Thursday, May 31, 2007

Richard Dawkins, Part 3: Dawkins and Allister McGrath

For the 3rd installment of the series on Richard Dawkins, I will be commenting on Dawkins' debate with former Atheist and current Christian Allister McGrath. It is a two part audio file that you can download here.

There are better thoughts than these in the discussion that follows on the link above, but I will make a few of my own comments.

1. I feel like the participants were arguing apples and oranges

It seemed like they were going to be arguing about the existence of God, which is what Dawkins is primarily concerned about. Dawkins even says at one point that he is concerned with what is true. McGrath seesm to be making complete social arguments. Dawkins, in response, at one point states, "All of that may be true, but it doesn't say anything about the existence of God." Thus, I feel like there was some wheels spinning in the debate.

2. I liked McGrath's question: Does science move us toward atheism or toward theism?

I think this is a million dollar question. Complexity. Order. Design. Irreducibly complex systems. These all seem to me to point towards a creator God. Dawkins certainly disagrees. However, I would agree with Erwin McManus who says that if all truth really is God's truth, and we are crazy if we think it is not, than any true quest for knowledge in any discipline will eventually lead back to God. McGrath holds God as the "best explanation" of the world. I think he makes a great point. From my perspective, God makes much more sense that chance plus time plus nothing.

3. Dawkins makes the very interesting claim the religion is "intellectually impoverishing."

This is a fair statement, and not a low blow, in my opinion. It is up to us as followers of Christ to prove to everyone that we are as interested in investigation as anyone else if not more. Dawkins says that religion "cuts off investigation by providing easy, facile answers to deep and troubling questions like the questions that science tackles." May we not fall guilty of this by casting off exploration with a trite, religious statement. Christians do this far too often. May we thirst for truth in all sectors of life.

I could continue, but I will leave it alone at this. I hope this series on Richard Dawkins was helpful and it inspired thought. Let's keep the conversation going.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Cultural Critique by Ray Bradbury

I just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I had read it in high school, and for whatever reason, it had been on my mind. I bought it and read it last week. It is a great piece of literature and I highly recommend it. Allow me to give you the blurb.

It is the future. Advances in technology have produced a culture where speed and entertainment are everything. Houses are fireproof. Books are illegal. Fireman no longer put out fires, but they start fires, burning books that are owned illegally by citizens. Guy Montag is a fireman. One day while burning books, a book falls in his hand and opens. His eyes fall upon one captures him. He becomes obsessed with finding out what he is missing in books. The book is about the rest of the story.

At the end of the book there is an interview with Ray Bradbury 50 years after the original printing of Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury makes some very interesting comments about the book and about our culture today, including this critique:

Interviewer: There seems to have been a decline in standards of journalistic objectivity, to put it mildly.

Bradbury: It's not just substance; it's style. the whole problem of TV and movies today is summed up for me by the film Moulin Rouge. It came out a few years ago and won a lot of awards. It has 4,560 half second clips in it. the camera never stops and holds still. So it clicks off your thinking; you can't think when you have things bombarding you like that. The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half second clips in it, or one third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for our thinking.

I was struck by this. I think he is on to something. Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Richard Dawkins part 2: Dawkins and Paula Zahn

In my second edition of looking into the foremost atheist in the world, Richard Dawkins, I take a look at an interview Dawkins did with Paula Zahn. This has a different taste to it, because Zahn is simply interviewing rather than debating (in contrast to the O'Reily interview). You will notice again that Dawkins is a gentleman the entire time. I do have some problems with some things he says, though. My commentary is below.

1. "Not a shred of evidence"

Dawkins claims that he does not believe in the Judeo Christian God because "there is not a shred of evidence in favor of the Judeo Christian God or indeed any other god." I would love to have a chance to sit down and talk with Dawkins, because it would be interesting to hear what he classifies as evidence. I think of Billy Graham's metaphor of the wind, how we cannot see it but we see the effects of it, and wonder of that could be evidence. I wonder if the Bible and the testimony of the first century Christians could be evidence. I suppose it is from a purely scientific standpoint that he rejects these as evidence. It seems weird, though, that he has pretty much written them off without a second thought (though maybe he hasn't). Is that really all there is to it?

Also, he categorizes the Judeo Christian God with Zeus and Thor and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems that any thinking human being would see an enormous difference between the Judeo Christian God and this group with which he lumps it in. The difference between the Gospels and other works about characters who do miracles are huge. We have apocryphal writings about Jesus and they are night and day different than the Gospels.

2. "remarkably intolerant of atheists"

Here comes that intolerant word again. This goes back to how do you interpret the word intolerant? The currently used definition is "all views are equally valid." A more accurate definition is "All people are valid, but views are not." I think we would agree that the first definition does not work. Some views are stupid. Some are foolish. Some are dangerous (Nazism). We must be able to disagree on our views without being labeled intolerant. So, if Dawkins is suggesting that Christians are intolerant of atheists because they disregard their views and think them incorrect, than all atheists are intolerant as well. If he is using the second definition, he is suggesting that atheists are treated poorly because they are atheists, that is a serious charge, and sadly, true in some circles. We need to be careful as Christians to treat all people with love, as Christ did.

3. "historic misunderstanding of what atheism is"

I think this is true. The word "atheist" has a negative connotation in Christian circles. I think it sounds angry and hostile. Rather, most atheists are like Dawkins, peaceful people who simply disagree. By the way, the way to win atheists like this for the Lord is not to brow beat and be prejudiced towards them. If they were to experience the transforming love of Christ acted out by a humble believer, it would go a long way (in my opinion).

4. "What's there to be frightened of?"

Joining the last point, I think he makes a true statement here as well. gain, most atheists are nice people who choose not to believe in God. Why should we be scared of dialogue about the things he mentions, the origin of the universe, the cosmos, etc.? We as Christians should welcome conversation like these, and we should be educated enough to entertain these discussions.

On the other hand, though, I do think these ideas, this worldview, can be dangerous. Living as if there is no God, no ultimate code of right and wrong, no ultimate benefit to right living or morality is dangerous. A generation living this way is scary. It is not the atheists that scare me, or even their ideas, it is the results of their ideas played out practically on a generation who takes them to their logical end. There are no consequences for my actions? Okay, I will do whatever I want. There is no right or wrong, only relative codes of conduct? Okay, then why does it matter what I do or don't do? these are the ideas that are scary, not the people or the discussions.

5. "you don't live this life to the full"

Wow. I believe the exact opposite of what he is saying. What is more negative, a funeral where the dead person and his whole family believe that the person in the casket is no more, they are worm food, never to live again, or that they lived a great long life but are now in heaven where there is no more pain or suffering? It is an eye opener to hear that one of the same reasons we claim religion is better than atheism is the same reason they claim atheism is better. Very interesting.

In conclusion, if there is one thing Dawkins does, it is make us think about some tough questions and concepts. I believe that he is seeking truth, and it is always interesting to get another perspective.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Richard Dawkins part 1: Dawkins and O'Reilly

I have been having some fun reading over at the
Naked Pastor Blog, which is where I saw this video (below). I am very intrigued by Richard Dawkins and how he thinks. Dawkins is the leading atheist thinker in the world today and wrote the bestselling book The God Delusion. I disagree with much of what he says, including and primarily his world view, which is evolutionary and naturalistic, but he is challenging Christians to think much more deeply than most have and to abandon their pad answers for legitimate, well researched and logical answers.

That being said, I m starting a series of posts inspired by videos of Richard Dawkins to which I will be responding. This first one shows Dawkins being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor.

Hoping that you have just seen the video, I am now going to make some comments (time will tell if a theme runs through this series of posts). First, I will discuss O'Reilly. I thought he did a very poor job of representing Christianity in the interview. Here is why.

1. First of all, O'Reilly seemed pampas and condescending. This is seen in a lot of ways, I think, like tone of voice, and how he interrupts Dawkins several times. He uses phrases like "you guys" several times. I think as Christians we need to have respect for everyone and give those with whom we are debating the right to be heard. We certainly expect the same. There is a certain quality that the majority of Christians (perhaps all people) lack, and that is the ability to disagree and debate respectfully. Why does disagreement make us so uncomfortable? Anyway, back to the original point, O'Reilly does not come off well in his demeanor, and it is a stark contrast to Dawkins' demeanor, which is very respectful and humble, willing to answer questions and listen.

2. Secondly, after seeming to argue for truth early on (although quite poorly), O'Reilly seems to take a relativistic standpoint towards the end of the interview. He even uses the phrase "it's true for me." Dawkins rightly comes back and states that truth is truth and what is true for one person is true for everyone. does it strike anyone else as odd that the Christian is the relativist and the atheist is the truth guy?

3. Thirdly, and I'll end on a good note about O'Reilly, I think he had a firm grasp of the founding fathers and their beliefs. He mentions how they wanted faith in Christ and all that comes with it to be the "moderating influence" that will make the country great. I think this is a pretty good argument against Dawkins' theory that Religion is a bane to civilization, though it certainly doesn't settle the issue.

Now, let's examine Dawkins.

1. I completely disagree with what he said about atheists not needing faith. I think that is one of the great mistakes that atheists and secularists make is thinking that they do not have faith. Everyone has faith in something, whether it is evolution or God or Zeus or a Totem Pole etc. It is absurd that he asserts that he doesn't have faith.

2. Dawkins also makes a statement about proof of evolution and the explanations of the mysteries of the universe, saying "We're working on it," presuming that the answers are in the (near?) future. First off, isn't that having faith in science, which negates his statement above? Secondly, after over a century of digging and scientific exploration, we still have not found any transitional fossils, which Darwin himself said we should find millions of if evolution were true, nor have we come any closer to answering the questions of abiogenesis and entropy. Scientists are quick to reference Copernicus and Galileo as examples of this, but I seem to think that these two comparisons are apples and oranges. I think time works more as the enemy of science in this aspect rather than the friend, because the longer we dig and find nothing, the more glaring the evidence against evolution seems to be.

3. Lastly, as alluded to above, it seems as though Dawkins ignores the very reason the founding father started this country, which was religious freedom. I am simply pulling from one line he stated about this, so I may be reaching, in addition to the fact that he is not American, but he seems to have a cloudy view of early American history.

That's all I got. Again, I am thankful for thinkers like Richard Dawkins who force us as Christians to think and figure these issues out for ourselves, rather than sticking to the Sunday School pad answers or retreating to relativism. May we (continue to) be thinkers. May we love Jesus enough to turn over every stone, research well, and do all we can to represent Christ well in the public academic arena. May we not shy away from disagreements, because it is there that we learn and grow.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Top Religious Films of All Time

This is an interesting list I saw over at the Think Christian Blog, which ranks the top 50 reloigious films of all time. For the record, I have only seen 16 of the top 50 (a pitiful 32%), but 5 of the top 10, so I am doing better. Here are some notables with my comments.

6. Babette's Feast A great movie we had to watch in college, but a great story that was very well made and has a pretty big twist at the end. It also has some great old fashioned humor.

10. The Crucible One of the great plays of all time, in my opinion. The story features the great tension between dying with dignity or living with shame.

19. The Name of the Rose A fantastic murder mystery set in a monestary. There is about a 5 minute porn scene in the middle, so fast forward through that.

22. Signs If a religious movie has aliens in it, it has to be great, right?

23. Field of Dreams How is this one religious? Great movie, though.

27. The Greatest Story Ever Told I haven't seen this, but from clips the Jesus in this movie really creaps me out.

34. Jesus Christ Superstar Make fun of me all you want, but I love this movie. A classic that portrays an interesting angle of the classic story.

36. Ikiru Another one I was forced to watch in college but loved, Ikuru is a Japanese film where a man finds out he is dying and then learns to truly live.