Saturday, November 24, 2007

Truthbomb Apologetics November Newsletter

A Ministry of Faith Christian Fellowship

Introduction: Atheism Strikes Back?

The recent barrage of books written by atheists would seem to indicate that anti-theism is back with a vengeance. With titles like, The God Delusion, God is Not Great, and The End of Faith, non-believers have forged a full-frontal assault upon theism (belief in God).


The “New Atheists,” as they are called in the media, fail to present any arguments that one would not find in the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, Freidrich Nietzsche, or Bertrand Russell, influential atheistic thinkers of the past, so what makes “New Atheism” any different than “Old Atheism?”


What is the “New” Atheism?

Simply put, their approach. Atheists in the past have attacked theism on the basis of error and their efforts have obviously failed as theism continues to be the predominate belief throughout the world. The new approach is not to attack religion on a factual basis, but actually attempt to prove that religion (in particular Christianity) is evil and the cause of most, if not all, of the problems in the world.


With sharp tongues, witty insults, and shallow philosophy, these guys hate all things religious and aren’t afraid to let you know.


Who are the “New” Atheists?

In Sam Harris’s speech at the Atheist Alliance Conference in Washington, D.C. on September 28, 2007, he introduces us to the new atheists:


“While it is an honor to find myself continually assailed with Dan [Dennett], Richard [Dawkins], and Christopher [Hitchens] as though we were a single person with four heads…” [1]

A “single person with four heads” indeed. These four men, and a few others, have one single goal in mind: wipe religion off the face of the earth. So let’s meet them…


Sam Harris (http://www.samharris.org/)


Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letters to a Christian Nation. He is a graduate of Stanford University and has studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions. He is currently completing his doctorate in neuroscience.


Kerby Anderson, of Probe Ministries writes of Harris:


“He goes beyond the traditional argument that suffering in the world proves there is no God. He argues that belief in God actually causes suffering in the world. He says, “That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion—to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources—is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity.” He argues that unless we renounce religious faith, religious violence will soon bring civilization to an end.” [2]


Richard Dawkins (http://richarddawkins.net/)

“Faith is on of the world’s great evils, comparable to the small-pox virus but harder to eradicate.” [3]

Author of The God Delusion, Oxford Biologist Richard Dawkins has been one of the leading proponents for Darwinism and atheism for many years. He is beloved by his fellow atheists and know as, “Darwin’s Rottweiler.”

Anderson writes of Dawkins:

“He says that religious belief is psychotic and arguments for the existence of God are nonsense. He wants to make respect for belief in God socially unacceptable.
He calls for atheists to identify themselves as such and join together to fight against the delusions of religious faith. He says, “The number of nonreligious people in the US is something nearer to 30 million than 20 million. That’s more than all the Jews in the world put together. I think we are in the same position the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was a need for people to come out.”
Like Harris, Dawkins does not merely disagree with religious faith, but he disagrees with tolerating religious faith. He argues that religious people should not be allowed to teach these religious “myths” to their children, which Dawkins calls the “colonization of the brains of innocent tykes.” [4]

Christopher Hitchens (http://www.hitchensweb.com/)

Christopher Hitchens is a British-American author, journalist and literary critic. He has been a columnist at Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The Nation, Slate and Free Inquiry. He has recently debated theists Alister McGrath, Dinesh D’Souza, and Douglas Wilson on the topic of God, Christianity, and Secularism and is the author God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

These quotes from Hitchens speak for themselves:

“All religions and all churches are equally demented in their belief in divine intervention, divine intercession, or even the existence of the divine in the first place.” [5]

"It would be horrible if it were true that we were designed and then created and then continuously supervised throughout all our lives waking and sleeping and then continue to be supervised after our deaths-if that were true, it would be horrible.” [6]

Daniel C. Dennett (http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/incbios/dennettd/dennettd.htm)

Author of Breaking the Spell, Freedom Evolves, and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and other well know publications, Mr. Dennett is an outspoken atheist and advocate for the “brights” movement.

“We brights don’t believe in ghosts or elves or the Easter Bunny-or God.” [7]

“Daniel Dennett is another important figure and author of the book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. He does not use the harsh and critical rhetoric of the others, but still is able to argue his case that religion must be subjected to scientific evaluation. He believes that “neutral, scientifically informed education about every religion in the world should be mandatory in school” since “if you have to hoodwink—or blindfold—your children to ensure that they confirm their faith when they are adults, your faith ought to go extinct.” [8]

Is Atheism a Religion?

Although most atheists despise and deny this, there is reason to believe that atheism is indeed a religion.

Consider the following comments by Matthew Slick of carm.org after attending the 33rd Annual Atheist Convention:

“While sitting in the crowd, listening to speakers, and watching the atheists' reactions, it dawned on me how utterly religious they seemed to be. No, I'm not saying they believe in a God and I'm not saying atheism is a religion. But, they sure acted as though it were. Let me explain.

As I sat there, watching, taking notes, listening, I formulated a list that I think is accurate and representing what I saw at the convention. Please take a look.


1. Creed
A. No God, anti God, Pro-homosexuality, anti-Christianity.
B. Atheism is a belief. I know that many atheists will disagree with this, but the atheists gathered around a common belief of no God or lack of God and the need to increase what they perceive as separation of church and state in America.


2. Crisis
A. Created a problem and offered a solution. The problem was religious oppression in society with atheistic ideals as the solution.


3. Assemblies
A. Gathered in groups with meeting times. Now, atheists don't meet nearly as frequently as Christians do in their churches. But, they do have state meetings, national meetings, and regular gatherings.


4. Pulpit
A. The lectern from which speeches were made, their ideas were promoted, and their reasons for their belief system were validated.


5. Evangelistic
A. The atheists sought converts to their cause. They frequently spoke about getting the idea of atheism out into society, and to move people away from theism.


6. Celebration over converts
A. Rejoiced when converts to their belief system were announced. There was applause and excitement when there were announcements about people who had "come out of the closet" an announced their atheism.


7. Zealous for their cause
A. They wanted their cause and belief system expanded to the extent of changing America to reflect their thinking.


8. Exclusive
A. Only they have the truth. The atheists repeatedly spoke of how atheism was the truth and that theists and deists were ignorant of facts and reason.


9. Us against them mentality
A. There was a profound description of the division between atheism and theism with the atheists being the ones who were defending themselves against the intrusive theists.


10. Concerned about public image
A. This is normal. They were very concerned with how they were perceived and wanted to change their negative reputation.


11. Lack of critical thinking
A. This is common everywhere. Though they thought they were rational, by far most of the arguments and comments weren't.


12. Misrepresentation of opposing views
A. Again, another common trait among people who gather in groups, have a common ideology, and see others as being less enlightened.


13. Voting block
A. The atheists mentioned voting as a group in order to progress their cause in society.


14. Infighting
A. This is normal for groups. We don't all see eye to eye. But, they all held to atheism even though they had disagreements about some particulars.


15. Money
A. They didn't have tithing, but there were plenty of things for sale. And, let's not Forget to mention how they sought donations to help cover the costs of promoting atheism, paying speakers, renting facilities, etc.


I think it rather ironic that those who are against religion so much, are in actuality so religious themselves.” [9]


One can’t help but to think of the old saying, “If it walks like duck, sounds like a duck, and swims like a duck…” I think you get the point!


What Impact will New Atheism Have?

I wholeheartedly believe that the New Atheism presents nothing that the follower of Christ need be afraid of. Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and others do not present new arguments critiquing religion and many of their arguments have been criticized by non-believing scholars and authors.



Theodore Dalrymple, a non-believer, writes of their attacks upon theism:


“The curious thing about these books is that the authors often appear to think that they are saying something new and brave. They imagine themselves to be like the intrepid explorer Sir Richard Burton, who in 1853 disguised himself as a Muslim merchant, went to Mecca, and then wrote a book about his unprecedented feat. The public appears to agree, for the neo-atheist books have sold by the hundred thousand. Yet with the possible exception of Dennett’s, they advance no argument that I, the village atheist, could not have made by the age of 14.” [10]


The overall impact of these “New Atheists” is hard to predict, however, it is sufficient to say that the arguments they present are old, repackaged ones with some playground insults added for spice. Their hatred for religion makes them difficult to be taken seriously. While reading their arguments you can’t help but sense that their difficultly with accepting the claims of Christianity lie more in the fact that they don’t want it to be true.


How the Christian Should Respond

Quite simply: Biblically! Sam Harris writes in his book Letters to a Christian Nation:


"Thousands of people have written to me to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians believe that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own."[11]


Harris is right to find this behavior from Christians ironic because he understands that it is not consistent with what we say we believe. The Bible gives clear instructions regarding responding to those who attack or persecute us:



  • “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44, NKJV.

  • “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15, NKJV, Emphasis mine.

This verse is clear that we need to be ready to give an answer concerning our hope (Christ) by being able to present an intelligent defense of what we believe with meekness and fear (or reverence). No matter what the new atheist crowd is preaching, God still loves them! Amazing!

What impact would it have if all those who truly follow Christ began to lift these guys up in prayer daily and they were able to see the love of Christ in His followers? I realize that hardened hearts are sometimes beyond reach, but we must remember that Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26, NKJV, Emphasis mine.


Movie Preview-Parent Warning!


Outspoken author and atheist Phillip Pullman’s book series His Dark Materials is about the death of God, his anti-Christian views, and has been called, by Pullman himself, “atheism for kids.” [12]


In the latest attempt by the atheist crowd to evangelize the culture, this time their target is children. The Golden Compass will be released on December 7th and boasts Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman and Kevin Bacon.


It’s themes are not just anti-Christian, but pro-atheism. Brent Brozell III of townhall.com writes of the film:


“But buyer beware: Narnia it's not. It's the anti-Narnia. Instead of a Christian allegory, it's an anti-Christian allegory. The author of "The Golden Compass," Philip Pullman, is an atheist who despises C. S. Lewis and his much-beloved Narnia series. "I thought they were loathsome," he said of those books, "full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself."
This book and movie is only the first in his trilogy, titled "His Dark Materials," that gets more and more anti-religious in each book. Pullman hates orthodox religion and "those who pervert and misuse religion, or any other kind of doctrine with a holy book and a priesthood and an apparatus of power that wields unchallengeable authority, in order to dominate and suppress human freedoms." [13]


Be sure that you get informed regarding the themes of this movie and let us use it as an opportunity to share Christ with others. Like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, this presents a great opening to communicate the gospel.

Book Reviews

  • The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias is one of the best apologetic speakers that I have ever heard. His God-given ability to connect matters of the intellect to matters of the heart is astounding.

In The Real Face of Atheism, a revised version of his earlier work, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism (1990), Dr. Zacharias attempts to expose the hopelessness of atheism and explain how a worldview based on belief in God is the key to fulfillment.

While reading this book, I sensed that Zacharias was weaving a tapestry of well presented arguments in an attempt to construct an overall “quilt” to challenge atheism at it‘s core. While many of the quotes and arguments were compelling, I failed to see the final piece come together. Those who want a great work that is geared more specifically toward the “great” atheists of the past and their objections should checkout Dr. Zacharias’ prior work, Can Man Live Without God?

One memorable quote within the pages of this book comes from English Journalist, Steve Turner, addressing the naturalists claim that “chance” can account for the universe and the moral law:

If chance be the
Father of all flesh,
Disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
And when you hear
“State of emergency!”
“Sniper kills Ten!”
“Troops on Rampage!”
“Youths go Looting!”
“Bomb blasts School!”
It is but the sound of man
Worshipping his maker. [14]

If one takes the time to read this book and excavate specific arguments and powerful quotes from it’s pages, it can be a great tool. However, I felt it failed to present an overall cohesive argument for theism.

Article of the Month

http://webmail.localnet.com/horde/services/go.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.christianitytoday.com%2Fbc%2F2007%2F002%2F1.21.html- Alvin Plantinga, arguably the best philosopher defending the faith, shows why Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion, is overflowing with poor arguments and even poorer philosophy. As Plantinga puts it, “The God Delusion is full of bluster and bombast, but it really doesn't give eventhe slightest reason for thinking belief in God mistaken, let alone a "delusion."

Website of the Month

http://webmail.localnet.com/horde/services/go.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.christiancadre.org%2Fnewatheism.html- This site meets the challenges presented by the so-called "New Atheism" with scholarly responses and great book reviews.

Truthbomb Apologetics Update

  • We officially named the ministry Truthbomb Apologetics with the idea that truth speaks for itself and has a way of not leaving the receipted the same.
  • Our Apologetics Blog is up and running. To check it out, please see: http://www.truthbomb.blogspot.com/ Keep checking back as we will be building it gradually.
  • We added a section on Freemasonry to our “Answers” page at http://www.explorefcf.com/

Apologetic Verse for the Month

“Let your light so shine before mean, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

-Matthew 5:16, NKJV, Emphasis mine.

The most powerful apologetic is the Christian life lived out consistently.

Next Month

Next month, with the Christmas season upon us, we take a closer look at the story of the Virgin Birth, apologetic style.

In January, we will continue our study of the “New (no really) Atheism” as we analyze some of their main arguments and how followers of Christ should respond to them. Stay tuned!

Prayer Requests

1) United States Military Branches
Regardless of where you stand on the war against terrorism, please pray that God will protect our men and women in uniform and bring them home safely.
2) The “New” Atheists
One thing I admire about Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris is their commitment to their cause and their zeal while communicating it. Let us share the truth, answer arguments, and pray for the lost with even more zeal!
Pray that God will draw these gentlemen to Him so that their zeal can be used for His purposes. Like Paul, pray their eyes will be opened.
3) Impact Thursdays
As we go out into the surrounding community to share the gospel, pray that God will speak through us and that He will prepare their hearts to hear the gospel. Also, pray that God will send forth laborers.
4) The Grieving
With the Christmas Season upon us, many will be reminded of a failed marriage, lost love one, or broken relationship. Pray that God will comfort and heal those in these situations and open their eyes to Jesus; the only One who can shine light into darkness.
5) Truthbomb Apologetics Ministry
Pray that God will continue to guide, grow, and use this ministry for His glory and His kingdom.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Resources

1) Sam Harris, Speech: The Problem with Atheism, http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/sam_harris/2007/10/the_problem_with_atheism.html 2) Kerby Anderson, The New Atheists, http://www.probe.org/commentaries/the-new-atheists.html, Jan. 18, 2007.
3) Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, p.330-331.
4) Ibid., Jan. 18, 2007.
5) Christopher Hitchens, “Bush’s Secularist Triumph," Slate.com, Nov. 2004
6) “When Christopher Met Peter,” a conversation between Christopher Hitchens and Peter Hitchens, The Guardian, May 2005.
7) Daniel Dennett, “The Bright Stuff,” New York Times, July 2003.
8) Ibid., Jan 18, 2007
9) Matthew Slick, http://www.carm.org/atheism/atheism_religion.htm, 2007.
10) Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal, “What the New Atheists Don’t See,” Autumn 2007. Available at: www.samharris.org/site/full_text/what-the-new-atheists-dont-see, Emphasis mine.
11) Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation: A Challenge to the Faith of America, 2007.
12) SRN administrator, http://spiritual-research-network.blogspot.com/2007/11/golden-compass-philip-pullmanss-books.html, November 2007.
13) Brent Bozell III, "The Christmas Crushing Movie," http://www.townhall.com/columnists/BrentBozellIII/2007/11/09/the_christmas-crushing_movie, November 2007.
14) Zacharias, Ravi, The Real Face of Atheism, p. 133-134.

***If you do not wish to receive this newsletter in the future, please send me a blank email at answers@explorefcf.com.



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