5. Hitchens revealed the danger of cultural Christianity and exposure to tepid, lifeless, superficial Christian teaching.
In his childhood, Hitchens was exposed to the mild Christianity of his father and the Hitchens home. (Later in life, he discovered that his mother was, in fact, partly Jewish.) As a schoolboy, Hitchens received the customary dose of tame religious instruction. In God is Not Great, he wrote of Mrs. Jean Watts, “a good, sincere, simple woman, of stable and decent faith,” who taught him religion at his school near Dartmoor. Even as a boy, Hitchens was not impressed by her emotivist expressions of doctrine and her answers to his questions. He wrote also of a school headmaster, who seemed, among other failings, to believe that belief in God served a mainly therapeutic function. Hitchens described himself then as “quite the insufferable little intellectual,” but the damage was done. Unlike others who, as he wrote, might have rejected belief in God because of abuse or “brutish indoctrination,” Hitchens simply developed indignant contempt for a belief system that seemed so superficial and fraudulent. An exposure to tepid, lifeless, thoughtless, and intellectually formless Christianity can be deadly.
The older I get, the more I learn, the more I trust God and experience His faithfulness, the bigger, deeper, and wider God and Christianity get…and the bigger the gulf becomes between my vision of God and the atheist’s vision of the Christian God. Most of the time I don’t recognize the god they describe at all.
What motivates me to get up in the morning is the opportunity to try to spread a little bit of that ancient vision so you’ll be inspired to deliberately and persistently climb the mountain of thousands of years of great thought—leaving the small vision of the atheists farther and farther below—to get a better view of the Great One. And I promise you, the view only gets better.
Sometimes the skill of being a Christian ambassador is caught more than taught. In other words, you can devote yourself tirelessly to focused instruction in knowledge, wisdom, and character, but have trouble seeing how those traits come together in a unified approach until you see it modeled by a capable ambassador.
These conversations, which took place with a cordial atheist caller to Greg’s radio show, are an opportunity to listen in on some archetypal ambassador interactions. Listen as Greg and his interlocutor go back and forth on some very controversial subjects, including objective morality, Hell, the cosmological argument for the existence of God, and the historical Jesus. These interactions will help you catch—in a more vivid way—STR’s ambassador approach.
There are at least two things wrong about Paul Pardi's analysis of Christianity in this article. He claims that Christianity should be kept private by those who believe it because it's known by an irrational method - faith - that isn't accessible by everyone.
First, we don't know about Christianity by faith. Everyone knows about the claims of Christianity and the Bible in the same ways other things are known. Faith isn't a way of knowing. It's trusting in what we have come to know to be true. Faith is laying hold personally of what is true in the Bible. Knowledge is the first step and it's no different than coming to know about anything else. So it can be discussed between those who have faith and those who don't because they're both operating in the same way to evaluate truth claims. Faith comes after knowing.
Second, Christianity isn't a private topic. This is a way to subjectivize Christianity - to relativize what Christians believe. But essential to the what the Bible teaches is that it's not subjective or relative. It's true for all people. Things happened in history that were witnessed and reported. And what the Bible teaches is for all people. So engage in consideration of the truth claims of Christianity, but don't dismiss them as private, subjective beliefs.
Our culture needs to sit down and seriously think through some questions about what it means to be a human being. And I don't just mean the question, "When do rights begin in a human life?" I mean the big ones: What are we? What is the good life? Is the highest good the manufacturing of a "perfect" life, designed according to our specifications—one where every risk and difficulty is removed, even if at great expense to the life and liberty of others? Or is it a greater good to live nobly and well in our fallen, endlessly imperfect world, in the face of our own imperfections and those of our fellow man, maturing through trials, and learning to value and selflessly love those imperfect others? In other words, should our lives be focused on creating beauty, or on stamping out imperfections?
I've been reading G.K. Chesterton's "Eugenics and Other Evils" (published in 1922), thinking how far things have gone since his day. His concern was that it was a crime against human dignity to breed people like cattle and place what ought to be an "individual adventure," the founding of families, under the control of the state. He was appalled that eugenics was being held above ethics for "the good of society."
What's happening now is even worse. It's no longer about posterity—at least that goal was focused on the good of others. No, now the call of eugenics is fashioned to appeal to your preference and ease as an individual. The question isn't, "How will this affect future society," but "How will this affect me?" And while both questions, when asked in the arena of eugenics, lead to atrocities, the second one adds a layer of narcissism and flippancy that brings all of this to a new level of horror.
But there's a second way in which today's practice of eugenics has gone beyond what Chesterton imagined. The eugenics promoted in his day took place on the front end—the state would determine who should not marry whom, or who should be prevented from procreating at all. When such programs became (rightly) stigmatized, we put an end to the forcible curtailing of any person's natural ability to create human life. But that didn't put an end to eugenics, it just moved the whole process to the back end. In order to have our cake of freedom and eat eugenics too, we now let any and all procreation take place, even encouraging procreation in purposeful excess of the number of children that will be allowed to continue to live (in the case of eugenics via IVF), so that we can be sure to get what we personally prefer, for our own individual benefit.* Then we just kill the rest.
The lesson that should have been learned in the first round of eugenics was not merely that people's liberty to create offspring shouldn't be violated, but also that the idea itself of a designer society is repulsive and unnatural, an affront to humanity. It teaches you not to view children as separate, distinct human beings placed under your care for a time (and valuable apart from you), but instead turns them into interchangeable accessories to be rummaged through, then bought and sold, according to whatever outfit you're seeking to match.
A 47-year-old woman who had relied on donor eggs, and underwent IVF and PGD [preimplantation genetic diagnosis] intending to conceive a boy as the fifth-generation namesake in her husband's family, said: “I don't feel that we are playing God at all. ... No one but God can decide what sex the embryos are going to be.” Indeed, all her healthy embryos turned out to be girls.
One can only conclude that she likely killed all ten and tried again.
One woman was determined to avoid the genetic mutation that causes webbed feet in her husband's family. But all 10 of the embryos the couple conceived by IVF carried the mutation. Rather than have any of them implanted, she opted to use donor sperm and bear a child with normal feet but no biological tie to her husband.
I can't tell you how much that one disgusts me.
In 2007, for instance, doctors were condemned for enabling a couple to avoid having their baby inherit a severe squint that prevented the father and grandfather from looking anywhere but down or to the side.
It's interesting how they state that one, because of course, they didn't prevent any babies from inheriting a severe squint, they merely killed the ones who had.
A prenatal screening program of [amniocentesis and abortions] helped to reduce Tay-Sachs in Montreal's Jewish and Mediterranean communities by more than 95 per cent.
Once again, they didn't reduce the instances of Tay-Sachs, they reduced the number of people who had Tay-Sachs. By killing them.
With all this eugenics, we're not becoming better, we're becoming inhuman.
*One can't say it's for the child's benefit, for there are many children involved in any particular situation, not just one, and this kind of eugenics doesn't improve any of those children's lives. It merely kills all the unfortunately flawed ones and allows the accepted one to live.
Some words from C.S. Lewis on recognizing our pleasures as faint reflections of God's glory, and turning those reflections into a "channel of adoration" back to God:
Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility…. But aren't there bad, unlawful pleasures? Certainly there are. But in calling them "bad pleasures" I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean "pleasures snatched by unlawful acts." It is the stealing of the apples that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory…. I have tried since…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don't mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different…. Gratitude exclaims, very properly, "How good of God to give me this." Adoration says, "What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!" One's mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.
Stephen Meyer on whether or not it can be valid to infer a mind as an explanation of causation, from a recent dialogue on Unbelievable:
Making reference to the activity of mind can be explanatory because we know that minds have causal powers. They can do things. And there are specific kinds of things that minds do that we can pick out and recognize from their effects. And information is one of the things that invariably leads us back to the activity of mind. So when we see information in the cell, we can justifiably infer that a mind acted….
We don't think of the action of an agent—whether it be God or someone else—as violating the laws of nature. The laws of nature tell you what ordinarily happens…, provided there's no interference. If an agent acts, if I lift up the book off the table, I'm not violating the law of gravity, I'm initiating…a new line of causation within the matrix of natural law.
If you look at the words on the printed page there in front of you…and you say, "Well, what caused those words to originate?" if we only talk about the chemistry and physics of the ink on the paper, we're missing an important aspect of the cause that produced those words….
We want to open people's minds to the whole of reality. The activity of mind acting on nature is part of reality, and the narrow definition of science that says that it's only a scientific explanation if you refer to a materialistic, or naturalistic, or physical cause, is missing an important aspect of reality. And intelligent design is saying mind is real, minds have causal powers, and we can detect the activity of mind….
We're simply inferring the cause that is known from our experience to produce the effect in question, rather than causes that are not known from our experience to produce the effect in question.
Listen to the rest of the dialogue on Unbelievable. And here are some thoughts on whether or not a mind can move physical matter.