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Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXIX

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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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

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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 XII

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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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


Hitchens – God Is Not Great VI

Friday, July 11th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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This week I return to my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great,” Hitchens concludes his first chapter, describing his father’s funeral where he spoke on Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

For Hitchens, this is a “Secular injunction” that shines “out from the wasteland of rant and complaint and nonsense and bullying which surrounds it.” (p 12)

The last part of Hitchens’ comment can only be seen as at best hyperbole.  In fact, what immediately precede this passage are injunctions to: rejoice, be gracious, don’t worry, pray, and be thankful, though I guess that these were corrupted by the “rant” about prayer. On the other side, what follows this supposedly “secular injunction” is an encouragement to not only think about these things, but to put them into practice.

Ultimately Hitchens comments make no sense.  The immediate context does not support his description of a “wasteland of rant and complaint and nonsense and bullying,” nor does the broader context of the letter, the New Testament, or even the Bible as a whole.   Such distorted hyperbole may be as red meat to his fellow atheists, to be uncritically swallowed, but it hardly supports his claim that he is representing the rational position.

His description of this as a secular injunction is likewise problematic.  Why is this injunction secular? Is it because the word God does not appear in the passage? The context is certainly not secular. This injunction comes as at the conclusion of the letter, in the passage Paul is summing up what it means to live as true Christians.

As a side note, I can’t help but wonder if Christians down through the ages had really taken these words to heart, how different the writings of the neo-atheists would have been, as a great deal of their critiques involve Christians who did not live up to the teachings of Bible.

Still, there are two main problems with Hitchens claim that this is a secular injunction. The first is that some of these words lose their meaning apart from a context that involves God. Granted terms like true and honest have secular meanings, thought it is worth noting that as society has become increasingly secular both of these terms have  suffered. For example, it now common among those strongly influenced by secularism to believe that truth is relative, and thus is different from person to person. There is no such thing as absolute truth.

Terms such as lovely and good report are even more problematic.  It would be very difficult to claim that as society has become more secular it has become lovelier, or that it has even exulted the lovely.  A survey of modern art would quickly show the opposite.  In fact noted the historian Jacques Barzum summed up the last 500 years of the cultural life in Western Civilization in the title of his book as From Dawn To Decadence

Finally, terms such as pure and virtue are inherently moral and thus require a moral context before they have any meaning at all.  For example, pure in the context Paul meant is something vastly different that pure in a racial context. In fact I would argue, based on the teachings of the Bible that pure in a racial context is irrelevant and to advocate it is evil.

In short the injunction itself is meaningless unless given a context or framework in which these terms can be understood. Christians have a clear framework in which to understand this injunction. Secularism has no such clear framework. Secularists are free to fill in the blanks however they see fit.  Most do this from the culture in which they live, which in Western cultures means one strongly influenced by Judeo-Christian values.

As such it is very possible that Hitchens and I would have a great deal of agreement as to what this injunction is saying, but where we agreed, it is not because I am adopting a secular framework, but rather because Hitchens views overlap those derived from the Bible.  But even if we assume that these terms had some universal meaning apart from Christianity, that would still not make this a secular injunction, for there is the problem why should it be enjoined.  What is the secular imperative to embody these attributes? There isn’t any.

Sure a secular rational in favor could be constructed. But a secular rational against could likewise be constructed. This is because secularism itself is neutral. In fact in the context of evolution, the key imperative would be to survive, and so whenever lying or injustice served the aim of survival, then it should be done. In the Christian context, truth and justice are attributes of God. Since we are created in his image, we should likewise embody these attributes. Not just when it serves our personal interest, but at all times.  For as Paul said in the next verse,

Likewise, keep practicing these things: what you have learned, received, heard, and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

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

Rational Evil V

Friday, June 27th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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This week I conclude my discussion of the development of secular thought following the holocaust by looking at one final disturbing trend.  So far I have looked at how in the attempt to maintain a belief in Human Rights apart from a belief in God, equal in the eyes of God became merely equal; where the differences among people were equated or just ignored.  

But Human rights was founded on another concept in addition to the belief that we are all equal in the eyes of God.  It was also based on the belief that we are special creations of God, created in his image. To remove God from the definition of Human rights mean also tossing out the idea that people are special creations of God. 

This was the most dangerous development for as we saw, the competing view is that rather than special creations of God, we are just animals that happen to have resulted from the undirected process of evolution.  But if this is the case, why should humans have any rights at all?

This of course would bring us right back to the thinking of Social Darwinism and Eugenics, the very thinking that led to the holocaust in the first place. No, a concept of Rights had to be maintained. But if we are nothing more than animals that resulted from the process of evolution, how could a concept of rights be restricted just to us? Wouldn’t other animals have rights as well? 

Thus was born the belief in animal rights.  While most people are still shocked by PETA’s campaign likening eating meat to a “holocaust on your plate” it is merely the logical outgrowth of the attempt to maintain a concept of rights apart from God.

While, extending the concept of rights to animals may be a logical step, it does not really solve the problem, but rather creates many more. If animals do have rights, how do these rights come into play when the lion kills a gazelle?  The normal answer is that the lion does not know any better, we do. But this has the effect of putting us below the animals, not equal to them.  Animals are free to do whatever they do, but our actions must be constrained by a notion of rights. 

In short animals and in a more general sense nature, over time came to be more valued than people. Worst still, since virtually anything we do has some effect we become a problem. In its most extreme form people rather than being a part of the environment came to be seen as a disease that must be controlled, or in some cases removed, as in the case of the Texas scientist who calls for the creation of a genetically engineered version of the ebola virus, that would kill 90% of the people on the earth, so as to lessen our damaging effect.

But these threats are not just theoretical.  One of the key aspects of the Judeo-Christian worldview is that people, as special creations of God, are more valuable than animals.  But in the new secular view people are less valuable, and for some even a problem. While rarely directly stated, it nevertheless works itself out in a myriad of ways.

For example, the major reason energy prices such as the cost of gas, heating oil, and electricity, are so high is because concerns for the environment restrict our ability develop energy. Most of these environment concerns make no sense apart from an absolutist view that people represent a danger to the planet and that anything we do would damage to environment, often despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Most of the real damage of this inversion of rights, are indirect and often do not appear until years later. Thus the limitation on oil drilling for the last several decades is only now beginning to have a real effect on the price of gas as the excess capacity that had existed in the system is now gone, and demand is beginning to exceed supply.

One of the clearest examples of the valuation of nature over people is also one of the earliest; the concern over insecticide DDT during the 1960s.  During the 1960s it was alleged that DDT caused the shells of some birds to weaken making it difficult for them to reproduce.  In order to protect these birds, DDT was ban. At the time of the ban it was pointed out that DDT was very important to controlling the spread of mosquitoes, which spread deadly diseases such as malaria. But these arguments had little effect; the birds were more important than the people, and had to be protected.  After all, at the same time over population was also seen as a major problem.

It is now known that DDT was not the cause of the problems with birds, and in fact is really very safe. The effects of the ban are also clear.  Diseases that had been virtually eliminated in places have now returned.  Malaria alone kills between one and two million people a year. Yet despite the evidence to the contrary, for many a theoretical threat to the environment, is more important that the actual deaths of tens of millions and the ban remains in effect.

The first attempt to reconstruct society based on science rather than God, ended in the holocaust.  The subsequent attempt of reconstruct a concept of rights apart from God has resulted in not only more pain and suffering, but millions of deaths. Just perhaps the real problem is the attempt to remove God.

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

Rational Evil IV

Friday, June 20th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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 Over the last several weeks I have been looking at the development of secular thought following the holocaust, and how the attempt maintain human right apart from God has resulted in a number of competing and conflicting strategies.

These strategies produced a number of absurdities that if given any serious thought would quickly undermined the entire system and many did think seriously about this, and worse they pointed out these problems. These critics needed to be addressed.


The problem was that they could not be answered in the normal way. How can one rationally defend the belief that men and women are the same when they are so clearly different. How can one morally defend the belief that we really should not condemn the honor killing, i.e. the murder by her relatives of a woman because she was the victim of rape.


The simple answer is that you can’t. So rather than answer the arguments, those making them needed to be silenced. Anyone questioning the belief that men and women are different were called sexists. Anyone pointing out a negative aspect of other cultures were called bigoted.


While freedom of speech is still proclaimed a basic human right, and even defended in areas of vulgarity and sexuality, restrictions on speech have greatly increased in other areas. At first, labels such as sexist, racist, bigot, homophobe, etc, were enough to silence, or at least discredit those pointing out the problems with the new secular reasoning. But over time, the power of rational argument began to push past this first line of defense.


Simple labeling was not enough and stronger deterrents were needed. Starting with universities, supposedly bastions of free speech and intellectual inquiry, more formal limitations started appearing on what could be said and what could be researched.


These speech codes were challenged in the courts and many were struck down. But the need that spawned them remained, and so despite rulings such as Dambrot v. Central Michigan University and Corry v. Stanford speech codes did not go away, they were simply repackaged as anti-harassment policies.


In fact, according to Jon Gould, a law professor at George Mason University, “hate speech policies not only persist, but they have actually increased in number following a series of court decisions that ostensibly found many to be unconstitutional.”


Political Correctness was thus born in a series of formal and informal speech codes and training classes on anti-harassment and diversity; not only in specific classes but it also incorporated throughout the curriculum.


But such indoctrination in school from Kindergarten through College was still not enough. So the training was expanded into the business world. For example, in 2004 California passed a law that required employers to provide mandatory sexual harassment training. And of course to transgress these policies in the work place threatens one’s job and thus their livelihood.


By labeling these policies anti-harassment and diversity automatically gives them an air of respectability and masked the more questionable aspects. After all who supports harassment and who doesn’t support diversity? But the real question is what constitutes harassment and what is diversity? Everyone would agree that a boss demanding sex from an employee in order to keep their job is morally reprehensible and should be illegal. But what about acknowledging that men and women are different?


In a well publicized example in 2005 Larry Summers the president of Harvard University was addressing the question as to why more men seem to go into science and math than women. He suggested that one possible line of research could look at possible differences between men and women.


A fire storm of criticism erupted at this mere suggestion that men and women might be different, and this eventually led him to issue an apology. Even so, the faculty of arts and sciences issue a vote no-confidence, and his suggestion was a factor in his resignation the following year.


But even sanctions that can could threaten one’s job have not been enough to silence the rational arguments, so not too surprisingly the sanctions are being stepped up and the arguments them are being criminalized, as the Brigitte Bardot recent discovered when she was fined €15,000 by a French court because her comments on the ritual slaughter of animals in Islamic culture, “constituted a legal offense.


In 2006 Mark Steyn published the bestselling book, America Alone in which he argues that in the cultural conflict between Western and Islamic civilization that Western Civilization is losing. When Steyn’s book was excerpted in MacLean’s Magazine the Canadian Islamic Congress claimed that article “subjected Canadian Muslims to hated and contempt” and as a result as I write this Steyn is awaiting a decision from the Vancouver Human Right Council. This is just one of many examples of such attempts to silence those who differ with the current views of diversity.

Thus, in the effort to preserve a view of Human Rights apart from God, the traditional view of Human Right has been turned on its head. Speech is suppressed. Freedom of Religion has been turn into separation of Church and State and the suppression of religion. Intellectual freedom has been restricted to lines of inquiry that are consider acceptable, and exclude things like Intelligent Design. Those who do not fall into line are not only shunned, but can lose their jobs, livelihoods, or be convicted and fined by the government. All in the name of Human Rights.

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

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.

Christian Popularity

Friday, September 28th, 2007 by Elgin Hushbeck

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Sept 28, 2007, Wausau, Wi  As I detailed in my book Christianity and Secularism, throughout the much of the twentieth century, the rising dominance of secularism, combined with a church that was form the most part sleeping and unengaged with the culture, has had a devastating impact on the culture.  As a result the popular culture is now not only dominated by secularism, but it is also markedly anti-Christian where negative stereotypes of Christianity are the norm, and outright attacks are common, not only against Christianity  and Christians,  but even against Jesus.

The damage this has done, was demonstrated once again in a recent study by the Barna Group, which showed “one of the most significant shifts [in American culture] is the declining reputation of Christianity, especially among young Americans.”  One of the studies more disturbing findings is that ” only 3% of 16 – to 29-year-old non-Christians express favorable views of evangelicals.”

The study found that for many young people, even including Christians,  Christianity was viewed as judgmental, hypocritical, old-fashioned, and too involved in politics.  Not too surprisingly these are also the stereotypes that are so common in the popular culture. The study shows that, at least in the PR war, the secularist are winning.

Combating these perceptions will be difficult because these perceptions not only reflect the steady drumbeat of anti-Christian stereotypes, but also that the broader Christians worldview that once dominate in our society even among those who were not Christian, has been replace by a secular one. 

Take the first two items on the list, that Christians are judgmental, and hypocritical.  A major problem is that both of these terms have been radically redefined.  Being judgmental, once referred to someone who was hypercritical, picking on every little flaw or mistake.   As it is now applied to Christians, it refers those who make virtually any moral judgment at all.  In the secular world view all morals are relative.  Thus the common argument against Christians asking “who are you to judge?” 

As for hypocritical, that once referred to someone who claimed that an action was wrong for others, but it was ok when they did it. The new secular understanding is that anyone who makes moral judgments, and yet does not live a perfect life themselves is a hypocrite.

This is one of the tricks of secularism,  take terms that are commonly seen as negative, and redefine them so that they apply to things which secularist oppose. For both judgmental and hypocrite, the main goal is undermine (rather than defeat in open debate) Christian morality. As a result,  under the new secular understandings of these terms, of course Christians are judgmental hypocrites, so how can we defend ourselves? 

Secularist have been very successful with these redefinitions, but they have a two huge weaknesses. First they depend on the fact that the redefinition goes unnoticed, so that the negativity of the old definition is automatically transferred to the new meanings.   Secondly these new definitions are not, and cannot be uniformly applied if the negativity is to remain. In fact, they  are applied very selectively.  Thus one ways to defend against such attacks, is to go straight to the core weakness of the secular redefinition.

For example, when the subject of being judgmental came up in my college classes on critical thinking, I would simply point out that the term had been redefined and it was important to know whether one was using the older meaning or the newer one. More importantly I would point out that under the new definition, being judgmental is not always a bad thing, and in fact that everyone is not only judgmental in some areas, but that they should be. One example I would give is, what if someone stole something you valued, such as your IPod. Would you say that to steal was simply their personal choice and who are you to judge; or would you  be judgmental and say that they were wrong?  Put in such a light suddenly the entire class would become “judgmental.”

Likewise for hypocrite, you can point out that there has been a change, and that either everyone is a hypocrite at which point the term become pretty much meaningless, or it is being wrongly and very selectively used.  Which way will work the best will vary from individual to individual,  and term to term, but the main goal here is to get onto a level playing field where everyone is speaking, and hearing the same thing.

Yet this problem is much deeper than just the redefinition of some terms. For many of those outside the Church, and even for many Christians,  their view of Christianity is one shaped by the anti-Christian bigotry and falsehoods of skeptics.  For example, I have found that even among Christians the belief in thing like Columbus having to fight the ignorance of Christians who believed in a flat earth, or that most wars are caused by religion are very common, even though both completely false.  While well schooled in the negative aspects of Christian history, such as the inquisition,  most have no idea of the important and positive contributions made by Christians such as the abolition of slavery, nor the intellectual foundations Christianity provided for things like science and human rights and democracy.

Such errors and falsehoods can be correct, but to do so we must know the truth, and as Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).

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