Thursday, January 17, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Isn't it remarkable that atheists, who did virtually nothing to oppose slavery, condemn Christians, who are the ones who abolished it?
Consider atheist Sam Harris, who blames Christianity for supporting slavery. Harris is right that slavery existed among the Old Testament Jews, and Paul even instructs slaves to obey their masters. During the civil war both sides quoted the Bible. We know all this. (Yawn, yawn.)
But slavery pre-dated Christianity by centuries and even millennia. As we read from sociologist Orlando Patterson's work, all known cultures had slavery. For centuries, slavery needed no defenders because it had no critics. Atheists who champion ancient Greece and pre-Christian Rome somehow seem to forget that those empires were based on large-scale enslavement.
Atheist Michael Shermer says Christians are "late comers" to the movement against slavery. Shermer advanced this argument in our Cal Tech debate in December. That debate is now online, and you can watch it at michaelshermer.com.
But if what Shermer says is true, who were the early opponents of slavery who got there before the Christians did? Actually, there weren't any. Shermer probably thinks the Christians only got around to opposing slavery in the modern era.
Wrong. Slavery was mostly eradicated from Western civilization--then called Christendom--between the fourth and the tenth century. The Greco-Roman institution of slavery gave way to serfdom. Now serfdom has its problems but at least the serf is not a "human tool" and cannot be bought and sold like property. So slavery was ended twice in Western civilization, first in the medieval era and then again in the modern era.
In the American South, Christianity proved to be the solace of the oppressed. As historian Eugene Genovese documents in Roll, Jordan, Roll, when black slaves sought to find dignity during the dark night of slavery, they didn't turn to Marcus Aurelius or David Hume; they turned to the Bible. When they sought hope and inspiration for liberation, they found it not in Voltaire or D'Holbach but in the Book of Exodus.
The anti-slavery movements led by Wilberforce in England and abolitionists in America were dominated by Christians. These believers reasoned that since we are all created equal in the eyes of God, no one has the right to rule another without consent. This is the moral basis not only of anti-slavery but also of democracy.
Jefferson was in some ways the least orthodox and the most skeptical of the founders. Yet when he condemned slavery he found himself using biblical language. In Notes on the State of Virginia Jefferson warned that those who would enslave people should reflect that "the Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest." Jefferson famously added, "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot sleep for ever."
But wasn't Jefferson also a man of science? Yes he was, and it was on the basis of the latest science of his day that Jefferson expressed his convictions about black inferiority. Citing the discoveries of modern science, Jefferson noted that "there are varieties in the race of man, distinguished by their powers both of body and of mind...as I see to be the case with races of other animals." Blacks, Jefferson continued, lack the powers of reason that are evident in whites and even in native Indians. While atheists today like to portray themselves as paragons of equal dignity, Jefferson's scientific and skeptical outlook contributed not to his anti-slavery sentiments but to his racism. Somehow Harris and Shermer neglect to point this out.
In the end the fact remains that the only movements that opposed slavery in principle were mobilized in the West, and they were overwhelmingly led and populated by Christians. Sadly the West had to use force to stop slavery in other cultures, such as the Muslim slave trade off the coast of Africa. In some quarters the campaign to eradicate slavery still goes on.
So who killed slavery? The Christians did, while everyone else generally stood by and watched.
Friday, January 11, 2008
"if the Jewish and Christian God was such a monster, what sense does it make for
Dawkins to embrace the cultural influence of that deity? It would be like
someone saying, "Hitler was a murderous maniac, but I am a cultural Nazi. No, I
don't embrace the specifics of Nazi doctrine, but I appreciate what fascism has
done to shape German culture. Let's give up the specifics of the Hitler program,
but let's also keep Nazi culture along with the fuhrer's imagery on our coins
Asked by a British member of Parliament if he is one of those atheists who wants to get rid of Christian symbols especially during the Christmas season, atheist Richard Dawkins replied that he is not. Dawkins said that he himself sings Christmas carols and that he considers himself a “cultural Christian.” Just as many Jews regard themselves as Jewish, defend Jewish interests and cherish Jewish culture while not participating in Jewish religious rituals, Dawkins says that he respects the fact that the history and traditions of the West are shaped by Christianity. Dawkins says he's not one of those who wants to purge the West of its Christian traditions. The main threat to Christian symbols, Dawkins argues, does not come from atheists like him but rather from Muslims and members of other faiths.
Now this is quite remarkable. In The God Delusion, Dawkins portrayed the Christian God as a wicked, avaricious, capricious, genocidal maniac. Dawkins even blasted Jesus for such offenses as speaking harshly to his mother. Yet if the Jewish and Christian God was such a monster, what sense does it make for Dawkins to embrace the cultural influence of that deity? It would be like someone saying, "Hitler was a murderous maniac, but I am a cultural Nazi. No, I don't embrace the specifics of Nazi doctrine, but I appreciate what fascism has done to shape German culture. Let's give up the specifics of the Hitler program, but let's also keep Nazi culture along with the fuhrer's imagery on our coins and monuments."
Dawkins is not an unintelligent man, so what's going on here? One possibility is that Dawkins now recognizes that today's atheists who want to get rid of Christian symbols are just as intolerant as Christians who in the pst sought to deny atheists a voice in the public arena. So Dawkins' statement can be read as a critique of intolerance and political correctness.
A second possibility is that Dawkins now sees the Muslim threat to the West--and especially European culture--as more serious than the prospect of a second Christian Inquisition, so he has decided to ally with the Christians against the Islamic radicals. Other atheists like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are now admitting that atheist attempts to equate Islamic extremism with Christianity are bogus. The real threat doesn't come from Presbyterianism or Anglicanism but from a radical Islam that wants to obliterate Western civilization.
I suspect that these two factors may have played a role, but the main reason for Dawkins' remarkable self-identification as a cultural Christian is that he has slowly come to realize that even the values that he cherishes--values such as individual dignity, science as an autonomous enterprise, the equal dignity of women, the abolition of slavery, and compassion as a social virtue--came into the West because of Christianity. I have been hammering this point in my debates with leading atheists, and it's possible that one of the Oxford historians came up to Dawkins and said, to his horror, "You know, Richard, that D'Souza chap has a point."
Okay, so let's give this biologist credit for learning a little history. Still, the deeper question remains. If the God of the Old and New Testaments is such a bad character, how come his cultural influence is so positive? Absent a good answer to this question, we must reconsider the premise: perhaps the God of the Old and New Testaments is not the evil figure portrayed in atheist propaganda. On the contrary, perhaps all our Western notions of good and bad derive from no source other than this Christian God. This certainly was Nietzsche's view, and he knew a lot more about the subject than Richard Dawkins.
Wouldn't it be interesting if Dawkins continues his intellectual growth and reverses his old misunderstandings? The first step for him would be to imitate the example of “cultural Jews.” Cultural Jews may not accept the Yahweh of the Old Testament. But they do tend to champion Jewish culture and defend Jewish interests, such as Israel. In a similar vein Dawkins can reject Christian theology while defending the political and cultural influence of Christianity. He can rebuke ACLU lawyers, for example, who are trying to eradicate all vestiges of Christianity from the public square. Perhaps eventually Dawkins will even reissue his book: Overcoming My Delusions: Confessions of a Cultural Christian.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The development of In Vitro Fertilization technologies [IVF] has produced what one key observer has called "a rather unexpected aspect" of the technique -- the destruction of well over a million human embryos in Great Britain alone.
As reported in The Times [London], over a million embryos have now been destroyed in British fertility clinics. These embryos are produced in order to lower the net cost of pregnancies and to ensure an adequate supply of embryos for potential transfer to the womb. Given the fact that many IVF transfers do not lead to a successful pregnancy, the prevailing policy calls for the development of multiple embryos -- just in case.
This practice leads to the existence of potentially millions of "excess" or "surplus" human embryos. In some cases, the excess embryos are destroyed almost immediately after a successful transfer of other embryos. Otherwise, the embryos are frozen. But the frozen embryos are destroyed after ten years, if not before.
As The Times reports:
The scale of the wastage has sparked calls from politicians and infertility groups to find ways to avoid so many being created for treatment. An alternative suggestion is that it should be made easier for couples to "adopt" viable embryos unwanted by their natural parents so they have a chance of life.
Lord Alton, the independent peer who obtained the figures after tabling a parliamentary question, said embryos were being destroyed "at an incredible rate".
"IVF has ensured that a number of people have been given a chance to have children. But it is surprising how many embryos are being destroyed in the process," said the peer. "This is a rather unexpected aspect of IVF. If you could just create an embryo to implant, that would be fine.
"I think it would be much better if these embryos that are going to be destroyed were used for infertile couples. At least they would have a chance of life. The number of embryos used is expanding year after year."
While this report is likely to spark controversy in Great Britain, the situation in the United States and many other nations is virtually the same. Human embryos are being produced, almost factory-like, and then routinely destroyed or indefinitely frozen.
This phenomenon might be described as an unintended complication of the IVF technology. Nevertheless, all involved in this technology are responsible for this vast human tragedy, intended or not.
Far too many evangelicals seem to turn a blind eye to this reality. While we celebrate the birth of a child and the gift of life, we cannot blind ourselves to the harsh and grotesque reality that this technology also means the destruction of human life.
Many evangelicals fail to see what many proponents of human embryonic stem cell research have noted -- a glaring inconsistency in condemning the destruction of human embryos through stem cell research, while ignoring or dismissing the destruction of embryos in IVF clinics.
Lord Alton describes the stunning announcement that over a million embryos have been destroyed as "an unexpected aspect of IVF." It should not have been unexpected, given the standard practice of the treatment and technology. Does anyone really care?
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Here are six key arguments made by atheist like Richard Dawkins that drive them to reject the existence of God. Let's take them at face value. I'm interested in seeing how others respond. Some of them are obvious, such as "the enomrity of evil." Others are less expecting such as, "My refusal to explain something I cannot understand by something I understand even less." These are all arguments that we need to take seriously, and as Christians, we need to be prepared to give logical, biblical answers that take the conversation to the cross. Christians have been guilty of giving "pat" answers for way too long. It is time for us to be prepared to defend the faith with truth. Truth cannot be disproven, and if Christianity is true (as I believe it is), then we must show everyone why.
The best response to these arguments and others from a Christian worldview is Dinesh D'Souza's "What So Great About Christianity?" I also want to point you to an article I wrote called, "Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?"
Here you go:
1. The weakness of the opposing arguments, the so-called proofs of God's existence
2. Common experience: If God existed, he should be easier to see or sense.
3. My refusal to explain something I cannot understand by something I understand even less.
4. The enormity of evil.
5. The mediocrity of mankind.
6. Last but not least, the fact that God corresponds so perfectly to our wishes that there is every reason to think he was invented to fulfill them, at least in fantasy; this makes religion an illusion in the Freudian sense of the term
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Louisville has not beaten Kentucky the past three years. In fact, the seniors for Louisville had never beaten Kentucky in their careers. And after tonight, they finally have their win.
Now if only we can keep this up!
Here's a recap of the game:
Here's a summary of the game:
Down 31-30 at the half, the University of Louisville opened the second half on a 9-0 run and sprinted past rival Kentucky in the second half for a 89-75 win at Rupp Arena Saturday.
The Cards were up by as many as 22 points in the second half, before first-year UK coach Billy Gillispie employed a fouling strategy over the final five minutes.
As big as the margin was in the second half, it was much closer in the first. Ramon Harris hit a three on the game's opening possession sending the Rupp Arena crowd into a frenzy. The cheers continued on the next possession when Louisville's starting center Derrick Caracter was called for a foul.
UofL scored its first points on a layup by Juan Palacios, who was starting in place of suspended sophomore Earl Clark. Th Cards took the lead on a three by Terrence Williams with just ove 18 minutes remaining in the first half, but UK quickly answered with a dunk by Patterson to tie the score.
A three by McGee put UofL on top 8-5, then increased their lead when Palacios was fouled while driving to the basket with 15:49 remaining. Palacios hit the layup but missed the free throw and the Cards were up 10-5.
A turnaround jumper by football player turned basketball walk-on Josh Chichester put the Cards up 12-5. And the Cards increased the lead to 14-5 on a layup by Edgar Sosa on a backdoor cut that center David Padgett executed perfectly.
An easy hookshot layin by Padgett increased the lead to double-digits, 16-5, for the first time with 11:40 to go in the half.
Kentucky, which had missed ten straight shots during Louisville's 11-0 run, finally broke their six and a half minute scoreless streak on a long three-pointer by Derrick Jasper with 11:15 to go. A postmove by Patterson cut the Cardinal lead to six, but UofL answered with a layup by Smith on a drive to the basket.
A baseline jumper by Crawford with 8:34 to go in the half cut the Cardinal lead to six, 18-12. Caracter hit 1-2 from the line on the next possession to put UofL ahead by seven. Crawford hit a driving layup on the next possession, but it was answered on the other end by Andre McGee to keep the margin at seven, 21-14.
UofL capitalized on a steal when Caracter hit 1-2 free throws with 7:30 remaining in the half. A bankshot by Crawford on the low block put the score at 22-16, and a three-pointer by Jodie Meeks with 5:55 cut the Cardinal lead to just three, 22-19.
On UofL's next possession, Padgett had the ball poked away from him by Meeks leading to a lay-up and game-tying free throw by Ramel Bradley.
Sosa, who had checked into the game with 5:18 left, nailed a three-pointer on an inbounds play to stem the UK run. Then Crawford scored a layup but was whistled for a foul on the Cats' next possession.
UofL was up 26-24 with five minutes remaining, but UK took the lead on a driving bankshot on a baseline drive and a free throw after Padgett was called for his second foul.
A baseline jumper by Preston Knowles gave UofL the lead again 28-27, but UK answered on a layup by Bradley on a fast break. Then a pair of free throws by Meeks put UK up 31-28 with 1:49 to go in the half.UK's Bradley was whistled for a foul on McGee with 53.3 to go in the half, and McGee hit both free throws to cut the Cat lead to one, 31-30.
Neither team would score in the closing minutes and the underdog Cats lead at the half, 31-30 after being down by 11 points at one point early on.
A quick hookshot by Caracter put UofL up 32-31 to start the second half, and a steal and layup by Williams put the Cards up 34-31. Williams was fouled on the play and hit the subsequent free throw to increase the lead to four, 35-31. A pair of free throws by Palacios pushed the Cards' lead to six, and a steal and layup by Smith pushed the lead to 39-31.
UK's Meeks hit a pair of free throws with 17:30 for the Cats' first points of the half, but UofL answered with a 17-footjumper by Williams.
Patterson scored just his third basket of the game, a wide open dunk, with 15:52 remaining, cutting the Cardinal lead to 41-35. A three by Juan Palacios with 14:51 left put UofL ahead 43-35, it was his first made three of the season after missing his first seven attempts in the previous three games of playing time.
Another three, this one by Jerry Smith, put UofL up 46-35, and UofL increased the lead to 13 on an emphatic two-hand dunk by Padgett with 13:18 left.
UK finally hit the scoreboard again on a pair of free throws by Crawford then cut the lead to nine, 48-39, on a six-foot floater by Perry Stevenson with 12:24 to go.
Stevenson was called for a block on Palacios on the next play, and UofL's lead was put back to double-digits on a pair of made free throws.
Now up 50-39, UofL continued to push the lead on a one-hand dunk by Caracter with 11:25 to go. UK's troubles were compounded when Bradley missed the front end of a one-and-one with under 11 to go, and Palacios hit a three a minute later to put UofL up 55-39.
An acrobatic layup by Andre McGee after a steal by Knowles gave the Cards an 18-point lead, 57-39. A rebound putback by Palacios pushed the lead to an even 20, 59-39, with 9:01 to go.
Crawford ht 1-2 from the line with 9:01 to go, but any momentum UK gained was quickly squashed by an old-fashioned three-point play from Smith to put the Cards up 62-40.
Down 22 with 8:30 to go Kentucky didn't appear to have any more sense of urgency as Bradley dribbled the ball slowly. Charging was called
A flagrant foul by Bradley prevented an easy dunk by Padgett with 8:13 to go. The foul knocked Padgett to the floor and words were exchanged between Bradley and UofL's Williams after the play, resulting in a technical foul called on Williams.
Bradley hit both of the free throws on the technical foul to cut the lead back to 20, 62-42, and UK caught a break when Padgett missed both of his free throws at the other end.
UK's Ramon Harris hit 1-2 free throws on the next possesion, but Williams answered with a driving layup to keep the lead above 20, 64-43.
A free throw by Crawford brought the score to 64-44. Then UK scored just its third field goal of the half on a layup by Harris with 6:16 remaining.
A pair of Crawford free throws with 5:08 left cut the Cardinal lead to 16, 64-48. Then Caracter's fifth foul led to 1-2 free throws by Crawford. UK seemed to have a spark when Stevenson scored on a rebound putback to cut the UofL lead to 13, 64-51.
Sosa hit a pair of free throws with 3:59 remaining to put UofL ahead 66-51, and a wild driving layup by Crawford at the other end was rebounded by Padgett. UK's Patterson fouled Padgett and the UofL senior captain hit 1-2 from the line.
A pair of free throws by Bradley helped UK's cause with 3:46 to go, but Padgett answered on the other end with another 1-2 from the foul line to put Louisville ahead 71-55.
A driving layup by Crawford with 3:05 to go cut the Cardinal lead to 14, and UK coach Billy Gillispie called a quick timeout. Kentucky appeared to be ready to foul Louisville each time down the court for the final five minutes, but Williams made them pay on the next possession by hitting both shots.
A three by Jasper cut the lead back to 13 with 2:33 to go, and Gillispie continued his fouling strategy on the next possession, fouling out star center Patterson.
Palacios hit both free throws to incease the lead to 75-60, and the Cats missed a pair of shots on the next possession. Jasper fouled UofL's McGee with 2:19 left, and McGee hit 1-2 from the line,
A three by Bradley with 2:07 left cut the lead back 13, and then Harris fouled Williams, who hit 1-2 free throws. Another three by Bradley cut the Cardinal lead to 11, 77-66, and UofL threw the ball away on the following possession which gave the crowd hope.
But a UK turnover by Crawford resulted in 1-2 free throws by McGee and the lead stayed in double-figures. Palacios fouled out with 1:29 to go, and Crawford hit both free throws to cut the lead to 78-68.
Padgett was fouled immediately before the ball was inbounded, and he hit both free throws to put the Cards up 80-68. Bradley hit two free throws on the next possession, cutting the lead back to 10.
The parade to the foul line continued on the next possession, this time it was UofL's Jerry Smith who hit both free throws. Smith hit two more free throws with 1:12 to go to increase the lead to 84-70.
A layup by Bradley, his 24th point, cut the lead back to 12, but UK fouled Smith on the next possession and he hit 1-2 from the line to increase the lead to 85-72.
Williams hit a pair of free throws with 30 seconds remaining, then Smith hit a pair of free throws with 18.4 seconds left to put UofL ahead 89-72.
A three by Bradley was the final basket of the game, and the Cards walked out of Rupp with a 14-point win.