The moral high ground

morality

 

It is becoming more and more common for atheists and secular types to claim the moral high ground. So the prevalence of the type of graphic we see above is increasing somewhat. On the one hand I find it amusingly hypocritical of them. On the other I find it a concerning trend.

It is amusingly hypocritical because they are always asking for evidence of God. Well here I will ask of them where is your evidence, your rationale for establishing that any action in this uncaring unthinking universe is right while another action is wrong? What are morals? How do you measure them? What evidence do you have for them even existing? Do they only exist because you say they exist? If they are indeed only a human construct, then by what basis can you say that at some time in some society their actions were immoral when at that time they were not considered so? I am not saying of course that the atheist is somehow immoral or even a-moral. I am just questioning the basis for claiming the moral high ground.

My concern is that there are a lot of people out there who will simply uncritically adopt this type of mantra. And when one group is so obviously morally superior to another and has the power to do something about it, then generally they will.

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Flowchart atheism

ReligionFlowchart

This image is a little more obtuse than I was hoping for.

In many of the enlightening discussions I have had and witnessed, there are a lot of self professing atheists out there who seem to subscribe to some sort of flow chart methodology for discussing (despatching) religion. One of the common components on many of these flowcharts appears to be a decision point which holds religion and science to be mutually exclusive. To partake in religion, it seems, is to deny science.

Science is a methodological approach created by people in order to understand and verify factual knowledge. There are other branches of knowledge that a scientific approach does not deal with very well such as knowledge of hate, deceit and discontent … yet it can measure the entropic effect that results from such knowledge. Furthermore science does not help us to have knowledge of love, forgiveness and grace. All this unscientific knowledge is what makes us human. I believe that love, forgiveness and grace are the most desirable forms of knowledge and they are fully embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.

Science can tell us if something is alive or dead, but it is ambivalent on the topic as to which option is more preferable. Science can establish a can be done but is silent on whether it ought to be done. Finally science might inform us of facts, yet it can never make a request or any demand of us. We should neither deny nor affirm science. To do so would be strange. Science is not meant to be affirmed, or believed in. It is meant to be applied.

To take science further than that is to almost be saying that science has some sort of sentient attributes. This is precisely what atheists refuse to attribute to God. While science cannot be affirmed or denied, God can, because he makes a claim over you, as he is your creator. He requires a response to the love he has shown to you, the forgiveness he offers you through his immeasurable grace in Jesus Christ.

All wars lead to religion?

This lie has been repeated so often it has become “truth”

I have often heard from atheists and other likeminded individuals that religion is the cause of so much violence and oppression and even the claim that most wars have been caused by relgion – I mean, just look at the crusades, the inquisition and the witch burnings across Europe.

Before I continue I will concede that some people have done and will do terrible things in the name of religion. This is definitely a blight on religion, but let us put these claims under a little scrutiny. After all, many who make such claims also like to claim a superior evidence based approach to life.

While the crusades, the inquisition, the witch hunts lead to the deaths of perhaps as many as 3.2 million people (based on highest estimates), World War 1 lead to the death of 35 million people. When you consider the fact that the crusades, the inquisition and the witch-hunts happened over a 600 year period compared to a four year period for WW1. That is the macabre statistic of 15 religious motivated deaths per day compared with 23,000 non-religious (dare I say secular) deaths per day.

I am not disregarding the religious element to these atrocities; I am questioning their significance in the grand scheme of all atrocities. I am not questioning that some wars have religious motivation; I am questioning that most or even a significant percentage have a religious motivation.

There is no basis in fact or evidence for linking most of the violence and oppression in this world to religion. But there is a reason. The reason for linking religion to war is to create a negative association. It is simply a way of trying to convince people to not be religious. It is untruthful. It is a hypocritical argument for anyone who denies religion due to lack of evidence.

I wonder if John 8:1-11 was read out before each witch trial would the number of deaths be so high? I wonder if those who marched off to the crusades on the basis of earning a pardon for their sins would have gone if they had read Ephesians 2:8 – 9? I wonder as a Christian, does my religion allow me to be motivated to commit such atrocities? Should my religion be judged unworthy by its malpractice?

I choose the “flying spaghetti monster” attack

I sometimes spend time thinking about the flying spaghetti monster. I have a very specific image of what it might look like in my head. I couldn’t find an adequate one by Googling so I used the image above. It provides some idea of what the flying spaghetti monster is about without tarnishing my imagination. I have it in my mind right now. Hovering along, a tangled mess of spaghetti complete with tendrils hanging down. For some reason it is always raining on him with sparse heavy drops. This creates an every changing splatter pattern of tomato/meat sauce. It has a sad expression to its eyes and it has no mouth ….

For those of you who are reading this and have never heard of such a creature, well that is because there isn’t one. It is a construct that is poised by the irreligious sceptic to be juxtaposed with the faith of the religious. You see, faith in this construct is portrayed as “equivalent” to religious faith.

It is easy to dispel this “equivalence” with just about any established religion. Christianity has no problem dealing with this “creature” after all Jesus was an actual person. The flying spaghetti monster is actually a “straw man” argument. A weaken representation of an opponent’s position created for the purpose being “knocked over” so to speak.

But that is not the true point of the flying spaghetti monster. This creature is also an “ad hominem.” attack. It is a very clever way of making the person of faith look foolish. It is a direct attack on person without addressing their beliefs, but their beliefs are tarnished by the association.

There are many debates in this world where one side claims to be loving, while telling of the other side’s hate. Where one side claims to be caring while implying that the other side seeks to control others. Where one side claims intelligence or enlightenment, meaning of course that the other side lacks credibility. Where one side thinks that it is upholding rights, while the other side is proclaimed to be selfish. One side is rational which logically means that the other is not.

The dichotomies posed in these debates play on people’s desires and fears. People desire to be respected and loved. They fear to be despised or held in contempt or to be thought of as thoughtless. Consider the lobby group “Dying with Dignity”. In their very name there is an implication for those who disagree with them. If you disagree with them you don’t seem to care about people’s dignity. After all who wants to deny people their dignity? They have claimed the moral high ground on the issue. This is of course a false dichotomy because dignity is a mindset. It is not a method. A man might feel quite dignified in his career, in which he seeks to maintain a pristine environment; meanwhile his teenage daughter thinks that having her old man being a “garbo” is most undignified.

Too many people take sides of a particular debate because they want to be seen to be on the “good side” or because they fear being associated with the “bad side”. When debates revolve around attacking people (either directly or by implication) we should, I think, step back. Perhaps engage in some critical thinking and be brave to face the fact that the “bad side” may be a brighter; more caring; intelligent place than we originally thought.

If God made man, then who made God?

Two posts ago I mentioned “school boy atheism”. This week I found myself as a teacher of science (I find myself teaching science quite by accident) being asked the very same question of my own youth.

If God made man, then who made God?”

The problem with the question is not that I cannot answer it, but that I do not need to answer it and that the average 14 year old boy doesn’t really want to understand my non-answer. You see for them, it is about point scoring. So instead I talk about apples.

Most kindergarten students will correctly calculate that if we have a bowl with ten apples in it and we eat one then we will have nine left. They instinctively know that if we keep eating apples without replacing them, then eventually the apples will be all gone.

But what if I had a bowl containing infinite apples? If I have infinite apples and I eat one, how many do I have left? The answer is simple: infinity! If fact if I could go on eating billions upon billions of apples and I would still have an infinite number of apples left. Nobody could make any difference to my bowl of infinite apples. Furthermore, there could not be a bowl, because my crop of infinite apples will take up infinite space, leaving no room for a bowl. One could not even be present to perceive the infinite crop of apples, because ones mere presence would negate the infinite nature of the crop. The infinite is both unfathomable and unbound-able.

The God I believe in is infinite. He is eternal. He is not bound by time.

 I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

The school boy’s question speaks of a different god. A bounded god. A god who was not at some point. It is a question that I do not feel compelled to answer as it does not pertain to my God.

In the Higgs boson we trust?

In year 9 I really enjoyed SRE. Not because I was any kind of “good” Christian who enjoyed the content, but because the class always got the teacher off topic and they would bait him with “school boy” atheistic questions such as “if God made the world, then who made God?” The teacher would squirm out his unsatisfactory answers to this assault from four or five of the vocal students in the room. I would sit there quietly smiling at the situation. You see I have always been rather sceptical. I could not only see the problem with the teacher’s answers, but the problem with the questions also.

Fast forward a few years and I found a similar interest in in being lectured by two physics lecturers in the area of quantum cosmology. One looked into our mathematical understanding of the universe and saw that we needed no God, the other saw a beautiful mathematical order to the universe [his words] as confirmation of God. The “theological” banter between the two of them maintained an interest from their students that would have been otherwise absent. I am certain that the recent confirmation of the widely known little understood Higgs boson would have cemented each professor even further into their respective positions. The sceptic in me says both positions are arbitrary.

So where do I stand as a sceptic in all of this, well I believe in God of course. Not because I see the mathematical beauty in God’s created order, this is a position I hold as a result of me belief. Not because I see the world we are in now as improbable without God, although I certainly think that it is. I have faith in God, because I have faith in a man. My faith is not a leap I took. It is in a person who I know existed. He made some wild claims and others claim to have witnessed unlikely events surrounding him, but I have tested their claims in my mind and I feel that they are credible. You see this man knows me. I can see it in what he says and how he says it. I trust in my relationship with him far more that I trust in the confirmation of the mathematical order of the world by any Higgs boson.