Monday, April 12, 2010

Atheism: Philospher Explores Causes

With atheists having lately taken on a more "in- your- face" tactic with people of faith, it seems that Atheism has launched an all-out assault on religion.  Last month I shared an article about radical atheist author Christopher Hitchens and his Christian brother Peter.  I thought of him as I stumbled upon this article about James S. Spiegel, a Christian philosopher, who explores the causes of atheism.

From The Christian Post (emphasis added) --
Christian Philosopher Explores Causes of Atheism

James S. Spiegel has an uncomfortable thesis to propose.

He contends: Religious skepticism is, at bottom, a moral problem.

A professor of philosophy and religion at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., Spiegel has written a 130-page book, The Making of an Atheist, in response to the New Atheists. But unlike the numerous responses that have emerged from Christian apologists, Spiegel's book focuses on the moral-psychological roots of atheism.

While atheists insist that their foundational reason for rejecting God is the problem of evil or the scientific irrelevance of the supernatural, the Christian philosopher says the argument is "only a ruse" or "a conceptual smoke screen to mask the real issue – personal rebellion."

"The rejection of God is a matter of will, not of intellect," he asserts.

"Atheism is not the result of objective assessment of evidence, but of stubborn disobedience; it does not arise from the careful application of reason but from willful rebellion. Atheism is the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality.

"In short, it is sin that is the mother or unbelief."

God has made His existence plain from creation – from the unimaginable vastness of the universe to the complex micro-universe of individual cells, Spiegel notes. Human consciousness, moral truths, miraculous occurrences and fulfilled biblical prophecies are also evidence of the reality of God.

But atheists reject that, or as Spiegel put it, "miss the divine import of any one of these aspects of God's creation" and to do so is "to flout reason itself."

This suggests that other factors give rise to the denial of God, he notes. In other words, something other than the quest for truth drives the atheist.

Drawing from Scripture, Spiegel says the atheist's problem is rebellion against the plain truth of God, as clearly revealed in nature. The rebellion is prompted by immorality, and immoral behavior or sin corrupts cognition.

The author explained to EPS, "There is a phenomenon that I call 'paradigm-induced blindness,' where a person's false worldview prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious. Additionally, a person's sinful indulgences have a way of deadening their natural awareness of God or, as John Calvin calls it, the sensus divinitatis. And the more this innate sense of the divine is squelched, the more resistant a person will be to evidence for God."

Spiegel, who converted to Christianity in 1980, has witnessed the pattern among several of his friends. Their path from Christianity to atheism involved: moral slippage (such as infidelity, resentment or unforgiveness); followed by withdrawal from contact with fellow believers; followed by growing doubts about their faith, accompanied by continued indulgence in the respective sin; and culminating in a conscious rejection of God.

Examining the psychology of atheism, Spiegel cites Paul C. Vitz who revealed a link between atheism and fatherlessness.

"Human beings were made in God's image, and the father-child relationship mirrors that of humans as God's 'offspring,'" Spiegel states. "We unconsciously (and often consciously, depending on one's worldview) conceive of God after the pattern of our earthly father."

"However, when one's earthly father is defective, whether because of death, abandonment, or abuse, this necessarily impacts one's thinking about God."

Some of the atheists whose fathers died include David Hume and Friedrich Nietzsche. Those with abusive or weak fathers include Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire and Sigmund Freud. Among the New Atheists, Daniel Dennett's father died when Dennett was five years old and Christopher Hitchens' father appears to have been very distant. Hitchens had confessed that he doesn't remember "a thing about him."

As for Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, there is very little information available regarding their relationships with their fathers.

"It appears that the psychological fallout from a defective father must be combined with rebellion – a persistent immoral response of some sort, such as resentment, hatred, vanity, unforgiveness, or abject pride. And when that rebellion is deep or protracted enough, atheism results," Spiegel explains.

In essence, "atheists ultimately choose not to believe in God," the author maintains, and "this choice does not occur in a psychological vacuum."

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief was released in February.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: New Bio Reveals U.S. Influence

Dietrich Bonhoeffer -- one of my heroes.  He was a German pastor during World War II who joined The Confessing Church, an opposition group against the Nazis and their take-over of the nation and Church.  Imagine some of the pastors conspiring to assassinate Hitler!  I bet those were some pretty heady theological and ethical debates!

This from Lauren Green of FoxNews (emphasis added):

New Bio of Executed WWII Pastor/Spy Reveals U.S. Influence

On April 9, 1945, 65 years ago today, just a few weeks before an allied offensive brought Germany to its knees and ended World War II in Europe, a young, mild-mannered Lutheran theologian was hanged by the Nazis in Flossenburg Concentration Camp.

His crime ... conspiring to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theological genius of the 20th century, is now emerging as a war hero, martyr and spy.

"What is so amazing about the story of Bonhoeffer is that he puts a completely different spin for us as Americans on World War II," says Eric Metaxas, author of "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" (Thomas Nelson, 2010), the first biography in 40 years of this influential Christian. The book is being released on Friday, the anniversary of Bonhoeffer's execution.

"Christians all over the world have read his books," Metaxas says, "but very few people know the full story of his involvement in a plot to kill the head of the German state."

Bonhoeffer is revealed in the book as one of the few German Christians who refused to appease Hitler and his perverted interpretation of Christianity. Bonhoeffer's staunch resistance to the Third Reich and his push for civil disobedience cost him his life.

His enriched faith, however, was born in America in 1930, when spent a year at Union Theological Seminary. But the most profound American influence was at New York's Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. There he heard the powerful preaching of civil rights pioneer Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., and the deeply emotional music of what he called "negro sprituals."

Bonhoeffer became a passionate parishioner and Sunday school teacher at the Harlem church.

"The experience he had in Harlem deepened his faith in such a way that when he came back to Germany, he felt called by God," Metaxas says. "It wasn't just theology in his head. He felt called by God to obey God. For him that meant very clearly to stand up for the Jews."

Perhaps one other experience in America cemented his "stand for the Jews."

On Bonhoeffer's first and only Easter in the United States, he tried to attend services at one of New York's famous churches. But he couldn't get in; they were so packed, you needed tickets to attend. Wanting to be in a house of worship on Easter Sunday, Bonhoeffer went instead to a synagogue, where he heard the charismatic Rabbi Stephen Wise. Bonhoeffer wrote to his grandmother …

"He delivered an enormously effective sermon on corruption in New York and challenged the Jews, who make up a third of the city, to build from this city the City of God, to which the Messiah would then truly be able to come."

In 1914, Wise co-founded the NAACP, and he was instrumental in the creation of the World Jewish Congress. A synagogue in New York City bears his name.

Wise's grandson, also named Stephen, now in his 80s, has been spearheading an effort to get Bonhoeffer's name listed with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, in Israel, as one of the "Righteous Gentiles" of the Holocaust.

What Bonhoeffer came away with from his New York experience was a willingness to stand by the true faith. He wrote to Rabbi Wise, telling him what the Nazis were doing to the Jews, and how the "religious" people were complacent.

"There were many German churchgoers, whether they were Christians or not I don't know, but they went to church and somehow they made peace with the Nazis," Metaxas says. "They thought there was nothing wrong. Bonhoeffer had such a devoted faith he knew without any question that the Nazis were anti-Christian and they were evil, and if he didn't stand against them he would have to answer to God." Bonhoeffer believed he was called by God to help those who wanted to assassinate Hitler.

"Bonhoeffer was not a pacifist," Metaxas says. "And that will be news to a lot of people who think of Bonhoeffer as their hero, as some kind of pacifist."

He was willing to be involved in a plot to kill Hitler. "He wasn't helpful as a gunman; he was helpful with contacts all around Europe," Metaxas says. "He had the ability because he had ecumenical church contacts to work as a double agent, and that is what he was, he was a double agent."

The plot was discovered, and Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943.

Two years later, as the Battle of Berlin raged, it was clear that the Third Reich would be defeated. But Hitler wanted his enemies dead, including Bonhoeffer.

On April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was hanged. Three weeks later, Hitler committed suicide.

On May 1, German forces in Italy surrendered. The next day, German forces in Berlin surrendered. On May 7, 1945, the unconditional surrender of all German forces was signed. The war in Europe was over.

What was left in its wake was the murder of 6 million Jews and a legacy that has tarnished the Christian faith in Europe.

But the legacy that Bonhoeffer leaves future generations is of the untold dangers of idolizing politicians as messianic figures. Not just in the 1930s and '40s, but today as well.

"It's a deep temptation within us," says Metaxas. "We need to guard against it and we need to know that it can lead to our ruin. Germany was led over the cliff, and there were many good people who were totally deluded."

Bonhoeffer, says Metaxas, was a prophet. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. He was God's voice at a time when almost no one was speaking out against the evil of the Nazis.
Lord, I pray that, should I ever face such evil, I might have that same deep devoted faith to do the right thing.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Russian Soccer Fans Cheer Christ's Resurrection at Easter Day Match

The Gospel is surely making its way throughout the world and even (re)-infiltrating former Communist strongholds.  First, there was the post I made last month about China's demand being so great for the Bible that printers cannot keep up.  Now, there's this great YouTube clip of Russian soccer fans at an Easter Day match:

From Interfax --

Fans greet each other on Easter at soccer match in Moscow

Moscow, April 5, Interfax - Fans greeted each other on Easter at a Sunday evening soccer match at Moscow Lokomotiv stadium.

At the beginning of the second half of the match thousands of fans of Dynamo team started chanting "Christ is Risen!", an Interfax correspondent reports.

Thousands of fans of Lokomotiv teeam on the opposite side of the stadium responded by chanting "Truly He is Risen!"

The exchange took place several times.

The correspondent who has attended soccer matches for almost 50 years says it was the occurrence of this kind in the history of Russian soccer.
[I'm not sure if that last line should read "the first occurrence of its kind."]  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

TOMS': Going Shoeless To Raise Awareness

What a cool thing people are doing today around the country ... from The Christian Post (emphasis added):

Tens of Thousands Go Shoeless for a Day

Students, celebrities, churches and entire communities are kicking off their shoes and going barefoot Thursday to raise awareness about the many children who grow up without a pair.
Thu, Apr. 08, 2010 Posted: 09:55 AM EDT

Students, celebrities, churches and entire communities are kicking off their shoes and going barefoot Thursday to raise awareness about the many children who grow up without a pair.

"Walking to my car barefoot on the very cold concrete ... Show support, go barefoot today!" said one participant on TOMS' Twitter page.

Tens of thousands of people around the world have signed up to join TOMS' One Day Without Shoes and experience firsthand what going soleless feels like and how impactful a simple pair really is.

"Most people don't realize the amount of people in the world that don't have shoes," said Jamieson Cox, who organized an afternoon march at Penn State University, according to The Daily Collegian. "For people to just see us and start walking with us is our ultimate goal."

Though many are aware of the lack of food, water and shelter that plagues millions, people often overlook the feet, TOMS says.

"Food, shelter, AND shoes facilitate life’s fundamentals," says a statement by TOMS. "Imagine a life without shoes; constantly aware of the ground in front of you, suffering regular cuts and scrapes, tending to infection after each walk, and enduring not only terrain, but heat and cold."

A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Along with the risk of sickness, a shoeless life could mean a lost opportunity to receive an education. Many times children can't attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform.

There are more than 1,300 events listed for Thursday's One Day Without Shoes, many of which include barefoot walks on public streets and college campuses.

Celebrities including the Jonas Brothers, Kristen Bell, Jordin Sparks and Heather Graham have hopped on board.

High schoolers in the Washington, D.C., area are not allowed to go shoeless due to sanitation issues but students will still be participating by wearing shirts or buttons to promote the event. And on Friday, D.C. students will march on the National Mall barefoot after school.

Others who aren't able to go without shoes are participating virtually with their Facebook and Twitter avatars or simply by spreading the word on their social networking pages.

TOMS is asking participants to go either the whole day or just a few minutes without shoes.

The Venice, Calif.-based company was founded in 2006 on the simple premise that with every pair of shoes that is purchased, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Since its founding, TOMS has provided over 600,000 shoes to children around the world.

TOMS has also made a commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative to give 100,000 pairs of shoes to children in Haiti, where a million were left homeless after January's 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter