The American Humanist Association is launching an ad campaign, urging us all to “Consider Humanism.”
This campaign uses a familiar atheist technique: Focus on the evils done in the name of religion; ignore the evils done by atheists.
The graphics I’ve seen have this format:
- What some believe — a verse from the Bible or Koran urging some repugnant thing, such as slaughtering, hating, oppressing, and so forth.
- What humanists think — a quote from some “enlightened” atheist showing how far we’ve come from the barbaric days of the Bible and Koran.
Note that religious people just “believe” something, whereas humanists/atheists “think.”
I am not a Muslim, obviously, so I’ll leave it to Muslims to defend themselves against the humanists.
There is a good, well-thought-out answer—yes, we Christians know how to think—for each of the accusations that the humanist ad campaign levels against Christianity. Consider the following ad:
This one is rather silly. Does any Christian really think that Jesus, in this passage, was telling us to hate anyone? Jesus was clearly using hyperbole, as we are told over and over to love one another, and even to love our enemies. Jesus wants our love for him to be so great that all other loves—including our love for ourselves—pales in comparison.
I’ll take Katharine Hepburn’s word for it, that she believes (that must have been a typo on the humanists’ part) that we should be kind to one another. I have to wonder, however, whether that belief comes from the Anglo-Saxon side of her cultural heritage, or from the Christian side.
The Bible paints things as they really are. The people of Samaria (the northern ten tribes of Israel) had adopted a religious system (Baal worship) that included ritual prostitution (probably involuntary for many of the prostitutes), human sacrifice, mutilation, and incest. The humanists seem to think that God was being rather harsh in sending judgment on all of this, but most of us can discern that something is horribly wrong in a religious system that encourages ritual sacrifice of children.
Albert Einstein may have been guilty of exactly what he said he opposed. He could not imagine a God who punishes, saying this is “but a reflection of human frailty.” I suppose he would have an easier time imagining a God who didn’t punish sin, but then wouldn’t he just be projecting his own personal or cultural biases on that deity?
It wouldn’t be fair for me to pick out the easiest ads (and I think the first two I mentioned were incredibly easy to answer), so I’ll go for what I think is the most difficult:
I’ll start with the atheist/humanist solution that is proposed, and then get to a Christian response.
First, I applaud those who work towards peace, whether they be humanist, Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, or Christian. I am not opposed to international efforts to prevent genocide.
Having said this, I wouldn’t trust atheists (whether they call themselves “atheists” or “humanists”) to run an international organization that would “adjudicate and enforce measures to punish acts of genocide.” The atheist track record in the past century is one of massive genocide (Stalin, Mao, etc.), and it would be easy for them (or any other group) to start favoring one side over the other in a conflict. Human nature has embedded within it characteristics such as greed, fear, and aggression, and too much power in the hands of one group always ends up in disaster. Christianity recognizes this. Most humanists, on the other hand, put too much trust in the ever-elusive perfectibility of the human species.
Genocide is most certainly wrong. I believe that the atheists/humanists ultimately have no absolute reason for saying it is wrong, but I take them at their word that they really do believe (there’s that word again) it is wrong.
Genocide certainly goes against all of the ethical teachings in the New Testament, and most of the ethical teachings of the Old Testament. But what about instances in the Old Testament where God told his people to fight wars, and to wipe out every man, woman, and child? This is a legitimate issue to raise, as mass extermination of humans—the holocaust, and the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia—is a great evil. From a Christian perspective, it is good to keep the following in mind:
- God is the maker and ruler of all. He has the absolute right of ownership over all peoples. If he judges an individual or a whole tribe ahead of time, he is within his rights to do so.
- The Canaanites were exceedingly wicked: human sacrifice and so forth. God could have judged them by sending a plague or famine, but in this case he used an army.
- All are sinners and deserving of God’s judgment. This goes for everyone from Adolf Hitler to Mother Theresa. The judgment on the Canaanites is therefore a brief picture of what we all deserve.
- The commands given in the Old Testament for military campaigns were extremely limited in their scope. These commands were for the conquest of Canaan, and never applied elsewhere.
- God is just. The same severe penalty given to the Canaanites (destruction) was later mandated for Israelites who followed false Gods (see what I wrote about the judgment on the Israelites in Samaria up above).
- Grace was shown to repentant Canaanites, such as Rahab and her family.
- We now advance the Kingdom of God through acts of love and proclamation of Christ.
This is an answer that I find satisfactory. Genocide is evil, and there is nothing in the Bible to justify it or even to suggest that it is an acceptable action for us to engage in.
If you are a Christian, do not be duped by the “logic” and “reason” of the atheists in their ad campaign. Their arguments are not as reasonable and logical as they make them out to be.
If you are a humanist/atheist, I urge you to consider Christianity as a better explanation for the world and human nature, and as a source, through Christ, of hope for the future. I am not asking you to throw out reason or logic, but to find in Christ both the ground and the fulfillment of all true reason and logic.
Grace and Peace
33 thoughts on “Consider atheism? I don’t think so”
There are some points that you raise that I disagree with, but i’ll ignore it for now, because a 30-word advertisement is not the place to find a well structured argument.
I’m interested in your final paragraph, because it is a direct request to me:
“If you are a humanist/atheist, I urge you to consider Christianity as a better explanation for the world and human nature, and as a source, through Christ, of hope for the future. I am not asking you to throw out reason or logic, but to find in Christ both the ground and the fulfillment of all true reason and logic.”
What do you mean by this: “I asking you to find in Christ both the ground and the fulfillment of all true reason and logic.” ? This means nothing to me. It’s gobbledigook. What is the fulfillment of all true reason? What is the fulfillment of all true logic? What is the ground of all true reason? What is the ground of all true logic?
I mostly agree with your explanations for the Bible quotes on the banners. In general, I tend to find that they are verses torn out of context: the context of a passage, or historical context, or cultural context.
However, I disagree with the implications of your final paragraph. You say, “If you are a humanist/atheist, I urge you to consider Christianity as a better explanation for the world and human nature, and as a source, through Christ, of hope for the future. I am not asking you to throw out reason or logic, but to find in Christ both the ground and the fulfillment of all true reason and logic.”
The purpose of Christianity is not merely to explain the world better, nor is the purpose of Christ merely to provide hope for the future. If you have time, you may want to read a piece on a shared blog I write for, The Paradoxical Panoply: see http://paradoxicalpanoply.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/parachute-and-evangelism.
As a side point, I think the only Person who has the capacity for full, true reason and logic is God: we can’t prove that our laws of proof are full and complete (that would be a circular proof), but God stands outside of those limits.
Thanks for this, Geo.
I have written a piece entitled ‘Atheism is not the Default Switch’. I find it hard to understand why people opt so easily for atheism when it has such problems with tolerance, logic and its own history of bloodshed and oppression. As an ex-atheist (be it a long time ago) I don’t find anything much there to consider.
I’m perfectly capable of writing gobbledigook, but I don’t think I did it this time.
To a Christian, reason and logic are only possible because the universe is ordered in such a way that it reflects the wisdom, reason, and logic of God. Logic and reason, therefore, work best when they are in line with the One who created the universe.
If there is no God, how do we know that we can trust our senses or our reason, being that they were honed by natural selection to help us survive, whether the outcome was true or not?
Christ (who to us is God in the flesh) is both the ground (source, foundation) and the fulfillment (goal, the ultimate reality) of reason. Reason can be distorted, or it can be put to good use.
“Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” — 1 Cor 1:24 ESV
“Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” — Col 2:2,3
Attempting reason and logic apart from God will lead one astray when applied to the existence and character of God, as seen in the humanist ad campaign.
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” — 1 Cor 1:20 ESV
“For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.” — 1 Cor 3:19 ESV
“This is an answer that I find satisfactory.”
Which extrapolates to, if you firmly believed tomorrow that your god wanted you to kill and rape, you would. Which is why I’d greatly prefer not to have you for a neighbor.
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Acts committed “by” alleged atheists are not the same as acts committed “in the name of”. Christianity has a long and treasured history of genocide in the name of their god, starting with the Old Testament, up through the Inquisitions, and even into modern times. Show me genocides or any other atrocities committed “in the name of” atheism.
As an atheist you could wake up tomorrow and decide to kill/rape anyone you wanted, believing there is no objective moral code to follow:
If we are simply the products of evolution, there is no objective morality; if there is no objective morality, it is all subjective; if it’s all subjective, then morality is what you make it – “This is my life and I’ll do what I want and you can’t tell me what to do.”
I’m glad you’re not my neighbour…or anywhere near my neighbourhood.
At least you see killing and rape as wrong. Therefore, you believe there are things that are ‘good’ and ‘evil’? Based on what?
No, I’d like to live next door to Geo.
I don’t think his God would tell him to do that, and I don’t think you do either, NotAScientist.
Genocide in the name of an atheist ideology?
Stalin – the atheist you all try to forget.
And there’s more.
Steve, I would be interested in learning about this atheistic ideology which Stalin worked to further.
What ideology was it that he was following, what actions did he do to further it, and how was it atheistic?
But (now that I already made that comment), I have to say that there are few things I consider less worthwhile than a consideration of the various good/bad things done by the followers of something. The actions of the followers might hint at something, but it doesn’t prove or disprove the validity/truth/accuracy of what it is they claim to follow.
People can be wonderfully moral people without being Christians. People can be murderers while being Christians. Neither fact changes the truth of Christ.
The main reason I asked you, Steve, about what it is you think it is Stalin did for what reasons, is that there is a LOT of inaccurate “history” floating around the Interwebs. I’ve run across the Hitler/Stalin/Mao-did-X-because-they-were-atheists versions quite a few times, and they are 90% inaccurate.
Well, if you don’t have immediate access to history, what we need in affirming what Stalin did and why is references and this will take time. Bear with me.
I don’t think Geo would be a bad neighbour, neither do I think most people would who call themselves ‘Christian’. There is a major difference between someone who calls themselves ‘Christian’ then does things that the Christ of the gospels would never condone, and someone like Stalin or a number of atheists do as the logical outworking of their beliefs.
I have worked as a teacher in a prison – there aren’t that many Christians in their.
Oh, I have immediate access to history resources here.
Stalin acted very definitely in his own self interest as a dictator. He was thoroughly a Communist insofar as it furthered his own interests. He was an avowed atheist and he utilized religion and atheism to his own ends, heavily persecuting religion when it suited him and supporting it when it suited him.
Far and away, he was interested in his personal power far above any ideological persuasions, and his persecution of religions in the USSR were carried out in accord with that viewpoint. His persecutions of religion weren’t intended (primarily) to be an enforcement of atheism because of atheism itself, but rather because the churches in the USSR were points of resistance and criticism against him.
I can tell you now that you will be able to find dozens of quotes from him about how horrible religion is and how it needs to be stomped out. However, as soon as the official church leadership began to support him, he turned right around and began to strongly support the church, spending millions of dollars to reactivate those he had just closed down.
He didn’t give a rat’s ass about the ideological conflict between Christianity and Atheism, he was only concerned about whether or not the church was going to support his power.
I need references for that. Otherwise your statement is just another ‘inaccurate “history” floating around the Interwebs.’
Your argument does not defend atheism, it just means one cannot use the ‘Religion causes war’ argument because atheists have used ideologies as covers for inflicting harm for their own selfish reasons.
I find this argument so tedious! Half the time Christians are being called ‘wets’ and being laughed at for ‘turning the other cheek – as if that would work!. Ha! Ha!’ Then we are causing wars and genocide.
If you were walking home late at night down an alleyway and a bunch of youths approached you, would make a difference if you knew they were coming back from a Bible Study?
Well, I have a set of Catholic History Review (not mine, it’s a neighbor’s and he has loaned it to me) here that has some good articles on the topic. There are a lot of fantastic articles in there, not just on the RCC, but on history in general, so I can suggest it to you even if you aren’t Catholic, just as a great history resource. That’s not where I first learned most of this stuff. (I have my schooling to thank for that.)
Give me about 20 minutes and I’ll track down the main article I’m thinking about right now.
That’s a bit much to refer to, so I can send you over to Wikipedia and check out Stalin. They don’t cover it in much depth, but they do at least mention that he did reestablish churches.
Here we go. Volume 59.3. Fortunately it was near the beginning of the stack.
Here’s a quote:
“the Soviet leaders approach to the churhch during this time is best understood within the framework of his interest in power and power for its own sake rather than in terms of his commitment to the atheistic ideology of Marxism or his behavior as a traditional autocrat. The Nazi invation of Russia, Dunn explains, set in motion a general reapratial of organized religion by Stalin which culminated in his abandonment of Marxist atheism and the reestablisment of the Orthodox Patriarchate as a means of rallying and unifying the Russian people….
(I don’t want to type all this so I’ll skip a bit) ….
the Vatican… finally recognized that the Soviet dictator’s will to power, not any attachment he might have to either Marxism or Russian traditionalism, was behind his policy”
Every history book I’ve ever read that has dealt with the topic has said the exact same stuff about Stalin and the Church in the USSR.
He didn’t do “genocide in the name of atheist ideology”. He did genocide in the name of keeping his own power.
There is absolutely nothing in Christianity that would cause me to come to the conclusion that God would ever want us to “kill and rape,” as you suggest. Nothing. If I had a vivid dream where an angel told me to go kill my neighbor, I would completely ignore it. Why? Because I take Scripture as a higher authority than dreams or inner thoughts, and “kill and rape” just doesn’t fit into a life of following Jesus.
You may prefer to not have me as a neighbor (even though you don’t even know me — sounds like irrational stereotyping to me), but the fact of the matter is we don’t often have much choice in who moves in next door.
Would you rather have a next-door neighbor who believes that all people are valuable, that it is always wrong to lie, murder, or steal, and who believes that we are called to love and serve those around them, or a neighbor who thinks that all of the above are good ideas most of the time, but not moral absolutes (because there are no moral absolutes)?
Note: I’m not saying that Christians always live up to their standards, or that atheists will steal from you when you aren’t on your guard.
Raytheist (#6) said, “Christianity has a long and treasured history of genocide in the name of their god, starting with the Old Testament, up through the Inquisitions, and even into modern times.”
When “Christians” have been involved in atrocities, the problem has never been that they were obeying Christ in doing so. It is not that they were being too Christian, but that they were not behaving like Christians at all.
For example, atrocities committed during the Crusades were generally done by soldiers from societies that were only partially Christianized. Many of the Northern European nations retained many of their pagan values (e.g. honor) that were expressed in ways that were contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.
We could get into a back-and-forth argument about “Who was worse, the inquisitors or the communists?” but I don’t think we would accomplish much. The fact of the matter is that human societies seem to rather naturally fall into conflict and war, whether they be religious or non-religious. As a Christian, I view this as a result of the sinful inclination of the human heart, expressed in greed, fear, and nationalism.
geochristian, I still dont understand what you are asking me to do. Are you asking me to use a different type of reason, or a different type of logic?
Are you saying I should use yahweh’s version of reason/logic? If so, what is that version? How is it different to the regular version that I am currently using?
geochristian said: “Attempting reason and logic apart from God will lead one astray”. So I should check my conclusions with Yahweh, to confirm that they are corrct?
I think you are asking me to do something, and I’m trying to cnofirm what it is.
All this talk about who has killed the most people, christians or atheists, or how many have killed/died in the name of christianity or in the name if atheism is moot.
It is completely unrelated to the truth/falsity of atheism or theism. And if theism is true, which variety is the most accurate.
One thing that I am asking is that you be aware of the presuppositions that lie behind your reason and logic.
For instance, one may think that it is “scientific” to rule out miracles before investigating the claims of Christianity, such as creation of the universe from nothing, or the resurrection of Christ. But this philosophical presupposition did not itself come from science, and may cause one to dismiss important pieces of evidence.
In order to better understand the thinking of those he interacted with (mostly in post-Christian Europe), Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer would take a period of time (a week?) and try to think like an atheist/agnostic. Perhaps you ought to give something like that a try. Take a week and try to think about the big questions (e.g. Why is there a universe? Is there a God? Why are humans the way they are?) from a Christian perspective.
You (if you would be bold enough to give this a try) could let the rules of logic be the same.
What would be different? Start with the assumption that the cosmological argument is correct and that there is a God. Don’t assume that that God always stays aloof; perhaps he does intervene in his creation from time to time, but not in a haphazard way. Don’t assume that those who believe the Bible are a bunch of country bumpkins.
Perhaps in all of this, you will get a glimpse of what we mean when we say that Christ is the beginning and end of wisdom.
Overall, I agree that the question isn’t “Who has killed more?” but “Which is true?”
I addressed this a little bit in #19.
Thanks for this, WebMonk.
I shall also look at my references, but it does not really change anything. As I have said before, all it shows is that anything can be used as a cover for committing evil acts.
I don’t believe the Christ of the gospels would condone the evil done in His name, I don’t think Stalin really cared so much about the results of his actions.
Would you like to live under a Stalinist regime?
As I have said before, all it shows is that anything can be used as a cover for committing evil acts.
Absolutely. I’m just a stickler for details, so I just object to the (incorrect) claim that Stalin was doing things in the name of atheism or something like that. Historically that just doesn’t pan out – pure power-hungry ruler was Stalin. Ideology came and went for him, including Communism, interestingly enough.
I’ll just remark that in contrast to the title of the OP, “atheism” and “humanism” are not synonyms. The notion of Christian humanism has roots as early as the 2nd century CE. See here for an overview and some history.
Even in the face of their own declarations? Are there no true Scotsmen?
I agree that “humanism” is a word with more than one meaning. The American Humanist Association, on the other hand, is clearly an atheistic organization. Here’s the AHA’s description of humanism from their “About Humanism” page:
The “without theism” part would be rather incompatible with Christianity, even in its “Christian humanism” form.
Thanks for your comment.
P.S. I’m not sure why your comment got held up in my spam folder; my apologies.
I don’t rule out miracles as impossible, I just think they are extremely unlikely. So, one person’s story won’t persuade me.
So, you want me use logic/reason differently for a short time, as an experiment. By assuming that some arguments, which I have discovered to be fallacious, are in fact sound. And also assuming that some claims, which I have found to be supported by insufficient evidence, are actually true. Is that a fair statement of what you are asking?
This is an interesting idea, I would be happy to accept your offer.
Is this just for christian claims, or are intending that I be consistent in applying these new standards to all claims?
Boz, he’s not asking you to use reason or logic differently. He’s using a system of thought known as presuppositional apologetics. Names to look up if you want to understand the philosophy and background are Cornelius van Til, Greg Bahnsen, Rousas J. Rushdoony, Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis. Some modern proponents of this method of apologetics and epistemology include Ken Ham and his astrophysics specialist Jason Lisle.
It would take a long time to explain it all but the bottom line, according to van Til goes something like this (if geo christian will forgive such a crude simplification)
1. There is no ‘neutral’ common ground between christian and non-christian on which both can agree because one presupposes God and the other presupposes there is no god 2. The christian is consistent with his worldview. 3. Because the non-christian thinks and acts inconsistently with his presuppositions there exist common grounds. 4. The christian can use these common grounds to demonstrate that his world view is consistent while the non-christian world view is irrational and absurd.
Since genocide has been mentioned let’s use that as an example. The christian worldview is that all people are made in the image of God and therefore each life has value and purpose. Based on that presupposition a christian can say that genocide is wrong (even if he actually commits genocide he still knows it’s wrong). The non-christian’s presumed presupposition is that life is the product of random evolutionary processes and ultimately human life is the same as plankton, without individual value or purpose. Thus the non-christian has no grounds on which to say that genocide is wrong. If he does so he is borrowing from the christian world view, even if he doesn’t know he is.
It goes further and suggests that the non-christian can’t even be sure that he knows anything at all or even that he exists without borrowing something from the christian world view.
Van Til never said that this was the purpose of Christianity or the meaning of Christ – only that it was a way – THE way – of demonstrating the absurdity any position other than Reformed Christianity.
Look it up and contrast it with Barth and Kant.
But watch out for Ham and Lisle, they play a game with logic where they have the rules and change them at will.
I did say you can keep the same rules of logic, as for the most part they will be the same for a Christian and non-Christian.
Reason, however, has a different starting point.
For the atheist/skeptic, the starting point is self. The atheist needs to assume that they have the intellectual power to discern truth from error. When it comes to the big questions, such as the existence of God, one has to have a tremendous amount of faith in one’s reason in order to even begin to address the question.
For a Christian, the starting point is God rather than self. Because God is the author of reason, and has created us in some way “in God’s image,” we can comprehend the creation. Our understanding may not be perfect or complete, but it will be substantial.
How does one chose between starting points? I have already suggested the cosmological argument as a good place to start. You should examine your reasons for rejecting it. Are you dismissing the cosmological argument because you see a problem with the logic, or because you don’t like the conclusion?
In order to think like a Christian for a week, you would have to assume that perhaps there might be a God who has created the universe. If there is such a God, then it is not at all unreasonable to believe that that God has interacted in one way or another with his creation, or perhaps even entered into it in some way, as he has in the incarnation (God becoming man in Christ).
I disagree with cosmological argument because I discovered it to be fallacious.
I do assume that I can discover what is (probably) true. For example, when someone asks when the next bus is scheduled to arrive, I say: “11.33”. I don’t say: “I have no idea! The schedule could be wrong, or misprinted, or maybe this is all a dream and I am asleep. Or maybe we are living in the matrix!”. Even though these are all possible ways that I could be wrong. The existence of Ganesh or Yahweh is just another question, it is not special in any way.
Nevertheless, I will start with those assumptions and see what I can conclude.
Sapphire, thanks for the information leads.
An interesting article over on the SuperScholar website http://www.superscholar.org/the-future-of-secular-humanism/
about the recent conference on secular humanism in Los Angeles (Last October). There seems to be a lot of disagreement about where secular humanism needs to go.
Thanks for the link. It always bothers me that the humanists get away with calling themselves “free thinkers” as they tend to be rather narrow-minded.
It also bothers me that Richard Dawkins (see Not quite so bright — part 2) would get an award for anything having to do with his bashing of religion.
Some of the debates looked interesting:
Comments closed. This article was re-posted as Analyzing and atheist ad campaign on October 8, 2013.
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