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Perhaps the Overwhelming Majority Is Right

In Apologetics on January 26, 2017 at 5:53 am

In his article called “Only A Minority Is Right,” J. H. McKenna Ph.D. argues against religious truth.

His argument is based on the diversity of religious belief.  First there was polytheism, then their was monotheism along with “several sects and denominations of monotheism,” then there came “other new religions” and “several thousand denominations and new religions.”  This story tells, according to McKenna, that “there is no uniformity in religion and no majority religious opinion” (italics mine).   His point is that, “In religion, your view is inevitably a minority view.”

McKenna concludes: everybody, or almost everybody, is wrong. You can’t, therefore, look to religion for truth.

But what if there were uniformity in religion? Would that be a source of truth?  What if there is a majority religious opinion?

There is.

Billions and billions of people for millennia, regardless of other more particular religious claims, have held to a single belief.

That belief: There is something and/or someone beyond the physical world, something bigger than we are–the transcendent.

Until recently, all religions have held that, out there somewhere, there are gods or a spiritual force or God.

Now, in Western societies, we have floated the idea that we–that is, human beings–are god or that nothing is.

It is only recently that this alternative has been proposed, and it’s been catching on because the conditions are currently just right for us to believe such a thing.  Growth in the belief of human autonomy may or may not continue.  Right now, the number of atheists and agnostics numbers in the low, very low, hundreds of millions.  This up against the billions and billions of human beings in a wide variety of circumstances and conditions that have all  believed in a transcendent reality.

Perhaps this much agreement across so may centuries and cultures might be, at least considered, a source of truth.  I thought I picked up in the article, that McKenna suggests that this sort of unity in religious belief might carry some weight.

McKenna has missed this unity in human thought, present since humans started thinking, but he’s not wrong in his call for dialogue and respect between the more particular beliefs about the transcendent reality.  Not because most of us are wrong, but because we all look at reality through very particular cultural lenses.  It’s always a good thing to try to reduce the tint a little.  We have much to gain from meaningful dialogue with other places and with other times.

Is Atheism a Religion?

In Apologetics, Christian Education, Worldview on September 16, 2016 at 9:03 pm

alikeI recently read an article in which the author insisted that public funds not go to support religious schools. The rhetoric in this article was very much in the “us” versus “them” vein. In essence, “their” views, that is those of the religious, are tainted with the irrational and divisive forces of faith or belief common to all religions, unlike “our” rational and unifying position which is free from dangerous subjectivity.

In the comment section someone agreed saying:

Religious indoctrination of children is nothing less than abuse, and ought not to be allowed let alone publicly funded.

What this commenter does not understand is that there is no way to raise a child without “religious” indoctrination.  Modern rationalism or postmodern relativism, which dominate much of western education are inherently “religious.” Even atheism are in a sense “religious.” So public schools are, in essence, are engaged in religious education.

I said as much in my own comment. Another commenter objected saying:

Atheism is not a religion for the same reason that bald is not a hair colour.

He is right, baldness is not a hair color, but it is a hair style.

There are two ways in which one might use the term “religious.” In one sense, atheism is not a religion–if religion is defined by religious rituals and believing in spiritual beings. In this sense, atheism is not a religion for the same reason baldness is not a hair colour. But in another very important sense, atheism is religious. The term can also refer to the guiding principles that one accepts by faith that shape ones reality and around which one organizes ones life.

These guiding principles revealed in how one might answer fundamental questions about reality. Not everyone is aware of their own answers to these questions, but their lives testify to having answered them one way or another.

Does life have meaning? If so, what is it?

Does human life have value? If so, why?

Do we have a purpose? If so why?

Does the universe have a purpose?

Is the universe friendly, hostile or indifferent?

What’s wrong with the world?

What is the solution to what is wrong with the world?

Is there a God or gods?

Every human being lives out their answer to these questions. Interestingly, many people proclaim an answer to a question, but live out another answer. The answers, stated or lived, are religious. They are religious in that they cannot be proven; they are accepted by faith.

The atheist believes that there is no God on the same, some would argue less, grounds that theists believes that there is.  Both do so by faith; neither can know it to be so.

One may chose not to use the term religion to describe this category, but it doesn’t get atheism out of the category, whatever you call it.

Baldness is not a hair colour, but it is a hair style. Atheism does not engage in religious activities that arise out of a belief in a God, but they do make unverifiable claims about reality based on faith.

There is no way we can have an a-religious education, so the government will always be funding religious education. The question now remains, which religions will they fund.

Ghetto and Good

In Apologetics, Devotional on September 4, 2016 at 6:06 pm

WP_20160804_16_59_26_RawBecause I dabble in philosophical questions, I sometimes make comments that don’t go down very well at parties: I suggested that I thought human beings are naturally evil.  There was some disagreement, and then all conversation, as it always does, turned to Donald Trump.

There’s quite a bit of evidence that human beings are naturally evil–watch the evening news or read the comments on pretty much any post where someone offers an opinion.  But there’s also quite a bit of evidence that people are basically good. Everyone knows lots of people who are good and not too many who are bad–bank robbers and such.  I know lots of people who are good too.

I picked up a book in Warsaw at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.  The book contains excerpts from The Ringelblum Archive, a collection of documents and testimonies collected by Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum and his team of researchers between September 1939 and January 1943.  Dr. Ringelblum did not survive, but his collection did.

In one interview a man named Aron Einhorn says,

It is difficult to say whether this moral swamp which we see around us nowadays is the result of the abnormal conditions prevailing in the ghetto, or whether the ghetto uncovered that which had previously been covered up, masked.

He goes on to describe this “moral swamp” of thefts, looting, cheating, cruelty, indifference, oppression, and WP_20160804_16_57_37_Raw corruption.

The ghetto was filled with a large proportion of people who used to be good.  They were good because they had homes, clothing, food and hope.  Many had money, respect, freedom and safety.  It’s easy to be “good” when you have these things.  When these things were taken from them, or at least became scarce, their true nature came out to the surface.

When I look around my community, I see a lot of good people.  I also see a lot of people who have homes, clothing, food, safety and hope.  Many have money, respect and freedom.  But are they really good?

Am I really good?  If I’m honest, there’s quite a bit of fear and self-centeredness slithering around inside me.  As I walked within the area that was once the Warsaw Ghetto and stood at the sight where the residents of the ghetto were put on trains bound for Treblinka, I wondered what I would have done if I had lived there in 1942.  I’d like to think I would have been good, but there’s a very good chance I would not have impressed Aron Einhorn.

WP_20160807_12_53_10_Raw

The only remnant of the wall that surrounded the Warsaw Ghetto.

If the Bible is right, we are naturally evil, and we will be judged accordingly.  What people don’t realize is that we will not be judged by what we’ve done.  It’s not what we do that is the issue, it’s who we are.  What I would have done had I lived in the Warsaw Ghetto is a much better indicator of who I really am, than living in my townhouse near a lovely golf course.  I will be judged for who I am.

This is pretty scary,  but if the Bible is right, there’s also some good news; the best news.  It’s been arranged that, if you want, you can judged as if your very nature were perfect and someone else will take the judgement that you deserve.  You need only ask him to take your place.

 

Moral Lessons from Traffic Lights

In Apologetics on September 3, 2015 at 2:29 am

We had some pretty big winds in my corner of Canada this past weekend. It really messed up the traffic lights.

My daughter suggested that the various scenarios we experienced this past weekend were instructive.

I went through intersections where all the lights were black. People dealt with the absence of direction in two ways. The more thoughtful treated it as a 4-way stop, but others blasted right through, either oblivious to the situation or in reckless celebration of this unusual freedom.

In some places they had the opposite problem: I heard that when power was restored to some intersection, all the lights showed green. Apparently, in the absence of any restriction, there were numerous fender benders.

I went through an intersection where the lights in all directions were red, except a green left turn arrow. The 4-way stop procedure worked well until a vehicle drove down the left turn lane with the arrow. This confused the working order of the whole intersection.

“If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

In Apologetics on July 2, 2015 at 3:01 am

Someone commented on a blog post, “If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

To this another commenter replied,

That only applies if you don’t go to stamp collecting sites and explain why stamp collecting is stupid, produce podcasts about why stamp collecting is stupid, write books on why stamp collecting is stupid, sue because someone want to promote stamp collecting, or hold rallies to celebrate non-stamp collecting.

What the original commenter doesn’t understand is that atheism is a religion in the sense that it makes fundamental, and unprovable truth claims.  Religion generally arise out of the search for meaning and truth.  An agnostic avoids making a religious claim when she says that she doesn’t know if there is or is not a god. The atheist, on the other hand, makes a fundamental and unprovable truth claim that there is no God. This, in the sense that it is a belief about truth and meaning around which one orients one’s life, is a religious claim.

So you can see, the original commenter is making a categorical error. Not collecting stamps does not fall into the same category as not believing here is a transcendent being.