I saw the title to a blog entry, How to Shut Up an Atheist if You Must, and felt compelled to read it. Being a non-believer I needed to see what if anything the author wrote would actually shut me up. I can rest easy as nothing he commented is new nor will it shut atheists up.
Doug Giles starts out with a throw down to the non-believer:
The atheist’s days of running circles around the Christian with their darling questions are drawing to a close. Yes, the fat lady just wrenched herself off her humongous backside, has cleared her throat and now is fixin’ to sing the finale on the atheist’s ability to have fun with their specious little fairy tales at the Christians’ expense.
Giles then lists several “points” that “will be especially beneficial for high school and college students to draw upon when their secular anti-God fuming delirious instructors start railing against God and Christianity.”
1. When the prissy anti-Christs tell you the Bible stands in the way of science, inform them that the greatest scientific geniuses in history were devout Christians-and scientists from Newton to Einstein insisted that biblical religion provided the key ideas from which experimental science could develop.
While it is true that many scientists are believers, it doesn’t follow that biblical religion developed experimental science. In fact Einstein wrote:
As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship. These ideals religion attempts to attain by exerting an educational influence on tradition and through the development and promulgation of certain easily accessible thoughts and narratives (epics and myths) which are apt to influence evaluation and action along the lines of the accepted ideals.
It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with science. This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of the religious aims.
“Dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain of science” What is more dogmatic than supporting that a “God” created the Earth and Darwin is full of crap.
Next Giles writes:
2. When the pissy God haters tell you the Bible condones slavery, you can remind them that slavery was abolished only when devout Christians, inspired by the Bible, launched a campaign in the early 1800s to abolish the slave trade.
The Bible does support slavery – see Exodus 21:2-6 or 1 Timothy 6:1 There is nothing against slavery in the Bible so those who fought to abolish the slave trade were doing it not because the Bible told them to but because they felt it was the right thing to do.
3. When the screechin’ teachers tell you the Bible has been proven false by archaeology, hark back and show them that each year a new archaeological discovery substantiates the existence of people, places and events we once knew solely from biblical sources, including the discovery of the Moabite stone in 1868, which mentions numerous places in the Bible, and the discovery of an inscription in 1961 that proves the existence of the biblical figure Pontius Pilate, just to name a few.
I don’t know of anyone who has said that archaeology has proven the Bible false. Many of the places and people mentioned in the Bible probably did exist but there hasn’t been actual proof that the Bible is an accurate history of those places, people, and events. It is a collection of stories that were passed on by word of mouth for hundreds of years before they were written down. Many of the stories, including the story of a messiah born of a virgin birth etc…, can be found in the storytelling tradition of cultures never exposed to Christianity directly. The Bible isn’t a first person account nor even the recorded history of first person accounts of the people and events and so it shouldn’t be used as historical proof.
4. When they get sweaty and tell you that the Bible breeds intolerance, refresh their memory with the fact that only those societies influenced by biblical teachings (in North and South America, Europe, and Australia) today guarantee freedom of speech and religion. Period.
What about Exodus 23:24 “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.” or Leviticus 24:23 “And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.” or Deuteronomy 4:34 “Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?”
The problem with Giles conclusion is there isn’t a connection between people supporting freedom of speech and religion and the Bible. The text of the Bible doesn’t support either. It wasn’t until the founding of the United States – by men who were Deists – that there was real freedom of speech and religion. All other examples came after us. If such a notion had come from the Bible then we would have seen it a lot sooner than 1776.
5. When one of them queues up and quips that the Bible opposes freedom, smack ‘em with the fact that the Bible’s insistence that no one is above the law and all must answer to divine justice led to theories of universal human rights and…uh…limited government.
Since the Bible obviously supports slavery then this challenge is false from the start. But the Bible also supports communism. Acts 2:44-45 says “All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” and Acts 4:34-37 says “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
6. When they tell you that Christianity and the Bible justify war and genocide, unsympathetically remind them that societies which rejected biblical morality in favor of a more “rational” and “scientific” approach to politics murdered millions upon millions more than the Crusades or the Inquisition ever did. Hello. “Atheist regimes have caused the greatest mass murders in history,” says D’Souza. Inside D’Souza’s book you’ll find little gems like, “The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Galileo affair, and witch hunts together make up less than 1% of the murders that have occurred during modern atheist regimes like Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.”
Well first off Hitler was never an atheist. Just read Mein Kampf and his speeches from the period. From 1933 he said: “To do justice to God and our own conscience, we have turned once more to the German Volk.” and “We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” The Nazis used religious symbols and rituals for their own ends. They also left the Catholic church alone while decimating the Jews. One would think if Hitler was an atheist then all religions would have been destroyed.
Stalin and Mao did kill a lot of people but not because the people weren’t atheists. They killed people due to politics and power. Atheism is not a belief system and atheism isn’t interchangeable with communism. I know many atheists who are libertarians and Republicans and Democrats and many who don’t care for communism. And as Austin Cline on his atheism.about.com page notes:
To understand this better, consider times in the past when religion has been involved with violence — the Inquisition would be good. How many people were killed during the Inquisition in the name of theism? None. Those doing the killing acted not because of theism, but rather because of Christian doctrines. The belief system is what inspired people to act (sometimes for good, sometimes for ill). The single belief of theism, however, did not.
Doug Giles tries to offer up a challenge to shut atheists up and those challenges don’t offer any new arguments and aren’t hard to refute.