Posted by: Randall Niles | September 19, 2011

Atheism vs. Theism

I’ve been doing the “Atheism vs. Theism” thing for nearly a decade. I’ve presented the arguments and evidence at churches, schools, and camps, and I’ve engaged “the debate” in various online formats.

Remarkably, the same issues repeat themselves over and over again. Although certain “double PhD’s” would like you to think otherwise, the core controversies aren’t really “rocket science” at all. In a nutshell, “New Atheism” vs. Christian Theism boils down to the following:

The Atheist’s Response to the Theist:

(i)            God doesn’t exist because science explains the cosmos without him.

(ii)           Even if a finely-tuned cosmos and/or complex life suggest a first cause/designer, there’s too much pain and suffering in the world to believe in the Judeo-Christian God.

(iii)          The Judeo-Christian Bible is myth and legend.

(iv)         A moral life doesn’t require God, anyway.

 

The Theist’s Response to the Atheist:

(i)            Science affirms that the finely-tuned cosmos was created out of nothing.

(ii)           Life’s order, design, and complexity require an Intelligent Designer, and our response to pain and suffering is relative to our knowledge of right and wrong/good and evil in a fallen world.

(iii)          The Bible is trustworthy based on history, science, archaeology, manuscripts, and prophecy.

(iv)         True morality requires a transcendent standard — God.

 

That’s it – While the barbs, buzzwords, and bravado change from time to time, this is the essence of the Atheism vs. Theism dispute. Although Christian apologetics and worldview discussions appear vast and intimidating to many of us, these are the four foundational arguments to understand, explore, and defend. Once you feel comfortable with these basics, there’s not much that will surprise you. Clothe yourself in humility, have fun, and engage the discussion.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… (Romans 1:20-22)

 

Keep Thinking,

Randall Niles

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Posted by: Randall Niles | September 12, 2011

The United Nations, Israel, and Palestinian Statehood

On September 20th, one week before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), the UN General Assembly is scheduled to vote on whether to recognize Palestine as an independent and sovereign state with full rights in the United Nations. “Under the principle of the United Nations and the theory of the right to national self-determination, which is the moral foundation of the modern theory of nationalism, a nation has a right to a state, and that state has a place in the family of nations.” (George Friedman, Stratfor.com, August 22, 2011)

Although Israel (and the United States?) will resist Palestinian statehood as currently concocted, the UN vote is pretty much assured.

“We will, of course, be voting for any of the Palestinians’ proposals. We are saying that whatever you decide to do, we will support you.” (Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador, September 12, 2011)

Of course, historic tensions in the region tell us that declaring a Palestinian state is one thing, but it’s quite another to actually create one.

“The appeal to the UN is a battle for all Palestinians, and in order to succeed, it needs millions to pour into streets.” (Yasser Abed Rabbo, Palestinian Authority, September 3, 2011)

“Jordan and the future Palestine are stronger than Israel is today. It is the Israeli who is scared today.” (King Abdullah of Jordan on September 12, 2011)

Currently, the Palestinians are divided between two views of what the Palestinian state should look like. Fatah is based in the West Bank and grounds its secular philosophy in the 40-year-old Pan-Arab movement. Fatah views the Palestinian people as a “state” within the broader Arab nation. Generally, Fatah accepts Palestinian co-existence with a permanent Israel.

Hamas is the other dominant ideology. Currently based in Gaza, Hamas understands the struggle for Palestinian statehood as part of a widespread Islamist expansion. Hamas rejects survival of the Israeli state.

In recent months, we’ve watched uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East that point to a severely damaged Pan-Arab movement. Mubarak of Egypt, Gadhafi of Libya, and (although more complicated) Bashar of Syria are all figureheads of an increasingly bygone era. Therefore, it looks like Fatah may be hitched to a dying ideology in the region, while Hamas may be positioned to roll with current Islamist momentum.

It’s important to understand that Egypt traditionally held Hamas in check through its treaty with Israel and coordinated blockade of Gaza. However, look what’s happened in the last few weeks – a resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, terror attacks launched against Israel from the Egyptian Sinai, and the sacking of the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Who’s really in control of Egypt? What about Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the north? Syria? Turkey? Jordan? Have you been reading the latest news from these places? A new Palestinian state bordering (within?) Israel could provide a perceived beachhead for a broader Islamic push. The scenarios for chaos and conflict in the coming months are vast.

But wait… Let’s quickly return to history in the region…

It was 70 AD when the Jewish people were removed from their homeland after the Roman Emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The Jewish people were strewn throughout the world. For nearly 1,900 years, the Jews remained scattered and persecuted in unfriendly lands. The contempt for these people culminated in the Holocaust, when six million Jews were executed (approximately one-third of the Jewish population at the time).

Then, on May 14, 1948, against tremendous odds, the Jewish people returned to their homeland as a formal country. The United Nations, by the slimmest of margins, reestablished the State of Israel.

In 1967, after the Six-Day War with its hostile neighbors, Israel reclaimed Jerusalem and other strategic positions throughout the present-day borders. It was these events that displaced those who have occupied the land as “Palestine,” which is the foundation of the dispute between today’s Israelites and Palestinians.

And here we go again… The world returns to the United Nations next week for another historic “vote.” In light of growing tensions in the region, it’s time to examine the evidence of history for yourself, and understand where you stand…

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land” (Ezekiel 37:21).

“In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people… He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth” (Isaiah 11:11-12).

“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:3-4).

Still Thinking,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | August 31, 2011

No More Morality – Ethicists without Ethics

I just read Joel Marks’ piece in The New York Times, “Confessions of an Ex-Moralist” (The Opinion Pages, August 21, 2011).

It seems Dr. Marks is the latest “ethicist” to publicly declare that there’s no difference between right and wrong. In fact, as a scholar at the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, Professor Marks now honestly declares:

“The religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality.”

As a naturalist/atheist, Marks used to hold to the deontological view of morality. Allegedly, this view does not require God (a transcendent standard) to distinguish between right and wrong. However, Marks now maintains that this is just as unreasonable as believing in the Divine.

Through a series of articles in Philosophy Now, Dr. Marks fully developed his “Amoral Manifesto” throughout 2010. In the process, he had an “anti-epiphany,” in which he ultimately grasped that “morality was nothing more than a fuzzy subjective feeling.”

“I retain my strong preference for honest dialectical dealings in a context of mutual respect. It’s just that I am no longer giving premises in moral arguments; rather, I am offering considerations to help us figure out what to do. I am not attempting to justify anything; I am trying to motivate informed and reflective choices…. But this won’t be because a god, a supernatural law or even my conscience told me I must, I ought, I have an obligation. Instead I will be moved by my head and my heart. Morality has nothing to do with it.”

Remember, this is a top ethicist scholar in the area of bioethics.

Dr. Marks’ coming-out party reminds me of another shindig shortly after President Obama’s inauguration. In early March 2009, with a cloud of witnesses in the East Room of the White House (“more happy scientists than I’ve seen,” said Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), President Obama abolished the Bush-era restraints on stem-cell research and declared the following:

“Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda—and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

Here’s a thought… As more and more “ethicists” in the medical establishment declare there’s no such thing as ethics, on what basis is our medical community (our culture) going to make bioethical decisions in areas such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning, stem-cell research, organ harvesting, end-of-life decisions, etc.? Who’s “fuzzy subjective feeling” are we gonna run with at the next meeting of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics?

Just Thinking,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | August 17, 2011

Sir Henry Layard – Archaeology, Past and Present

Sir Austen Henry Layard was born in Paris in 1817. He belonged to a family of doctors, bankers and diplomats, and was educated in the top schools of England, France, Italy and Switzerland. He loved the study of languages and fine arts, and served as a lawyer-apprentice for six years. Upon entering his 20’s, Layard was totally groomed for aristocratic success.

In 1839, Layard determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and return to Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) to serve in the British civil service. Layard’s family had served as diplomats in Ceylon for generations. However, rather than travel by standard aristocratic means, Layard decided to walk from England to Ceylon by way of Asia. He was 22.

Once he embarked on his trek, Layard’s life journey took a totally different track. He never made it to Ceylon. Instead, he spent years wandering about Persia and Turkey, fascinated by the local cultures and ancient Assyrian ruins. Ultimately, he was responsible for rediscovering the ancient ruins of Nineveh in 1847, including the lost palace of Sennacherib. He also stumbled into the famous library of Ashurbanipal, which contained 22,000 clay texts, including important finds such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Remarkably, since the fiery fall of Nineveh in 612 BC, many of the huge walls and relief sculptures of Sennacherib’s throne room were still preserved under the desert sands. And right there, inscribed in cuneiform on the massive doorway, was Sennacherib’s own account of his siege of Jerusalem.

Layard’s discovery was stunning! The mid-19th century was a time of religious skepticism and biblical revisionism in Europe. Now, the world had new and compelling evidence for a biblical event. Layard’s journeys and exploits continued throughout his life, including more biblical discoveries from the ancient Assyrian ruins. In 1866, Layard became a trustee of the British Museum, where he published a number of books and articles about his phenomenal adventures into the past.

Check out More Fascinating Archaeology Now!

In the news this week: A 2,000-year-old golden bell was found among the ruins of the City of David in Jerusalem. The tiny bell has been traced to the priesthood of the Second Temple period in Israel. “Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe.” (Exodus 28:33-34) Awesome — CLICK HERE to read more!

Some things to Think About,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

“We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs, but to secure liberty for their souls.” (Robert McCracken) 

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” (General George Patton)

Although recent twisting of history declares that America was founded on a basic principle of “freedom from religion,” historic reality is that America was founded on the right of religious expression known as “freedom of religion.” A quick history lesson will reveal that there is no concept of “freedom FROM religion” in our Constitution, nor is there one implied. Our Founding Fathers quoted thousands of Bible scriptures, opened and closed sessions with prayer to God, and openly stated that they used the Ten Commandments in writing the laws of this great nation. Actually, they were standing on government lands while they read directly from the Bible, while they quoted scripture in speeches, and while they stood praying together.

If our country was founded on a principle of “freedom from religion”, our Founding Fathers would not have practiced their religion so openly on government lands. There are more than 4,500 recorded public quotes by our Founding Fathers about the Bible, God, and yes, the importance of ethics based on Christian principles. All of these statements were delivered while government leaders stood on government properties.

There is absolute historic proof that the founders of this nation and the writers of the Constitution never believed in a “freedom from religion”, nor a silencing of free speech concerning things of a religious nature while on government lands. This is a recent concept. A recent twisting of history that started in the early 1960’s when the U.S. courts started redefining our moral compass as a nation. The notion of “separation of church and state” was popularized at that time, and over 6,000 higher court cases removing Judeo-Christian principles from the public arena have followed since.

Yes, Judeo-Christian ethics are at the foundation of this great nation. Morality was never seen as relative — it was always based on the authority of scripture. As hard as it is for some to accept in this 21st century pop-techno-culture, this country and its moral backbone were founded on biblical principles.

Check this out…

– God is mentioned in stone all over Washington D.C., on its monuments and buildings.

– Emblazoned over the Speaker of the House in the US Capitol are the words In God We Trust.

– The Supreme Court building built in the 1930’s has carvings of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

– Oaths in courtrooms have invoked God from the beginning.

– Every president that has given an inaugural address has mentioned God in that speech.

– Prayers have been said at the swearing in of each president.

– Each president was sworn in on the Bible, saying the words, “So help me God.”

– Our national anthem mentions God.

– The liberty bell has a Bible verse engraved on it.

– Our nation’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, mentions God four times.

– The original constitution of all 50 states mentions God.

– Chaplains have been on the public payroll from the very beginning.

– In fact, the Bible was used as the first textbook in our public schools.

This is historic truth. Some in our secular culture may not like God as the foundation of this great country, but He is… So stop whining to activist judges, and deal with it!

Happy Memorial Day indeed!

Keep Thinking,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | April 30, 2011

Easter Evidence – Will People Die for a Lie?

At AllAboutGOD.com and GotQuestions.org, we get more emails of spiritual interest during the Easter season than any other time of year. The inquiries run the gamut — from ancient Ishtar to Roman conspiracies, Jewish Passover to Easter egg hunts.

In the end, most questions end up pointing to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most specifically, how can I trust that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead about 2,000 years ago?

As part of any spiritual journey, it’s important to examine the persecution and death that was such a dramatic piece of early Christian history. Any skeptic who holds to a notion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a man-made legend created after-the-fact by a group of religious zealots, should sincerely check out the legacy of martyrdom.

Eleven of the 12 apostles, and many of the other early disciples, died for their adherence to the Jesus story. This is powerful because they were eyewitnesses to the alleged events surrounding Jesus and his resurrection, and went to their deaths to defend their truth. Why is this so spectacular when many throughout history have died martyred deaths for religious beliefs?

Because, people don’t die for a lie.

Look at human nature throughout history. No conspiracy can be maintained when life or liberty is at stake. Dying for a heart-felt belief is one thing, but numerous eyewitnesses dying for a known lie would be quite another.

Does this make sense?

Can you think of any widespread example of an entire group of people knowingly suffering and ultimately dying brutal deaths in order to defend something they knew to be false? The Islamic jihadists of September 11th may have sincerely believed in what they died for (paradise, virgins, etc.), but they certainly weren’t in a position to know whether or not what they believed was true. They put their radical faith in religious teachings of religious authorities. In contrast, the New Testament’s martyrs either saw what they claimed to see or they didn’t. Either they interacted with the resurrected Jesus or they made the whole story up. Dramatically, these witnesses clung to their testimonies even to their brutal deaths, knowing full well whether their beliefs were true or false.

Just something to Think About this weekend after Easter,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | April 22, 2011

Happy Good Friday

“Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16).

This is the central verse of an amazing prophecy that details the suffering and death of Jesus Christ 1,000 years before his birth. In fact, we see details of a form of capital punishment known as “crucifixion” that didn’t even exist at the time this prophecy was written. By the first century AD, the Roman Empire had perfected this horrible form of torture and death…

Crucifixion typically began with a scourging (or flogging) of the victim’s back. The Romans used a whip called a “flagrum,” which consisted of small pieces of bone and metal attached to a number of leather strands. The number of blows given to Jesus is not recorded; however, the number of blows in Jewish law was 39 (one less than the 40 called for in the Torah, to prevent an accidental counting error). During the scourging, the skin was ripped from the back, exposing a bloody mass of tissue and bone. Extreme blood loss occurred, often causing death, or at least unconsciousness. In addition to the flogging, Jesus faced severe beating and torment by the Roman soldiers, including the plucking of His beard and the piercing of His scalp with a crown of thorns.

After the flogging, the victim was often forced to carry his own crossbar, or “patibulum,” to the execution site. The patibulum could easily weigh 100 pounds. In the case of Jesus, the record shows that he may have carried His patibulum the distance of over two football fields. In a weak and tormented state, it’s no wonder that Jesus needed a great deal of assistance. Once the victim arrived at the execution site, the patibulum was put on the ground and the victim was forced to lie on it. Spikes about 7 inches long and 3/8 of an inch in diameter were driven into the wrists. The spikes would hit the area of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain up the arms to the shoulders and neck. Already standing at the crucifixion site would be the 7-foot-tall post, called a “stipes.” In the center of the stipes was a crude wooden “seat” that offered minimal support for the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes, and the victim’s body was awkwardly turned on the seat so the feet could be nailed to the stipes. At this point, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in dislocation at the shoulder and elbow joints.

The position of the nailed body held the victim’s rib cage in a fixed position, which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. Having suffered from the scourging, the beatings, and the walk with the patibulum, Jesus was described as extremely weak and dehydrated. He was probably losing significant amounts of blood. As time passed, the loss of blood and lack of oxygen would cause severe cramps, spasmodic contractions, and probably unconsciousness.

Ultimately, the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. To breathe, the victim was forced to push up on his feet to allow for inflation of the lungs. As the body weakened and pain in the feet and legs became unbearable, the victim was forced to trade breathing for pain and exhaustion. Eventually, the victim would succumb in this way, becoming utterly exhausted or lapsing into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the stipes and inflate his lungs. Due to the shallow breathing, the victim’s lungs would begin to collapse in areas, probably causing hypoxia. Due to the loss of blood from the scourging, the victim probably formed a respiratory acidosis, resulting in an increased strain on the heart, which beats faster to compensate. Fluid would also build up in the lungs. Under the stress of hypoxia and acidosis, the heart would eventually fail.

The crucifixion accounts of Jesus Christ are in entire agreement with the customs and practices of the Romans in that period. The evidence for Christ’s horrible and painful death is unquestioned by today’s mainstream scholars. The only dispute is the nature and character of the “criminal” Jesus Christ. Look at the record yourself — Even with all the pain, Jesus thought of others rather than himself. His first words from the cross were, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He thought of His mother, who stood by the cross weeping, and asked his beloved disciple John to take care of her. On either side of Jesus were two thieves executed at the same time. When one of them accepted Jesus as Lord, Jesus shared with him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Finally, Jesus expressed his complete surrender to the will of God as He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death” (Psalm 22:14-15).

Investigate the historic record and then examine your heart. Start by reading the following chapters in the biblical texts: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. You’ll see how Jesus gave himself willingly for you and me. Yes, Jesus suffered a horrible death for you and me. Jesus loved us so much that he died in utter shame and pain for our sins. In fact, the Bible teaches us that he who was without sin was literally “made sin” for us. On the cross, Jesus bore the world’s sin because of His love.

Something to Think About on this Good Friday,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | April 19, 2011

Happy Passover

Happy Passover!

The Passover feast occurs each year on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It is one of the main Jewish holidays, celebrating when God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The Passover meal is eaten in remembrance of the Lord “passing over” the houses of those who had sacrificed the Passover lamb and sprinkled its blood on their wooden doorposts and mantles, while the angel of death visited those who had not sprinkled the blood of the lamb. The angel of death was the final of ten plagues sent by God to redeem His people from Egyptian bondage.

Remarkably, the slaying of the Passover lamb in order for the death angel to “pass over” those who are “covered by the blood” (Exodus 12:11-13) is am awesome prophetic picture of Jesus Christ and the power of his crucifixion. Approximately 1,500 years after the first Passover, on the 14th day of Nisan, the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was sacrificed on a wooden cross for the sins of all mankind.

Passover Events                                              Crucifixion of Jesus

• Date: 14th of Nisan (Jewish calendar)           † Date: 14th of Nisan (Jewish calendar)

• Lamb selected: 10th of Nisan                       † Jesus selected: 10th of Nisan

• Lamb to be perfect, without blemish             † Jesus was perfect, without sin

• Blood of the lamb saves those using it       † Blood of Jesus saves those accepting it

• Lamb to have no broken bones                    † Jesus had no bones broken

• The theme of the Jewish Passover is remembering the gift of salvation from slavery in Egypt. Those who were covered by the blood of the lamb were saved from the angel of death that killed the firstborn of everything living in Egypt.

† The hope of the crucifixion is God’s gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Those who receive the gift are covered by the blood of the Lamb and saved from eternal separation from God.  Christ’s role as the Lamb of God is central to the New Testament scriptures. In fact, Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the many Passovers that had been observed before him. 

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) 

In Revelation, which speaks of the end times, Jesus Christ is again referred to as the Lamb:  

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Today is the 14th of Nisan. Today is a great day to remember the miracle of the first Passover. Today is also a great day to look ahead to the “Day of the Lord,” when those who have covered themselves in the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, will be saved…

Something to really Think About,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | April 6, 2011

April Fools

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1)

Some theists use this verse to declare that atheists are unintelligent. However, it’s pretty obvious to me that the atheists running in my circles don’t lack intelligence. In fact, many of them are brilliant.

On April Fools’ Day this year, bloggers pointed to a 2010 Psychology Today article by Nigel Barber, Ph.D., “Why Atheism Will Replace Religion.” In it, Dr. Barber makes the case that there are “strong correlations between atheism and intelligence” as cultures develop.

“Belief in God declines in more developed countries and is concentrated in Europe in countries such as Sweden (64% nonbelievers), Denmark (48%), France (44%) and Germany (42%). In contrast, the incidence of atheism in most sub-Saharan countries is below 1%.” (Barber, 2010. See also, Zuckerman 2007)

Dr. Barber continues:

“The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. First, with better science, and with government safety nets, and smaller families, there is less fear and uncertainty in people’s daily lives and hence less of a market for religion. At the same time many alternative products are being offered, such as psychotropic medicines and electronic entertainment that have fewer strings attached and that do not require slavish conformity to unscientific beliefs. (Barber, 2010)

 

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “fool” in the Psalm above is nabal, which better describes a “moral fool” than an “intellectual fool.” Therefore, according to the Psalmist, it’s not the intellectually-challenged that say in their hearts, “There is no God,” it’s the morally-challenged.

In What’s So Great About Christianity (2007), Dinesh D’Souza puts it this way:

“My conclusion is that contrary to popular belief, atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt, it is a moral revolt. Atheists don’t find God invisible so much as objectionable. They aren’t adjusting their desires to the truth, but rather the truth to fit their desires…

“This is the perennial appeal of atheism: it gets rid of the stern fellow with the long beard and liberates us for the pleasures of sin and depravity. The atheist seeks to get rid of moral judgment by getting rid of the judge.”

 

In a 2005 interview with The Guardian, Christopher Hitchens gave us his angle:

“There may be many things to be said against atheism – I’m not an atheist anyway, I’m an anti-theist. It would be horrible if it were true that we were designed and then created and then continuously supervised throughout all our lives waking and sleeping and then continue to be supervised after our deaths – if that were true, it would be horrible. I’m very glad there’s absolutely no evidence for it all. It would be like living in a celestial North Korea. You can’t defect from North Korea but at least you can die. With monotheism they won’t let you die and get away from them. It’s the wish to be a slave. Who wants that to be true? It’s demanding the servile condition.”

 

Ernest Hemingway said, “All thinking men are atheists.” I used to love this quote when I was a “thinking atheist.” However, when I examine the lives of atheists such as Hemingway (and my prior self, for that matter), I’m compelled to question the true heart of these memorable statements…

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… (Romans 1:20-22)

 

Something to Think (or re-Think) about,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | March 17, 2011

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

To my kids, Saint Patrick’s Day merely represents the horror of forgetting to wear green on the 17th and facing the wrath of pinching peers. In college, Saint Patrick’s Day was an opportunity to pound really watered-down beer (but it was green, so that’s OK). To some, it’s about corned beef and cabbage. For others, it’s something about a stone named Blarney. For Irish-Americans, it’s a day of ethnic pride…

What does Saint Patrick’s Day mean to you? This year, for me, it means the hallowed tip-off of March Madness!

But what’s the forgotten truth behind the compelling history…?

Patrick was born in Roman-controlled Britain in about 390 AD. When he was a youth, Irish barbarians attacked his village and took him captive to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave to a feudal king.

In Thomas Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Patrick is described as a slave-shepherd. “The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills.”

As Patrick faced his first months of loneliness, hunger, illness and despair, he began seeking God. He later wrote in his book, Confessions, “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours” and “the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more.”

After six scary years, Patrick had a life-changing dream. The message: “Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look – your ship is ready.” Almost immediately, Patrick snubbed his fear of punishment, left his flock, and walked two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There, he found a ship and traveled back to Britain, where he joined a monastery and became a priest.

Years later, Patrick couldn’t deny his love for the Irish people and his calling to return to them.  Ireland was now dominated by full-scale barbarism, where murder, rape, slavery, and even human sacrifice were commonplace. Nonetheless, Patrick wrote, “I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved – whatever may come my way.” He had to return for the Irish people.

“Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of Heaven.”

Thomas Cahill concludes, “Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before.”

Baptizing 120,000 and founding 300 churches, Saint Patrick wrote: “Patrick the sinner, an unlearned man to be sure. None should ever say that it was my ignorance that accomplished any small thing, it was the gift of God.”

So, what’s the real history behind Saint Patrick’s Day? Because of Patrick, a barbarian land “lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery.”

I’ll toast a watered-down, green beer to that!

Keep Thinking,

Randall Niles

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