Posts Tagged ‘religion’

The Decline of Christianity and Reason

January 14, 2019

Organized religion, especially Christianity has been declining in influence in the West for at least the last century and this decline only seems to be accelerating. The most recent generation of Americans, the millennials, tend to be the most secular, or least conventionally religious, generation of Americans in history, One might expect that this decline in traditional religion would be accompanied by an increase in the influence of science and reason. Certainly, that is what the so-called New Atheists would have us believe. Men like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others have held that debunking religion, especially Christianity, would lead to a new golden age of enlightenment and reason, in which the human race, freed of all its past religious superstitions, would move forward into a bright future of reason and logic.

This isn’t happening. In fact, the most secular, least religious generation in American history rather than embracing science and reason, seem to be turning to pseudoscience and superstition, witchcraft and neo-paganism, as this article I read at Marketwatch, found courtesy of Hot Air, seems to demonstrate.

When Coco Layne, a Brooklyn-based producer, meets someone new these days, the first question that comes up in conversation isn’t “Where do you live?” or “What do you do?” but “What’s your sign?”

“So many millennials read their horoscopes every day and believe them,” Layne, who is involved in a number of nonreligious spiritual practices, said. “It is a good reference point to identify and place people in the world.”

Interest in spirituality has been booming in recent years while interest in religion plummets, especially among millennials. The majority of Americans now believe it is not necessary to believe in God to have good morals, a study from Pew Research Center found. The percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who “never doubt existence of God” fell from 81% in 2007 to 67% in 2012.

Meanwhile, more than half of young adults in the U.S. believe astrology is a science. compared to less than 8% of the Chinese public. The psychic services industry — which includes astrology, aura reading, mediumship, tarot-card reading and palmistry, among other metaphysical services — grew 2% between 2011 and 2016. It is now worth $2 billion annually, according to industry analysis firm IBIS World.

Melissa Jayne, owner of Brooklyn-based “metaphysical boutique” Catland, said she has seen a major uptick in interest in the occult in the past five years, especially among New Yorkers in their 20s. The store offers workshops like “Witchcraft 101,” “Astrology 101,” and a “Spirit Seance.”

“Whether it be spell-casting, tarot, astrology, meditation and trance, or herbalism, these traditions offer tangible ways for people to enact change in their lives,” she said. “For a generation that grew up in a world of big industry, environmental destruction, large and oppressive governments, and toxic social structures, all of which seem too big to change, this can be incredibly attractive.”

Like the existence of God, however, there’s no actual scientific proof. Astrology has been debunked by numerous academic studies, but Banu Guler, co-founder of artificial intelligence powered astrology app Co—Star said the lack of structure in the field is exactly what drives young, educated professionals to invest their time and money in the practice.

“It’s very different from the way we usually work and live and date, where everything is hyper-mediated and rational,” she said. “There is a belief vacuum: we go from work to a bar to dinner and a date, with no semblance of meaning. Astrology is a way out of it, a way of putting yourself in the context of thousands of years of history and the universe.”

The New Atheists are wrong. Human beings are not rational creatures. We seem to have a strong need to believe in the irrational, to believe that the universe around us makes some sort of sense, to believe in something greater than ourselves. Whether from some quirk of evolution or the intention of our divine creator, we humans are dissatisfied with the materialist outlook. We tend to reject, as if by instinct, the idea that all that exists are atoms and the void, or that we are nothing more than crude matter. For this reason, if one seemingly irrational belief system or religion is debunked or discredited, the result will not be a golden age of reason, but the ascension of some other irrational belief system, perhaps one worse than the previous one. It is not a coincidence that the rise of such quasi-religious political movements such as Fascism or Marxism only occurred after the decline of belief in Christianity among the intellectual classes of Europe.

It also may not be a coincidence that as the influence of religion declines, our politics have been more contentious and divisive. Politics requires consensus and compromise to be functional, but if politics takes the place of religion and people begin to view their own side as representing goodness and light with the other side being the side of darkness, than every political debate becomes a holy war. The other side is not just made up of patriots with different ideas but devils. This might explain why so many secular people on the left are so intolerant and hateful.

It is also not true that Christianity and science are opposed to one another, as the New Atheists and secularists assert. This idea of an eternal struggle between science and religion was largely developed by certain nineteenth century secularist thinkers and is largely discredited by modern historians of science. In fact, Christianity was instrumental in the development of science. It is not a coincidence that the intellectual discipline we call science arose in Christian Western Europe, and no where else. The Medieval Scholastic philosophers built up much of the intellectual foundations for modern science with their integration of Christian theology with Ancient Greek philosophy, particularly with by asserting that the world God created is reasonable, and follows natural laws which can be discovered through the use of reason, as opposed to pagans who viewed the world as arbitrary or the eastern religions, which saw the world as illusionary. It might not be too surprising that the decline of the influence of Christianity in the West is accompanied by the decline of scientific thinking and the rise of pseudoscience.

These millennials are looking for something to fill the void inside them. If traditional religion is not there to fill it, they will turn elsewhere with perhaps disastrous results for themselves and for the country. Christians really need to work harder at reaching these young people.

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Rise of the Nones.

June 5, 2015

There has been quite a lot already said about the results of the recent Pew poll on the religious affiliations of the American people, most of the sharp decline of the number of Americans identifying as Christians over the last decade with a corresponding increase in the number of people with no religious affiliation.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith.1 But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

Here are the charts that came with the article

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There is a lot more to the article which I cannot summarize in a way to do it justice. You really ought to read the whole thing, if you haven’t already.

So, what is going on here? In the past there has often been a large number of unaffiliated young people, nominally Christian but not attending any church or being particularly religious. Generally, as these young people grow older and start families, they join a church and become more active in religion. This does not seem to be happening now. The decline in the number of Christians affects all age groups, races, levels of education, etc.

Could it be that that large numbers of American Christians are finally seeing the light? Thanks to the Internet, information about science, history and religion is more available than ever before. Religions depend on the ignorance of their adherents and it could be that more and more former Christians have been learning the truth and converting to Reason by abandoning such archaic superstitions like belief in God. That is how many atheists might interpret these findings. I am not so sure. I think something more subtle but no less momentous is occurring.

For most of its history, the United States has been a Christian nation, despite what the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State might believe. By this, I do not say that the United States was ever a theocracy or that Christianity was ever an official state religion but rather that the great majority of Americans have been at least nominally Christians and America’s politics and culture has been shaped by Christianity. Christianity has been the default option for most Americans, even those who have been largely secular. It has required initiative and perhaps even courage for most Americans to identity as anything other than Christian, especially as an atheist, and most people at most times would prefer to go with the flow. Times are changing, however. America is a more secular and diverse nation than it has been in the past and it is becoming more acceptable to not be even a nominal Christian. What we are seeing, then, is not necessarily a large scale movement of Christians abandoning their faith, but an increasing number of people who no longer feel they have to identify themselves as Christians. Indeed, considering the way Christians are often portrayed by the entertainment industry these days, as hypocritical, hate-filled, small minded prudes and bigots, it is not clear why anyone would want to be known as a Christian, particularly as a member of one of the more conservative or fundamentalist denominations that our social elite holds in such contempt.

There is an exception to this general trend that perhaps proves the hypothesis, Evangelical Protestants, which show only a very slight decline in percentage and an actual increase in numbers. This may be because Evangelicals tend to stress personal conversion more than the Mainline Protestants and the Catholics. For the Mainline Protestants and the Catholics, religion is more a part of their cultural background. You are a Catholic or Methodist because you are born into a Catholic or Methodist family. Evangelicals stress the conversion experience. Evangelicals are saved or born again, not baptized into the faith as infants. It may be that because there is more of a feeling of a break with the past, Evangelicals are more committed to their religion.

What do these trends mean for the future? This may be good for the Church. I would rather have a small church full of people who really believe than a large church with people who are only there, going through the motions, because it is expected of them. I would prefer for people to be honest about their belief, or lack of belief than be a hypocritical believer. There will be challenges for the Christian, though. We have grown up in a country in which Christianity is considered the norm and has played a dominant role in the shaping of our culture. That will be less true in the future. Already, as I have noted, there is an increasing hostility towards all forms of “politically incorrect” Christianity in our entertainment media. That will only get worse. In the past, being a Christian has been considered a good and respectable thing to be. That is already changing. More often than not, in some places, being a Christian means being an ignorant bigot. In the not too distant future, it may well be that admitting to being a Christian will be considered the same as announcing your membership in the Ku Klux Klan. I hope people are ready for this.

No matter what happens, the Church will survive. Indeed, Christianity flourishes best when it is persecuted. The United States and the West generally may not do so well. For the last fifteen hundred years, Christianity has played the major role in making the West what it is. As the influence of Christianity declines can the principles that has distinguished the West from other civilizations survive? The more militant atheists believe that a world in which religion, by which they mean chiefly a world without Christianity, is abolished will be a world which will experience a golden age of rational behavior. History and human nature suggest otherwise. Abolishing religion will not make human beings more rational. It will only cause new superstitions and cruelties to emerge. The history of the twentieth century is largely the history of substitutes for religion in the form of ultra nationalism and militant socialism. That didn’t work out so well.

What’s In a Name

August 13, 2013

Here is another picture I saw on Facebook.

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The sentiment here is that all of the various religions are essentially the same and therefore we shouldn’t fight over religious differences because they are not really very important. Well, we shouldn’t fight over religious differences not because they are unimportant, but because no one has ever discovered the truth or been convinced by people shouting past one another.

In a superficial sense, the sentiment expressed by this picture is true. Most of the great religions have rather similar expectations on how people ought to be behave. They all preach variations on statements like, “do not kill”, “do not steal”, “treat others as you would want to be treated”, and others. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. If right and wrong really exist and are not merely social conventions then you might expect people all over the world to have similar rules, even if they seldom follow them. As the apostle Paul stated,

14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.                (Romans 2:14-16)

Actually, religion is not really about morality. You can be a moral person of any faith or of no faith at all, if the law is truly written on human hearts. Religion is about approaching or coming to know God, again as Paul says,

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring. (Acts 17:22-28)

This is another way in which the sentiment expressed in the picture is superficially true. All of the great religions teach that there is something more than the material world that we sense. In most cases they teach that there is a god or gods or some divine principle that rules the universe and is the source of all goodness.

In the more profound sense, however, the sentiment that all religions are essentially the same is simply not true. Every religious tradition makes claims about the nature of the divine principle and these claims tend to be exclusive ones. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in one God, but Jews and Muslims are uncompromising monotheists with a simple view of God as One. The Christian view is more complicated involving three Persons in one Godhood, with one of the Persons becoming a man named Jesus. Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet but deny his divinity. Jews reject both Jesus and Mohammed as prophets. Muslims also regard the Christians and Jews as having corrupted their holy texts while their Koran is the true Word of God. Many Hindus believe in many gods but also believe that the many are one universal spirit. Many Hindus believe otherwise as it it is a diverse religion. Buddhists are unconcerned about gods seeking to liberate themselves from the cycle of rebirth and suffering, but many Buddhists worship traditional deities. There are many other beliefs. They cannot all be true.

Do these differences matter? I think they do. If religion is a means of coming to know the creator of the universe, then we had better have accurate information about Him. If I decided to travel to California, I had better go west. If I go north or south or east, I’ll never get there. If I decide to fly to California, I’ll get there quickly. Driving will take a little longer. Walking would take a very long time, weeks or months, assuming I manage to get there at all. If I decide to go to Australia, I am going to have to fly in an airplane, or go by boat. I cannot drive or walk to Australia, no matter how much I might want to.  In like fashion, if I want to know about God, I should try to go in the right direction and take the right means of travel. Some might say that is doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you are sincere. Well, I could sincerely believe that I could get to Australia by walking north. I would be sincerely wrong and never reach Australia.

So, does God care what name we call Him? Perhaps not, but He does want us to know Him and He does want to save us from our own sins and bad decisions. If the Christian beliefs are correct, then God is good, infinitely good, and we humans are not. By our nature and our actions, we have estranged ourselves from God and there is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves with him. Fortunately, He has provided a means by which we can be reconciled by the sacrifice of His Son. The problem with all the other religions as well as that vague sentiment that all religions are equal is that by following their precepts, we may come to believe that we can approach God and be saved by our own efforts, through rituals, good deeds and the like. God is infinitely good however, and He is not likely to be impressed by anything we do. As Isaiah wrote,

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; (Isaiah 64:6)

Or, to put it a little less dramatically, no matter how good we think we are, next to God we aren’t really very good at all. We cannot save ourselves. We have to trust in God to save us.

Sacred Beliefs Here and There

May 3, 2012

Now that Newt Gingrich has suspended his campaign for president, I hope he will have more time to write and think about policies. I read his last column in Human Events and I am afraid that Newt simply does not understand the difference between sacred beliefs in Afghanistan and here in America and why those beliefs must be respected there but not here.

The Obama administration may have adopted a formula that will come back to haunt it.

In an effort to appease religious elements in Afghanistan it has established a standard that could become a major defeat for secular extremists here in America.

In response to Afghan outrage over the inadvertent Koran burnings by the U.S. Military in February, the Obama Defense Department created a mandatory training for military service members in the region. It is entitled, “Proper handling and disposal of Islamic Religious Materials: Service Members/Civilian Training.”

You can read the 11 slides in the briefing here.

The most fascinating slide is the last one. There the Obama administration asserts: “We will hold sacred the beliefs held sacred by others.”

Apparently to President Obama, the sacred beliefs of Islam in Afghanistan must be held sacred by the U.S. government, but Christianity in America is a nuisance to be reshaped by ObamaCare, the courts and the bureaucracy with no regard for its beliefs.

Americans are noticing. Consider this protest from a Catholic group as reported to me by my friend and co-author Bill Forstchen:

“Without doubt the most powerful ad, aimed straight at Catholics, to take a political stand based upon our most basic beliefs.  This one is incredible and you know I rarely forward such things.”

You can see the video here.

The ObamaCare war against religious liberty extends far beyond Catholics. As the president of Louisiana College, a Baptist college dedicated to right-to-life principles told me, “If Obamacare forces us to violate our religious beliefs we will close the college.”

Let’s challenge President Obama’s assertion that “We will hold sacred the beliefs held sacred by others”.

If we must hold sacred Korans being used by Afghan terrorists to pass messages back and forth, then certainly we can hold sacred religious symbols held sacred by law-abiding Americans here in the United States. We can put back up the crosses and the Ten Commandments courts have forced us to take down—right?

If President Obama doesn’t object to Afghan children praying five times a day in school (he cited his own childhood memories of studying the Koran at school in Indonesia and hearing the call to prayer), why isn’t he open to allowing American school children to pray once a day, if they choose?

By its own words the Obama administration has set the test for defining itself.

Is Obama prepared to “hold sacred the beliefs held sacred by others” if those others are Americans?

Congress should put President Obama to the test and him to his new rule—first by passing legislation overriding the Health and Human Services Mandate that was an overt attack on the Catholic Church.

Silly Newt. There is a very good reason that religious beliefs in Afghanistan must be respected while in America we are free to disparage and ridicule them. You see Christians don’t usually blow people up when they are disrespected. Moslems have been known to do that.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament

December 3, 2011

Walter Russel Mead has been awaiting the arrival of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, which he has ordered from Amazon.com. This is a look at the New Testament by prominent Jewish scholars. As Mead puts it;

This is a book that any serious Christian student of the New Testament will want to consult; anytime a familiar text is read from an unfamiliar angle, new insights are likely to come.  More to the point, rabbinical Judaism and Christianity are the two great religious legacies of first century Palestine.  Learning to see Jesus through Jewish eyes is a way for Christians to encounter another side of the man we recognize as son of God and savior.

Considering that all but one of the authors of the books of the New Testament are believed to be Jews (Luke was the exception). and that Jesus and his disciples were all Jews, it is amazing that no one ever thought of doing a project like this before. Well, perhaps not since the mutual antagonism between these two great faiths has only declined this century with the lessening of anti-semitism among many Christians. As Mead points out, this process began with the Protestant Reformation and the reformers’ translation of the Bible into vernacular languages.

This began to change with the Reformation — although Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism helped embed some deeply destructive memes in German culture.  First and foremost, the translation of the whole Bible into the vernacular languages coupled with the invention of printing put the Jewish scriptures into the hands of ordinary Christians for the first time.  In Medieval Christian preaching and liturgy, the New Testament got more attention than the Old, the gospels got more than the epistles of Paul, and the Passion narratives got more attention than the rest of the gospel story.

 

The consequence was that most Christians spent most of their time with the parts of their Bible in which Jesus was engaged in theological controversy with Jewish religious leaders, or being handed over to the Romans for execution by a faction of the Jewish religious leadership of the day.  Every Sunday the liturgy of the Mass retold the story of the crucifixion; every year reached its religious climax with the intense focus on the sufferings of Christ in the last week of his life — arguing with Jews, and ultimately dying at the instigation of his (Jewish) enemies.

But as Christians encountered more of the Bible, this picture began to change.  Calvinists and others who believed in the literal and eternal truth of the Word of God came to believe that the promises God made to Abraham were still valid today: that the Jews still had a place in God’s plan, that the gift of the Holy Land to the physical descendants of Abraham remained valid, that Jews would return to that land before the end of history, and that God commanded the rest of mankind to bless and help Israel, rather than to curse and attack it.

More, acquaintance with the Old Testament exposed Christians to Jewish heroes of faith: to kings and prophets and warriors who walked with the God of Abraham and from whose teachings and experiences Christians had much to learn.  Where Calvinist, Anabaptist and Quaker influence was strong, Christian parents began to give their children names from the Jewish scriptures: Hannah, Caleb, Esther, Josiah, Ruth, Joshua, Ezekiel, Rebecca, Ezra, Nathaniel, Naomi, Seth and Sarah entered the English speaking world.

This includes the Puritans who settled New England. An archeologist of the future who examined cemeteries of seventeenth century Massachusetts might well come to believe that the colony was settled by Hebrews based on the names on the grave stones.

I think that I will get this book too, if it can be gotten for the Kindle. I have no idea what Jewish scholars might have to say about the New Testament but I am sure that their insights will be interesting and profitable. I would be especially interested in reading how the teachings of Jesus related to the various Jewish factions of his day.

 

God Made Man or Man Made God?

September 8, 2011

Here is an op-ed piece from the Los Angeles Times that I have been meaning to comment upon. There is a discussion here about the possible origins of religion. The scientific research that the authors of this article refers to is interesting and may well shed light on certain aspects of human cognition and behavior but I think their conclusions, that this research shows there is no God or gods, and the religious impulses are simply the result of natural selection and should be discarded, go beyond the realm of science and are unwarranted. Here are some excerpts.

Before John Lennon imagined “living life in peace,” he conjured “no heaven … / no hell below us …/ and no religion too.”

No religion: What was Lennon summoning? For starters, a world without “divine” messengers, like Osama bin Laden, sparking violence. A world where mistakes, like the avoidable loss of life in Hurricane Katrina, would be rectified rather than chalked up to “God’s will.” Where politicians no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and untenable. Where critical thinking is an ideal. In short, a world that makes sense.

In recent years scientists specializing in the mind have begun to unravel religion’s “DNA.” They have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence (including “imaging” studies of the brain at work), that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to “no heaven … no hell … and no religion too.”

 

In addition to these adaptations, humans have developed the remarkable ability to think about what goes on in other people’s minds and create and rehearse complex interactions with an unseen other. In our minds we can de-couple cognition from time, place and circumstance. We consider what someone else might do in our place; we project future scenarios; we replay past events. It’s an easy jump to say, conversing with the dead or to conjuring gods and praying to them.

Morality, which some see as imposed by gods or religion on savage humans, science sees as yet another adaptive strategy handed down to us by natural selection.

 

Beyond psychological adaptations and mechanisms, scientists have discovered neurological explanations for what many interpret as evidence of divine existence. Canadian psychologist Michael Persinger, who developed what he calls a “god helmet” that blocks sight and sound but stimulates the brain’s temporal lobe, notes that many of his helmeted research subjects reported feeling the presence of “another.” Depending on their personal and cultural history, they then interpreted the sensed presence as either a supernatural or religious figure. It is conceivable that St. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was, in reality, a seizure caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.

The better we understand human psychology and neurology, the more we will uncover the underpinnings of religion. Some of them, like the attachment system, push us toward a belief in gods and make departing from it extraordinarily difficult. But it is possible.

We can be better as a species if we recognize religion as a man-made construct. We owe it to ourselves to at least consider the real roots of religious belief, so we can deal with life as it is, taking advantage of perhaps our mind’s greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason.

I don’t suppose that it could possibly occur to the authors that the reason that humans are “hard-wired” for religion might possibly be that there is, in fact, a God, and that He has provided the means for us to know Him.

The fact that religious impulses and feelings can be tracked by scanning the brain is no great surprise.  Nor is the concept that religion, in many cases, encourages moral behavior and is an advantage in natural selection. There have been many surveys which have shown that religious people tend to be happier and better adjusted. It goes beyond the findings of science to conclude from these facts that there is no God or that reason and religion are incompatible and frankly, I think that it is inappropriate to attempt to use the mantle of science to promote what are simply the personal opinions of the writers.

 

I notice that most of the related articles provide by wordpress seem to be by atheists gleefully reporting that Science shows that God does not exist. Here is one that rebuts the article from the Loss Angeles Times better than I could.

The Irrational Atheist 3

April 16, 2011

I just finished The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day, and I will give it 4 stars when I review it on Amazon.com. I think Vox Day did a fairly good job using logic against the New Atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. If he did not conclusively make the case for the existence of God, at least he showed that reason does not lead inexorably to atheism. He demolishes the argument that religion is the cause of most wars, and shows that the modern tradition of governments murdering millions of their own citizens is always done by atheist, or at any rate secularized rulers.

Towards the end Vox Day tackles the problem of evil by using his own experience as a game designer to speculate that God does not always have full control over every event, if only by limiting His omnipotence in order to allow human freedom. I recommend this book as an interesting read.

Long Lost Letter Raises Questions About Lincoln’s Faith

April 15, 2011

This is a very interesting piece about Abraham Lincoln’s religious views.

A long-lost letter written by one of of Abraham Lincoln‘s close friends is raising questions about one of the country’s greatest presidents and his faith. Mainly, what did the lanky Land-of-Lincolnite believe?

According to a letter written by Springfield, IL lawyer and Lincoln confidant William Herndon in 1866, the answer is confusing. In the letter, Herndon claims Lincoln was more of a theist that didn’t believe in the supernatural.

“Mr. Lincoln’s religion is too well known to me to allow of even a shadow of a doubt; he is or was a Theist & a Rationalist, denying all extraordinary — supernatural inspiration or revelation,” Herndon writes in the letter obtained by the Raab Collection of Philadelphia.

“At one time in his life, to say the least, he was an elevated Pantheist, doubting the immortality of the soul as the Christian world understands that term. He believed that the soul lost its identity and was immortal as a force. Subsequent to this he rose to the belief of a God.”

I had always thought that Lincoln was an agnostic or even an atheist since he had never formally joined a church. He did not appear to be particularly religious before he became president. Still, it seems his faith grew while he was in office

But as Discovery News reports, Herndon‘s knowledge of Lincoln’s faith is relegated to the years before he became president — the years before a national crises may have awakened his faith. And there is evidence that such a thing did happen:

But the challenges of a presidency, the angst of the Civil War and the 1862 death of his 11-year-old son would push Lincoln to consider God in ways he never had before, said White, who added that religion is something most Lincoln biographers have skimmed over.

Lincoln’s second inaugural address points to his eventual embrace of religion in midlife, White said. The speech, which was just 701 words long, mentions God 14 times and quotes the Bible four times, with two references to the Old Testament and two to the New Testament. In comparison, there were zero biblical references in his first inaugural and just one Bible quote in all previous inaugural addresses combined.

After his son’s death, Lincoln also developed a strong relationship with a Presbyterian minister named Phineas Densmore Gurley. And after his own death in 1865, Lincoln‘s secretary John Hay found an untitled and undated document in Lincoln’s desk that both questioned God’s presence in the midst of the Civil War and offered affirmation that God was somehow a silent actor in the war. Hay called it: Meditation on the Divine Will.

I think that the stress and strains of dealing with the Civil War would cause even a hardened atheist to turn to God.

From one of the comments on the article

well, I can’t remember the contxt of the quote or who he was talking with, but at the onset of the civil war the other party made a statement something like may God be on our side. Lincoln replied “No, may WE bo on God’s side”.

The Irrational Atheist 2

April 12, 2011

Speaking of irrational atheists, I wonder why they all have to go through the trouble writing books making fun of believers. I don’t  go around making fun of people who have other religions. I may think their beliefs are wrong, but unless that belief includes trying to kill me because Allah commands it, then it really doesn’t affect me.

Of course, they say that religion poisons everything, starts wars, persecutions, etc. I grant that  a lot of evils have been done in the name of religion, but blaming religion is really addressing the symptom and not the cause, which is our sinful nature. I really don’t think that the last five thousand years of recorded history would have been greatly different if everyone had been an atheist.

I suspect that if it were a simple matter of unbelief, what others believe would be a matter of indifference to them. I wonder if, subconsciously, they do believe in God, or some divine power, and hate Him.


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