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.

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.

I’m intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”

I have been accused of being intolerant on a few occasions. I’ll have to admit that it is true. It is good to be intolerant at times. There are things in this world that I don’t agree with and do not believe should be allowed to happen. There are also things that others may be ok with, that I personally do not tolerate in my own life.

In engineering terms, that which sits within the range of tolerance is that which is allowable and conducive to the integrity of the system. Any value outside of the range of tolerance is thus because it could be (or is) destructive to the system. Within the tolerance range is often an ideal or optimum subset which means that the system will perform at its peak.

As a member of the human race each of us needs be tolerant and intolerant. There is a time and a place for both. Whether you should be tolerant or intolerant on any point and how you express the choice you make is up to you, but it is an important one because it will affect the way in which you relate to others. The important difference between human tolerance and engineering tolerance is that the things we like, our ideals, we do not need to tolerate them. I don’t tolerate my first coffee every morning, I love it. I tolerate the traffic on the way to work and if I miss that first cup of coffee at home I tolerate the poor excuse for coffee that the machine spits out at work.

The problem is that some people in the community have adopted tolerance as some sort of virtue. It is as if being able to tick the “I am a tolerant person” box makes you a better person. It follows that if tolerance is good, then intolerance must be bad …. Ok let’s face it, it is downright immoral. Which means that if I am to be tolerant then I cannot abide with intolerance which means that I have to add an exception two the “intolerance is bad rule” which leads people like Catherine Deveny to say something  like “I’m intolerant of intolerance” on Q&A.

This is a bit difficult for me because I have a preference for being rational – but let us follow this a bit further now…..

I am personally intolerant of nuts, I just don’t like them. I have however tolerated nuts for the sake of others, like when they made something for me without knowing I don’t like them and they put nuts in it. I am tolerant of others eating nuts in my presence or extolling the virtues of nuts, except in my own house for the sake of my anaphylactic daughter.

You see tolerance in and of itself is neither a good nor bad thing. Yet for some it seems, it is acceptable to hijack the word “intolerant” and turn it into an negative association, an ad hominem for others that they are in fact intolerant of.

That is why I am calling for everyone to be intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”.

UPDATE:

I did originally link this post directly to Catherine Deveny’s website. I have removed that link due to my intolerance! It is not so much her further comments against Peter Jensen referring to him as a “creepy ‘gentleman with manners'”, it is the public insinuations and degrading comments she makes about her own son that really get me.

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?

Meeting Jesus

I’ll probably be sniggered at in my current church, but this is where I met Jesus.

When I was twelve years old I attended a Christian youth camp. At one of the small group sessions we had, the youngish leader said something about Christianity that I was taken aback by. I knew it was wrong, although I couldn’t articulate exactly why it was wrong. I knew that if this guy was right, then the Jesus that I knew was a liar.

I knew Jesus pretty well. I knew his capacity for love. I knew his capacity for anger. I saw his seriousness and enjoyed his wit. I experienced his patience. I saw that he was right to declare guilt and yet forgive. I was afraid of him. I knew that I was not up to his standard; but I trusted him when he said it was all going to be all right. Even though I sometimes tried to dismiss Jesus, I always knew that he would be there.

Today I attended a seminar in which Richard Glover spoke so eloquently of having a relationship with the characters in a book, of escaping the reality of the world and developing a strong empathy with these characters. I take it that Richard did not have in mind the character of Jesus as presented in the four books of the New Testament of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; but that is very much what I was thinking of as he spoke.

Now, I did not read the bible myself when I was young. My father, even though he was a priest, did not read the bible specifically to me when I was young. The sermons at church did not help me to understand. (I cannot even say if they were good or bad; orthodox or heretical, I just did not listen to them). The thing that I did listen to was when everyone stood up and the priest would process down carrying the big book and we would face him as he read from the “Holy Gospel of ….” Week in, week out, sometimes two or even three times a week I would stand and listen. I would stand and listen to Jesus. That is how I got to know him.

I had heard him speak to me so many times that when I was teased for being a preacher’s son; when the atheists mocked me at uni; when I was full of self-doubt; when things were hard; Whenever I doubted the very existence of God; I knew Jesus.

That is why tonight I started reading Jesus’ story to my kids. Not the sanitised for kids version. The real one. I have often prayed that they would have the same opportunity to know Jesus that I had. It only occurred to me today as Richard spoke of the power of empathising with characters in books, that the way I got to know Jesus, might actually work for my kids (although I won’t be dressing up or burning any incense!)

Faith in irrationality

I was told by a student the other day that:

faith is irrational – because it is believing in something without evidence.”

Because I am a bit slow on the uptake I didn’t really reply … also because we have an exam in a few weeks and I needed to get on with the content!

I could have questioned his definition of faith, but instead what I should have asked him was “Do you really believe that?” and when he said yes, I should have simply asked him for the evidence to support his belief.

If such evidence does exists, (my limited intellect cannot locate it) I doubt very much that he would have considered it, weighed it up, etc …..

Faith may well be irrational, but that of course for most that is a matter of faith.

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.