we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part
The Fool says there is no God. Opening
the foray with references to the Psalms the author reveals once again,
sadly, his complete lack of knowledge and understanding about Old
Testament times. Rather derisorily he suggests that it would have
been a fool who did not keep such a thought to himself in such a climate,
so why even say it. What he obviously doesn't know is that Israel
slipped into apostasy again
and again. It was never such a cast-iron belief nation as he supposes.
Odds favour atheistic sceptics.
Letting his mind wander on he wonders if there are as many fools who
believe as who don't, and suggests that with all the questions about
evil that so often arise, it's probably odds on that there are more
atheists. Two points need picking up here.
of the reasons that the psalmist would write off his fellow countrymen
as fools is that they had such a history of experience of God that
to not believe almost has to be an act of will, a refusal to believe
the accounts passed down through the generations.
second point is that in the previous chapter he acknowledged that
there seems an almost universal tendency to want to worship, one might
almost say it seems more rational to worship, when you consider the
the way the author speaks of those unbelievers in history who have
suffered ruthless suppression. I have thought about this point before
but have not yet commented upon it. I believe he has a very wrong
view of ‘society' if that is what you can call it over the past two
thousand years. I don't doubt that there have been times of intolerance
and indeed the record of martyrs testifies to this, but as I read
I am convinced that his view of our societies being strongholds of
religious belief in the past is completely wrong.
many people did go to church but also many did not. Of those who went
to church, even as today, there would have been true believers and
those who were not. In local hamlets or villages, even as today, there
would have been a variety of beliefs or lack of belief, but for the
most part much belief was poorly taught (with an uneducated clergy)
and indeed superstitious, with the Bible being little understood.
It is clear that there were some well known individuals who were persecuted
by the church powers but I suspect that the truth really was that
there were many who were not. In both the USA and UK today there is
more derision and opposition against religious people than is likely
in the past against non-religious people, for we are a far more media
dominated people than they were.
Socrates & other early philosophers:
A little more ignorance pours out with: “The
records of his life and his words are second hand, almost but not
quite as much as are the books of the Jewish and Christian Bible”.
As I have commented elsewhere in response to Richard Dawkins' similar
apparent folly, today even the simplest of attendees of an Alpha Course
will know how untrue this is. To see the integrity of Biblical writings,
please go to our Apologetics pages. CLICK
However, not to be sidetracked, I believe the point he seeks to make
referring to Socrates, is that his reason conflicted with the religion
of the day, which resulted in his death. His comment “philosophy
begins where religion ends” possibly misunderstands religion,
or at least Christianity, let's say. The Christian religion declares
that God has come to us and has revealed to us the way He has designed
the world to work, and us in it. Further He has come to us in the
form of His Son to deliver us from our constant failures. Religion
thus claims to be revelation from God. Philosophy tends to be man's
thinking and reasoning in the absence of God.
am not sure why the author writes about Socrates beyond making the
point about religion versus reason. However the reason that he highlights
in respect of Socrates we might almost call agnosticism because he
was highlighting what he didn't know and couldn't be sure about. To
compare the pagan religion of Greece
with modern-day Christianity
reveals a gross lack of knowledge about both. We are talking about
chalk and cheese here!
cite these early philosophers' struggles against the religion of the
day, as if that makes it at all meaningful in the light of say modern-day
Christianity, is almost meaningless because, as we've just noted above,
the religions he talks about are so utterly unlike Christianity.
The Atomists. The author
lauds the early “atomist” school as brilliant, which they were but
only in as far as they conceived the concepts of life being made up
of atoms, yet failing because that is all they could see.
Blanchard in Does
God Believe in Atheists can speak for us here. Speaking of these
atomists he notes that, “Their philosophy was
a basic form of naturalism, a view that places it firmly in the atheistic
camp because it totally excludes the supernatural or spiritual.”
He continues that is says, “that our universe
is a closed system in which everything has a ‘natural' explanation,”
which is what our author has been suggesting as he has spoken of Socrates.
to point out a flaw in the naturalistic philosophy Blanchard continues,
the naturalist cannot allow the possibility of a theistic world,
the existence of God is ruled out a priori and any discussion about
his being, nature or behaviour is futile; in other words, the
naturalist pronounces the answer before he asks the question.”
we have noted similar things in our Apologetics pages, we will continue
with Blanchard here, who puts it well:
questions raised by the atomists and their ilk come not as a trickle
but in a torrent. If man is part of nature, where, as human beings,
can we find any personal significance for our existence? What is
the meaning of ‘purpose', or the purpose of ‘meaning'? What basis
is there for corporate or individual morality? What reference-point
is there to distinguish good from evil? How can there be any rational
sense of obligation to do or to be anything? If even our thoughts
are predetermined, what is the sense of speaking about choice, opinion,
values, responsibility, self-awareness, convictions, or even aesthetic
appreciation? If human beings are no more than sophisticated machines,
what sense is there in trying to construct and defend a concept
of personal freedom?”
a chapter like this one devoted to extolling reason, this logic should
be brought out. In a sense the outcome of this logic keeps appearing
again and again as the author refers to individuals as ‘mammals'.
In doing this he lowers us from humanity and puts us as the level
of all other animals – yet he still seeks to write intelligently,
reasonably and rationally, and this separates himself off from the
rest of the animal kingdom. In his writing he conveys a sense of moral
indignation, again separating himself off from all other mammals!
Ongoing Conflicts of Reason and Revelation.
The author seeks to portray a picture of religion opposing science
and refers again to Andalusia, the home of Maimonides, the Jewish
philosopher who he has referred to before, and to other ongoing conflicts
between institutional religion and scientific philosophers. Without
doubt this happened as each group struggled to make sense of their
slight inaccuracy needs picking up, the reference to “terror
imposed by religion on science and scholarship throughout the early
Christian centuries.” First, in the ‘early Christian centuries'
(which the author does not define) the persecution is all on the church
– please see our Apologetics page 11 on Persecutions [CLICK
HERE]. Second, many of the early scientists were also Christians
and it was only the Christian concept of an orderly world created
by God that enabled the scientific process to proceed.
The author refers to Spinoza's conflict with the Jewish authorities
because, although being a Portuguese Jew, he held ideas running contrary
to Jewish belief and then mixed with those who held Arian beliefs,
previously established as heretical. It was no wonder he upset the
religious authorities of his day. What was sad was that they did not
have the intellectual capabilities or learning to properly refute
errors as far as they attended the faith. The author approves him,
of course, because he flowed in the naturalistic river that we have
previously referred to. This naturally defined “a
religious god out of existence” but, as we've previously noted,
prejudges the situation. The wrong of those past centuries was not
that institutional religion objected to bad thinking but that they
used the institutional power to deal with it. We have already commented
on the weaknesses of institutional religion.
ignored? The author
cries out, “If God has revealed Himself, how
is it that he has allowed so many centuries to elapse before informing
the Chinese?” The author's ignorance is understandable because
it is not widely known. Writers Nelson, Broadberry and Chock in a
book entitled God's Promise to the Chinese, observe that
name ShangDi literally means the ‘God above,' or the Most High God.
From the beginning of their history the ancient Chinese worshipped
ShangDi as the Creator.”
more than 4,000 years the Chinese emperors annually sacrificed a
bull to ShangDi. This ceremony pointed to a coming Saviour.”
inventor of the original Chinese characters, inscribed on tortoise
shells and bones, knew and believed in an identical account of creation
and earth's beginnings as found in the Hebrew sacred Scriptures.”
God did not leave out the Chinese!
on Sceptics: The
author uses and defends sceptics as if such men actually had the truth.
seeking to suggest that such men kept quiet because of religious intolerance,
may have been true but it doesn't mean that such men were right, merely
that they agree with him. The fact that religious institutions abused
their power doesn't mean that the foundations of Christianity are
wrong. Both approaches are poor in terms of research and conclusions.
The above point is well illustrated by the author's use of Pierre
Bayle who “examined the deeds of David and the
supposed ‘psalmist' and showed them to be the carer of an unscrupulous
bandit. He also pointed out that it was absurd to believe that religious
faith caused people to conduct themselves better, or that unbelief
made them behave worse.”
put aside the fact that modern Western societies are falling apart
precisely because they have lost belief, and let's focus on David
as the one being criticised. What we have here is a complete lack
of understanding by the author and his hero, Bayle. Rather than go
into a long examination of David's life, I would simply suggest that
the author actually reads his Bible carefully and studies David properly
so that he can realise what a foolish and superficial comment he has
made which is so far from the truth as to be laughable. You will find
much detail about David elsewhere in this site.
For a few lines the author walks the ground that Dawkins unwisely
trod – and for that I'll ask you to go and read our appraisal of his
misunderstandings (it's easy to do on the Internet within this one
site). To summarise, the ontological argument was never meant to be
a ‘proof', merely a suggestion that it is consistent with Christian
belief. While referring to Kant, he uses that often used silly argument
that because men in past history had silly ideas that debunks the
historical Christian faith. It is weak and shallow and foolish arguing.
to the Enlightenment he casts around for a variety of figures who
supported his view. The whole point about the Enlightenment was that
it was a period that was strong on rational intellect but staggeringly
weak on men of scholarship in Biblical or theological matters. Thus
it was a period of one-sided arguing. Today is a very different day!
Impotent God? The
height of this desperate searching around among the ignorant (of Faith)
sceptics comes with the famous quote from Epicurus: “Is he willing
to prevent but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing?
Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is
must confess that I get wearied by those, like this ancient philosopher
who cannot reason through what the Bible clearly shows. Yes, God has
given us free will and that does mean we can choose to be good or
bad. It only requires a very shallow investigation of human history
and human experience to see that so often we choose bad, whether it
be thought, word or deed. THAT is evil.
what do you want God to do about this? Stop murderers acting? Stop
YOU acting as you do? Stop you having bad thoughts about other people?
Stop you saying destructive things to or about other people? Stop
you from doing anything which, in the cold light of day, you would
agree was less than good? You thus want God to turn us into robots
– which of course He could do! But if you do that, you remove love,
imagination, invention, creative ability, all of which depend utterly
on free will, freedom to think and act as we will – and thus we will
cease to be human beings. You want that? Epicurus might be excused
because he was obviously ignorant of what was happening to the Hebrews,
but meanwhile there were Greeks who individually sensed there was
a God, just as the Chinese already knew it. It is actually self-centred
pride that blinds men, then and now, to the Divine.
One might almost
be saddened if an atheist didn't bring up Darwin, so here it is at
last. The author shows how Darwin seems to have moved further and
further from faith, the more he investigated and wrote. You'll find
a lot more about so-called ‘theory of evolution' on our Dawkins appraisal
pages, but perhaps in this context, one of two additional comments
may be warranted.
Darwin raised a number of questions which he himself never resolved.
Second, many scientists since have said those questions have not been
answered and there are massive holes in the theory. Third, Darwin
is an example of a scientist who moved further and further into the
realm of scientific investigation, without a clear world-view in which
to see it all.
views can be rationalised to those that believe there is a God and
those that don't. The latter group tend to be made up of those who
start from that premise (for a variety of psychological and emotional
reasons) and therefore see everything through that reference grid.
A large number of those who hold the first world view didn't start
there, but arrived there, often by careful thought. Darwin simply
didn't see his research in the light of a world view carefully constructed
outside the limitations of his research, and therefore became, apparently,
more and more unclear of the logical outcomes. For comments on Einstein,
also quoted after Dawkins' style, please go to the Dawkins appraisal.
The Jews: Citing Disraeli's
answer to Queen Victoria gives the author opportunity to defame rabbis
while making the strange point that freedom from the ghettos released
a wealth of wisdom etc. on the world. He doesn't ever examine the
Old Testament history of Israel which, I suspect, is what Disraeli
meant. Instead he uses it an an opportunity to drop further acid on
religion; little drops here and there mount up in the minds of the
ignorant and gullible. One little example of this acid dropping is
his reference to the ghettos imposed upon Jews by “ignorant
and bigotted Christian authorities.”
would simply wish to point out that there have never been ‘Christian'
authorities, which is a description that implies that the authorities
in question comprised traditional, Biblical Christians. The quality
of Christian experience in the time he refers to was often shallow
and token. Ethics were sometimes equated with Christianity, but rarely
did they come out of a living, vibrant relationship with God through
Jesus Christ. Just as there are ‘nominal Christians' today who go
to church to perform certain rituals, but for whom Biblical Christianity
has no other meaning, so it has often been in history.
For some reason
this leads the author on to despise Hannukah but for the life of me
I cannot see how this impinges on God's integrity. Just in case you've
forgotten this book is supposed to be why God is not great, but all
it does is confirm the Biblical teaching that all men are bound by
sin and get it wrong. In the most strange comment of all, after having
derided the Maccabees' (inter-testament history if you are not familiar
with this), he declares that this “was eventually
to lead to Christianity”.
the Maccabean revolt or the goings on in that four hundred year period
of history between the re-establishing of Jerusalem and the coming
of the Christ, had nothing whatsoever to do with the coming of Christianity
beyond the fact that the continuing nation of Israel was the nation
chosen by God into which He would bring His Son. But then, as we've
commented before, why spoil a good theory with the truth? The chapter
continues with more vitriol using a nationalistic Jew to whom he attaches
‘faith', missing the point completely that the nationalist uses ‘faith'
for his own nationalistic purposes.