Thursday, April 30, 2009

Adam = Superman + John Glenn

Benny Hinn says a lot of ridiculous things. This may be the most ridiculous thing I've heard, but maybe not...Listen here.

So, which theme song will be going through your head the next time you read Gen 1-4, the theme from Superman or from 2010: A Space Odyssey?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mary Ann Glendon declines Notre Dame

When this news item came up on my blog reader it caught my eye for several reasons. First, and maybe the most important, it had to do with Notre Dame. Why do I care about Notre Dame? Well, Mark Noll is there, but that's not the reason. My niece was given a full ride to Notre Dame to play basketball starting in 2010. Yep, she was recruited and committed as a junior! Her team won the state tournament in PA and she was named the best woman's basketball player in the state. I think we'll be making quite a few trips to South Bend in the next few years.

Second, this article re-raises the abortion issue which has laid dormant, at least on my blog, since March 14th. So, here is Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon's letter to the President of Notre Dame explaining why she's declining the award and backing out of her commitment to speak at commencement. What do you think?

Song of the week

Great song from a great group. Whatever happened to them?


Landslide - The Smashing Pumpkins

Monday, April 20, 2009

Song of the Week

Preparing to preach this coming Sunday this song has been stuck in my mind.


Crown Him - Red Mountain Church

My Dad's Story

The testimonies of the two individuals baptized last night was certainly the high point of the evening. I love hearing about God's grace invading peoples lives - often in very unexpected ways. A while ago I had asked my dad to write up his testimony so I could share it here. I've heard it many times and I love the story of how God's grace came into his life (and through him into mine). I've heard my dad talk before about how he went from carrying switchblades on Friday to a Bible on Monday. Here's his testimony:

I was asked to write a few words about my background by my son, Daniel Jr. So, I will begin by saying that like Amos, the prophet of the Old Testament, “… I was not a prophet nor the son of a prophet.” By this I mean that I had no religious pedigree. My immediate family did not attend church and I was not encouraged to take up the practice. However, God had a very different idea about the matter.

Early one evening I received a phone call from my uncle who asked if I wanted to substitute on a church basketball team for the evening. I agreed, not thinking that it would be the most important event of my life, though I was only sixteen years old.

I played well enough that they wanted me to consider playing for them again. I was eager to play, but my uncle explained that the league required that I attend the church four times in a calendar month.

I reluctantly agreed; so come Sunday morning I went to church [editorial note: this was a church that was started by his grandparents!]. The pastor preached a stirring sermon about what the Bible says about sin and the consequences thereof. I knew I had no real relationship with God nor any assurance about my eternity. At sermons end an invitation was given and I responded and went forward to be shown how to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior.

The truth I learned then and have seen many times over is that God doesn’t put a great deal of stock in pedigree, but on one’s heart, on ones commitment to Him.
When I began attending church I didn’t have the proper clothes, and I didn’t understand the things that those raised in church took for granted. I fumbled through my Bible to find chapter and verse; it was embarrassing. I came to understand that God had a great deal in store for me - I only had to pursue it.

Thinking about it all now I am reminded of what a good friend told me. Dr. Witty the founder of Luther Rice Seminary said, “Dan, you never know what God’s prepared to do until you’re prepared to start.” It has been true many times over.
Since coming to faith in Christ I have never regretted it at any time. God has proven himself to be faithful and true over and over. It’s the best adventure to be had this side of heaven.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

summer reading I'm excited about

I am finishing up the last bit of my reading for my independent study on apologetics and I'm looking forward to diving into a good bit of summer reading. Here's what I'm hoping to read:

1. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God by Christopher Wright
2. Call to Spiritual Reformation, A: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by DA Carson
3. Christ and Culture Revisited by DA Carson
4. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch
5. Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture (Resources for Changing Lives), David Powlison
6. Holiness by Grace, Bryan Chapel

7. Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, Marvin Olasky
8. Justified In Christ: God's plan for us in justification, ed by K. Scott Oliphint
9. Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church, Kevin DeYoung
10. Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview, Goheen and Bartholomew
11. John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor, W. Robert Godfrey
12. Finally Alive, John Piper

13. Christless Christianity, Michael Horton
14. Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham, DG Hart
15. The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Wilberforce, More, Chalmers and Finney (History of Evangelicalism), John Wolffe
16. The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards: American Religion and the Evangelical Tradition, DG Hart, Sean Lucas, and Stephen Nichols
17. The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, Christopher Wright

How long is the summer again?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Two Cents on the Meat Industry

There's been a buzz about the last post on Animal Rights and Boundaries (my facebook profile has been hijacked). I was asked my opinion on the topic, so here's my two cents worth. Note: I feel as qualified to talk about the meat industry as I do talking about the colors of fingernail polish, but here it goes.

There is a profound difference between man and animal. Schaeffer makes the point wonderfully - God is infinite and personal; man is finite and personal. Man is like the rest of creation, including animals, in his finiteness. Yet, man is unlike all of creation and like God in his personhood. We are a 'higher' species in that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6) and that is a unique characteristic of mankind. Man is the capstone of God's creative endeavor. Only after the creation of man did he deem his work 'very good' (Gen. 1:31).

Moreover, God acted in his Son to save individual humans. That cannot be said of animals. I have the hope that my grandfather though he physically died 17yrs ago, is still alive and will one day experience the resurrection from the dead. I have reasonable hope that my dog flash is still alive (my parents had him put to sleep and lied to me about it - mean, just mean), nor do I have a reasonable hope that he will experience a resurrection.

I am very scared about what will/would happen if this distinction is lost. From 'we should treat animals like humans because we're essentially the same' it is not a far stretch to 'we can treat humans like animals because we're essentially the same'. The unique dignity of man must be guarded. (This, I think, was Walter Kaiser's main point).

Having said all that, I do think God cares about the whole of his creation including animals. Two verses come to mind. First, God is apparently concerned the many cattle would be destroyed along with all the people of Nineveh if they did not repent (Jonah 4:11). Also, he instruct the Israelites not to 'muzzle an ox' when it is working (Deut 25:4) - it needed to eat and God wanted to make sure the his people cared for the basic needs of their animals. God has certainly given us dominion over animals and they are our servants, but again, this doesn't give us free reign to treat them however we want. We are to care for them and be good stewards of them (as we are all of creation).

The balance to what I said earlier about Christ not saving individual animals is that Christ has redeemed and is saving the whole of creation (Caleb reminded me today that the child will get to play with the cobra! I think he's looking forward to that alot.)

Practically, I think we should be concerned about the unethical treatment of animals. say more (here's where I know I'm out of my area of competency to speak). I dont' think you make a case for mandatory vegitarianism from the Bible (eating meat is explicitly allowed in Gen. 9:2-3 and is presupposed in the NT - the question wasn't 'can I eat meat' but 'can I eat meat sacrificed to idols'). I will choose to believe what I have been told about the conditions of animals at 'factory farms' on faith not having researched it at all. The conditions, from what I've been told, are deplorable. It doesn't seem to be a strech to insist that animals that can feel pain not be subjected to needless pain.

Should we stop purchasing meat at supermarkets and buy from local farms. Again, I don't know because I haven't done my homework. I'd be willing to spend an extra buck or two (maybe three) per pound to do so - but I don't know, free range chickens could go for $20 a pound. I've never been to Bloomingfoods or Sahara Mart. Maybe next week. I would be willing to sacrifice to an extent to purchase free range products and meats from small family farms. I will not, however, sacrifice my families health and well-being however. In other words, if it comes down to buying meat from cheap supermarkets or not buying meat from local farms because it's to expensive, it's a no brainer.

I think there is a real issue of whether or not family farms can produce enough to feed everyone, yet I also think it would not be a bad thing for us to cut back on our meat consumption (on average, American's eat 200 pounds of meat a year - way up from just a few decades ago).

As for how to encourage more ethical treatments of animals and less meat consumption - i'm stuck here. I hate big government. I embrace free market capitalism. And I don't think 'factory farms' will ever change on their own. Based on what little I know about it, I don't think Proposition 2 in California was too far off base (I just scared myself - I agreed with something politicians in Cali did. What's happening to me?), but I admit I know little.

I'm not against 'frankenfood'. As my uncle says, "here's to a better life through chemicals!". If they have side effects, work to make better chemicals that won't. I doubt the side effects outweigh the benefits (less famine, fewer diseases wiping out whole herds and threatening food supplies, etc).

I look forward to getting a copy of Kaiser's book. I'll let you know what I learn. I have to go now and write a post about fingernail polish color - another area of expertise.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Animal Rights. Where's the Boundary?

A few days ago the NY Times ran a piece entitled "Humanity even for NonHumans". Not trying to be a poser - I didn't read it because I don't read the Times. However, there's a Koinonia blog has a post "Animal Rights and the Imago Dei" by respected biblical scholar/theologian Walter Kaiser Jr. Lots to think about there. Here's a preview:

There is no question that we as human beings do have ethical obligations to not only our fellow beings, but also to those outside our species. That is not in debate, but the question is this: to what level and gauged by what standard of suffering, goodness, or pain do we express that ethical obligation?

Later in the same post:

Here is an area we must pay more attention to in the coming days, for the gap between mortals made in the Imago Dei and the rest of the creatures of creation continues to become so narrow that one will not be able to set any type of priorities or levels of importance among all the species except for the responsibility of one order of species (mortals) to be responsible to care for all the other levels of creation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

YHWH 2, Dagon 0

In my daily reading I have been in 1 Samuel and I love the story of in 1 Samuel 5. In chapter 2 we read about God's rejection of Eli's household. Eli's sons were shysters and he did not restrain them. In chapter 3 we read of the call of Samuel's call. Chapter 4 is where the story I love begins. Israel goes and fights against the Philistines who defeat them handily. The people think, "Ah, God wasn't with us in battle. We better go get the ark of the covenant and some priests to go with us next time. Then we'll win for sure." Things, however, do not go according to plan. Israel is routed, Hophni and Phinehas (Eli's sons) are killed and worse yet, the ark is captured. When a messenger brings news to Eli he is so overcome he falls out of his chair "and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy" (1 Sam 4:18).

In chapter 5 we are taken to Ashdod where the Philistines bring the captured ark and set it up in the house of Dagon. I'm not sure if they set it up as a trophy or as an object of worship alongside Dagon - doesn't really matter. Read 5:3, "And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD". Oops. Bring in the Dagon lifters! Grab some rope and pulleys, lets set our god back up - and someone, wipe off his face, its all dirty.

Read on, 5:4, "But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him." What now?! Send the ark to someone else. Get it the heck out of Dodge, that's what. (Does it strike you as odd that they would send the ark away. It does me. I mean Dagon was obviously an inferior god who was powerless before YHWH. Why keep worshiping him? Why not embrace the God of Israel - he's shown you he is superior to Dagon? Maybe because we like our safe domesticated gods?)Interestingly, no matter where it went it caused disease and pestilence. Finally the Philistines decide they better return it to Israel (chapter 6 has some very interesting points as well - 70 Israelites are 'struck down' for looking into the ark').

Reading this devotionaly, what do I take from it? First, it's an awesome (as in awe inspiring, fear provoking) reminder that God brooks no rivals. Second, it's a reminder that the LORD is no petty regional God. He's not the God of the Hebrews only but of all things and all peoples. Third, we learn that God is indeed to be feared and that we must approach God on his terms (the 70 Israelites were struck down because they forgot this and became to familiar with GOD). All of this together is an urgent reminder of utter necessity of approaching God through and only through Jesus Christ. No alternative ways are open to us. There are rival ways, but God demands we come on his terms - through Christ. And this isn't a truth that is limited to the Christian West (can we really even say that anymore?). Indeed, as the story shows God demands all people come on his terms. His sovereignty is not limited to a certain ethnic, geographic group - nor is his love and mercy. Throughout the Old Testament there are these hints that God is not merely the God of the Jews, he is the Lord of All. We see hints that he will one day be worshiped by all nations, judge all peoples, etc. This is another story that points us in that direction. It is a theme picked up on by NT writers and made even more explicit. It reaches it culmination in Revelation 7:9-12:

"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Song of the Week

Ok, this seems like a really vain song, but it is fun. Enjoy.


Beautiful - Moby

Why People are Atheists, part 4

I've been negligent in posting my fourth installment in this series, but here it is finally. So far I've argued that some are atheists because they are seeking liberation from a moral code, others reject the idea of God because religion has been used as a tool of oppression by the establishment, and still other reject God because they fear faith and see it as a dangerous thing for humanity. I want to offer two more reasons in this post and then move on in subsequent post to think about how we should respond as a believers.

4. Some reject the idea of God because of the overly confident assertions of scientists that science has disproven God. There is a stigma that goes along with faith, especially serious faith, in academia. I must confess that in reading Dawkins' God Delusion I felt stupid. Why? Certainly not because his arguments were particularly strong (hint: there are virtually no arguments, just assertions and plenty of sarcasm). No, I felt stupid because he kept telling me I am stupid for believing in God. He points out several times that scientist are generally atheists (pg. 127), especially the elite scientists. He likes pointing out that the more educated one is, the more likely they will be atheists (pg. 129). He refers to belief in God as superstition and as reasonable as belief in the tooth fairy and Easter Bunny (pg. 75). He argues that a belief in God undermines serious scientific work and compromises intellectual rigor. He actually goes so far as to call intelligent Congressman and Senators liars for saying they believe in God: "There are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the Senate. Assuming that the majority of these 535 individuals are an educated sample of the population, it is statistically all but inevitable that a substantial number of them must be atheists. They must have lied, or concealed their true feelings in order to get elected" (pg. 67).

I will grant him, for the sake of the argument, that some may feel pressured to claim they believe in God or hide their atheistic leanings. There is a public pressure in this regard that is undeniable. Yet, I think we should be able to turn this argument around on Mr. Dawkins. Why do so few scientists and intellectual elites profess a faith in God? Could it be because of the peer pressure in the academic community? This is no doubt true also. Ben Stein's movie Expelled chronicles how belief in God or advocacy for Intelligent Design derailed more than one career. Moreover, the number of scientist who claim a personal religious faith of some kind has not changed in the last 80 years. McGrath, "One of the most widely help beliefs within atheist circles has been that as the beliefs and practices of the 'scientific' worldview became increasingly accepted within Western culture, the number of practicing scientists with any form of religious belief would dwindle to the point of insignificance. A survey of the religious views of scientist, undertaken in 1916, showed that about 40 percent of scientists had some form of personal religious beliefs. At the time, this was regarded as shocking, even scandalous. The survey was repeated in 1996, and showed no significant reduction in the proportion of scientist holding such beliefs, seriously challenging the popular notion of the relentless erosion of religious faith within the profession. The survey cuts the ground from under those who argued that the natural sciences are necessarily atheistic. Of those questioned, 40 percent had active religious beliefs, 40 percent had none (and can thus legitimately be regarded as atheists), and 20 percent were agnostics."

5. The last motive for the rejection of God, which I've already mentioned, is the notion that God is a hateful, vengeful monster. This view is expressed by Dawkins, who writes, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, monomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" (pg. 51). Both Sam Harris and Christopher Hitches echo Dawkins argument. If you're like me, then 1) you had to look a couple of those words up, and 2) you have wondered about God's character also, especially after reading Joshua or Judges. Of all the reasons for a disbelief in God, this one may be the most difficult to help people over.

I will begin posting responses to these reasons for rejecting God soon. What I will post, however, is not a detailed critique of the arguments (maybe later). Instead, it will be a manifesto of sorts. Many of these reasons for rejecting God are rooted in sins, corruption, false teaching, misunderstanding, etc. within the church (with the exception of reason 5). Part of showing people the reasonableness of a belief in God will be correcting and guarding against these problems.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Nanking

I just finished watching the movie Nanking - "the true story of how a few brave souls saved the lives of thousands". The film is a combination of real interviews with survivors of the Japanese invasion and occupation of Nanking and actors reading letters and diaries of the foreigners who stayed on to help the Chinese people. One of the blurbs describes it a "not just moving...essential". I agree. It is as important a movie as Schindlers List, though not nearly as many will see it. The story is as tragic, as horrific as the story of the Jews in Europe, though few know it. It is a story of the sin and the evil that lies within mankind. It is also a story about human dignity and the courage of a few who would not turn their back on the suffering of others. I would highly recommend seeing this film.

why people are atheists, part 3

"And he [Lord Asriel] invited us to join him, sister. To join his army against the Authority. I wished with all my heart I could pledge us there and then. He showed me that to rebel was right and just, when you considered what the agenst of the Authority did in His name...And I thought of the Bovangar children, and the other terrible mutilations I have seen in our own southlands; and he told me of many more hideous cruelties dealt out with the Authority's names - of how they captured withces, in some worlds, and burn them alive, sisters. yes, witches like ourselves...He opened my eyes. He showed me things I had never seen, cruelties and horrors all committted in the name of the Authority, all designed to destroy the joys and the truthfulness of life." - from the Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

So far we have noted that many people reject the idea of God because 1) they desire a greater moral autonomy, to be liberated from what they see is a repressive system of morals, and 2) religion has often been used as a tool of those in power to oppress - religion (Christianity) has at times become part of the establishment. The quote above from second book in Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy brings us to the third reason people often reject religion and the idea of God.

3. Many, it seems, reject religion and the very notion of God because it has been the cause of great violence and suffering. This seems to be the strongest motive for the 'new atheists', men like Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation), Richard Dawkins (God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great). All of these thinkers at some point argue that belief in God leads to terrible violence, is dangerous and needs to be 'cured' for the sake of humanities survival (all also share a hatred for the God of the Old Testament, but I'll probably treat that topic separately).

This line of reasoning is not, however, new. La Mettrie wrote in 1748, "If atheism were generally accepted, every form of religion would be destroyed, and cut off at its roots. There would be no more theological wars, no more soldiers of religion - such terrible soldiers!" (quoted in McGrath, pg. 33). Sam Harris asserts, "Christians have abused, oppressed, enslaved, insulted, tormented, tortured, and killed people in the name of God for centuries, on the basis of a theologically defensible reading of the Bible" (Letter to a Christian Nation, pg. 23). Earlier in the same book Harris expresses dismay over the failure of evolutionary science to stamp out the idea of God creating. This 'stupidity' coupled with America's great power as a nation, is, according to Harris, incredibly dangerous. He writes, "Our county now appears, as at not other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant. Anyone who cares about the fate of civilization would do well to recognize that the combination of great power and great stupidity is simply terrifying, even to one's friends" (pg. xi). Amazingly, he claims "Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches" (pg. 12).

Dawkins shares Harris' fear of belief. In his chapter "What's wrong with religion? Why be so hostile?" he catalogs the atrocities committed by religious zealots in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the execution of blasphemers and converts to Christianity. He also holds up the attitudes/actions of extremists from the Religious Right, 'the American Taliban', as evidence of the nastiness and violence fostered by religion and a belief in God. He writes, "They [politicians] characterize terrorist as motivated by pure 'evil'. But they are not motivated by evil. However misguided we may think them, they are motivated, like the Christian murderers of abortion doctors, by what they perceive to be righteousness, faithfully pursuing what their religion tells them. They are not psychotic' they are religious idealist who, by their own lights, are rational" (God Delusion, pg. 344).

Both Harris and Dawkins anticipate our objections. We say, "Oh, but those are just the nut jobs. There are many moderate, non-violent people of faith". Dawkins argues that 'sensible' religion makes the world safe for radical fundamentalism by "teaching children, from their earliest years, that unquestioning faith is a virtue" (Delusion, pg. 323). Harris writes, "I have little doubt that liberals and moderates find the eerie certainties of the Christian Right to be as troubling as I do. It is my hope, however, that they will also soon begin to see that the respect they demand for their own religious beliefs gives shelter to extremists of all faiths" (Letter, pg. ix).

The idea that faith is the enemy of peace finds its way into popular sentiment also. John Lennon's song "Imagine" is the perfect example:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today


Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace


With the rise of religious extremism it is no wonder that this has become one of the prime motivations for people rejecting the idea of God. This is an objection that Christians should take very seriously (as we should the other also). There is much we must own up too, confess and repent of. Of that there is little or no doubt. Yet, and here is another preview of a response, have Dawkins and Harris forgotten the atrocities committed by the Stalinist regime? Were these committed in the name of God? No, quite the contrary.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

why people are atheists, part 2

In the first post I discussed one reason why people suppress a belief in God, namely the desire to be free from moral accountability and standards. Many atheists have rejected God because he stands behind a system of moral norms that they viewed as oppressive. Few are as forthright as Aldous Huxely who admits, "For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotical revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever." (cited in Ravi Zacharias' Can Man Live Without God, pg. 30).

This quote is a great bridge to the second reason people reject the idea of God.

2. Many have rejected the idea of God because religion has been used as a tool to oppress. So, in Huxley's words, atheism strikes a deathblow to meaning and the systems of morality and political/economic oppression fall also. To be honest, this critique is not far off the mark, though it does seem to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If one looks at the changing national attitude towards religion in France immediately prior too and during the French Revolution, it's not hard to see why popular sentiment turned against the church and then, ultimately, against God. For decades the church had offered its support to a monarchy that was cruel, corrupt and out of touch with the needs of its people. Voltaire, a harsh critique of the church was right when he argued that if you eliminated the immorality, power and corruption of the church you will have eliminated the main reason for people to turn to atheism (McGrath, pg. 27). Others were not as modest in their ambitions and took aim not only at the church but at it's most fundamental belief - a belief in the existence of God. McGrath writes, "A genuine revolution would therefor necessitate overthrowing this fundamental belief altogether, rather than attempting to reform it. Atheism was the Promethean liberator, which alone could guarantee the initial success and subsequent triumph of the Revolution" (pg. 38).

Fast-forward fifty or so years and hop on a train to Germany and you'll see many of the same thoughts/feelings emerging from two German scholars/atheists, Ludwig Feuerbach and Karl Marx. The Lutheran church enjoyed a privileged status in German society and had a vested interest in maintaining the social status quo even though it had led to "utter poverty and misery" for huge numbers of people. McGrath agrees that "there is no doubt that the church of this period was too much a prisoner of existing social structure, and that it often colluded with the belief that these structure were definitively grounded in Christian dogmas" (pg. 55). Feuerbach concluded that the idea of God was a human invention intended to help humanity to deal with the misery of life. Marx describes religion and a belief in God in similar ways. Religion is embraced as a way to deal with the sorrows and injustices in life - "yet these themselves arise through the social situation of the individual" (McGrath, pg. 63). Marx argued that religion and a belief in God numb people to their pain, and has been used throughout history to add a sense of divine legitimation to the status quo - a legitimation that was beyond being challenged. Thus "the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness" (cited, McGrath, pg. 66).

Interestingly, McGrath argues that neither atheism nor communism were able to gain a strong foothold in the US because the situation was very different. Whereas in Europe the state church has become an "integral part of the establishment", an establishment that had become oppressive, in the US, this wasn't the case. The Constitutional safeguards against the wedding of church and state may have saved America from the same fate as Europe.

I'll save most of my prescriptive comments for a later post, but I think a short preview is in order. We must constantly be vigilant against going to bed with the power brokers in society - whether political, economic or otherwise. McGrath urges, "One of the most obvious lessons of history is that atheism thrives when the church is seen to be privileged, out of touch with the people, and powerful..." (pg. 55).

Monday, April 06, 2009

Song of the Week

This song was new to me last night and I really like it.


I Have Found - Kim Walker