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?

Inverse Equality

There seems to me to have been a shift in the usage of the word equality lately. I am not speaking of logical equality, but of human equality.

From a logical point of view, when I am writing a computer program, I evaluate two different entities to determine if their value is the same. If the value of these two is the same then I can perform any set of actions; otherwise if they are not the same I can perform a different set of actions. Logical equality is only relevant if I want to use that equality (or lack thereof) to determine a branch within a procedure.

A strong basis for equality is famously described in the United States Declaration of independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even though it uses a specific gender and although we can debate whether or not the people at the time felt it applied to slaves, the vibe is that it speaks to humanity. Unlike logical equality, “human entities” are given equal value. Their value is not tested for equality. Their value is assumed to be equal. One human is “equal” to another.

When discussing marriage this week in the Sydney Morning Herald, a significant number of people did not like Peter Jensen’s point that: men and women are different and therefore it is appropriate for them to have different vows. Many were posting that men and women are in essence the same. Thus they should have the same vows otherwise they somehow lack equality.

I really think they miss the point. The reason why Thomas Jefferson felt the need to say “all men are created equal” is that while all people are created equal, they are also created different. There is a real thrust behind much of the “equality language” at the moment which seeks to achieve a level of sameness by discounting difference. We seem to be seeking equality by deceiving ourselves. By defining difference out of the equation we lie to ourselves and we are going about it topsy-turvy.

Equality is a given (in my opinion by God), not something to be achieved. Therefore we should treat others as if they are our equals and respect any differences we have. We should not be redefining others to be like us (or us to be like others) in order to achieve equality.

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.