Liberal and Illiberal Atheists

The London Guardian has published a fascinating in-depth article about atheism, its history and its different varieties.  The author, John Gray, is himself an atheist, but he subjects what he calls today’s “evangelical atheists” to a withering critique.  He especially criticizes the notion assumed  by so many “new atheists” that if we just get rid of religion, the rise of science will bring “liberal” values–freedom, equality, human dignity, universal benevolence, etc.   Gray shows that there is no way to get from science alone to moral values of any kind, and certainly not liberal values.

In fact, atheists, historically, have often held “illiberal” values.  For example, mainstream atheists before World War II tended to be social darwinists, with a strong strain of eugenics and racist biology.  Then there is Soviet atheism, which rejected individual freedom, and the atheism of Friedrich Nietzsche, who critiqued liberal values as deriving from Christianity, hating them both.  I would add that prominent strain today beloved by many conservatives, the atheism of Ayn Rand, with her “virtue of selfishness.”  Gray does say that of course he and his fellow atheists can be moral, but the question is, what morality are they to follow?  And science, he says, won’t give an answer.  Read an excerpt and follow the link after the jump. [Read more...]

Do you believe in Mother?

A parable/thought experiment from the Hungarian writer Útmutató a Léleknek:

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” [Read more...]

A “heavenly tourist” takes back his claims

There are a number of books in the genre of what has been called “Heavenly tourism.”  They tell about someone who died, went to Heaven, and came back to tell the tale.  Now the boy featured in The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, then 6, now 17, has recanted his story.  He says that he now believes in the sufficiency of Scripture over personal visions and that he was just trying to get attention.   After the jump, his “open letter.” [Read more...]

My new book on the imagination

 I have published a new book, one that I collaborated on with Matt Ristuccia, an evangelical pastor in Princeton.  It’s called Imagination Redeemed:  Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind. 

The imagination often gets mystified these days with its association with the arts and creativity.  We get into those areas in the book, but we are trying to recover a much more basic understanding of the concept.  The imagination is simply the power of our minds to conjure up mental images.  When you use your memory to recall past experiences, when you make plans for the future by visualizing what you are going to do tomorrow, when you daydream, when you dream, when you fantasize, when your consciousness is just running on neutral, you are using your imagination.

There have been quite a lot of Christian reflection on the faculty of the mind known as reason.  Other mental powers such as the emotions and the will have gotten significant attention.  But there has not been that much lately on the imagination, which, arguably we use more than any of the other mental faculties.  Older theologians, however, from Augustine to Luther, did address the imagination, as we go into.  After the jump, I will explain some of  what this book gets into and has to offer. [Read more...]

Attraction, not argument

Michael Brendan Dougherty discusses the doom and gloom many Christians feel about the church’s prospects in contemporary culture.  He disagrees that things are that bad and says that there are two ways the church grows:  by biology and by “attraction, not argument.”  He goes on to quote Pope Benedict XVI who said that “The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.”

Would that the church today would grow some art in her womb that would have elements of attraction!  Is this just more theology of glory wishful thinking?  Won’t a period of cultural exile, weakness, and humiliation under the Cross do the church some good?  Or does the author make a good point?  If he does, what should change in the way the church goes about its business? [Read more...]

The political roots of atheism

Atheists are always invoking science, but notice how often their arguments and rhetoric use political language.  God allegedly “oppresses” human beings, taking away their “freedom.”  They say that God is “immoral,” that, in the words of John Lennon, if we imagine no religion, “the world would live as one.”

In fact, as Nick Spencer shows in Politico, the origins of atheism in the West had little to do with the rise of science; rather, it grew out of radical political movements.  Marxism, of course, but before that the mindset of the French revolutionaries, with their anti-clericalism and opposition to the Catholicism that was allied to the old royal order.  Many of these revolutionaries were Deists, but others took the next step of atheism.   There were, however, some countries–such as the United States–in which the church did not oppose the new “liberal” ideas, so that atheism had little traction.   After the jump, a link to Mr. Spencer’s article and an extract. [Read more...]


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