeking natural explanation for things that are inherently spiritual, as if without a natural justification, a commandment must be nothing more than an irrational superstition. The dietary laws are then explained as health oriented for a time before modern medicine and refrigerators. As health oriented we can ignore them, since the need has passed.


Such reasoning is very convenient for Christians, since because of the teaching of the New Testament, we don’t have to follow the dietary laws in any event. But again this is to focus only on the secondary reason, not the primary, which is to be set apart for God.


Non-Jews may look at the distinctive aspects of Judaism, such as the dietary laws and say that they are old legalisms, or even superstitions, but they have performed a very important function: they have kept the Jewish people set apart for over 3000 years, which just happen to be exactly what God said they were for.


As Christians we are children of God. While we do not need to follow the dietary laws, we are still called to be holy, to be set apart for God (1 Pet 1:15).  Today the church seems more aimed at fitting in and keeping up with the culture, and to some extent this is a good thing, for we have a living faith and worships a living God.  If we are Holy, that is set apart, for God, what is it that sets us apart? It cannot just be our eternal destination, for we are called to live Holy lives now. So what is it that sets you apart?


Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible


Rational Evil III

Friday, June 13th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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This week I continue my discussion of the development of secular thought following the holocaust. Last week I looked at how the foundation for Human Rights went from equal in the eyes of God to equal without any real definition as to how we are equal; and how for some equal then became the same, where any difference was to be denied; the example being the belief that men and women are the same. But there was a different and somewhat conflicting approach taken simultaneously: rather than deny any differences, differences were to be celebrated.

At first celebrating diversity might seem to be a somewhat problematic answer to the question of how we are equal.  But at the core of the celebration of differences is the ideal that differences do not really matter, for all differences are fundamentally the same.

This idea of diversity has been so ingrained, that many might even be wondering how I could see this as a problem. The reasons are twofold.  First, the idea that all differences are fundamentally equal is as untrue as the idea that differences do not exist, and both have led to a great deal of suffering and harm. Despite what the supporters of diversity preach, not all differences are equal. While some differences are irrelevant, many differences are significant.

When it comes to food, I think the celebration of differences is a good thing, though even here there would be some significant differences in food, at least in regards to health. But some difference, be they individual or cultural are not only significant, but some are clearly better than others, particularly when it comes to differences that touch on morality. While this may be heresy to those who support diversity, it remains nevertheless true and it is under the guise of cultural diversity that a lot of suffering and injustice is allowed continue.

For example, as I discussed last week, the belief that men and women are equal in the eyes of God is a Biblical truth taught in both the Old and New Testaments. As a result, I believe that cultures that follow this truth are better, at least in regards to their treatment of women, than societies that do not.

While this may seem a straight forward conclusion, for many strongly influenced by modern secular thought, it is one they find difficult to make. In order to maintain the notion of equality among differences, no judgment about those differences can be permitted. They may fight strongly for equality in their own country, but things that would otherwise be condemn such as the subjugation of women, dictatorship, and other forms of oppression in other countries often get little more that a response of “who are we to judge?”

Things that cannot be accepted, even under the guise of respecting cultural diversity, are frequently just ignored. Yet as cultures intermix, this becomes increasingly difficult. Honor killing is the ability or even duty of a father or brother to kill a woman who is believed to have brought dishonor to the family.  The dishonor, need not even be through some act committed directly by the woman, as victims of rape are seen has have brought dishonor upon the family.

While common in ancient cultures, honor killings were forbidden by the Old Testament in the Laws given by Moses. As Judeo-Christian values came to dominate, honor killings disappeared from Western Civilization. Yet they remain a part Arab culture even today.

While largely ignored when it occurred elsewhere, with immigration, it is now becoming a growing problem in the Western Cultures such as the United States, Canada, and Europe, though here there is an attempt to downplay these honor killings as merely “domestic violence” lest it appear that Western Civilization is somehow better.

This attitude of ‘who are we to judge’ has been taught to our children, and unfortunately, it is a lesson that some have learned far too well. For example, in late 2007 when a teenager learned that his friend had just murdered several people at a mall in Omaha, he had no judgment about the lives taken. No judgment about the family and friends whose lives would never be the same because of the loss of a loved one. No judgment about the wounded or their pain and suffering.  Instead he said, “I don’t think anything less of him… he wanted to go out in style.”

So in order to maintain equality among differences, one approach has been to celebrate differences without any judgment about them, which is fine when dealing with non-moral choices such as food. But when dealing with differences that have a moral component, it inevitable means ignoring pain and suffering, and in some cases even evil.

As Western Civilization has been casting off it Judeo-Christian roots, it would seem that it has also cast off the Bibles injunction; “Do not stand by while your brother’s blood is shed” (Leviticus 19:6), for we do now stand by, often in the name of cultural diversity.

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

Rational Evil II

Friday, June 6th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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This week I continue my discussion of the development of secular thought following the holocaust. To briefly summarize, the Holocaust had its roots in the attempt to apply the principles of evolution to society, from which the sciences of Social Darwinism and Eugenics flowed.  These new sciences were rightly rejected following the holocaust because the results they produced conflicted with Human Rights, a concept grounded in the belief that we were created by God and are equal in his eyes.


As society became more secular the religious foundations of Human rights was abandoned and equal in God’s eyes became merely equal; but such an undefined equality is threatened by our clear individuality, which is defined by our differences. This attempt to maintain Human Rights in a secular worldview defined by evolution has resulted in a number of competing, and at times contradictory, lines of thought.


The first has been that since differences pose such a danger, their existence is simply denied, or at least relegated to insignificance. In short, despite any differences, we are all really the same, and therefore since we are the same, we are all equal. A whole range of absurdities have flowed from this intellectual strategy, not the least of which is the belief that there is no difference between men and women.


While historically women have not had equal status in virtually any society, that seems to have come from the importance of strength in early cultures and the role it played in survival, and from the fact that in general men are stronger than women.  It did not come from the religious teachings of the Bible, but ran contrary to it. Starting in the first chapter of Genesis, God has made it clear that He views men and women as equal, and both are created in his image.   As Genesis 1:27 says,

So God created mankind in his own image;

in his own image God created him;

male and female he created them.

In the New Testament, Paul also makes this explicitly clear. “Because all of you are one in the Messiah Jesus, a person is no longer a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a male or a female.”  (Galatians  3:28 ISV)


Men and women have different strengths and different weakness. They react to things differently, and have different natures. But despite all of our differences, men and women are equal it the place that it matters most, in the eyes of God. Human nature being what it is, this core equality has not, and in some places today is not, always recognized, but where and when it has been, it has not been contrary too, but in line with, Biblical teaching.


But as equal in God’s eyes, became merely equal, this equality was difficult to maintain given all the clear differences. Something had to go, and since equality was needed for human rights, even though the differences are pretty clear to most, not to mention common sense, they were simply denied.


But then common sense was one of the first things that had to be tossed out, if one is going to maintain equality among differences that are clearly not equal. So common sense was rejected as unscientific and untrustworthy. In its place was the study. In fact I have heard more than one college professor say that they won’t believe anything unless there is a study to support it.


Such thinking, (or unthinking as the case may be) has been very convenient for secularist as the results of studies are very strongly influenced by what questions researchers seek answers to.  There are pros and cons to most things. Look for the pros of any given issue and you can probably find supporting evidence.  Look for the cons, and you can find negative evidence.  Thus what “the research” states for any given issue will be strongly influenced by what questions the researchers are asking.


Another factor for men and women being the same was that it was so taken for granted, that it had not really been studied. Thus through a mixture of scientific mumbo-jumbo, and an absence studies showing they were different, men and women were proclaimed to be the same. 


This thinking so strongly influenced people that parents began giving their boys dolls, and their little girls trucks.  Distinctions in clothing began to disappear as did any distinction in roles.  Those who tried to point out differences were shouted down as sexists.


Of course the problem is that men and women are different, not just in their biology, but in their natures.  But the belief that men and women are the same still remain entrenched in many universities and still has a strong influence over social policy, as for example in the same sex marriage debate.


It has been one of the ironies that while we were supposedly throwing off the chains of sexual repression so as to allow boys and girls to be what they wanted to be, society was at the same time very strongly pushing them to be something they were not: the same.  The result has been untold unhappiness and pain.


But this was not the only absurdity to develop out of the post WWII secularist attempt to maintain human rights apart from God. Next week I look at a different approach that has also led not only to absurdity, but also to unhappiness and pain.

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

Rational Evil

Friday, May 30th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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In my review of Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great” I was discussing the relationship of reason to evil, which has taken me beyond the scope of Hitchens’ book. So I have decided to make this an independent series of posts, and will return to my review of Hitchens’ book when I am done. To summarize for those who have not read my comments on Hitchens’ book that got me here, I looked at how reason, unguided by moral values, can result in great evil, in particular how the secular evolutionary worldview when applied to society and culture resulted in Social Darwinism and Eugenics which supplied the rational underpinning for the Holocaust. 


After the holocaust these sciences were rightly rejected. Yet they were not rejected for the normal scientific reasons. At the time the Judeo-Christian worldview still held great influence even if many were beginning to reject its underlying foundation. As such, these sciences were rejected more for the result they produced than any new scientific discovery that showed them to be wrong.  


More importantly people embraced the Judeo-Christian based concept of Human Rights a concept developed from the beliefs that we are all created in the image of God and are all equal in God eyes. Human Rights stem from this, as not even a King has the right to interfere with what God has given.


As the Judeo-Christian worldview weakened in the decades since WWII, so did the foundation of Human Rights. What does it mean to be equal in the eyes of God, if there is no God? Worst, the underlying rational of secular evolution remained in a question few would dare to seriously ask:  If evolution is true, and we are just animals why shouldn’t we treat each other as the animals we are and order society on the principles of evolution; on survival of the fittest?


To avoid having to deal with this question, a number of strategies have developed over time; all with their own serious problems.  Most seriously, reason itself was depreciated, replaced instead by emotion. Thinking implies thought, questions, examination, contemplation, analysis. Express a thought and people are libel to ask you what you mean, and worse, they might ask you to justify your thoughts, to back them up, with the simple question: Why? Feelings need no justification, they just are. “That’s just how I feel about it” is a perfectly acceptable emotional answer to the question: Why?


As a result, we normally do not ask people what they think about something we ask them how they feel about it.  To be sure, the avoidance of the implications of secular evolutionary thought has not been the only factor in this or the other things we will look at.  Here for example, there has also been the rise of the importance of visual media (which appeal first to the emotions), and the corresponding drop in reading (where symbols must first be process intellectually to be understood). Still, the avoidance of the implications of secular evolutionary thought have not only been a factor but also a unifying principle.   


The depreciation of reason in favor of emotion meant that uncomfortable questions and implications could just be ignored and thus avoided. But the attempt to avoid the rational implications of secular evolutionary thought through depreciation of reason resulted, not too surprisingly, in considerable irrationality.


As the foundation for Human Rights was rejected, equal in the eyes of God, became merely equal, which may sound good to those influenced by modern post WWII thought, but what does it mean to be equal? Equal in what sense?


I am certainly not equal with Tiger Woods when it comes to playing golf, and perhaps it is just my vanity, but I like to think that there are probably a few things where he is probably not my equal. In sports, work, knowledge, background, illnesses, health, in virtually every aspect of life equality is the rare exception if it exists at all. Each of us is different. Each of us is an individual with different strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages. So in what sense are we equal?


For the Judeo-Christian worldview this is not a problem. God transcends all of this.  Thus to be equal in his eyes is far more important and transcends any of the differences among us. To be a better golfer, or have more knowledge of history; to be taller or faster; to have more money or power all may show a lack of equality in these areas, but the equality before God, is an equality of worth that transcends everything else. It can transcend everything else, because it is based in God who transcends everything.


But the secular worldview does not allow for God. Thus there is no transcendant equality, because there is nothing transcendent in which to base such an equality.  More importantly survival of the fittest argues strongly against equality in the first place. Therefore the question, and thus the problem remain.


Normally the question has been answered with dogmatic and undefined statements of equality. We are equal just because we are. But with such an unthinking approach, the differences among us become an ever present danger, lurking in the shadows threatening to bring the whole system down.  Next time we will look at how the attempt to avoid this danger has changed how we look at everything, often with very negative effects.


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

A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XVI

Friday, February 8th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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In the last installment of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I looked at Dawkins’ arguments for why we can’t use the Bible as the basis for our morality. But if we cannot use the Bible then where should we get our morals?

For Dawkins, the answer to this question is the Moral Zeitgeist, which Dawkins sees as “a consensus about what we do as a matter of fact consider right and wrong: a consensus that prevails surprisingly widely.” (pg 262).

Now there is some truth to this statement.  Certainly there is a Moral Zeitgeist, a general consensus about right and wrong, and Dawkins easily shows this by pointing out a whole list of historical examples of things that were acceptable during their time, but which would be condemned today. 

In fact as I have frequently argued, to properly understand people in the past one must understand the general consensus of the times.  While very common, it is grossly unfair to condemn those in the past who broke with the conventions of their day to move society forward, simply because they did not quite meet our current standards.

So when it comes to the existence of a Moral Zeitgeist, Dawkins is on solid ground. Where he runs into problems is when he goes beyond the existence of the Moral Zeitgeist and argues that this should be the foundation for our morality, something it cannot be. His claim that it is, is simply irrational.

To see this consider the following statement by Dawkins, “The Zeitgeist may move, and move in a generally progressive direction, but as I have said it is a sawtooth not a smooth improvement, and there have been some appalling reversals.” (pg 272)

While a seemingly innocuous statement, it actually completely undermines Dawkins claim. If Dawkins were correct and the Zeitgeist did in fact define our morality, then there could be no concept of progress or reversal.  Whatever the Zeitgeist said was good, would be good, and whatever the Zeitgeist said was evil would be evil. In those areas today where the Moral Zeitgeist allow slavery, slavery would be good. In those areas where family members should kill a daughter who was raped to so as to end the dishonor to the family, then it would be a good thing to kill a daughter who was raped.  That would be the moral Zeitgeist.

If slavery were to be reintroduced, or honor killing introduced into 21st century America, and sadly both honor killing and slavery, though thankfully rare are beginning to occur here, it could not be seen as a step backward, but merely a change, for again it would be the moral Zeitgeist that ultimately determined right and wrong, and thus there would be no way to say that one Moral Zeitgeist was any better than any other Moral Zeitgeist. 

The very fact that Dawkins talks of a “generally progressive direction” and “appalling reversals,” shows that there must be something beyond the Moral Zeitgeist that is actually the foundation for morality. 

In fact without such a foundation, there would be no reason to even change the Zeitgeist.  Slavery was ended when Christians argued that it was immoral, regardless of what the Zeitgeist said.  In fact most of the improvements Dawkins cites were brought about by people, often with Christians in the lead, arguing that these things were wrong, thereby changing the Moral Zeitgeist of their time.

Ultimately, Dawkins view is completely unworkable, for if it were true, how could anyone argue anything it terms of morality?  In fact all of Dawkins arguments discussed earlier about the immorality of the Bible would be meaningless. They would not be things to condemn as Dawkins attempts to do, they would simply be a different moral Zeitgeist and again there would be no way to say that our current Zeitgeist is any better or worse than any other Zeitgeist.

In short, Dawkins wants to have it both ways. His view of morality is firmly grounded and should be accepted, so much so that he condemns those who disagree with his view.  Yet if we subject his moral views to the same scrutiny, they fall apart.

Whether one agrees with Christian morality or not, at least Christians have a foundation upon which to base their moral views. At least Christians have a basis to say that Society has improved, and not just changed.  At least Christians have a track record that puts them in the forefront of the moral advances that society has made. Christianity does not by any means have a perfect record, but it is a good one that on the whole Christians should be proud of.  The strongest criticism that can be mounted against Christian morality is that Christians have not always lived up to the teaching of Jesus.

In place of this Dawkins proposes a muddled view that is at best logically inconsistent, and one that conflict with his own claims. It is a view that places the greatest good on the same level as the greatest evil, with no means of saying one is any better than the other, except that one may happens to be part of the general outlook of the time.

The most amazing thing about Dawkins’ claim is that he really believes he is the one with the rational position.

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

The Grand Experiment

Friday, January 11th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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One of the main ongoing debates between Christians and Atheists is over the foundation for morality. Christians believe that morality in inherently tied to God. To reject God, is to reject the foundation for morality. Atheist often distort this into a claim that atheist are immoral.  This however is not the case. It is not that an atheist must be immoral, but rather that they are free to choose whatever morality suits them.  

More importantly, a society that rejects the foundation will over time drift farther and farther from Christian morality.  While this drift does not happen quickly it does happen and this is exactly what we have seen over the last few decades.  Very early in the abortion debate opponents argued that an acceptance of abortion would lead to other things like an acceptance of euthanasia.  While supporter of abortion rights ridiculed such claims, now euthanasia is legal in one state and people are pushing for it to be legal in others. Similar parallels could be drawn for many other issues such as the push for homosexual rights leading to sex marriage, or the push for the ERA and the claims it would lead to same-sex bathrooms, bathrooms that are now beginning to appear, though under the more PC name of gender-neutral bathrooms.  

Opponents of the Judeo-Christian morally that once dominated in America are taking a piece-meal approach, challenging only specific issues at any given time. They are quick to point to the religious foundation for Christian morality as a way of rejecting it, yet they never provide any alternative foundation in its place.  

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the public schools, and the results are becoming increasingly clear. In the first edition of Christianity and Secularism written in the late 1980s I wrote about how in Los Angeles a wall was built around a school to keep bullets from hitting the students. Since then we have had a number of students bring guns into schools to kill.  

While such things would have been unthinkable a decade or two earlier, now unfortunately they are increasingly common. Secularists vigorously resist any attempt to link such shooting to their undermining of the Judeo-Christian value system. It is as if a person did not like a part of a building, so they undermined the foundation of the building believing that only the part they did not like would crumble.  

The secularists have sought to undermine traditional views of most forms of sexuality, the family structure, and life among other things. To do this they have pushed an attitude of non-judgment, with its catch-all denunciation; “who are you to judge?” This is hardly a rational position as they are judging any who dared disagree with them, without seeing a conflict. Still they have been very successful with the young, many of whom are now so non-judgment as to be amoral; so amoral that it is difficult for them to even think in terms of morality.  

Following the murders at the Mall in Omaha last month, an NBC TV reporter interviewed a friend of the murderer, (played by Dennis Prager on his show. Dec 6 2007 Third Hour)

Reporter: “What are you thinking about now, now that you know that [your friend] was involved in the shooting earlier today”  

Friend of Murderer: “I don’t think anything less of him, because I know that [he] would never have done anything like this just for fun it, it was he wanted to go out in style and that is what he did, he went out in style.” 

No judgment for the lives taken. No judgment for the family and friends whose lives will never be the same because of the loss of a loved one.  No judgment for the wounded or their pain and suffering.  Instead, “I don’t think anything less of him… it was he wanted to go out in style.”  To those who grew up with traditional Judeo-Christian values, the lack of any moral judgment in those words is very hard to comprehend. Yet it is what the secularists pushing non-judgment have created.  

As if it were some bad science fiction movie, the secularists have conducted a grand experiment on society, with our children as the guinea pigs. They have raised a generation whose main view of morality is to not pass moral judgments. They chipped away at the foundation for morality, thinking that only those part of the Judeo-Christian morality they disagreed with would fall away.  But whatever their intentions, they have raise generation for whom the questions of is it good or evil; is it right or wrong, play little if any part in their thinking, replace instead by “does it affect me personally?”  

What will be the result of this experiment?  Nobody knows for sure but the current trends don’t look good.  Not everyone raised with this view will want to ‘Go out in style’, killing as many as they can in the process, but we have already seen that an increasing number do.   More widespread is the marked increase in cheating, or the winning at any cost mentality that pervades sports, business, and politics.  

If you assume that thousands of years of human history are irrelevant, and that most if not all the bad things in history were the result of religion anyway, then perhaps this grand experiment of producing an amoral society will produce a better society.  I for one doubt it.

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

A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XIII

Friday, January 4th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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In the last part of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I discussed Dawkin’s speculations on the origin of religion.  In Chapter six Dawkins continues his speculations or the Roots of morality with all the same faults and some new ones.  I looked forward to this chapter with great interest, as not only is Morality a key issue in life, it is also behind one of the arguments for the existence of God.

Thus I was disappointed, thought hardly surprised, when Dawkins began with what at best can be considered a strawman argument.  He says “many religious people find it hard to imagine how, without religion, one can be good, or would even want to be good.” (pg 211)  Since “many” is a somewhat vague term when talking about the vast majority of the world’s population, Dawkins’ statement is undoubtedly true in some sense.  Still, it really misses the key issue of the origin of morality.  As I wrote in my book Christianity and Secularism, concerning this subject, “this does not mean that only people who believe in God are moral. A person can be an atheist and still be a very moral person, and a person who does a tremendous amount of good.  The real question is where do morals come from?”(pg 179)

But before moving to that question I would like to address some comments Dawkins makes concerning a letter that claimed that evolution was by blind chance, atheism was nihilistic, and if true would mean that life was without meaning. Dawkins objects saying “for the umpteenth time, natural selection is the very opposite of a chance process.” (pg 214)

Here Dawkins equivocates a bit. Equivocation is using the same word or phrase with different meanings.  Dawkins is correct in that evolution is not a chance process, in the sense that it is governed by natural laws, and the forces that govern evolution are constantly selecting the most likely to survive, weeding out the rest. So when talking about evolution as a process, it is a process with a goal. But chance does play a role, as it is by chance that certain features appear so that the process can either select or reject them. 

However, if instead of talking about the process of evolution, we consider the occurrence of evolution or the result of evolution, chance plays a huge and even dominant role. Evolution does not teach that human being appeared because evolution purposed for them to appear, they appeared by chance.  In fact, the more science studies origin of the world and the condition needed for intelligent life, the more they must fall back on chance to explain why we are here.  So Dawkins’ rebuttal depends on a narrow and somewhat different meaning for evolution.  Thus the equivocation. 

Dawkins then goes on to point to his book “Unweaving the Rainbow” to argue that atheism does not mean a meaningless nihilistic existence.  Again there is some equivocation here. Dawkins is correct in the sense that we can find meaning in anything.  Parents often find meaning in their children. People can find meaning in their work, or in their hobbies, or in helping others. The can find meaning in supporting their favorite sports teams, or perhaps in Dawkins case in science.  So in this sense Dawkins is correct. 

But this is a very subjective and narrow type of meaning.  The real question is whether not there is anything more than this. If the Sun were to explode tomorrow, and all life on earth wiped out, the planet broken in small pieces, would any of this have meaning? The answer from evolution must be no. Whether you had been a Stalin murdering millions, or a Mother Theresa who had devoted your life to helping the poor, a world class athlete or a couch potato, a Christian or an atheist, would make no difference at all. All would irrelevant and without meaning.

The simple fact is that meaning requires an intellect, a though process that can judge value.   To have a meaning beyond ourselves requires a thought process beyond us. To have an ultimate type of meaning requires an ultimate type of thought process.  In short, it requires a God.

Now the atheist can argue that this is all there is. There is no meaning beyond the meaning we give to things. They can even argue that we should give some meaning to certain things.  But they can’t legitimately complain when Christians they charge that their view says there is no ultimate meaning.

A similar confusion, lies behind the charge that atheist can’t be good, though in Dawkins defense it is a common error. If one believes that morality comes from God, then absence of God, would then be an absence of morality. Many falsely assume that this mean immoral, but it doesn’t.   An absence of morality would be amoral, not immoral.  Atheists, because they reject God as source for morality, are not automatically immoral; they are free to pick whatever morality that suits them.  Many adopt large parts of the morality of the society in which they are raised, which in the western world is a morality that has been strongly shaped by Christianity. 

But this freedom to choose the good, also means they are free to choose the bad. This is why the foundation of morality is so important, and why atheists even though they may be themselves moral, have a major problem in this area.

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

Irrational Nobility

Friday, June 8th, 2007 by Elgin Hushbeck

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June 8, 2007, Wausau, Wi— It has often been pointed out that adversity reveals a person’s true character better than anything except possibly the acquisition of power.  Whether it is the result of great tragedy such as the sinking of the Titanic, or the destruction of Greenburg Kansas, or great evil such as the attacks on 911 or the recent shooting at Virginia Tech, or more personal situations, when tested by great adversity minor flaws can crack wide open revealing great weaknesses, or we can find inner strengths we never knew existed.

Two recent news events have highlighted both extremes.   In May we saw the story of Andrew Speaker.  Speaker had been diagnosed with a strained of tuberculosis that was drug resistant.  But he was planning to honeymoon in Europe, and while he was told it was better that he not fly, he was not ordered to stay away from planes.  So he went to Europe as planned.

While Speaker was in Italy,  doctors learned that not only was his TB resistant to drugs,  the particular strain he had was both very dangerous, and “extensively drug resistant.”  Dr. Marin Cetron, director of the Center for Disease Control’s division of global migration and quarantine, said “He was told in no uncertain terms not to take a flight back.”  

But Speaker didn’t want to wait. Disregarding what the doctors said and the potential risk he posed to others he would come near, he took a commercial aircraft From Rome to Prague, and then from Prague to Montreal. From there he drove to into the United States. By doing so he put at risk all he came in contact with, especially the passengers in the seats around him.

Selfish?  Clinical Psychologist Andrea Macari, PH.D  came to Speaker defense on the O’Reilly Factor (06/01/07) claiming that “I think all acts are selfish… selflessness is just an illusion.”  While such views are increasingly common in the Me-First worldview so clearly demonstrated by Speaker, they stand in stark contrast to another recent new story, the story of Liviu Lebrescu, a story I hope you remember.  

Born in Romania, Librescu survived the Holocaust later immigrating to Israel.  Twenty years ago Librescu came to United States where he was a  researcher and lecturer in engineering.  He was teaching a class on mechanics on the day of the Virginia Tech murders, when he heard the shooter coming close to his classroom. Librescu told his students to run to the window and climb out. He, however, ran to the door and blocked it with his body, to give time for the students to reach safety.  He gave his life so that his student could live.  If we are to believe Macari, Librescu gave his life in a selfish not a selfless act.

Later in the interview on the O’Reilly Factor concerning the TB patient Andrew Speaker, Macari couldn’t believe O’Reilly when he said that if he has been in Speaker’s situation, he would have stayed put, so as not to put other people in danger. If you live in the moment with a Me-first attitude, such moral certitude probably does seem unbelievable, even foolish.  But as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14 “A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the things of God’s Spirit, for they are nonsense to him. He can’t understand them because they are spiritually evaluated.” (ISV)

However, if instead of a  Me-First view of the world, you have a set of core values upon which you base your moral decisions, and you have thought about right and wrong and how your actions impact others, as God’s word teaches us, one reaches a different conclusion.

This is one of the problems with secular attacks on Christianity. They claim to want to replace what they see as the mythology of Christianity with reason and science. But if we are not created in the image of God, but merely the result of chance combined with time, there is no purpose in life, other than to live it. If all there is, is simply the here and now, the selfish actions of Speaker would be the rational action, after all survival of the fittest would argue that you should do whatever it takes to survive. On the other hand noble acts like Librescu would be the irrational one. What possible reason could there be to give up your life, if there is nothing beyond this life. 

This is the problem with secular moralities. There is no firm core, no bedrock upon which to base a moral system. They are not, as they claim, based on reason, for reason is process not a foundation.  Ultimately they end up being based on the self and what is in the best interest of the self.  This is why secular moral views have such great difficulty not only condemning evil but also praising the noble, without having to appeal to values that have been embedded in the culture by the religion. But as secularist continue to chip away at religious values,  ultimately they end up like Israel during the time of the Judges, where “,each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion” (Judges 21:25 ISV) which is then combined with the increasingly popular line “who are you to judge.”  Unfortunately I fear that the upcoming generations will contain more Speakers than Librescus.