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Backward, atheist soldiers!
WORLD Magazine ^ | June 30, 2007 | Marvin Olasky

Posted on 06/22/2007 9:07:12 AM PDT by Caleb1411

Books: Notable anti-religion and anti-Christian books of the past year—particularly Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great—make something out of, well, nothing.

Nineteenth-century novelist Gustave Flaubert used to joke about archaeologists discovering a stone tablet signed "God" and reading, "I do not exist." His punch line had an atheist then exclaiming, "See! I told you so!"

These days, nothing stops atheistic caissons from rolling along the bookstore aisles. Maybe that's because atheists on average have small families and lots of discretionary doubloons jingling in their pockets. Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf), Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell (Penguin), and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin) all hit bestseller lists during 2006—and a new book, Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great (Twelve), has ascended this year.

Last year's trio emerged alongside anti-Christian books purportedly based on hard reporting. Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism (Norton) typified the genre's misreporting when she wrote that Christian pregnancy counseling centers "usually" present false or exaggerated information—but there's no indication that she visited even one center, let alone the 3,000 or so that exist throughout the country. (Here's some evidentiary trivia: In four pages about me she makes five clear factual errors, along with many questionable interpretations.)

This year it's the same: a new screed by Chris Hedges has as its title not "Mistaken People" or even "Lying Liars," but American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (Free Press). The genre is old, with new villains appearing as necessary. Ten years ago Frederick Clarkson's Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy stated that the sky was falling, with Promise Keepers as the spearhead of Christian dictatorship.

The ferocity of these books is sometimes astounding. Here, for example, is Dawkins' view of God: "arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Even Publishers Weekly noted concerning The God Delusion, "For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe. . . . Even confirmed atheists who agree with his advocacy of science and vigorous rationalism may have trouble stomaching some of the rhetoric: 'The biblical Yahweh is "psychotic," Aquinas' proofs of God's existence are "fatuous" and religion generally is "nonsense."'

Happily, Alister and Joanna Collicutt McGrath have just come out with an effective response, The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (IVP). The McGraths note, "Until recently, Western atheism had waited patiently, believing that belief in God would simply die out. But now a whiff of panic is evident. Far from dying out, belief in God has rebounded."

The McGraths also point out the folly of believing that if religion were eliminated wars would cease: After all, conflicts often reflect human desires to declare some people as "in" and others as "out," sometimes on the basis of religion, but at other times on the basis of race, ethnicity, tribe, class, gender, or whatever.

Christianity is above all others the religion that seeks kindness to those in the out-group: Jesus told us to love our neighbors and even to love our enemies. When Christians fail to live up to His teachings it's because of sin, not Christianity—and scapegoating religion delays efforts to deal with the real problems of social division.

Scapegoating is also evident in the writing of Sam Harris, who frequently forgets to use reason and instead falls back on words like "preposterous." He asserts certainty about what he admits not knowing: "How the process of evolution got started is still a mystery, but that does not in the least suggest that a deity is likely to be lurking at the bottom of it all."

He complains not only about ignorance but about moral failings: "An average Christian, in an average church, listening to an average Sunday sermon has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse."

Yet Harris, for all his attacks on Intelligent Design, does not even understand the distinction between macro-evolution—one kind of creature changing into another—and micro-evolution. One of his proofs of theistic obtuseness is that "viruses like HIV, as well as a wide range of harmful bacteria, can be seen evolving right under our noses, developing resistance to antiviral and antibiotic drugs."

The one good aspect of Harris' work is his understanding that theology has consequences: "There is no escaping that fact that a person's religious beliefs uniquely determine what he thinks peace is good for, as well as what he means by a term like 'compassion.'" Harris at least understands that the biblical theology he hates makes obnoxious sense in a way that liberalism does not; given a suffering world, "liberal theology must stand revealed for what it is: the sheerest of mortal pretenses."

Harris also criticizes the niceties of political rhetoric concerning Islam: "The idea that Islam is a 'peaceful religion hijacked by extremists' is a fantasy." Too bad he and other atheistic authors are determined to believe that Christianity is inevitably hijacked by hate, and that they pick up support from reviewers like Natalie Angier, who wrote in The New York Times that "Harris writes what a sizeable number of us think, but few are willing to say."

Harris' work has also engendered several Christian responses this year. Doug Wilson's Letter from a Christian Citizen (American Vision) points out that Harris uses morally loaded words like "should" and "ought"; Wilson rightly asks Harris, "What is the difference between an imposed morality, an imposed religion, or an imposed secular ought? Why is your imposition to be preferred to any other?"

Wilson notes Harris' fondness for Eastern religions, and in particular the "utter non-violence" of the Jains in India. Letter from a Christian Citizen correctly notes that "Devout Jains will wear a mask to avoid breathing in and thereby killing any insect," and then asks whether Harris would commend evangelicals who "forsook the use of antibiotics because of the genocidal devastation it was causing to the microbes within."

Wilson also points out that the litany of religious folks fighting each other that Harris recites "is beside the point. We don't believe that religion is the answer. We believe Christ is the answer." Harris' list of religious messes merely confirms "one of the basic tents of the Christian faith, which is that the human race is all screwed up."

And what about this year's champion screed, offered by Christopher Hitchens? His scorn—"monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents"—oozes off every page of God Is Not Great, with its extraordinary subtitle, How Religion Poisons Everything.

"Everything"? That sounds improbable. Are 1.3 billion Muslims all murderers? Might Christianity have produced 50 percent evil and 50 percent good? If not, how about 40 percent good? Thirty percent? Twenty percent? Ten percent? Will not Hitchens relent from his anger if we can find 5 percent that's good?

God Is Not Great has received extraordinary publicity, including an adulatory review in The New York Times, so it's worth going page by page to see what Hitchens is selling and many atheists are buying:

*On Page 4 he writes that religion produces a "maximum of servility." Islam, maybe, but were Abraham, Moses, and Job servile when they argued with God?

*On Page 5 he writes, "No statistic will ever find that without [religious] blandishments and threats [atheists] commit more crimes of greed or violence than the faithful." Prison Fellowship and other organizations can show that prisoners who go through evangelical programs have much lower recidivism—committing new crimes after release from prison, leading to new sentences—than others.

*On Page 7 he writes, "Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago." Leaving aside the inspiration millions get from daily Bible reading, what about Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches, with all their biblical imagery? Or Pope John Paul II, whose words inspired many people to rise up against Communism in Eastern Europe?

*On Page 17 he writes that religion "does not have the confidence in its own various preachings even to allow coexistence between different faiths." At the annual March for Life in Washington tens of thousands of Catholics and Protestants walk side by side along with individuals from Jews for Life, Buddhists for Life, and so on.

*n Page 32 he writes, "The nineteen suicide murderers of New York and Washington and Pennsylvania were beyond any doubt the most sincere believers on those planes." Todd Beamer, the man who said "Let's roll" on United Flight 93, and made sure it didn't crash into the U.S. Capitol, was a strong Christian believer. So were others who died, stopping the terrorists, when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.

Hitchens of course thinks the Bible is nonsense (see also "The world according to Hitch," June 3, 2006). On Page 102 he writes, "It goes without saying that none of the gruesome, disordered events described in Exodus ever took place." Without saying. A slam dunk. On Page 103: "All the Mosaic myths can be safely and easily discarded." On Page 104: All five books of Moses are "an ill-carpentered fiction."

Such pronouncements were repeatedly made in the 19th century, but again and again biblical accounts considered mythical back then have gained new archeological support. For example, scholars at one point said that the Hittites described in the Bible did not exist, nor did rulers such as Belshazzar of Babylon or Sargon of Assyria. Archeologists now have records of all those civilizations and reigns.

Many brilliant people have spent lifetimes studying these writings that Hitchens so blithely dismisses. Princeton's Robert Wilson, who knew 26 ancient languages and dialects and so could read just about all that remains from the ancient Near East, was impressed with the accuracy of those accounts that Hitchens wishes to discard.

Coming to the present, Hitchens on Page 160 calls "the whole racket of American evangelism . . . a heartless con." Hmm. WORLD for two decades has reported stories around this country of compassionate evangelicals who must be dumb, because they've spent their lives in a racket that's yielded them almost no money. They've adopted hard-to-place children, built AIDs orphanages in Africa, helped addicts and alcoholics to turn their lives around, transformed the lives of teens who were heading into drugs and crime, and much besides.

In responding to Hitchens and mini-Hitchenses, it's also worth noting the leadership of Christians over the centuries in setting up hospitals and schools. Historians such as Jonathan Hill of Oxford, Alvin Schmidt of Illinois College, and Rodney Stark of Baylor have described the long-term effect of Jesus telling his followers to love their neighbors as themselves.

The evangelical tendency to help others, not poison them, has even attracted the attention of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who calls America's evangelicals "the newest internationalists" for fighting sexual trafficking in Eastern Europe and slavery in Sudan. As Jewish leader Michael Horowitz has put it, evangelicals "led the way in taking on the slavery issue of our time—the annual trafficking of millions of women and children into lives of sexual bondage . . . led the way in organizing a campaign to end a growing epidemic of prison rape."

Horowitz concluded his message to evangelicals this way: "As you define your human rights successes as central to who you are and what you've done, it will no longer be possible for those who fear your faith to crudely caricature you or to ignore the virtue that Christian activism brings to American life and the world at large." Spoken too soon, because authors like Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, and especially Hitchens, despite all the evidence, still proclaim that religion, or Christianity in particular, poisons everything.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: alistermcgrath; atheism; christianity; enjoythevoid; islam; judaism; nihilism; olasky; religion
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To: Zionist Conspirator; shuckmaster
Unlike those people who define "anti-Semitism" as ethnic bigotry, I define it as opposition to or ridicule of actual Jewish religious beliefs. If you ever reidicule the Jewish G-d or His Torah I can assure you I will request your expulsion from this forum as an anti-Semite. And I mean it.

It appears to me that you have must doubts and that you don't believe the Jewish G-d or His Torah can withstand ridicule by non-believers.

Either your Jewish G-d and His Torah can withstand ridicule by non-believers or he can't. Your threatening others isn't an indication of His strength, is it?

101 posted on 06/23/2007 7:08:42 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Check out this website for the National Veterans Coalition
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To: HiTech RedNeck

But you do admit that Buddhists go to hell, right?

102 posted on 06/23/2007 7:12:05 AM PDT by GunRunner (Come on Fred, how long are you going to wait?)
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To: Zionist Conspirator; Physicist
Please don't ignore me because you don't know how to handle non-chr*stians.

Oh, don't start telling us that we are going to have to start "handling" our Jewish friends differently after all these years. Has multiculturalism really gotten to your soul? The UN will be thrilled to know they were so successful.

103 posted on 06/23/2007 7:15:22 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Check out this website for the National Veterans Coalition
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To: Zionist Conspirator; hunter112
Wait a minute. It's alright for you to say "J*sus was a hippie wimp." but it's not ok for someone to criticize the Jewish G-d or His Torah, in your opinion.

It is people like you that help me understand why the religious war amongst the Jews and the Palestinians will never end.

104 posted on 06/23/2007 7:23:17 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Check out this website for the National Veterans Coalition
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To: HiTech RedNeck

>four pointed back at himself.<

Only three pointed back at himself.

105 posted on 06/23/2007 7:26:30 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Check out this website for the National Veterans Coalition
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To: GunRunner

Anyone who refuses salvation in Christ will.

106 posted on 06/23/2007 7:26:50 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: B4Ranch

And the thumb at his silly head

107 posted on 06/23/2007 7:27:19 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: B4Ranch

It does sound rather like jihad.

108 posted on 06/23/2007 7:28:27 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: B4Ranch

There are some real hot headed nuts among the Haredim.

109 posted on 06/23/2007 7:29:31 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: HiTech RedNeck
That makes heaven a pretty exclusive club.

And it brings to mind one of the contradictions of heaven. If you have a mother, father, son, or daughter who does not accept Christ, is it possible to have eternal happiness in heaven knowing that that person is in hell for all eternity.

110 posted on 06/23/2007 7:30:17 AM PDT by GunRunner (Come on Fred, how long are you going to wait?)
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To: HiTech RedNeck


111 posted on 06/23/2007 7:30:22 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Check out this website for the National Veterans Coalition
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To: HiTech RedNeck

When men get bored they fight over women and/or religion. It’s been that way since the beginning of time and I suppose it’ll go on forever.

112 posted on 06/23/2007 7:34:01 AM PDT by B4Ranch (Check out this website for the National Veterans Coalition
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To: reagan_fanatic
Unfortunately, good deeds don't draw the amount of attention that the charlatans and crooks do,

If good Christians would just speak out against the charlatans and crooks this growing anti Christian sentiment wouldn't exist.
113 posted on 06/23/2007 7:35:07 AM PDT by radioman
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To: GunRunner

There’s the Puritan/Calvinist theological approach to this which is that God scripted it all, we simply won’t care, and don’t worry about the rest. Some people find this energizing and simply come up with hotter and hotter descriptions of hell when challenged.

Then there’s the C. S. Lewis approach (which I confess to being partial to) that it’s a consequence of all people having the power to say yes or no to the spirit of God. If the Buddhist wants heaven, God will arrange for the conversion of his spirit. (Missionaries not infrequently report that the peoples they have gone to preach to, have already had some kind of premonitory revelation about the Lord.) Heaven will view hell as a tragedy, but not as something fundamentally unfair.

114 posted on 06/23/2007 7:40:07 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: HiTech RedNeck
Well, then hopefully you will find peace in the fact that heaven must be so special, and so wonderful, that it will make you forget the fact that some of your loved ones will be in hell for all eternity.

I don't find this unreasonable, just a strange and less than perfect way to manage the afterlife.

115 posted on 06/23/2007 7:47:02 AM PDT by GunRunner (Come on Fred, how long are you going to wait?)
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To: GunRunner

The only dialogue recorded in the New Testament involving an occupant of hell has this person acknowledging the fact that wrongdoing results in going there, though not directly, as though to signify a perpetual denial concerning his own wrong. The result is almost comical.

Even in this world we consider it strange when a person whose friend is in a fix but he can’t do anything about it, just sits and mopes his whole life. And, the truth about God is that one’s relationship with God trumps all others.

116 posted on 06/23/2007 7:58:42 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: razzle

“Its the constant attacks by the God-haters, calling us stupid and so forth, despite the overwhelming evidence for design in nature (and the complete scientific failure of darwinism and the copernican principle) that provoke this backlash.”

Just claiming there is overwhelming evidence and claiming Darwin and Copernicus were wrong does not make it so. Evolution does occur and is an empirically and scientifically reliable theory beyond any comparison to intelligent design. The Earth does move around the Sun and that is not in dispute. Perhaps your dander is simply too up, having had your faith challenged, to engage in rational discourse.

“You do know its perfectly OK to smear feces on statues of Jesus, and other Christian symbols, but how dare you say anything negative toward a transvestite marching in the gay pride parade with its pants down.”

I think the double standard stinks, too, and I’m for ALL of those things either being looked down on or ALL of those things being above reproach as free speech generally (though I think smearing feces on anything, and your gay pride parade example, are tasteless behavior, certainly). I would not support censorship of that expression, but I don’t understand why America must financially support it, and I have no problem with the originators of such filth being shunned by society and suffering consequences for their actions in that way.

But if there’s a backlash against those disagreeing with Christians BY Christians here, why? Aren’t you Christians? What’s with the complete absence of the application of the golden rule here, and turning the other cheek? Oh, right, you’ve been provoked, so you can just ignore Christ’s teachings.

117 posted on 06/23/2007 9:04:46 AM PDT by LibertarianInExile ("What a cruel reflection that a rich country cannot long be a free one." --Thomas Jefferson)
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To: LibertarianInExile
I couldn’t follow your second part about Christians by Christians.... but you don’t know about the copernican principle - it is not the earth revolving around the sun, etc. It is the assumption (not espoused by Copernicus btw, but by Carl Sagen and others) that the Earth is just an average so so planet and that life is probably occurring on billions and billions of other similar planets. (read The Privileged Planet for more on this). You should also read more about the problems with darwinism and not take the “scientific consensus” for granted (the only reason darwinism is still around today (even after marxism and freudism have been demolished) is the materialist religion of the Left and the ruling out of any non-materialist explanation for life.
118 posted on 06/23/2007 11:08:39 AM PDT by razzle
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To: HiTech RedNeck
That flaw being people turning their faith into fact, and their belief into certainty.

Are you sure that's wrong?

Faith is not 'knowing', it's 'believing'.

Now I couldn't tell you whether it's 'wrong' to prostelitize, but asserting something as certain when it's really a belief is wrong. It's dishonest.

119 posted on 06/23/2007 4:26:22 PM PDT by Swordfished
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To: Swordfished

So you are sure no truth can be arrived at that way?

120 posted on 06/23/2007 9:38:22 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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