December 16, 2017

Open Mic: What Have We Wrought?

This brief video from The BioLogos Foundation features Os Guiness talking about “Science and Faith in the Front Lines of the Culture Wars.” Watch it and let’s have a discussion.

Guiness says, “In many ways, the new atheists are partly created by the Religious Right. You can see that in America there is no vehement repudiation of religion until recently. In Europe, the atheism is a reaction to corrupt state churches. Here, you’ve never had that until the rise of the Religious Right.” Part of the reaction against religion, he argues, stems from the poor ways people of faith think about science.

What do you think? To what extent is culture war Christianity, including its commitment to views like “creation science,” responsible for the rise of reaction against religion in the U.S. and an impassioned public atheist movement?

I anticipate some strong opinions. Please keep the conversation civil and respectful.

Comments

  1. Ever noticed that many of these miltant athiest groups [Dawkins and his mates who are travelling the world at the moment] focus their ‘sweet venom’ at Christianity for the most part?

    Why is that?

    I’ll tell you; we worship the One True God and they are ‘of their father the devil’.

    • No, it is because Christianity is dominant in the West. It is Christians, not Buddhists, who are objecting to science curricula and advocating a legislative agenda based on their Scriptures. Thus they see Christianity as the main problem to which they must respond.

      If Christians were 2 percent of the population, and some other religion were 80 percent of the population and aspiring to the same goals, they’d attack that target.

    • 1) Militant atheists? What the hell does “militant” mean in this context? A militant uses violence to prevent others from opposing him. Dawkins writes books.

      2) The reason that Dawkins in particular mostly speaks about Christians is because that is what he has most contact with.

      • Dawkins himself coined the term militant atheist . . . he calls all atheist to be militant in mindset and in their intellectual attack on Christianity.

      • What the hell does “militant” mean in this context?

        Militant: ” aggressively active (as in a cause)” Merriam-Webster dictionary

    • Christians as a group aren’t being purged these days, we’re just ceding our faith – ‘militant’, public atheists aren’t out to exterminate us, just embarrass us in debates and make fun of our beliefs. And by engaging with the creation ‘scientists’ and the religious right, they’re succeeding pretty well, because the vast body of Christians is pudgy and corpulent and oily and ridiculous and responsible of all kinds of foul emanations, and its hard not to notice and easy to ridicule us.

      As dramatic as “The New Atheists” and their contempt for Christianity might seem to you, we’re not being slaughtered in the streets all over the world – unlike a lot of other minority groups with weird beliefs and an equal commitment and recourse to their divinities..

      Of course, that’s not to say we wouldn’t be persecuted if we were a tiny percentage, or that we won’t be in the future, but we should at least have the sense of sight to see the state that we’ve found ourselves in and take responsibility for it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Why is that?

      I’ll tell you;

      Because if they focused their ‘sweet venom’ on Islam, they’d be dogmeat.

      If Christians went kill-crazy every time we thought somebody somewhere might possibly be dissing us (and racked up a body count each time), they’d be tiptoeing on eggs around us, too. (I wonder if this same idea has occurred to Christian Culture Warriors? If so, get ready for a rough ride.)

    • Christiane says:

      Sadly, it IS the ‘Christians’ who model such mean-spirited and arrogant behaviors that are actually DESIGNED by them to provoke a response of contention. This ‘spirit’ is one of darkness. It violates the Holy Scriptures and creates an impression that Christ-followers are (here I cannot type the word so use your imaginations). These Christians are definitely the extremist fundamentalists who pride themselves highly on their act. They take certain scriptures (usually from St. Paul) and corrupt them in the practice of their mean-spiritedness towards ‘the others’.
      The reaction of people who do not know Christ is predictable. What does anyone expect when confronted with arrogant, self-righteous, know-it-all behaviors?
      Sadly, Satan’s work has been done for him by the ‘mis-guided’ ‘Christians’ (?) who smugly spread hate and judgmentalism and ask people to accept it as ‘the Way of the Lord’.
      I think they know better. But I hope I’m wrong, because, if they ARE conscious of the results of their actions, may God help them into the Light.

      • albert brown says:

        Amen & Amen, The Religous Right needs to remember the words of Jesus “Love thy neighbor” even when we disagree we can still love nad HELP!

        • Love thy neighbor? Pshaw!

          They’ll know us by our political grandstanding, sactimonious anger, and our boycotts.

          🙂

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            What IMonk has called The Rush Limbaughization of Evangelicals.

            The local radio station I have my alarm set to (KFI 640, Los Angeles’ major AM talk station) has a Rush Limbaugh intro that goes off around the time of my radio alarm. I hadn’t listened to him in about 10 years, and from these it looks like ol’ Rush has been listening to his own PR during that time — incredibly and increasingly full of himself, as compared to his attitude around the time of his first autobiography. Limbaughized Culture War Christians, take note!

      • “Extremist fundamentalists who pride themselves highly on their act.”

        Odd…the venom is thrown at other Christians, some parts of God’s word (the part you dislike?), and their assumed intentions and design. Yet, no vitriol directed at those who call you names and mock your savior?

        Be careful. Your tone (mean-spirited), verbage (santimonious), and view (judgmental) come across much like those you decry. If others should know better in your view, maybe, just maybe, you should too.

        I think the point of the post is that the poor way Christians think about science, has spurred some cultural flashpoints. But it’s not just the repudiation of science by the right, but he embracing of science as the new God by the left that gives platform and ammunition to the atheistic push.

    • “I’ll tell you; we worship the One True God and they are ‘of their father the devil’.”

      I’m guessing you’re a militant atheist pretending to be a Christian in order to make Christians look bad?

    • And just how does that knowledge save souls?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Tunnel vision on “Saving Souls (TM)” is one of the things that got us into this mess to begin with. (See IMonk’s essay “Wretched Urgency” for details.)

        If all that matters is “Saving Souls (TM)”, why is there Resurrection of the Body and a New Heavens and New Earth? Not just a Christianized Hades of Souls (TM) floating around forever in Fluffy Cloud Heaven?

        And it’s easy to slip into the Platonic ideal of “Spiritual Good, Physical Baaaaaaaaad” until you’re as far gone as, say, St Rose of Lima in Asceticism and Mortification. Or into the mindset of the Inquisitor from Mark Twain’s Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: “If I rack him ’til he die, what of it? For I shall have Saved his Soul.”

  2. IMHO, the cause is the lack of agape/love from Christians toward the world and among each other. To what extent and by what means that lack of love contributes to the culture war is open for debate, I suppose… your mileage may vary.
    –Justin

    • Well said… I’ve been thinking the same line.

    • No. The “cause” is that people are looking at the evidence and finding the claims of the theists to be unsupported.

      • Most of us aren’t smart enough to evaluate the evidence or claims of just about anything – and in ‘most of us’ I include basically everybody writing books about the existence (or lack of existence) of God. What passes for evidence is conjecture, what stands in for reason is hype. When has it ever been different?

        • I don’t know if I’d go quite as far as what you’re saying, but I think it’s a very astute comment that most folks aren’t really qualified to evaluate evidence that they go around proclaiming as if they’re experts. People on all sides tend to throw around “proofs” that they really have no understanding of whatsoever.

          • IM.com has disabled people who might have been athletes, rejects with rare charisma, mothers who can’t have kids, geniuses who can’t and will probably never produce anything – all of whom solicit from Christ their comfort, value, and usefulness. Life’s rushed over us like an incoming tide and sunk gifts we’ll never in our lifetimes dig out of the sand. This is a community of intelligent, gifted, totally thwarted people that know a lot about being useless, who know a lot about their broken ‘qualifications’ to evaluate and assume evidence or simply to live in the light of some shared social standard, and who pursue their faith and live like roaches, participatory of not more than stagnation and error and struggle. Nearness to Christ is expertise in failure.

            How much of an IQ do you need before you realize you’re too stupid to ever really learn anything?

      • I’m not saying Christian love will convince you to believe in God. All I mean, Donalbain, is that if we theists were a bit [ok, a lot] nicer and cut you some slack, you might be willing to cut us a little slack in return.

        • But the question is about why atheists are atheists. Not just about why we are pushing against the theocratic agenda.

          • Well, I thought the question was: (paraphrased)
            To what extent is culture war Christianity… responsible for the… reaction against religion… and an impassioned public atheist movement?

            I think I answered this question.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Wouldn’t cutting each other a little slack in return (as long as it doesn’t become a “hudna”) be a good start? You can stay on Red Alert only so long before you crack.

  3. I’m reminded of the recent article where agnostic parents faked being Christians for the sake of their children, who got left out of play dates when word got out that they didn’t go to church. http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/we-pretend-we-are-christians/?apage=1#comments

    I don’t think a lot of evangelical Christians realize how threatening they seem to other people’s children, honestly. Before I became a Christian, I wouldn’t let my daughter go with my brother-in-law and his family to their church activities because I didn’t want her brainwashed, rejecting science, hating gay people, thinking she was inferior to men, etc. etc. etc.

    Many of the meanest things done to me as a child were done by evangelical Christians threatening everyone with hell for not believing the proper things. I call them Christians, but I am not so sure it was not Satan at work, for I would bet they drove more people away from Christ than they ever attracted.

    I can perfectly understand radical atheism, because I’m sure it seems like self-defense to the atheists.

    • As a Brit who has spent most of his adult life around Americans (especially American Christians), I share your concerns. I find many American evangelicals not only an embarrassment but also scary. Scary as in the Salem witchcraft trials.

      Peter

      • I agree, Peter. Many American evangelicals are scary. To people who take their religion very seriously (Muslims, Buddhists, etc.), and to atheists, (who have often read the Bible as much as, or more than many “Christians), the tactics and traditions of Christianity seem just plain silly, sophomoric even. I was raised in a Baptist Church, but as a young adult started having more questions than could be answered by the pastors who came through. I was thought of as “problematic”. Christianity is a simple belief that the Creator of this universe, who has been here since time began (hard to wrap your mind around – that’s what faith is), was the architect of humanity. His plan for His creation (those who were chosen from the beginning) was to come to earth in human form, act as our scapegoat, and return to heaven to await the time when He would return for his people. Man has added the silliness that many organized “churches” act out. Christmas, Easter, and other “traditions” of man have further eroded our credibility – especially to those who have read the Bible and can see nothing in there that resembles what Christianity looks like today. Those who picket at Gay Rights marches, cry out to remember that “Jesus is the reason for the Season”, and worship at the altar of consumerism, telling their children that Santa “sees when they’re naughty”, bombing abortion clinics, etc., etc. These are the things that are fuel for the fires of atheists. Bill Maher scornfully looks down on Christians, and that doesn’t bother me a bit, because I’m not one of the ones he’s making fun of. Our God is bigger than these naysayers, and he’s more concerned with those who speak in His name, but haven’t a clue as to what they’re ranting about, than those who were never written in His Book of Life to begin with. My two cents anyway. 🙂 I would rather worship in my way, paying close attention to the two commandments Jesus said were of the utmost importance “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and love thy neighbor as thyself.” Living in that way speaks volumes to those who would tear us down.

        • You didn’t just equate Parents that play Santa with Abortion clinic bombers did you? Way to love thy neighbor!

          • Not how I meant it at all. I was just lumping unfounded traditions with unfounded actions – people who do even seemingly innocent things like celebrate Christmas with all the trappings, and people who take God’s word out of context to dangerous extremes, like those who bomb abortion clinics. Together they are all one thing to unbelievers – People who fall under that umbrella called “Christianity”, but who don’t know what they are doing. I really don’t know how to say it – I just mean that to those who mock Christianity because of certain behaviors from people who claim to follow it, I can see what they are talking about. God deserves better diligence to His word than we often give. Honestly, I’m not trying to start a fight, just trying to join in the conversation with my own (jumbled I know) thoughts. 🙁

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I was just lumping unfounded traditions with unfounded actions – people who do even seemingly innocent things like celebrate Christmas with all the trappings, and people who take God’s word out of context to dangerous extremes, like those who bomb abortion clinics. Together they are all one thing to unbelievers – People who fall under that umbrella called “Christianity”

            I’ve seen the same phenomenon in the various Fandoms I’ve either been in or had passing contact with — SF lit, D&D, comics, Anime, and (especially) Furry.

            As in the image of them among the “Mundanes” on the outside. The Extreme Crazies (and in Furry, we get a LOT of them) get lumped in with the rest of the spectrum, and since the Extreme Crazies are the most spectacular and vocal, THEY become the Spokesmen and Image of the entire spectrum.

            Doesn’t help that the most extreme crazies are the Most Certain of Their Righteousness. It’s a form of fanboy Tunnel Vision, where nothing exists (or could possibly exist) outside of their fanboy obsession; hence, nothing is out there to give them a reality check.

        • “Santa ‘sees them when they’re naughty’, bombing abortion clinics, etc.”

          You make good points, but this invalidates the rest of your reasonable statements. I can only recall one abortion clinic bombed in the past 30 years in the USA, and that one deranged man is in prison. Pretending evangelicals do these things shows you have swallowed the hype, and know very few followers of Christ.

          You fear your own straw man.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Santa Claus — Jolly old elf or CIA Spook?”
            — Calvin & Hobbes

      • As an American Evangelical who has spent no time around British atheists, I wonder where in the world you live that you are surrounded by scary embarrassing American Christians. While I do know some who are of the ilk you described they are the minority. I would also remind you that there were far more witches burned in England than in Salem.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Mostly during the English Civil War, where the disruption of war left room for any Witchfinder-General to do his thing for fun and profit.

          You saw even more witch-burnings in Central Europe during the Thirty Years War, when most of the continent turned into a low-tech Road Warrior situation, with marauding mercenary-turned-Reaver bands everywhere. That was where the Malleus Malefacarum got its greatest workout.

          • I send you to Lewis: “For example, one man said to me, ‘Three hundred years ago people in England were putting witches to death. Was that what you call the Rule of Human Nature or Right Conduct?’ But surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe there are such things. If we did–if we really thought that there were people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return and were using these powers to kill their neighbours or drive them mad or bring bad weather–surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did? There is no difference of moral principle here: the difference is simply about matter of fact. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there is no moral advance in not executing them when you do not think they are there. You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house.”

          • I like Lewis and just the other day was pained (at a secular liberal website called “Crooked TImber”) to find people describing both Lewis and Chesterton’s writings as immoral, but once in a while you stumble across a passage that does make one wince and that was one of them.

            Suppose you do believe in witches, just as people in the 50’s believed there were communist spies (and in fact there were some). You still shouldn’t jail or execute people unless you are sure they are guilty of the crime committed. The moral problem with the witchhunts of the past (or the more recent ones) is not that it’s wrong to despise allies of the devil–the problem is that large numbers of innocent people were executed on false charges. That’s not an innocent mistake.

        • But you won’t find people in the UK seeking to burn them today. The views expressed by some American fundamentalists, however, lead me to think they would like to burn a few people at the stake given half a chance – beginning with “Antichrist” Obama, perhaps?

          By “embarrassing” I meant to the cause of Christ. I live in Latin America, where the TV channels of American fundamentalists are broadcast widely. I felt ashamed when I saw Pat Robertson’s comments about the Haiti earthquake and tried to explain to as many people as possible that it was not a view held by most Christians.

          • Well, American TV evangelists are very embarrassing to us Americans also! Please don’t judge American evangelicals by the actions of those fame junkies. I couldn’t believe that Robertson said the things he did either. I thought about the televangelists at service tonight while we read Jude

            “In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings.[c] 9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels,[d] did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) 10 But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. 11 What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.”

          • “The views expressed by some American fundamentalists, however, lead me to think they would like to burn a few people at the stake given half a chance – beginning with “Antichrist” Obama, perhaps?

            The hillarity of this view is entertaining. Do you check under the bed for the boogeyman before sleeping?

            Clearly you have invented an evil evangelical, who will do all the evil you can invent for her to do, and blame the rest of the world for those invented actions. Have you seen anyone calling for fire and stakes? Tis good entertainment though.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Well, I’ve run into some Spiritual Warfare types who check under the bed for Demons, always afraid Satan has left a Whoopee Cushion where they’re about to sit.

            This is just the funhouse mirror reflection of the same obsession — the Evil Secular Humanist, the Evil Xian, the Evil Other that empowers so many Grand Unified Conspiracy Theories.

    • Christiane says:

      Perhaps that ‘radical’ atheism is really a ‘reaction’ against the worst of the fundamentalists. Look, even believers want to distance themselves away from the extremists.

      As for ‘atheism’ itself, wasn’t it Chesterton who said that without God, there would be no atheists?

      At least they are honest in expressing where they are at. Christian fundamentalists are dishonest in this way: they talk a mean talk, and walk a meaner walk, and none of it adds up to anything remotely resembling the Lord Jesus Christ. I have begun to see that many of them know this. And are proud of it. They manage to justify some of the fundamentalist behaviors by quoting from St. Paul out of the context of the Christian message. They self-reinforce, and, when isolated from the ones they feel contempt for, they turn on each other. Apparently they can’t turn off the spigot of all that mean-spiritedness. It has to go somewhere. So there is no end to it.

      I’ll take an honest atheist any day, over a fundamentalist-extremist who is claiming to represent the Lord Christ.

      • This blog is full of people who throw around the term “Fundamentalist”. I would like to have your definition of a Fundamentalist.

        • Christiane says:

          For the difference between the average garden-variety fundamentalist and extremist-fundamentalists, you can find out my opinion by re-reading my comment above.

          BTW, extemist-fundamentalists are present in all religions. For me, there is no hard-core difference between a member of a group of ‘Christians’ who are behind convincing an African country to execute its gay people AND
          the taliban al-quaida (sp?) terrorists who attacked our country.

          Same ilk.

          ‘Differences’ are only surface compared to the evil within them.

          • Your opinion of mean-spirited Christians was clear from your comment. Your definition of Fundamentalist was not. Unless your definition of “fundamentalist” is “mean-spirited religious person”. It’s just that Fundamentalist starts to sound like a stereotype after a while.

  4. Some of the New Atheists have an inherent philosophical objection to religious belief. They feel religion is inherently irrational and dangerous, and they think that rigidly empirical thinking is a way to avoid that danger. Their objections will not go away if they Religious Right calls off the culture war tomorrow.

    That said, most of the ire being sent in our direction is directly related to what Christians really are doing. They see major scientific findings attacked and mischaracterized by vast portions of the US population. They see a “culture war” rhetoric that talks about “taking back” American and schools. And they see a variety of political positions to which they object strongly justified mainly by appeals to Scripture. (Well, that and really awful psycho-scientific arguments.) To them, this feels like proof positive that religion is not only completely insane, but that it openly claiming to direct public policy, foreign policy, education, and intellectual inquiry across the disciplines. They feel it must be challenged openly and publicly because it is aspiring to aggressive, public goals.

    • You pretty much nailed me there.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      To them, this feels like proof positive that religion is not only completely insane, but that it openly claiming to direct public policy, foreign policy, education, and intellectual inquiry across the disciplines.

      Don’t forget the example of a religion ACTUALLY “directing public policy, foreign policy, education, and intellectual inquiry” you saw in Talibani Afghanistan and see now in Saudi and Iran. Those examples of Forced Purity and Coerced Godliness are enough to spook anybody about the whole idea.

      And something I’ve observed: When Christianity goes sour, it curdles into something strongly resembling Islam.

      • I like the point about curdled Christianity. However, I would point you to what happens when secularism took control under Stalin or Mao. We cannot judge any ideology by the individuals that abuse it. Not the Taliban, not Lenin, not Wacko Christians. No one would object to the actual teachings of Jesus being followed in any and all areas of life.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Ayatollah Khomeini, Stalin, Mullah Omar, Mao.

          All won their Culture War and tried to establish/force Utopia/Paradise on Earth.

          By any means necessary.

    • Jonathan Blake says:

      Danielle you have ingeniously just said what we have all been thinking and trying to articulate.

      May the Church learn and follow the way of Christ again and serve the world with a towel instead of ruling it with a sword.

  5. Though I respect Os Guiness as a fellow brother in Christ I think he misses the point regarding this militant rise of atheism in North America against orthodox Christianity. Matthew Johnston pretty much gave the pointed answer: it is because these atheists are unregenerate people who oppose God as a natural pattern of their being. Let’s not start using covert means to attack “right-wing” orthodox Christians in North America for this militant rise of atheism. Even if we showed them why the Bible is true with ice cream and a cherry on top they would still go out and venously attack us because they are merely following the corrupt desires of their hearts and listening to their spiritual father, Satan.

    • So … what you’re saying is … the only reasonable people in the world are Christians or people that will be Christians?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        No, what he (and Matthew) are saying is Talking Like Christian Culture Warriors.

        “HERE AHURA-MAZDA, THERE AHRIMAN!”
        — Ancient Persian battle cry; loosely translated, it means “US INFINITE RIGHEOUSNESS! THEM INFINITE EVIL!”

    • *Idly drums my atheist fingers on the table. Picks up one hand, boredly examines my fingernails. Adjusts my glasses. Glances at the clock.*

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Your disdain isn’t helping matters, J.

        • Yeah, y’know, I don’t hold out great hopes for scintillating dialogue with someone convinced I was fathered by Satan.

          • Since a good slice of certain Christian denominations hold that I, as a Roman Catholic, am a scion of the Scarlet Woman, maybe we’re long-lost siblings?

            Or cousins at least? Say hi to Uncle Beelzebub for me!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Since a good slice of certain Christian denominations hold that I, as a Roman Catholic, am a scion of the Scarlet Woman…

            Hattie “the Hottie” Durham?

    • Okay, I can’t speak about the American situation. But I can say that there are reasonable atheists out there. And there are unreasonable ones, just as there are unreasonable believers. I can point you to a post on another blog about one such, who is an atheist but who critiques the mythology around Hypatia on historical grounds and gets hauled over the coals by some who feel he is being insufficiently zealous for the cause:

      http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2009/05/agora-and-hypatia-hollywood-strikes.html

      I think it is very unfair, to say the least, to characterise all atheists as limbs of Satan. Faith is a gift. Some people have not been given that gift. They are acting in good faith when they say they are not convinced by arguments about religion. They are not secretly creeping out to sacrifice Christian babies at midnight on Hallowe’en.

      And if rejecting certain suppositions, such as a literal six-day creation or the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs or fill in your own favourite hobby-horse makes one an atheist, then I’m an atheist by those lines.

      • Agreed, Martha. Too many Christians quickly descend to attacking nonbelievers with nasty labels like “minions of Satan.” Can anyone actually believe this HELPS the dialogue?

        I know the debate gets very heated, especially when religion and science meet (or butt heads, depending on your view point), but attacking individuals instead of dealing with the actual issues is just a recipe for continued animosity.

    • That may be 100% correct, and all fine and good, but the fact is, WE ARE NOT AT WAR WITH OUR BROTHERS, no matter how corrupt and degenerate they may be, following Satan, and all. WE ARE AT WAR WITH PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS NOT OF THIS WORLD. OUR WAR is against Satan’s minions, not our brothers. DO NOT FORGET THAT. Our GREATEST weapon is PRAYER!!! PRAY for their CONVERSION!!! Every soul lost to Satan is a victory for Satan. The Lord commands it. We are to pray for our enemies. Matt. 5-44

  6. I have noticed that the angry atheists seem to strongly parallel the brittle fundamentalists they despise so much. Both insist on a very modernistic, literal reading of the Bible with no room for cultural forms, literary styles or other considerations of context. Both insist on the incompatibility of religious faith and numerous scientific positions. Both insist that those outside their group are ruining everything and persistently demonize the enemy. Both tend to consider any more moderate position to be allying with the enemy and worthy of summary dismissal. I suspect at some level they believe many of the same things but react differently.

    • Excellent. Among friends, I use the term Fundamentalist Atheist to describe these folks. They share many of the same characteristics as Fundamentalist Christians (although both sides would deny it) that leaves them close-minded and more likely to trot out the party line than question authority. The other characteristic of fundy atheists like Dawkins and Dennett share with fundy Christians is a self-righteous unshakable confidence in their cause and a proselytizing zeal that nearly compels them to seek converts. There is none of the “live and let live” sentiment among either side because they see The End Of The World As We Know It if the other side ever gains the upper hand.

      • Todd Erickson says:

        Both Fundamentalists and Atheists identify with knowledge and agreement in belief as the prime defining characteristics of human beings.

        The first post on this thread spoke openly about “we worship the One True God and they are ‘of their father the devil’.”

        Which is a statement so full of issues and contradictions (while at the same point being of the median tone for the last century) that it’s quite saddening.

        A couple of thoughts:

        1. Our call is to be like Christ, because to know Christ is to know God. If we say that we worship God, but there is nothing in our actual character like Christ, we are lying to ourselves.

        2. Worship is, by definition, anything you do in the aim of following Christ and being Christ-like. If the only way people can tell that you’re Christ like is A. by what you protest against and don’t engage in, and B. what you believe, then there is no worship in your life, outside of the doctrinally correct songs you sing on sunday morning.

        3. Most of my friends who are ex-Christians or outright Atheists know that Jesus was a being who was full of wisdom and justice and mercy and love. And they know that the Church is a body of people who are full of judgement and hatred and vitorol. They do not identify the Church with Jesus Christ, and they want nothing to do with a God who looks nothing like Jesus Christ.

        The Jesus Christ who talks about the Atheists in the same way that you do would have been the first to pick up a stone against the adulterous woman. We do not follow the same God, the same Christ.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        There is none of the “live and let live” sentiment among either side because they see The End Of The World As We Know It if the other side ever gains the upper hand.

        At which point, all bets (and restraints) are off. “Prevent them from Ending Our World” gives way to “End Their World First”; “Remember the Holocaust” becomes “Exterminate Them Before They Can Exterminate Us”. Us or Them. To. The. Death.

        Remember Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Magneto in the first and second X-Men movies? A Holocaust survivor and Mutant (Superpowered) who becomes obsessed with protecting Mutants (Supers) from Humans (non-Supers, Mundanes) until by the second film he is willing and planning to exterminate every non-Mutant on Earth in a Reverse Holocaust? He becomes what he has been fighting against, someone who would plan and carry out genocide against those who are Different.

      • Okay, fine then: I’m a fundamentalist atheist. What are you going to do about it? More to the point, why should that be something *I* would worry about? Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are extremely powerful, wealthy, influential and numerous. Why would I not want to be those things? Who, in all of history, has ever made change by NOT being, on some level, very certain of themselves?

        • Todd Erickson says:

          Jesus brought change without oppressing anybody. In fact, he allowed himself to be oppressed as the final sign that the power he represented had nothing to do with temporal power here.

          We forget that all too often. We fight for “survival”, for the protection of “our ways”, but anything that we have to fight for, or use the world’s ways to protect here, are of the world, not of Christ.

          God is more than sufficient to protect me and the things that He values, and if He’s willing to allow me and mine to be destroyed in the process, so be it. But my duty toward the fundamentalist Evangelical and the Fundamentalist Atheist both is to love them (Agape) as strongly and clearly and responsibily as possible. I must forgive and care for them as I have been forgiven and cared for by God.

    • Amen, amen and amen.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I have noticed that the angry atheists seem to strongly parallel the brittle fundamentalists they despise so much.

      Fundamentalism doesn’t need to be based on a religious belief. Any belief will do, just so long as you firewall it in opposition to The Other and let the Jihad begin.

      It’s like something I’ve observed in Furry Fandom; the Uber-Furries (the type that show up on CSI/MTV/ Eurotrash) and the Pathological Furry Haters (the type that post rants on YouTube/ LJ/Blogs) are literally funhouse-mirror reflections of each other. Just one has flipped one-eighty from Total Blind Adoration into Total Blind Hatred.

      Somebody on this blog once commented that “You can tell when a preacher is in trouble; they stop preaching what they are for and start preaching only on what they are Against.” And that cuts on both sides.

  7. undertheradar says:

    I think it’s mostly responsible. Before science curricula were under attack all over the country, I hardly knew any atheists, or at least militant ones. Most atheists and agnostics considered religion irrelevant but largely harmless, but now they see the very basis of modern civilization being attacked and feel they have to fight back.

    I will not post here under my usual moniker, because I understand and accept evolution (yes, I believe there was some guidance, but I will not reject the plain obvious facts to keep a literal belief in Genesis) and would likely be shouted off the forum, and I don’t want this one thing to get me evicted.

    • undertheradar2 says:

      A moniker is probably a good idea. I haven’t quite made up my mind on the whole issue of evolution yet. But if I may suggest a book, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge To Evolution by Michael Behe raises a lot of interesting questions that I don’t think evolution has explained.

      God bless!

      • Undertheradar,

        I agree that Michael Behe’s book is a good one. I just wish that it had been around a long time ago. I first ran into the problem of science vs the Bible when I took sophomore biology in high school, at least 30 years ago.

      • undertheradar says:

        Sorry, but Behe’s book is just flat wrong. He brings up a lot of things that were cleared up decades ago, and gets the biology wrong on many points. I hate to say it but the book is not just wrong, but dishonest. He’s simply lying on some of the studies he cites, and takes lots of quotes out of context, and simply makes some up.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin's_Black_Box#Peer_review_controversy

        The problem with this stuff is that it’s not simple. It can be very accurate, but it takes a lot of time to understand it, but very little time to misrepresent, misunderstand and muddy the waters with dozens of claims that take even more time to explain.

        But to get back to the point, I do think that the atheists I know have gotten much more fired up and willing to go public and fight creationism because of Christians attempting to put non-science in the science classroom.

        • I’m actually inclined to agree with you, but I think that we probably consider the boundary between science and philosophy differently.

          I think that orgins of the world and life on it as philosophy not science. I think that both Biblical creationism, Hindu creationism and macro-evolution are all in the same category and it isn’t science.

          Micro-evolution, such as bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics, changes within the dog family,etc. is science and should be taught by a science teacher.

    • Why would you be afraid that you would be evicted? There are many Christians on this blog, including iMonk himself, who accept at least some form of evolution. I myself am a former YEC who has come to lean very strongly toward evolution, with some sympathies toward ID at times, but that’s a long story, which I plan on starting a blog of my own to talk about at some point :).

      (By the way, this is my first comment on here. I’ve been a reader of iMonk for about a year now, and it has been a real blessing to me. I hope to be more active on here in the future.)

  8. Sounds like it’s Francis Schaeffer’s fault then, with his Christian Manifesto, right? If underarthur is correct along with Os, then the world has no problem with a Christianity that is toothless, harmless, and relegated to the world of old women and children, but when a Christianity becomes active and confrontational, then we need to stomp it out. So the best thing to do is to go back under our rock and hide?

    Personally, I decry the Culture War and have little regard for self-styled culture warriors. From my reading of the NT it is the wrong battle on the wrong ground and for the wrong cause. Let me ask this – what happens if we win? What does victory look like? Do we run all the atheists out of the country and live in an Evangelical Paradise? Or do we establish a pluralistic society? Is that an Evangelical ideal? I know several whose idea of pluralism is to be friends with SBCs and GARBCs. Fortunately, they rarely inhabit the same habitat, other than Cedarville University…but I digress.

    Jesus did not come to call a culture, to die for a culture, and to establish a culture. We may live in a culture, but the redemption Jesus offers is within the context of that culture, not in opposition to it. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world. If it were, his followers would fight for it. His kingdom is much bigger and thus he was willing to die for it. Some of us are old enough to remember the old cigarette commercial with the Baptist tagline, “I’d rather fight than switch.” There are some things worth fighting for. As I understand the Bible, “culture” is not one of them. That is merely something we fight over.

    • If we believe God is all good and all loving and desires the salvation of every man, then we must in charity leave each man to reconcile with God as they together will. That isn’t to say that as Christians we must alienate ourselves from non-Christians – only that coercion and nagging are not tools to be used. Furthermore, we cannot be shocked and dismayed by rejection of our faith. It is, after all, faith – in some measure a choice to defy reason. Let us not fault people for being reasonable – let us commiserate with them as we can, encourage as they will allow, and be at peace at all times in the Holy Spirit.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Let me ask this – what happens if we win? What does victory look like? Do we run all the atheists out of the country and live in an Evangelical Paradise?

      Ask Iran about that one. Or Afghanistan. Or those parts of Pakistan and Iraq where temporary Islamic Republics were set up during the current war. Those were all an Extreme Islamic Paradise. And I’ve heard Christian Reconstructionists who may as well be Ayatollah Khomeini or Mullah Omar with a Bible instead of a Koran. (Including the Quiverfull types reiterating that Euro-Mullah’s line about “Outbreed and Overwhelm the Other! Our Wombs are Our Weapons!”) THAT’s the fear among the 1/3 in the middle that we have to address.

      Is living under a Theocratic Paradise like Iran or the Taliban really all that different from living under an Atheistic Paradise like the USSR or Maoist China attempted to become? I think most of us would just rather be left alone to live our lives.

  9. First time poster, long time lurker.

    I am a researcher who works with neuroscientists and had the privilege as a graduate student of attending a monthly reading group with senior neuroscientists. To a man, they were agnostics at best, but probably a-theists. However, as observers of nature, they would discuss how the intricacies of what they discovered in the lab 1) did not give life meaning 2) did not explain the questions of the heart and 3) made them wish they could believe there was a creator. Consider that the vehemence against Dawkins and Gould who are strident, also alienates these scientists and their students. The gospel should be winsome. Demonizing people who are faceless to you, but not to me makes it that much more difficult for my friends to hear the good news.

    • “The gospel should be winsome. Demonizing people who are faceless to you, but not to me makes it that much more difficult for my friends to hear the good news.”

      I agree with this a whole lot.

      • Me, too. Post more and lurk less, Andie! 🙂

      • Very well stated. As a scientist who works with secularists, atheists, and agnostics of all stripes every day, I can’t agree more. I see their faces every day, and gradually I’ve learned to see how much of my own face is reflected in theirs, and how much God loves them, as he has loved me.

    • Well said. The argument overt how much strident and confrontational right-wing Christianity is responsible for an equally strident response from some atheists will probably go on. What’s not debatable in my mind is that it alienates a whole lot of people who otherwise are sort of on the fence and could, but for the vitriol from these Christians, be swayed one way or the other.

      Jesus commands us to preach the gospel, but a whole lot of right wing ideology is not the gospel. It is a series of adjunct required beliefs that are dragged along with the gospel, weighting it down and, at worst, deforming it into a mean and nasty argument that demonizes the very people we should be winning to Christ.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        What’s not debatable in my mind is that it alienates a whole lot of people who otherwise are sort of on the fence and could, but for the vitriol from these Christians, be swayed one way or the other.

        In American politics, on any issue there’s usually about 1/3 hardocre pro, 1/3 hardcore against, and the remaining third in the middle who could go either way. This “swing vote” can either throw in with one faction because they appeal to them — or throw in with the other faction out of fear. Fear of what the first faction might do to them.

        I think this is a lot of the dynamic in play. Don’t make the undecided third in the middle so afraid or sick of you that they throw in with the other side.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Continuing on the above, the situation these days is very reminiscent of a very nasty family feud, such as what blew up my family in the Nineties.

        The experience was like standing on a stretch of single-track railroad and watching a train approaching at high speed from each direction. Technically called a “Cornfield Meet”, but more like a game of Chicken. I found myself standing on the track in between, and when I jumped off and bailed out (what else would you do in that situation?), each of the approaching trains branded me a Traitor. If You’re Not 1000% For Me, You’re One of THEM.

        And that’s what I see this situation turning into. If it hasn’t already.

        And I’m not gonna stand on the track between the two while they hit.

    • Neuroscientist here.

      I don’t care that there is no god, I’m not disappointed that he/she doesn’t exist, and I don’t wish it could be otherwise.

    • undertheradar3 says:

      Another neuroscientist here. I do believe God exists, and I wouldn’t wish it otherwise. 😉
      Hasn’t gotten in the way of my exploring the relationship between brain and mind in the least.

  10. Guinness: “demonising of opponents”
    Matthew Johnston and Mark: The devil made them do it.

    This sort of thing is just grist to the mill of the atheists. Not to mention it’s logical rudeness: Matthew and Mark’s comments are straight out of example 2 from Suber’s paper. Atheists, even “new” ones, have arguments for atheism and reasons why they currently think it is important to make those arguments in the public sphere.

    I suppose there’s a lot of shot expended against Christianity because it’s the background religion in the West, but atheists worry about Islam as well as Christianity (see some of the stuff Hitchens writes, for example). Would new atheism as a social movement be doing as well if it weren’t for 9/11? I don’t know, but I think in the USA you’re seeing a perfect storm with 9/11 and your own anti-science religious right. It’s not just Christianity.

    • I am curious Mr. Wright, your blog header states that you used to be a Christian and now is an atheist. What made you switch from professing Christianity to not believing in it any longer?

      • I became convinced that Christianity was false, and that even if it were true, the God portrayed by evangelical Christianity was not someone I should worship. Bullet point version (with a Cambridge bias, but it should make sense to anyone) here, extended play version here.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “A Perfect Storm” says it all.

  11. Just more arrogance from Christians. You aren’t REALLY atheists. You haven’t thought about the matter and come to the conclusion that the evidence for a deity is unconvincing. It is just that you are annoyed at us. If we were nicer, you would give up this silly fit of pique and admit that you REALLY do believe in a deity.

    • I can’t say Christians don’t say that sort of thing.

      However, I think the larger point is that everyone reacts to some extent to dominant themes and ideas that are embraced in society around them. The Religious Right’s suspicion of science in particular as well as other academic pursuits, and their attitudes of anti-intellectualism have influenced how atheists respond to religion – obviously whatever is the dominant form of religious expression is what atheists/agnostics will respond to. If the dominant Christian expression was friendly to intellectual pursuits, then atheists would respond to that.

      What causes people to be atheists/agnostics in the first place is another matter entirely.

    • I don’t think that’s Os’ point. I think its more that the confrontational aspect of the “new atheists” here in America is in part a reaction to the confrontational aspect of the Religious Right.

      As far as “arrogance from Christians” goes, there’s a lot that goes into people making faith decisions or decisions against faith. Not all atheists are atheists because they’ve rationally considered the arguments any more than all Christians are Christians because of rationally considering the arguments. Just as some Christians are in the faith for reasons as “irrational” as being raised in a Christian home or living in a culture where Christianity is the norm, some atheists are atheists because religion left a bad taste in their mouths.

      One essential aspect of Christianity is sharing and spreading the faith. While this might not always be popular, proselytizing is part of the core of Christianity. I.e. we expect there to be conversions and efforts made to bring conversions about. Also, due to the exclusive nature of Christian theology (i.e. the only way to God is via Jesus, we’re going to see people being Christians as the ideal state.

      Maybe that’s arrogance. I prefer to see it as just part of the assumptions of Christianity. I.e. you don’t really have Christianity without it.

    • Donalbain, there are some Christians who believe this sort of thing. I don’t agree with them; I feel it is an attitude born of isolation from real discourse with atheism.
      However, let me be direct: your approach does little to demonstrate that this viewpoint isn’t true. We have here a person saying that Christians should be kinder and more open-minded; we have several saying that Christians sometimes have behaved less than admirably. And yet you interpret this as ‘yet more Christian arrogance.’
      If this is so, what on earth can we do to be humble?
      What is this if not a knee-jerk response that everything Christians say is wrong, that everything we do is some sort of attack?
      How is this different from the very arrogance you deride?

      • It is arrogance because the idea has been set up that MY atheism is about YOUR Christianity. It is an attempt to claim that your religious beliefs are the centre of my world.

        • Observe, if you will, the word you have used to describe your beliefs. A-theism. The term defines you in relation to another group – theists.
          Of course, neither you nor I invented the term atheism. But it demonstrates the state of belief in western society – it is absolutely saturated with Christianity. Other beliefs tend to be defined by comparison to it.
          Christianity, for better or for worse, currently forms a very central part of our collective culture. It becomes difficult, especially for Christians perhaps, to imagine that something or someone may have little to do with it. But it seems to me that this is more habit than arrogance. I realize this may be frustrating, your beliefs never seeming to be taken seriously by those that disagree with you. It makes it hard to discuss things properly. But accusations of arrogance and bad faith also make it difficult to discuss things properly.
          A serious discussion cannot take place if both sides have not taken each other seriously.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            My old D&D Dungeonmaster had a series of graphic definitions for such matters.

            “Take a religious symbol, say, a Cross. Then imagine the following picket signs being carried by the various factions:

            Atheism: Symbol with circle-and-slash “NO” sign over it.
            Agnosticism: Symbol with question mark.
            Satanism: Symbol inverted.
            Fundamentalism: Symbol with exclamation point.

            Note how all of these define themselves by the baseline of the symbol.”

        • Thanks for sharing this, Donalbain. I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective.

          I’m a Christian, but I’m dismayed at the arrogance of some in my faith. Some have become so settled in their ‘box’ that they can no longer see outside of it.

          • Donalbain says:

            I can’t reply under HUG’s piece, so I will do so here.
            Your GM was being staggeringly stupid. Atheism is not a negation of the cross of Christianity. It is the absence of belief in ANY deities. Christianity is NOT priviledged in my atheism. ALL religions seem to be equally false to me. A $Religion_Symbol with a cross means Not $Religion. It does not mean Atheist.

  12. I think there’s constant feedback involving both sides—extremes on one side lead to greater extremes on the other to which the first side reacts even more strongly, etc. I think there were good reasons for Christianity to sort of draw a line in the sand about maintaining the trustworthiness of the Bible, but without a doubt, there is an overreaction now amongst many modern evangelicals who hold great antipathy to science. My problem with such evangelicals is that I honestly do not believe that a literal reading of Genesis requires the “creation science” view and that a literal interpretation of Genesis can actually go either way (creation science or evolution). Pushing that one view which is the most in conflict with modern science teaching exclusively to me is the primary problem and if Christians could make a compelling argument that accepting the possibility of a vast age for the earth and evolution is not actually in conflict with taking the Bible at face value as trustworthy because of divine origin, I think it would help both sides breathe a little easier and be more able to find reasonable common ground (in areas like public schools, for example).

  13. undertheradar says:

    “So the best thing to do is to go back under our rock and hide?”

    How about spending time and energy presenting the Gospel instead of arguing that the earth is 6000 years old? I don’t remember the Great Commission being a call to force schools to teach teh literal view of Genesis.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Don’t you know the Entire Gospel nowadays is
      1) Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles
      2) Pin the Tail on The Antichrist
      3) Culture War Without End, Amen.

      Christ got thrown under the Christian bus a while ago. I think he’s hanging out at Starbucks or FurCon these days, again among the “drunkards and harlots and publicans” instead of the Respectable God Squad.

      What happened to the Christians who spread over the early Roman Empire like fire across a lake of gasoline? The Christians who got nailed for being “Atheist”, i.e. not superstitious enough? The Christians who had the rep of not just taking care of their own better than the Romans did, but even took care of outsiders? The Christians who just built their Kingdom (i.e. alternative counterculture society) until it absorbed the Empire?

      • Todd Erickson says:

        It’s that last sentence, man. The chuch became the empire, and had all of the tools and power of the Empire. From there on out, we’ve been on the side of the oppressors…

      • According to Gibbon, that’s where it all went wrong.

        I dunno; this argument has been raging since the Englightenment. Or the Renaissance. Or Lucretius. Or the trial of Socrates for corrupting the youth of Athens and impiety.

        Being a jackass on either side is not going to convince anyone, and being an Uber-Christian jackass is unedifying to boot. I know I said I wouldn’t comment on America since I’m not American, not in America, and the situation over here is vastly different, but now I’m going to open my big mouth anyway.

        I think the strand of State Religion, where Christianity (or a version thereof) has become intertwined with patriotism and the belief that the U.S. is a special case and has a special place in the world, and therefore any attempt at unwrapping the Bible from the flag is not just immoral but treasonous, has poisoned the well of discourse. The Catholic version verged on an almost-heresy called “Americanism” that got slapped down by Leo XIII:

        http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13teste.htm

        Basically, the fear was that the Irish clergy-dominated American church was making too many compromises to fit in and assimilate, and were arguing that America was different and had to be treated differently than the rest of the world. Now, you can argue for and against that, but once you start down the path of exceptionalism and tie the Gospel to it, you are setting up an idol.

        This is not to ignore that there are arrogant jackasses on the atheist side either, though, who like to arrogate to themselves all reason and virtue, and characterise believers as idiots, venal, or venal idiots.

      • “Christ got thrown under the Christian bus…”

        I love the Unicorn’s metaphors…

  14. I can only offer some observations from my own experience.

    1. That love and kindness will not win a person to the Lord or convince others that Jesus was Christ. It does earn the respect of non-Christians and promotes peace, but it also allows those who are comfortable in their rejection of Christ to remain so without challenge or threat (there are atheists who are quite happy being so).

    2. The real danger Christianity poses to a secular culture is found at the door of the church. Inside the church, there is praising God, teaching scripture and acknowledging creation (for those churches that do so). If the line is crossed and those actions and beliefs are brought out of the church into the culture, such an action can be perceived as a tantamount declaration of war.

    3. As gently as I can, I will say that I simply remain uncovinced of the macro-evolutionary view of history and life and hold that the answers provided in the biblical idea of creation are more convincing to me. Now that said, when faced with secular ideas that hold creation as fallible and evolution as proven, if I keep my ideas behind church doors and simply acknwledge evolution (or dismiss the controversy altogether) for the sake of agreement and peace, I have, I believe, committed the sin of being a liar.

    • Todd Erickson says:

      I think it’s less that love and kindness alone will lead to salvation, as much as that love and kindness give us the relationship wherein verbal witness has a context, rather than drive by, scattershot approach.

      If they know me, and they know Who I know because they know me, then there’s (hopefully) much more convincing ground that what I’m saying is Real in my life, rather than just something that I know.

      It’s easy to preach sin and damnation, and then walk away and let the Spirit number the dead and living. It’s much harder to witness through relationship and accountability. But, I suspect, the latter is far more biblical.

    • “1. That love and kindness will not win a person to the Lord or convince others that Jesus was Christ. It does earn the respect of non-Christians and promotes peace, but it also allows those who are comfortable in their rejection of Christ to remain so without challenge or threat (there are atheists who are quite happy being so).”

      I think love and kindness is the only part we can play in the salvation of the world that isn’t purely passive and theoretical, as evangelism in 2010 is nothing if not a scripted lecture wedded to a social theory – about as passive as you can get. Ultimately, the winning of souls, ours included, is between some inner self and God’s love for it, and isn’t dependent on what we say about God or what we hear about Him from others.

      Loving your pagan neighbors who have more fun than you do, praying for your Christian persecutors, and resisting the urge to deliver theology lessons to strangers may compass a good Christian’s entire life in the Gospel. And why shouldn’t it?

  15. For my part, I gave up arguing with atheists or others that oppose Christianity a long time ago. I’ll have civil discussions, I don’t pretend to not be a Christian, and I’ll be willing to listen to their side in addition to presenting mine. But arguing just ain’t worth it in my experience. Even if you win the argument, you don’t really gain anything other than a sense of self-satisfaction. Sure, there’s a place for apologists and apologetics, but that just ain’t me.

    Frankly, I don’t have the energy, influence, or wisdom to take on the whole “secular culture.” The best I can hope for is to be a faithful representative of Christ in the little circles I actually have influence over. Should we be advocates of a biblical ideal of social justice, etc? Absolutely. Should we betray our principles (just as love, integrity, etc.) to establish those ideals? Absolutely not. The ends (or hoped-for ends) do not justify the means.

    • Agreed on not arguing personally. The problem is the attacks of Dawkins et. al., are public. If no one responds publicly, the culture assumes the lack of response is proof there is no answer. The gospel loses intellectual credibility.

      If you do respond publicly, you are labeled a “extremist fundamentalist” by those inside the church. A catch 22 for anyone. The trick is to respond publicly to maintain a platform of public credibility without appearing to be narrow-minded, obnoxious, and graceless. I’m not sure that possible with critics in the camp ready to throw you to the wolves just for disagreeing.

      I admire those who try, though am not sure the arguement is winnable publicly other than in print, where you have hundreds of pages to show your grace and truth.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    To what extent is culture war Christianity, including its commitment to views like “creation science,” responsible for the rise of reaction against religion in the U.S. and an impassioned public atheist movement?

    Makes sense to me. You push somebody hard, and they’ll push back. And overreact either way, in a synergistic back-and-forth.

    And the more extreme the push, the more extreme the pushback. Just like how Communism begat Objectivism.

  17. I think what drives me the most nuts is that all of you, every single one of you, believes in evolution and an “old earth”.

    Every one of you.

    Why? Because you trust in the scientific theories and methods that underpin both of them. How do I know this? You posted your thoughts on a computer network.

    Do you trust your internet will work? Do you trust that I am another person very distant from you who is posting to the same spot in “cyberspace”? Do you make calls from a cell phone (if you have enough signal)? Do you trust that your ipod will be charged if you plug it into the wall? Do ask a GPS unit for directions? Do you own a radio? Do you trust the news when they say that there is going to be a solar/lunar eclipse soon, and that another one will occur sometime in the future? Do you trust that the picture of a shuttle launching into space is an actual piece of machinery being launched into space?

    Do you make your doctor wash his hands? Are you worried about MRSA and staph infections? Do you ask for a CAT scan or an MRI when you have a mysterious pain in your abdomen? Do you ask for latest and strongest antibiotics? Do you think that anyone who has tuberculosis should immediately see a doctor? Do you think that some medical conditions run in families, and that if your mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt all had breast cancer, that the other women in your family should be concerned?

    Do you think food won’t stick to non-stick pans? Do you use a microwave? Do you trust the bridge you drove over this morning? Do you regularly put gas in your car?

    Do you fear any “bad guy” with a nuclear bomb?

    Do you?

    Because all of those things rely upon the same science, the physics, the biology, the chemistry, the math, that says the universe was created 14 billion years ago and that our planet was created 4 billion years ago and that life evolved over a long period of time is the same science that your computer, network, TV, radio, microwave, GPS, car, bridge, medications, drug therapies, and nuclear bombs are based upon. And if our understanding of electromagnetic spectrum, DNA, chemistry, is so wrong as to miss that the actual age of our planet is 6000 years? Then none of those things will work either.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly want to worship a god who created a planet 6000 years ago. I want to worship the God who started the big bang, who started in motion the process that created hundreds of thousands of galaxies across a space so vast that I could never grasp it.

    • Very well stated, Heather. I want to worship a God who created humanity with the capacity to learn, research, and converse about the mysteries of our universe. If man can “create” cars, furniture, houses, clothing, etc., using the resources of our world; if man can “create” a space shuttle that flies off to explore hidden universes, if man can write books, (even those full of mis-information), how can we not believe in a Creator who made, regardless of the process we buy into, such a world? A world that contains planets, galaxies, moons and stars that work together in unity and harmony to control the tides of the oceans, the seasons, the weather. It’s a no-brainer, really, when you think about it!

    • I’m really not arguing with you because I’m not a young earth creationist myself. But in fairness, your statement that it’s the same science involved in evolution as well as medicine, the internet, etc is actually where the real question is. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but young earth creationists don’t just reject science out of hand—they actually believe that those promoting evolution are violating science themselves. They reject evolution not because it’s a religion they don’t agree with but because they honestly believe it’s bad science. Again, I probably would find myself more aligned with you than with them on this issue, but not because I think that they fail to see the connection between evolution and sciences whose results they accept.

      • I basically agree, JeffB. However, it is worth pointing out that while creationists argue and believe evolution is unscientific, this is really a PR spin on their actual priorities.

        Creationists aren’t impassioned scientists who have come up with a scientific theory that accounts for the evidence better than evolution: they’re religious people who believe evolution contradicts Biblical truth, believe that the Bible and science can’t contradict, and who are therefore committed to the notion that evolution by definition can’t be scientific.

        In other words, they are sincere and they want to value science … but their interest in science takes a backseat to their religious concerns.

    • On the issue of science and evolution, I have come to understand, as faulty as that understanding may be, that science deals primarly with the world we are able to observe and observation is a major part of scientific knowledge. When it comes to what we cannot observe, such as ancient history or our origins, I believe we enter into philosophy, which is highly speculative.

      Science proves that there are material facts such as photosynthesis, DNA and microwaves, answering the question of “What is in our world?” It is philosophy, though, that attempts to take the facts and answer the question of “How did it get here?” Creation and Evolution, in my opinion, are both speculative philosophies, attempting to answer the question of how our current material world came into being. I believe that adhering to either view is an act of faith and neither should be called “scientific.” It is simply easier to attach Evolutionary philosophies to science because they are both focused on the natural world.

      As for me, the book of Genesis provides more compelling answer and it is there I place my faith.

      • “As for me, the book of Genesis provides more compelling answer and it is there I place my faith.”

        You can’t cure cancer with it, but Genesis might help you be a better dad.

      • By way of qualifier, I’m neither a YEC nor an OEC; all that’s above my intellectual and theological pay grade. That said, something that science always has to do is revise its theories and conclusions as new data comes out. So, 100 years from now, who knows what the predominant model of the origin of the universe will look like to the various disciplines of science? That’s not to dismiss science at all, but I’m reminded of a very fun quote from the first Dresden Files novel (no, I’m not taking my science from fiction; I just really liked this quote):

        The end of the twentieth century and the dawn of the new millennium had seen something of a renaissance in the public awareness of the paranormal. . . . all the things Science had promised us hadn’t come to pass. Disease was still a problem. Starvation was still a problem. Violence and crime and war were still problems. In spite of the advance of technology, things just hadn’t changed the way everyone had hoped and thought they would. Science, the largest religion of the twentieth century, had become somewhat tarnished by images of exploding space shuttles, crack babies, and a generation of complacent Americans who had allowed the television to raise their children. People were looking for something–I think they just didn’t know what.

    • undertheradar3 says:

      well, yeah. 🙂

  18. Let me clear the record: I don’t hate atheists. I have some friends who are unbelievers. I have worked with unbelievers who were very amicable and courteous. My point being is that unregenerate sinners do not accept God’s revelation in Holy Scripture because of that fact: they are unregenerate. Granted, that some conservative Christians in the past did not help matters with their attitude, but that is not the core reason why atheists are bearing up intellectual arms in North America. Sometimes I am amazed at some of the posts read on this site by those who profess the Christian faith. But then again, I have no sympathy to those who embrace a type of “Christianity” that is more of a reaction against orthodox Christianity than careful biblical exegesis.

    • Todd Erickson says:

      “And the Pharisees brought the woman before Jesus, and said “She was caught in adultery, what should we do?”

      “And Jesus said ‘obviously, she is involved in adultery because she is an unregenerate sinner, and will not accept God’s revelation. I will cast the first stone.'”

      • I just have to say that this comment, on this website, is just unreal to me. So totally out of the sprirt of what is done here.

        I also can’t believe all the people here who are saying that love can’t overcome sin and I have to wonder what Jesus would have thought about it, why he even preached a message of love to begin with. Sure, human love can’t overcome the totality of sin, but that’s because human love isn’t perfect. Doesn’t mean we stop trying (as Paul warned us about). I can only assume all this “demonizing” of unbelievers is the Calvinism talking. We have been called to evangelize to unbelievers. Love is the first assumption we must make before we can even look unbelievers in the eye. I am lucky to have met loving Christians. It was through trust of them that I came to trust Christ (or, to put it another way, God used those loving people to communicate with me). The church has taken so much away from us, now the message of love as well? I am speechless.

        • We are not demonizing unbelievers. We are discussing the merits of Os Guiness’ statement why there is a rise of atheism in North America. In response, what I am trying to say is that the rise against Christianity is not fundamentally due to Christians being abusive towards non-Christians or putting them down but because unbelievers (apart from God’s grace) are automatically inclined to reject the things of God.

          • Mark says: “…but because unbelievers (apart from God’s grace) are automatically inclined to reject the things of God.”

            I whole-heartedly agree with this statement. If there’s one thing that is clear through Jesus’ ministry, or even the whole Bible, it is this: never under-estimate the power of unbelief. All throughout the gospels and the Bible we see rejection of God and Christ even in the midst of the most remarkable miracles.

            I think a lot of unbelief comes not as a person’s reaction to how they are being treated by Christians, but because a Christian is bringing them face-to-face with either accepting or denying God. Our culture today, which is “all about me,” flies totally in the face of an acceptance of God, which would lead them to the change that it’s “all about God.”

            Having said that, my own personal testimony is one in which I rejected Jesus when brought face-to-face via “in your face” Christians, and came to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior when other, more subtle things were brought into play.

            • Amen

            • I whole-heartedly agree with this statement. If there’s one thing that is clear through Jesus’ ministry, or even the whole Bible, it is this: never under-estimate the power of unbelief.

              Interesting, to me, that the unbelief that Jesus seems to rebuke the most is 1) that from the religious leaders of the day and 2)from HIS own followers. In a word, from those who should have known better. I cant’ remember HIM railing against Joe Everyman, common guy in the crowd, whose knowledge of GOD is very sketchy. Ill informed everyman seems to get fed and cured……then preached to about the KINGDOM.

              food for thot
              Pax
              Greg R

          • undertheradar3 says:

            “we’re not demonizing unbelievers… unbelievers (apart from God’s grace) are automatically inclined to reject the things of God.”

            How is that NOT “demonizing unbelievers”??

            I appreciate there’s a scriptural basis for it. But explain how in practice that does not draw a dividing line between presumably you who are a believer and thus in tune with the things of God, and the unbelievers, that makes them less good, less human, less trustworthy than you. And thus, demonizes them.

            • Remember when the word “demonize” actually meant something in particular?

              Guess not, huh?

            • Let’s face it — there’s no way to make an expression of belief or to even claim affiliation with a particular group with a particular ideology without making someone else feel like they are being demonized or slighted or undermined in some way. Just by claiming to be something — be it a Christian, Budhist, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Pluralist, Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal, libertarian, vegetarian, meat-eater, or whatever — you stand a pretty good chance of ruffling some people’s feathers merely by identifying yourself.
              Regardless of whether or not any offense is intended, professed belief in a God with a specific nature, character, and set of moral expectations for mankind is just naturally offensive to those who either disbelieve or would rather not consider the possibility that such a God might exist. In the same way, professed atheism just naturally conveys an offensive message to those who do believe in God, whether intended or not. The message that often comes across is this: “I don’t believe in God because I’m smarter than you are.”
              I think the extremists on both sides of the cultural war need to get the chips off their shoulders and grow some thicker skin. It’s a big bad world out there with a lot different and opposing viewpoints and opinions saturating the airwaves. And if you manage to get through a day without being exposed to something you find offensive or being demonized in some way, then it’s probably because you slept through it.

            • so what you are saying is that scripture demonizes unbelievers and we should just admit that we are too?

              • I don’t think scripture demonizes unbelievers so much as it correctly pegs us all, believers and unbelievers alike, as seriously screwed up, fallen, sinful beings in dire need of God’s grace, love, and His transforming work in our lives. If you find that offensive, then there’s nothing much I can do about that. I believe what I believe, and for reasons that are mine and mine alone. And though I certainly have no business standing in judgement over anyone, I’m not about to apologize for what I believe because it doesn’t line up with someone else’s beliefs or world view. Do you think I should apologize?
                And you don’t have to admit to anything you don’t want to. To me, it seems pretty self-evident that belief in God and atheism are just plain incompatible when you get right down to it — and the particularly militant or touchy people on either side are going to be offended by the mere existence of the other side. But I think those of us who aren’t so militant or touchy can co-exist on this planet. And I think we would all do well to practice a little more grace and understanding in our dealings with each other.

                • Sorry RonP, my reply was to undertheradar3’s comment:

                  “I appreciate there’s a scriptural basis for it. But explain how in practice that does not draw a dividing line between presumably you who are a believer and thus in tune with the things of God, and the unbelievers, that makes them less good, less human, less trustworthy than you. And thus, demonizes them.”

                  I am in total agreement with you. I think that any belief worth having is worth defending and if you cannot, then perhaps you should consider another. The Church does itself a great disservice when it subscribes to the new tolerance. Just because I disagree with someone’s beliefs does not mean that I have devalued them as a person. I may have a right to be wrong, but I have no right to affirmation.

                  • B Coop, sorry for the misunderstanding. I think the site is automatically kicking comments all the way to the bottom when you try to respond to someone directly. Peace and God bless.

        • Todd Erickson says:

          Only Christ knew the hearts of men. It’s one of the striking things about his ministry that reshapes how we understand everything that he did.

          But a lot of how we’ve chosen to see doctrine, especially from the Calvinist/Fundamentalist bent, says that we can determine the state of the hearts of anybody who does not believe the same things we do, because obviously they do not have the Spirit. QED.

          It’s difficult to present any meaningful argument against that sort of circular reasoning. But I have many friends, and a brother, who are no longer willing to have anythign to do with the church because of it, and becuase the church exists to bring condemnation and judgement to the unbeliever.

      • This is probably in bad taste, but on the other hand, at least one person on here was perfectly willing to characterise a whole bunch of people as children of Satan, so what the hey.

        There’s actually a Catholic joke about that, Todd: when Jesus says “Let he who is without sin amongst you cas the first stone”, a stone comes flying out of the crowd. Jesus looks angrily to see who did it, and then says in exasperation “Mother!”

        (And all the Catholics are torn between laughter and conviction I’m headed straight to Gehenna, while the non-Catholics are going “Huh?” It’s a joke about the Immaculate Conception, guys, and I first heard it from my sister when she was a novice nun. Who didn’t take final vows and is now married to a Church of Ireland clergyman, so ha-ha my family, heh?)

        • I didn’t understand this joke the first time I read it.

          So I read it a second time.

          Now I can’t stop laughing. You’ve corrupted me, Martha!

          • Oooh, I want in on twists to the ‘Woman Caught in Adultery’ story! In Orson Scott Card’s novel Speaker for the Dead, Chapter 16: “The Fence” opens with the founder of a fictional Catholic religious order telling two alternate versions of the story. I’d post the whole thing here, but it’s a very long quote.

            So, to sum up, in the first alternate version of the story, the rabbi says “Is there anyone here who has not desired another man’s wife, another woman’s husband?” To which the people reply, “But, Rabbi, none of us has acted on it.” The rabbi tells them to give thanks to God that they had the strength to resist, and the people let her go. The rabbi then whispers to the woman to tell the magistrate who it was who saved his mistress. “So the woman lives because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.”

            In the second alternate version, after asking whoever is without sin cast the first stone, the rabbi says “Nor am I without sin, but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead and our city with it.” He then casts the first stone and she is killed “because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.”

            Then comes the best part, where “San Angelo” contrasts the alternate versions with the “more famous version”:

            The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis, and when they veer too far they die. Only one rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation. So, of course, we killed him.

          • Feel free to tell it at the next meeting of the Blue Army, Danielle! And you can blame my sister, the ex-nun 😉

    • My point being is that unregenerate sinners do not accept God’s revelation in Holy Scripture because of that fact: they are unregenerate.

      I was unregenerate when I accepted Jesus, and my guess is so were you. This part of your argument is a bit circular, implying that one has to be regenerate (and defining that term is a whole other discussion) before one can get anywhere, including taking a step toward being regenerate.

      • 1 Corinthians 2:14 settles this question. I think it would be better stated “I was unregenerate BEFORE I accepted Jesus”

  19. I think that we are the problem. I don’t know how it is everywhere but where I live I see that Christianity has been a part of the culture for so long that people affiliate themselves with the Faith by virtue of birth. They know nothing of doctrine, they do not seek to study the word and (sad to say) pulpits are full of men that are more interested in swelling their numbers for a pay raise than in “rightly dividing the word of truth”. It is this lack of sound doctrine that makes it impossible for the layman to give a rational, logical defense of the Faith. For crying out loud, it is nearly impossible for the clergy! This makes it easy for the new atheist to set up a straw man and knock him down, while the average Christian watches in silence. Who could blame the lost for calling us “anti-science”, etc.

    I would add that there was an article in the news yesterday that had research showing that it was organized religion that was being shunned (and rightly so) not spirituality, so it seems that Dawkins and his disciples are only refining the Church, not destroying it.

  20. Todd Erickson says:

    May Jesus Christ esteem, love, and forgive you far greater than you do me.

    • Please forgive me, I had not read your other posts and thought you were being sarcastic. If you were not, then please accept my apology.

  21. I don’t have much knowledge of new atheists, or the alleged rise of reaction against religion in the U.S., so I can’t say much about why it exists. One thing that does strike me though, is that the following statement by Os Guiness:

    “In many ways, the new atheists are partly created by the Religious Right. You can see that in America there is no vehement repudiation of religion until recently. In Europe, the atheism is a reaction to corrupt state churches. Here, you’ve never had that until the rise of the Religious Right.”

    seems like an extreme oversimplification to me.

  22. Chaplain Mike was absolutely correct in anticipating that strong opinions will be expressed in this thread. Indeed, whenever it is suggested that Evangelicals have a poor view of science, as Os Guiness does here, you can expect a strong response.

    Perhaps, instead of being so quick to defend themselves, Evangelicals would do well to look within themselves and reflect upon the reasons Os Guiness would make such a statement and ask themselves if they may be guilty of the shortcomings that Os Guiness brings up.

  23. I have the utmost respect for Os Guinness, but I do not believe that atheism in Europe only attacked “corrupt” church leaders. What I have read is that the English church was not attacked during the Enlightenment as is was on the continent. Reading about the French Revolution is a real eye-opener regarding the effects of autonomous reason; religious men and women were slaughtered; Notre Dame was transformed into a shrine to the goddess of freedom.

    The enlightenment separated the church from practically everything – politics, science, education, art, etc. It claimed to overcome what it called the the superstitions of the “dark” ages imposed by religious authority to control the people. The problem is that anything considered remotely mystical was treated as an assault on personal autonomy. Kant declared that a man caught in prayer should be ashamed of himself. The bourgeois loved it, because interference by God in the affairs of men was just bad business; man should be free to conquer, enslave, explore, and exploit.

    A lot of what has been done in the name of cultural war has been a result of fundamentalism’s reaction against modernism. The result of this has been polarizing.

    But another side of this engagement needs to be viewed as perhaps a new attempt at a synthesis of secularism and Christian faith – similar to what was attempted by Hegel and Schleiermacher and failed. Secularists want nothing to do with such an attempt, which is understandable. It’s still bad for business. I am skeptical that any such synthesis could ever succeed. Many of the recent attempts have not restored a sense of the sacred to culture, but has instead made church more secular.

    I think there are bridges that can be made between Christianity and atheism, rather than debates and name-calling. I know that sounds absurd. But one point raise in a previous post is how Dawkins dismisses the “why” questions. I think this points to the quality of an atheist Dawkins is. Atheists of the past struggled with the questions of meaning, being/non-being, and estrangement. They took the questions seriously. So should Christians; but unfortunately, we haven’t taken them very seriously during this dark age of pragmatism. If nothing else, shallow evangelicals should be blamed for raising up shallow atheists.

    It’s hard to take us too seriously. We decry abortion as a assault on the sanctity of all human life by the “culture of death”, but then if someone like Oscar Romero decries the the oppression and exploitation of the poor, he’s called a communist. It could be that the devaluation of human life began outside of the womb – in plain sight of the church – and eventually included the unborn, rather than the other way around. If we are going to redeem the culture, we need to try to be a little more consistent.

  24. OK, enough about atheists being unregenerate sinners. Two things:

    1) Atheists, along with all others, are created in the image of God. This makes them worthy of respect, worthy of prayer, and worthy of salvation.
    2) Christians, along with all others, have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Knowing this should make us humble, not proud.

    It’s in the Bible, folks.

    But back to Os Guinness (Remember? The topic?): He suggests that in Europe atheism is in reaction to corrupt state churches–and in America to the Religious Right. Is he suggesting that “Corrupt State Churches” = “The Religious Right”? Or that at least they are counterparts?

    What of those on the Right who insist that the USA is a “Christian nation”? Are they trying to lead us into the corruption of a state church? And if so, why would there not be a reaction to that?

    Let’s give the atheists a break.

    • What of those on the Right who insist that the USA is a “Christian nation”? Are they trying to lead us into the corruption of a state church? And if so, why would there not be a reaction to that?

      Heh, that reminds me of a discussion that happened in a class on historic theology I took for my MCM. The professor asked what is the ideal relationship between the church and state. Several folks from the … shall we say fundamentalist… end of the class tried to make the case that the ideal would be for the state to take its legislative cues, etc. from the church. I reminded them that such a level of temporal power by the religion leads to Medieval Europe and modern Taliban. For his part, the professor told us that he thinks making Christianity the official religion of the Empire under Constantine was one of the worst things to happen to the faith.

    • Good Call Ted. I have always enjoyed your comments by the way!

  25. When it comes to the culture war, one thing I can say for certain is that I wouldn’t want to live in a society where either ultra-fundamentalist Christians or foaming-at-the-mouth anti-religion atheists ruled the roost. In either case, a theocracy or a scientocracy, I dare say that basic human freedoms and a lot of the simple things that make life worth living would be lost in the name of a bunch of either religious or ultra-intellectual nonsense. Between Pat Robertson on the throne of the Holy Evangelical Empire or the Global Council of Really Big Brains deciding what is best for rest of us, I would be willing to chose just about any third option.
    Whether we as individuals believe in God or not, we do need to recognize that all our freedoms are linked and that it would be disastrous for a free society if either side of the cultural war won in a complete and absolute way. Truth be told, the continued existence of either side is healthy for both sides. We Christians really do need to be reminded when we drift into total arrogant absurdity. And rational arguments against the existence of God serve to remind us that faith really is about faith — and not the mindless embracing of half-baked proofs and pseudo-science. On the other hand, atheists who look to science alone for their answers need to understand that the majority of humankind is never going to just drop their religions and beliefs and superstitions just because the intellectual elite says they should abandon these things. That’s never going to happen. Human beings are always going to be raising issues and questions of a moral and spiritual nature that science is not and will never be equipped to answer in a satisfactory way. Besides, religious reactionaries are really good at reminding the scientific community that just because we humans have the know-how to do a thing, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should do that thing.
    Let’s face it — any society based or controlled exclusively by either science or religion would be a totalitarian nightmare. And any society that tries to completely root out either science or religion will only end up crippling or destroying itself. I say we just agree to disagree and pursue a policy of rendering unto science those things that pertain to science, and rendering unto faith those things that pertain to faith.

  26. Fundamentalism is basically an incapacity for critical self-reflection–a sort of unassailable intellectual pride or the psychological inability to cope with the notion that you could be wrong about certain matters. Thus, it’s not really surprising to me that there are Christian fundamentalists, Muslim fundamentalists or atheist fundamentalists for that matter–there are a lot of people of varying stripes with this mentality.

    The question here is whether one type of fundamentalism breeds the other in a sort of militant political environment and I sincerely doubt Os Guiness has studied the issue well enough to credibly weigh in. (I don’t think that for example you could claim Wahhabism sprang from, say a response to Christian fundamentalism–just to try to think of a parallel case.) But we are a country with many self-proclaimed “elect” so it’s an intriguing idea worth of more study.

  27. The Guy from Knoxville says:

    Is it really that fundamentalist christians have a poor view of science or the abject refusal of “learned” folk to acknowledge that there may actually be truth in the postions presented by fundamentalist christians? Listen, both sides have valid points and truth and both have those that are utterly ignorant beyond words.

    The other thing that comes to mind…… does scripture speak to anything science? I know the primary purpose of scripture is to have a record of God interacting with his creation, specifically mankind, and ultimately the salvation of that (man) which is lost etc. Yet, there are some things in scripture that see to fit into the sciences – Genesis, Job are two obvious books where some of those things seem to exist and there are others.

    Just questions for discussion from an admittedly lacking in science knowledge christian though I’m not overtly or overly fundamentalist.

  28. Louis Winthrop says:

    Sociologists of the USA distinguish between several locally-prominent types of disaffiliation, all of which have been experiencing growth recently (at least according to poll results): militant or committed atheists, disinterested agnostics, and unchurched believers (often glossed as “spiritual but not religious”).

    The main reason why these are growing, viz. 50 years ago, seems to be the decline in social pressure to believe in Christianity and/or belong to a church. Just as religious pluralism has grown to the point where any number of religious affiliations are now socially acceptable, so has the option of avoiding / rejecting all of the available churches and religions. Geographic mobility / urbanization is also a factor, since this tends to separate people from the churches of their upbringing and makes the opinions of neighbors less important.

    I’m not sure how to read the role of fundamentalism and the religious right. On one hand, almost everyone must be aware that there are other religious options on offer (though not everywhere). On the other hand, as the religious right succeeds in appropriating religious symbols for itself, this may make liberals more reluctant to support even liberal forms of Christianity. (Interestingly, the more strident or “fundamentalist” forms of many religions seem to enjoy natural advantages over their moderate-to-liberal rivals.) Similarly, in the case of science, surely most Christians are aware that a spectrum of opinion exists on issues such as evolution. But perhaps some are embarrassed that the issue has to be debated at all.

    In the case of Europe, church corruption (and then the Reformation) led not to populations of atheists, but to intensified struggles between fervent believers of various types. Today’s state churches are rather lethargic, being state-supported. It would be unfair to call them corrupt–they are no worse, on average, than their governments–but neither are they especially good at outreach. Interestingly, many European atheists maintian a church affiliation out of respect for the church’s social programs. Small, independent Protestant sects have found modest success in some regions, but not others. In the case of East Germany, atheists (representing traditions carried over from the former DDR) have managed to organize themselves with considerable effectiveness, and have established formal programs for atheist youth.

    • I appreciate this comment as well as “dumb ox” ‘s above. (It sounds strange to praise a dumb ox for his/her intelligent comment.) I found this topic difficult, because to comment on a phenomenon that involves hundreds of millions people across hundreds of years, when my own actual knowledge could fit on a postage stamp, is essentially impossible. I have the most knowledge of the “religious right”, being an evangelical Christian, but even there my knowledge is limited considering the breadth of the U.S.A., and the age of the “religious right” movement. Then when you throw in religion throughout the entire history of the United States, plus the history of atheism and religion across all the peoples and history of Europe, I’d really just be grasping at straws to say anything.

      So I appreciate that you two seem to have some data and background knowledge to contribute. It makes me want to read some books with more data and analysis on the topic.

    • But Chaplain Mike, thank you for posting the video for comment. Interesting to hear what people have to say.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’m not sure how to read the role of fundamentalism and the religious right. — Louis Winthrop

      I can. It’s another religious option in a society under extreme stress — take the culture’s traditional spiritual tradition and firewall it into as Extreme a version as you can in an attempt to make everything Pure (TM) again. If not your culture, then Purify yourself so You can ascend and “laugh as the Evil Heathen World burns”.

      Long ago, I came to the conclusion that religious/spiritual beliefs go one of three ways under heavy stress. And each has a Christianese label:

      1) Practical Atheism (“Secular Humanism”): Ditch the spiritual tradition in your everyday actions, maybe retaining a little of going through the motions.

      2) Exotic Foreign Spiritual Traditions (“Eastern Mysticism”): Look outside your cultural tradition into OTHER cultures/civilizations’
      religions and spirituality and go into those. (This was one of Christianity’s selling points in the religious burnout of the Roman Empire, when Christianity was the New Exotic Foreign Religion.)

      3) Extreme Fundamentalism (“Born-Again, Bible-Be-LEEE-Ving”): Stay in your original spiritual tradition, except as Extreme a form as possible, fighting back against the other two like a Middle Eastern blood feud. Maintain an Inquisition against ANY form of contamination of Purity.

      Since individuals can have any one of these three reactions, the society as a whole goes all three ways at once. And a lot of the factions go for each others’ throats in All Righteousness — hence, the Culture War.

  29. “In response, what I am trying to say is that the rise against Christianity is not fundamentally due to Christians being abusive towards non-Christians or putting them down but because unbelievers (apart from God’s grace) are automatically inclined to reject the things of God.”

    I couldn’t agree less with this statement. If I act in an evil way toward my neighbor, it is duplicitous in the extreme to chalk it up to my neighbor’s lack of belief in God.

    The people who have acted the cruelest toward me in my life have been Christians. The meanest people I know are Christian. If a business advertises itself as “Christian” I run the other way.

    Christianity, to many, seems to be a get-out-of-hell card. It is a paradox how a religion allows people to act so anti-Godly toward their neighbor while seeing themselves as more Godly.

    That is not to say I don’t know a ton of loving, Christ-like Christians. I do, and I’m not talking about them. They generally don’t go around blaming their sins on their neighbor’s lack of faith.

  30. Todd Erickson says:

    my wife is the daughter of a nazarene pastor. Her brother was, until recently, also a pastor.

    My nephew, the youngest son of my wife’s brother, came to me tonight to admit that he’s actually an atheist, and he’s realized that that’s been the case for a while, that he doesn’t believe in God or Christianity.

    This boy has been in the church his entire life, but he’s been constantly struck by the fact that the beliefs of the church are never lived out in the society around him.

    He’s decided that he would rather go live his live in line with social justice and the cause of Christ, rather than follow a God of wrath and judgment whose people are free to do nothing to make the world any better.

    And I don’t have a good argument for him against it. If he wants to actually serve people and make the world more like Christ, the best thing he can do around here is get as far from the church as possible.

    *shrug*

    • He doesn’t believe in Christianity but he wants to make the world like Christ? Sounds like he is a young man that is only confused about his faith, not an Atheist.

      • Donalbain says:

        One can believe that the character of Jesus had some good ideas while either believing that he was not a god, or even that he did not exist at all.
        In that case, one could want to turn the other cheek, do unto others, visit the prisoners, heal the sick and be an atheist.

        • I’ve always been curious about those who would want to take “some good ideas” from a man who claimed to be God, predicted he would be raised from the dead and tell some people they are going to hell.

          Acquiring ideas buffet style seems to imply that one’s self is the ultimate arbiter of truth and goodness.

          Shouldn’t that be a red flag or something?

          Just because you like grilled steak does not change the fact that the meat comes from a cow. Or, if you claim pork is fundamentally foul, and yet eat your choice of bacon from time to time, is that not just a little off?

          Jesus was either God or an insane freak. You can’t have him comfortably in the middle of those two, it is a binary proposition.

          • Jesus was either God or an insane freak………or a liar.

            Greg R

          • Donalbain says:

            .

            1) The idea that Jesus proclaimed himself to be a deity are not exactly emphatic. There are, as with most things in scripture, various ways of reading it.

            2) Even if he did believe he was a god, so what? A good idea is a good idea, even if it comes from a person who might be considered crazy. Even if Hitler was the first person to think of them, autobahns were a good idea. Even if this Jesus guy did think he was a god, then giving all you have to the poor, and visiting prisoners could still be a good idea. Your mistake is so common that it even has a name. It is referred to as the genetic fallacy.

            And I dont see where this thing about being fundamentally foul might come from. This young man obviously does NOT think that the Jesus Character is “fundamentally foul”.

            And of course we ALL aquire our ideas buffet style. I know that you dont follow all the advice of Jesus. How do I know? Because you have NOT sold all your property and given the proceeds to the poor. Also, please may I have your cloak?

          • Donalbain,

            1) Christ’s claims to deity were VERY emphatic when taken in context of the culture. This is why they sought to stone him after he made the claim.

            2) The point is that the young man wants to make the world “like Jesus”. It just strikes me as being a rejection of the practical religion of his parents, not a rejection of the teachings of Jesus.

            btw, Christ never suggests that all of his followers must sell everything and give it to the poor. Please study our Faith before you seek to teach it to us. There is a name for that. It is referred to as “The Straw man”

      • Christiane says:

        The ‘christian’ ‘uber’ far-right isn’t at all Christian in any sense of the Word. There is nothing Christ-like about them.

        • Wow!
          Romans 2:1-4 “You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. 2 And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. 3 Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? 4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

          • Christiane says:

            Sorry. Your argument doesn’t work.
            Heard it all before.
            The absolutely worst hate-mongers will be the first to say ‘How dare you judge me?’

            Well, let’s see. What is the criterion?
            Are they wolves that go around preying on the sheep? Were we not told to watch out for them. Is their fruit poisonous ? Do they Christ-monger (make vast amounts of money using the Name of Christ)?
            No need to ‘Wow’. It’s about time people stood up to the bullies and told them that they are simply not Christian, not Christ -like’, and are flat out phonies.
            Ah, I feel better. 🙂 Nothing like a good rant to clear the air.

            The ‘uber-far-right’ extreme fundamentalist ‘christians’ are PHONIES.
            And evil. .

          • It’s not my argument, it’s Christ’s indictment of believers who think that they have attained a level of spirituality that allows them to sit in judgement of another’s salvation. Name calling and stereotyping only makes you what you hate.

  31. Louis Winthrop says:

    Oh, one more thing. We also have to consider the impact of television and the internet, which take away time from more social activities such as church. (Remember when TV stations would only show church shows on Sunday morning?) And the new availability of alternative social activities which compete with church for some role that churches used to fill (charities, Little League, etc.).

    As people stop attending, for whatever reason, they are less likely to adopt (or pretend to adhere to) the beliefs of the group. For the sake of comparison, participation in fraternal orders has plummeted in tandem with the decline in religious affiliation, and it’s not because people suddenly stopped believing in the Temple of Solomon or what have you.

  32. Can unbelief separate us from the love of God? When Paul said nothing separates us, he, meant it. Just as no one can be good enough to please God, no one can believe enough or sincerely enough to justify himself or herself. It seems to be a recurring theme: one has to do something or clean up something or believe something before coming to God. The result is that everyone is left outside. There is no grounds for dialog. Even those on the inside of the church feel the need to appear to be something that they are not. The radical message of grace is that we are accepted. Immediately, we want to attach conditions to this statement. An atheist doesn’t have to believe in God to be touched by Him.

    You may not be able to begin a conversation with an atheist by talking about sin or separation from God, but you could start a conversation about isolation, alienation, dehumanization, or estrangement. Everyone feels it. How does one find significance in a culture where some jerk on Wall Street can push a button and destroy the world economy?

    If an atheist says that he or she doesn’t need the acceptance of God but can live by self-will, ask how that is done. What happens if someone else has a greater, more sinister will-to-power? There is a bridge in there somewhere to the life in the Spirit – the new being in Christ. If they blame isolation on culture, society, captialism, religion, etc., ask them how that isolation is overcome.

    Tony Campolo wrote a great book entitled, “Partly Right”, which explains that those who are opposed to Christianity actually have a point. More dialog can occur by touching on the points where they are right than insisting on pointing out where you think they are wrong. As one commenter stated earlier, self-criticism is in short supply these days.

    I also think the answer to the atheist is that Christianity is more than pie-in-the-sky. Christians need to do more than feel sorry for the oppressed; they need to do something about it. Otherwise, Marx has a valid point, that religion becomes a way to appease the masses with promises of the afterlife while multi-national corporations, Wall Street bankers, and politicians exploit us in this life. (It has always disturbed me how big business and the religious right have such a cozy political relationship). Pragmatism has turned “practical” Christianity into a self-help manual for self-indulgence. Truly practical Christianity has something to say about justice and defense of the oppressed.

  33. After giving the matter more thought, Guinness has a point. Christian men an women have always played a large part in American politics, and until recently, the rest of the country has agreed and approached government from a biblical world view. Now that we live in a post-Christian society, there are fewer and fewer citizens with a biblical world view, and to invoke the name of Christ in government is seen as offensive to many. Especially when it is done in an obvious power grab like the “religious right” did. So it stands to reason that there would be more and more individuals at the other (secular, for lack of a better word) extreme that would stand up and protest.

    That is not to say that anyone should stop being active in government no matter their world view. They should, however, be ready to defend it and change it if they find out they are wrong.

  34. “Culture war Christianity” is around a hundred years old or more. You had CFW Walther decrying the nascent science of biochemistry as an offense against the doctrine of creation back in the late 19th century, and politicians invoking the Almighty as giving legitimacy to their programs is an old tradition of the republic. The “religious right” is neither more vocal, more religious, nor more “right” than it was 100 years ago. Has it really taken atheists a century or so to notice?

    I have a different theory: 100 years ago, openly despising Christianity was socially unacceptable in far more circles than it is today. Christianity no longer has much influence on the American civil religion or civic morality, so naked bigotry against Christians has become socially acceptable.

  35. After reading the wide variety of comments here, which seem to be coming from just about every strata of belief type, I’m left with an important question:

    Os set out to challenge a certain group of people to pause and ponder what their real purpose is, what is their real objective is and what their approach should be. Why do you suppose that the thrust of this discussion here (with some notable exceptions) has been far from answering Os’ challenges?

    Perhaps some reflection is warranted.

    Peace,
    Mark

  36. Patrick says:

    The religious right did not arise until after the beginning of the assault on the idea of God, the Bible, and Christianity in general; it was not the other way around. There would be no religious right without the activities of the ACLU and other ant-iGod, anti-Christian, anti-Christian prayer and anti-Bible groups in the last 50 years. There is no “rise of atheism”, it has been around for centuries, there is simply more coverage of it, and it has a relatively new set of allies in the media and modern entertainment.

    • Donalbain says:

      There was a religious right. It was just the mainstream. A gay man would be arrested and put in jail and everyone thought that was OK. Christian prayers were forced on all kids, and that was considered OK. The change is not that the religious right has appeared, it is that they have been REDUCED to one, extremist wing. Now, most people would accept that arresting a man for having gay sex is NOT OK, but the religious right rail against such a destruction of biblical morals.

      There is no assault on God. Just on the assumption that the beliefs of some about a god, should be legitimate grounds to deny the rights of others.

  37. The Buddhist perspective is that both atheists and theists have wrong views.

    Mipham, the great Tibetan Buddhist teacher from the beginning of the 20th century, said that mind is like an elephant bathing in a river. The elephant goes into the water to wash off the dust and then throws dust on itself to dry the water. So a crisis of faith leads to atheism. And the only alternative to atheism seems to be to find a truth to grasp onto and believe in.

    It is impossible to conceive, except to think of god or no god. But all of the great theistic traditions say that god is beyond conception. And the thoughtful atheist, the one who is not reveling in atheism as a way to feel superior to benighted believers, will acknowledge the transcendence of art or the sacredness of nature.

    So I think there is room for discussion — for those with a compassionate heart (and a sense of humor doesn’t hurt).

    I have been a Buddhist (non-theist) for thirty years, so I’m most comfortable with the language of Buddhism. But we have common ground as human beings — wonderfully precise intelligence and moments of joy and wonder that are beyond intellect. This poem by Emily Dickinson (sorry about mistakes, bad memory) is about the transition from thought to the experience of something beyond that is beyond speech or thought:

    I felt a funeral in my brain
    And mourners to and fro
    Kept treading, treading til it seemed
    That sense was breaking through

    And when they all were seated,
    A service like a drum
    Kept beating, beating
    Til I thought my mind was going numb

    And then I heard them lift a box
    And creak across my soul
    With those same boots of lead again
    Then space began to toll

    As all the heavens were a bell
    And being but an ear
    And I, and silence, some strange race
    wrecked solitary here

    And then a plank in reason broke
    And I dropped down and down
    And hit a world at every plunge
    And finished — knowing — then

    I think that is our common ground (just my opinion!).