The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” –Psalm 14:1
Lately, the atheists have been busy writing books.
- Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation
- Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
- Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
I interact via the internet with the type of people who read this stuff, and they tend to be both arrogant and ignorant. Apparently the authors of these books are no different.
World Magazine has a review of these books: Backward, Atheist Soldiers! Here are some quotes from the magazine:
Even Publishers Weekly noted concerning The God Delusion, “For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe.”
Scapegoating is also evident in the writing of Sam Harris, who frequently forgets to use reason and instead falls back on words like “preposterous.” He asserts certainty about what he admits not knowing: “How the process of evolution got started is still a mystery, but that does not in the least suggest that a deity is likely to be lurking at the bottom of it all.”
Harris, for all his attacks on Intelligent Design, does not even understand the distinction between macro-evolution—one kind of creature changing into another—and micro-evolution. One of his proofs of theistic obtuseness is that “viruses like HIV, as well as a wide range of harmful bacteria, can be seen evolving right under our noses, developing resistance to antiviral and antibiotic drugs.”
In response to the accusation that religion is the source of evil in the world, and that we would all be happier and get along if we were all atheists:
The McGraths [authors of the aptly titled book The Dawkins Delusion] also point out the folly of believing that if religion were eliminated wars would cease: After all, conflicts often reflect human desires to declare some people as “in” and others as “out,” sometimes on the basis of religion, but at other times on the basis of race, ethnicity, tribe, class, gender, or whatever.
Doug Wilson has written a book in response to Letter to a Christian Nation called Letter from A Christian Nation:
[Wilson] points out that Harris uses morally loaded words like “should” and “ought”; Wilson rightly asks Harris, “What is the difference between an imposed morality, an imposed religion, or an imposed secular ought? Why is your imposition to be preferred to any other?”
Wilson also points out that the litany of religious folks fighting each other that Harris recites “is beside the point. We don’t believe that religion is the answer. We believe Christ is the answer.” Harris’ list of religious messes merely confirms “one of the basic tents of the Christian faith, which is that the human race is all screwed up.”
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that though the atheists are becoming increasingly boisterous, we should not be intimidated. Don’t lose your faith over what these guys are saying in their ignorance and hatred.
Grace and Peace
World Magazine Blog has a post on this, and here is a good comment from a reader:
The two tenets of atheism:
1) There is no God.
2) I hate Him.
The high temperature reported from Bucharest yesterday (Tuesday) was 45 Celsius, which is a scorching 113 Fahrenheit. It felt like an oven! It is quite a bit cooler today; about 97 F (36 C).
A new book is out: The World Without Us. This isn’t some left-wing or Islamo-fascist book about how much better the world would be without the United States. This is speculative science, and I don’t use the word “speculative” in a negative sense. The book asks the question: “What would happen to the Earth if suddenly, all people were removed?”
There is a serious side to this speculation, and that is the question of the extent of the impact of human activities on the environment. How long will toxic organic chemicals persist in groundwater? How long will it take for plastics to decompose? What will happen to the structures we build if we don’t maintain them?
This doesn’t seem to be a book of the hyper-environmentalist humans-are-a-disease genre. Some on the vocal fringes of the environmental movement view humans as a cancer that is destroying the pristine Earth, and that the planet would be better off without us. The book doesn’t seem to be advocating anything of the sort.
The July 2007 issue of Scientific American has a full-length article on this book, which includes an interview with the book’s author, Alan Weisman. Here are the first two paragraphs from the article:
It’s a common fantasy to imagine that you’re the last person left alive on earth. But what if all human beings were suddenly whisked off the planet? That premise is the starting point for The World without Us, a new book by science writer Alan Weisman, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arizona. In this extended thought experiment, Weisman does not specify exactly what finishes off Homo sapiens; instead he simply assumes the abrupt disappearance of our species and projects the sequence of events that would most likely occur in the years, decades and centuries afterward.
According to Weisman, large parts of our physical infrastructure would begin to crumble almost immediately. Without street cleaners and road crews, our grand boulevards and superhighways would start to crack and buckle in a matter of months. Over the following decades many houses and office buildings would collapse, but some ordinary items would resist decay for an extraordinarily long time. Stainless-steel pots, for example, could last for millennia, especially if they were buried in the weed-covered mounds that used to be our kitchens. And certain common plastics might remain intact for hundreds of thousands of years; they would not break down until microbes evolved the ability to consume them.
Here’s a few items from Weisman’s timeline for Manhattan without Man:
- 2 days — New York City subways flood.
- 7 days — Nuclear power plants melt down or burn.
- 5 years — Much of New York burns.
- 100 years — The steel in skyscrapers corrodes to the point that buildings begin to topple.
- 300 years — New York’s suspension bridges collapse.
- 15,000 years — Last stone buildings fall.
- 10,000,000 years — Only human relics that have survived are bronze sculptures.
Even if you don’t read the Scientific American article, it is worth going to the site for the video and timeline.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)
All the great works of man will eventually turn to dust. Some of the stuff we want to last a long time doesn’t last; and some of the stuff we want to go away quickly is going to be with us for a long, long time.
Grace and Peace
When I think of natural catastrophes on a massive scale (continent- or world-wide impact) that can kill millions of people, I usually think of:
- Meteorite impacts — Asteroids of greater than one kilometer diameter that either kick up sun-obscuring dust in the atmosphere, or, if they hit the oceans, cause massive tsunamis 35 meters (about 100 feet) high.
- Supervolcanoes — Like the eruptions of the Yellowstone Caldera that occur every 600,000 years or so. The largest eruptions of the Yellowstone Caldera spewed out over 240 cubic miles (over 1000 km3) of volcanic ash, which spread out over much of the North American Continent.
Here’s another megacatastrophe for you to ponder: giant landslides on the slopes of the Hawaiian Islands, or other volcanic islands. The underwater portions of these volcanic edifices have slopes that are in many cases steeper than the rocks can support. The largest underwater landslides, which occur on average every 350,000 years, have rock volumes close to 1000 km3, and likely produce tsunamis up to 100 m high, which would hit the coastlines all around the Pacific. The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, by contrast, produced maximum tsunamis with a height of about 30 m (around 100 feet).
Here is a map showing the extent of two of the larger slides; one of which originated on the northeast slope of Oahu, and the other on the north slope of Molokai. The debris from these slides extends about 200 km (125 mi) away from the islands.
Here is a color version of the same area:
Just another reminder of how fragile our lives are.
Grace and Peace
It has been a hot summer in Bucharest, and it looks like it’s going to get warmer:
Psychologically, it helps to think of it being in the thirties outside. Ah, snow…
Unfortunately, this is just our Celsius forecast. Thirty-eight Celsius is just as hot as 101 Fahrenheit. It actually doesn’t take all that long to make the mental switch to metric, at least with units we use frequently, like kilometers per hour or buying potatoes by the kilogram.
We live in a large, concrete apartment block, with no air conditioning, but we’ll make it. We are on the first floor (which you would call the second floor in the States), and we have large trees outside our south-facing windows, so it doesn’t get totally unbearable. Still, we will be looking forward to fall weather.
Grace and Peace
Forecasts from weather.yahoo.com.
Chapter 7 of Knowing God is entitled “God Unchanging,” and is about the immutability of God (i.e. the fact that God does not change). This is part of what makes the Bible such an incredibly relevant book for us today. We don’t have to make Christianity relevant by modernizing it in some way. The Word of God is inherently relevant to us today because the God who inspired the Scriptures and who became incarnate in Christ is the same God who reigns over the universe and comes to us today; he hasn’t changed.
We do change: our opinions, tastes, beliefs, and behaviors can change radically over a lifetime, or even day to day. But there is a sense in which we haven’t changed, and this relates also to the relevance of the Scriptures to us today. We haven’t changed in our capacity for sin. Abel murdered his brother. Sarah was afraid, so she lied. The wandering Israelites were guilty of immorality and idolatry. David committed adultery and then tried to cover it up. The nations of Israel and Judah mixed the truths about God with the beliefs of the pagans around them. The Pharisees were hypocrites. The New Testament churches had divisions and ethical problems. Because God is the same today as he was then, and because our basic problem (sin) hasn’t changed despite our technological advances, the Word of God speaks to us today just as it did 2000 years ago.
Here are some quotes from Chapter 7:
‘He cannot change for the better,’ wrote A.W. Pink, ‘for he is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.’
When we read our Bibles, therefore, we need to remember that God still stands to all the promises, and demands, and statements of purpose, and words of warning, that are there addressed to New Testament believers. These are not relics of a bygone age, but an eternally valid revelation of the mind of God towards His people in all generations, so long as this world lasts.
Still He hates the sins of His people, and uses all kinds of inward and outward pains and griefs to wean their hearts from compromise and disobedience. Still He seeks the fellowship of His people, and sends them both sorrows and joys in order to detach their love from other things and attach it to Himself.
Repenting means revising one’s judgment and changing one’s plan of action. God never does this; He never needs to, for His plans are made on the basis of a complete knowledge and control which extend to all things past, present, and future, so that there can be no sudden emergencies or unlooked-for developments to take Him by surprise.
What He does in time, He planned from eternity. And all that He planned in eternity He carries out in time. And all that He has in His word commtted Himself to do will infallibly be done.
If our God is the same as the God of New Testament believers, how can we justify ourselves in resting content with an experience of communion with Him, and a level of Christian conduct, that falls so far below theirs? If God is the same, this is not an issue that any one of us can evade.
Grace and Peace
Who would be a “green” president (i.e. an environmentally friendly president)? Al Gore? John Edwards? They say they are environmentally conscious, but they have been accused of hypocrisy because of their consumptive lifestyles.
How about George W. Bush? Check out this post from treehugger.com — Is George Bush a Closet Green?
Here’s a quote:
[Is] it possible that George Bush is a secret Green? Evidently his Crawford Winter White House has 25,000 gallons of rainwater storage, gray water collection from sinks and showers for irrigation, passive solar, geothermal heating and cooling. “By marketplace standards, the house is startlingly small,” says David Heymann, the architect of the 4,000-square-foot home. “Clients of similar ilk are building 16-to-20,000-square-foot houses.”
Grace and Peace
A few weeks ago I posted a map showing shifting meander patterns for the lower Mississippi River. Here are a few more geologic maps that are artistic masterpieces. The first is the geologic map of Colorado, compiled in the 1970s by the US Geological Survey:
The colors indicate rocks of various ages and types, and the map comes with an extensive legend. The map is available for download as four .jpg files plus the legend from geology.about.com. Here is a closeup at full scale:
There are a number of state geological maps available for download from the internet; a few of widely ranging quality can be found here.
Geological maps are useful for exploration for oil, gas, and minerals; and for environmental and engineering purposes. Here is a map from what is known as the fold and thrust belt of central Montana, near Canyon Ferry Reservoir:
This map is available for download from the USGS.
Grace and Peace
P.S. I say these are beautiful; my wife says she prefers pictures of flowers.