Skip to comments.Is God dead? Atheism finds a market in U.S
Posted on 10/19/2006 7:39:10 AM PDT by presidio9
A fresh wave of atheistic books has hit the market this autumn, some climbing onto best-seller lists in what proponents see as a backlash against the way religion is entwined in politics.
"Religion is fragmenting the human community," said Sam Harris, author of "Letter to a Christian Nation," No. 11 on the New York Times nonfiction list on October 15.
There is a "huge visibility and political empowerment of religion. President George W. Bush uses his first veto to deny funding for stem cell research and scientists everywhere are horrified," he said in an interview.
Religious polarization is part of many world conflicts, he said, including those involving Israel and Iran, "but it's never discussed. I consider it the story of our time, what religion is doing to us. But there are very few people calling a spade a spade."
His "Letter," a blunt 96-page pocket-sized book condensing arguments against belief in quick-fire volleys, appeared on the Times list just ahead of "The God Delusion," by Richard Dawkins, a scientist at Oxford University and long-time atheist.
In addition, Harris' "The End of Faith," a 2004 work which prompted his "Letter" as a response to critics, is holding the No. 13 Times spot among nonfiction paperbacks.
Publishers Weekly said the business has seen "a striking number of impassioned critiques of religion -- any religion, but Christianity in particular," a probably inevitable development given "the super-soaking of American politics and culture with religion in recent years."
Paul Kurtz, founder of the Council for Secular Humanism and publisher of Free Inquiry magazine, said, "The American public is really disturbed about the role of religion in U.S. government policy, particularly with the Bush administration and the breakdown of church-state separation, and secondly with the conflict in the Mideast."
They are turning to free thought and secular humanism and publishers have recognized a taste for that, he added.
"I've published 45 books, many critical of religion," Kurtz said. "I think in America we have this notion of tolerance ... it was considered bad taste to criticize religion. But I think now there are profound questions about age-old hatreds."
The Rev. James Halstead, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Chicago's DePaul University, says the phenomenon is really "a ripple caused by the book publishing industry."
"These books cause no new thought or moral commitment. The arguments are centuries old," he told Reuters. Some believers, he added, "are no better. Their conception of God, the Divine-Human-World relationship are much too simplistic and materialistic."
Too often, he said, the concept "God" is misused "to legitimate the self and to beat up other people ... to rehash that same old theistic and atheistic arguments is a waste of time, energy and paper."
Dr. Timothy Larsen, professor of theology at Wheaton College in Illinois, says any growth in interest in atheism is a reflection of the strength of religion -- the former being a parasite that feeds off the latter.
That happened late in the 19th century America when an era of intense religious conviction gave rise to voices like famed agnostic Robert Ingersoll, he said.
For Christianity, he said, "It's very important for people of faith to realize how unsettling and threatening their posture and rhetoric and practice can feel to others. So it's an opportunity for the church to look at itself and say 'we have done things ... that make other people uncomfortable.' It is an opportunity for dialogue."
Larsen, author of the soon-to-be-published "Crisis of Doubt," added that in some sense atheism is "a disappointment with God and with the church. Some of these are people we wounded that we should be handling pastorally rather than with aggressive knockdown debate."
These are also probably some of the same people Harris says he's hearing from after his two books.
"Many, many readers feel utterly isolated in their communities," he said. "They are surrounded by cult members, from their point of view, and are unable to disclose their feelings."
"I get a lot of e-mail just expressing incredible relief that they are not alone ... relieved that I'm writing something that couldn't be said," Harris added.
Well, He's certainly not enforcing the search rule :)
Once we experience our first nuke I imagine these same people will be sitting in a pew for morning service.
The small segment of the world's population that actively advocates atheism is also its least fertile.
Basically the world's atheist cadres are urban "sophisticates" in Western cities and Communist party functionaries in Cuba, China and North Korea.
The prominence of atheism among members of the chattering classes is a sign of decadence, not growth, for this strange ideology.
I dont see the moral outrage against Islam in this piece, it is barely touched upon.
Sounds like a Judaic-Christian hit piece.
al-Reuters doing its best to try and destroy Christianity.
I was a person of deep faith for almost my whole life. A person trained in the sciences, deep mysteries.
My wife died. Just about the most loving human I ever met. My mom died. Same thoughts.
My faith started to erode. Not becuse I lack any material things. But because it seems no matter what direction I look, I see almost unimaginable cruelty. Greed beyond compare. Narcisism.
All it would take is for God to show up for thirty seconds. Just show himself to mankind for 30 seconds. Mankind would be transformed. But he doesn't. Or he won't.
Worse than losing my wife was losing my faith. Listening to silence.
God shows Himself every day. It is just that most people don't really care to see Him.
If they start strongly criticizing, that means we're probably doing something right.
Go back to church. God still loves you.
"Worse than losing my wife was losing my faith. Listening to silence."
My wife is battling cancer. The only comfort we have is turning to God.
God showed Himself to Israel for forty years. Where they transformed? Or did they go back to worshipping idols while He was still standing over them on Mt. Sinai?
God showed Himself again fifteen centuries later in Incarnate form for over thirty years. He proved to be the most divisive Man in history, and while many were transformed for the better by knowing Him, others went the opposite direction.
When God appears in power, only those who have already truly loved Him, who have or wish to repent of their sins, and who have thereby taken shelter in His grace are joyous at His Coming. Those inclined to follow the evil inclinations of the natural heart hate Him, flee from Him, and, if they can, try to kill Him.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:19-21, KJV)There is a day, which I believe is coming very soon, when God will appear to the world in power again, in the Person of the resurrected Son, Yeshua HaMashiach aka Jesus Christ. And whether you will rejoice in or curse that day depends on your relationship with God before then.
In the meantime, God has not simply left the world on its own, requiring us to check our brains at the door in order to believe in Him and trust Him. He has left us a witness in history by Scriptures which can be checked out and verified in a scholarly fashion. He has left us prophecies describing the events we see today from thousands of years ago, which can also be verified. He has left us a witness in the transformed lives of the disciples, in their certain knowledge that they had witnessed the Resurrection of the Messiah, a knowledge which they were not willing to deny even to their graves.
Nor is God's action only something that happened "once upon a time." Watch the movie The End of the Spear and see how He transformed the hearts of even those who killed His missionaries. Hear and read the testimonies of those who have been radically changed from within by putting their faith in Jesus. I myself have witnessed miracles, including a young Rwandan woman cured of aids, and I have personally seen the spiritual powers of darkness flee at the Name of Yeshua, or Jesus.
God gave us rules, like the Ten Commandments. Why should it surprise us that when we flout those rules, when men choose to steal and lie and murder and commit adultery and covet and disrespect their elders and even God Himself that suffering results. God gave us free will, and when we abuse that free will, bad stuff happens--not just to ourselves, but to others who get caught in the natural consequences of our actions as well.
What about things like disease? How is that the consequence of our actions? Forgive me for answering a question with a question, but how can the human race, which by its day-to-day actions proves that it doesn't want God to interfere with our lives, then demand that He not let the natural imbalances which lead to infection, cancer, heart diease, etc. go their natural course?
It's hard to live in a fallen world, djf. Believe me, I know. I'm no ivory-tower intellectual who comes up with platitudes while hiding from the real suffering of the world. I had very few friends growing up, and was picked on and made fun of pretty consistantly, and it has taken me years to undo the damage to my interpersonal relationships that resulted. I have friends who barely escaped from Rwanda with their lives, losing most of their family and friends in the process. My grandfather lingered on with Alzheimers for many years before he passed away. I had an uncle who was once a Presbyterian minister but who lost his faith because he was ill-treated by his parish, and who ultimately died because he stopped taking care of himself. We buried his wife, my aunt, who I loved dearly, just a few months ago because she too gave up on living after he died--and though she tried in the last few months of her life to turn that around, it was too late and the damage was done. I have one brother who is gay and another who my parents had to kick out of the house because of his behavior--and I know how much that tears up my parents, who are Godly people and who did right by all three of us. I know people, some of which are good friends, who have been so abused as children that their psyches are permanently fragmented. I minister to men in prison every other week, and I hear their stories.
I know about the suffering in the world. And I've found that the Bible is straightforward about that suffering. It doesn't candycoat it, or try to downplay it, or try to explain it away as an illusion. It has always been honest about it.
And that is because God is not removed from your suffering. He knows what suffering is, from a personal perspective. He gave up His glory to Incarnate into the world. He lost a father, Joseph, who Scripture calls a righteous man. He worked as a carpenter for most of His life, and was never able to receive a formal education and ordination as a rabbi despite His calling. He was rejected by His own brothers and sisters, and even His mother seems not to have understood Him. He was persecuted without cause, simply because He made the self-satisfied nervous, edgy, and envious. He knows what it was to be tired, frustrated, and angry, and to be abandoned. And in the end, He, the most innocent of us all, was tortured to death.
Where is God in the midst of our suffering? Not up in Heaven, serenely unaware as some portray Him, but on a splintery wooden cross, blood pouring out from innumerable wounds, unable to breathe, with an angry mob mocking Him from the ground below.
He wants to heal your pain, djf. You're sinking into a pit, and He's reaching out a hand to pull you out. Will you, like Job who also suffered for a long time with nothing but silence from heaven, trust Him enough to take it and give up your anger?
If you want to talk, or rant, or whatever in a more private venue, please feel free to Freepmail me, or email me at the address on my FR profile. I'll be praying for you, that you find the peace you're looking for.
God bless, and shalom.
He showed up for thirty years. They crucified Him.
I am very sorry for your losses. I admit I've questioned everything about my faith more times than I care to count over the years due to loss of loved ones, observing the utter cruelty of mankind, of nature, of life itself.
Famines? Plagues? The Holocaust? Civil wars? Abortion? The neglect of a child? The cheating spouse? An elderly person lonely and sick in a nursing home? Yup, it all gives me serious doubts. Even the suffering of a rabbit our cat caught, played with, and left to die a long, slow death. I have no answers, only questions.
How can a merciful God allow so many to suffer so deeply for so long? Further, looking at the devotion of Muslims, of Christians, of Jews, of Hindus, etc., everyone completely believes they are a member of the one true faith. Yet, we hate one another (at least Muslims and Christians), we believe the other faiths are wrong or misguided, and we're back to square one.
Again, I have no answers, only questions, and I understand what you're going through. Who knows? Your feelings on your faith may change for the better again, and that's a small ray of hope for you...I hope.
It's difficult. It's very, very difficult. Even if I can forget about myself, I am frustrated.
There are simple questions I will NEVER know the answer to.
What will be the headlines on the newspapers 100 years from today?
Thanks for your kind reply.
Go back and hold the ones you love like I would hold my wife if I could.
"These books cause no new thought or moral commitment. The arguments are centuries old,"
This sounds like what John Bunyon refered to as "Ranters books".
***All it would take is for God to show up for thirty seconds. Just show himself to mankind for 30 seconds. Mankind would be transformed. But he doesn't. Or he won't. ***
If God did show up for just thirty seconds, there would be those to "expain it away".
Within one generation we would be right back where we are and they would look back and declare God's thirty second manafestation as just a "Halucination" of the old folks.
If God truly showed up there would be no doubt.
I don't know what it is like to lose a spouse.
But losing my parents was about the roughest set of years I have been through, my friend. When life was going on as normal, I wanted to jump up on the roof and shout, "STOP! Don't you realize that the most awesome person on planet Earth just died!"
Eating and sleeping seemed.....hard. Too human or something.
When my mother got sick, I was about 22. I'm now 40 and my dad died about 4 years ago relatively suddenly. I feel like my kids are cheated of their grandparents and there are days I still reach for the phone to tell them something.
When I see a friend talking back to his/her mother or somehow disrespecting a parent, I feel like slapping them silly and saying, "Do you KNOW what I would GIVE for one more minute of advice from them? Appreciate what you HAVE!"
The pain is real and intense.
If I wasn't a person of faith, the hole in my heart would never heal and the lump in my throat would never go away. The science of death is what it is. Cold, calculating, whatever.
But if I didn't believe in the ultimate promise of Christianity -- that there is a life away from this one -- that suffering is gone - that we will see our family of believers again.....well, frankly, I would hate to think that my parents are nothing but worm food.
Faith is a leap that I took WHEN my parents died. Probably for the first time. There is no explaining the comfort I feel that they are not suffering and that we will be united again someday.
Don't give up on Him. He hasn't given up on you, my friend.
Peace be with you in your grief.
PS He shows Himself to you everyday.
God doesn't cause those awful things. But He is pretty plain on the subject of suffering. He promises that we will suffer. But if we ask for the grace to handle it, He will provide it.
It is my first prayer in the morning -- to ask for grace....and my last prayer at night is a thank you to Him for the grace He gave me....
Life is hard. Ain't no doubt about it. But I cannot imagine how hard it would be without faith.
Need to put your fingers in the nail holes in the Hands, eh, Thomas? :)
I understand. I was there, too.
Found I was looking in all the wrong places. Sight can be a very limited sense.
Well, all I can say that I have tried.
I know. I didn't believe it either.
I was the ultimate skeptic.
It isn't something one can explain, Stone. I wish I could.
I can tell you this -- God isn't some kind of magician. He doesn't do card tricks. He doesn't talk to you through your major appliances.
But there are all kinds of ways God touches your life. Call it "luck" or call it "coincidence" or call it even a "blessing"....whatever those things are in your life, chances are really good that it was sent into motion by God.
Don't want to be rude, but I have to go pick up my son at Kindergarten.
I'll pray you find what you are looking for and that God truly reveals Himself to you in an unmistakable, profound way!
Your spouse is as bright as the morning sun.
As dark and forbidden as the moon rising in the eve.
The first face you see in the morning.
The last face that comforts you before you sleep.
I miss her. I will always miss her.
We are together forever, and I miss her.
And yes, I am angry.
My point is it is bullshit. If he showed up for just 30 seconds he would give us more than has ever been known or will be known.
He would give us hope.
And yet we wait.
I will hold the ones I love close, I do every day. That's good, simple advice we should all take.
By the way, I lost my mom at age 6. My father and the rest of us have mourned her passing every day for the past 29 years. Dad remarried a wonderful woman years later, truly the 2nd love of his life, yet he may lose her sooner than later due to failing health. Loss of a parent, loss of a spouse, something you never, ever get over.
But He has shown up. As has been mentioned on this thread already, He was here on this earth for over 30 years. And His Word has been given to us.
Maybe you're right: that God doesn't cause those awful things, but I promise you many millions have suffered horribly throughout history, even after asking for the grace to handle it. The Jews who were starved, tortured, and murdered at the hands of the Nazis were no doubt devout, yet they suffered horribly. Small children and babies, the sick and infirmed, who have no say in the matter of suffering, can't ask for the grace to handle it. It just makes no sense to me.
Believe it or not, I appreciate your reply. It's inspiring.
Perhaps if you extend your sight to beyond what we can literally see, suffering might make more sense. Death is only the beginning of eternal life. Paul said that our sufferings make up for what is lacking in the Body (the community). Thus, vicarious suffering DOES have meaning for others - this gives hope to those who think suffering has no meaning... Our merciful God, setting the example, shows that suffering can be beneficial for others.
St. Paul said that our sufferings count as NOTHING once we will come to experience the Risen Lord. That is our hope in this world. That in the next, we will totally forget about our sufferings here.
How many people remember their birth pangs as they were born into THIS world? How many people remember the suffering they endured as they were forcibly removed from that "world" of our mother's womb?
Phew. Heaven knows there are tons of awful things that happen in the world. They happen in big things like the Holocaust and 9/11 and the Sudan and they happen in small moments like an innocent child stricken with terminal cancer. They all shake one's faith to the roots, don't they?
Coop, I don't even pretend to the have the answers why bad things happen.
But you know what I have seen? I have seen the most amazing grace and strength in the faces of children with the most horrible terminal cases imaginable. In fact, their grace gives their parents strength and hope. I'd like to think that...no...I know that God gives them that grace.
There is nothing that is a true coincidence, nothing that doesn't happen for a reason -- we just can't always fathom why at the time. But I'd be willing to wager that we'll find out the answers to that and more someday.
And frankly, that is the reason why we are called and duty bound to talk about our faith openly, so that all those who don't have faith maybe can grab onto a piece. There is plenty to go around!
I look at the Amish who were so amazingly kind on so many counts to the family of their children's murderer....I look at the young girl at Columbine who, even in the face of a tormented teenager's angry weapon, refused to deny God....I look at the amazing stories that constantly come out of the horrors that this Earth offers, and I see grace where you might see nothing but destruction.
Most folks don't have a say in suffering....and they sure don't have a say in the time or date or circumstance of their death. But there is one thing folks do have control of...and that is the only question that matters -- are you ready to face God....today?
When my mother first was diagnosed with Alzheimers, I was more than mad. I was enraged with everything and everyone, including God. She was my best friend, my confidante, my world. So many things I felt cheated on. I tried on my wedding dress alone and planned it all by myself. I had my children without her awesome, amazing and spot on advice.
Sometimes I look at her grandchildren and see her shining through, though, and rather than hurting now, I see it as a blessing.
Totally rearranged my priorities. I realized that my tombstone was going to say, "Wife and Mother" not "She wrote really great press releases...." and that my children were my legacy. Everything else was totally temporary.
The line you hear from Christians about "total peace" is actually true. It isn't that the pain goes away. It does, slowly, but there will always be an ache. It is more like...you aren't alone anymore. Anxiety, worries, that lump in your throat.....mean you aren't giving your fears and concerns to God. I have never known a time in which relying upon God has left me emptyhanded.
As someone who relied on (and still does rely on)logic rather than passion to see things, faith was a tough leap to make. But after making lots of decisions I regret, I can say with absolute confidence it is the one decision I have never, ever regretted.
I totally understand your feelings, though, I really, really do!
Atheism?? yawn. I wonder what the flat earth society thinks about current events.
Beautiful and inspiring, Gadfly. Thank you. I'm genuinely humbled and moved by your response and I plan to save it for future reference.
The blame america first crowd is the same group who would destroy religion in the name of peace - their idea of enforced, coerced, humanistic secular peace where the commisars dictate reality and the corrupt managers of society deem who will live and who will die.
God doesn't promise us that we will never suffer, but that we need never suffer alone.
I'm very sorry for your loss. I can't imagine losing my wife.
Or my only son.
God be with you...
Huh, I guess we must be talking about something else.
fair far from the mainstream view and certainly not the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
Did you ever consider that God showed himself through your wife? The more a person loves, the the more they are allowing God to live through them...
What a beautiful post. I agree with you having lost my Father, and recently, although not on the same level, but very painful still, a beloved pet. If I had no faith, I would never make it through another day.
Very good post, Bugg.
We argued in the past and are sure to argue more, but this is a very, very good post. God bless you.
Cross reference: Daily Reflections with Oswald Chambers: The Witness of the Spirit
This is a shining, beautiful, full of Glory thread; with praise I bump it!