God Pleads Innocence to Sceptical Jury




 
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God Pleads Innocence to Sceptical Jury
 
June 7th, 2007  
Padre
 
 

Topic: God Pleads Innocence to Sceptical Jury


God Pleads Innocence to Sceptical Jury
"God is not responsible for war and suffering"
  • A recent spate of books and films from atheists have incorrectly blamed religion for humankind's misery, but the true culprit is much closer to home writes John Heard
June 07, 2007

WE live in curious, irritating times. We are oppressed by superstition and absurd ideologies. We must understand at the root of much that is wrong with the world is a single, common, insidious factor: religion. At least according to public atheists and anti-theists, a remarkable number of whom have devoted large amounts of air time and ink lately to bashing Christians in particular and religious believers in general.

In television series after book, from Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion to Christopher Hitchens's God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, a cacophony of historical, philosophical, political or more obviously silly reasons are advanced for why religion, religious faith or religious adherents are infantile, irrational, dangerous or otherwise contemptible.
The terror wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinian territories link up across the world with al-Qa'ida bombings and lend such a view some currency. Other ethnic and religion-related battles of the recent past, particularly in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, contribute to a sense of millenarian madness.
Sometimes it seems like AD1000 all over again.
Militant atheists are right, then, to see religious believers in or behind many of the great struggles of our time. They are wrong, however, to then conclude that humankind must therefore scrap religion.
Examples of bad behaviour perpetrated by religious believers simply don't tell us anything definitive about religions themselves and certainly nothing necessarily negative about the gods they posit.
This shows the central claim of many of the recent crop of atheistic books relies on a belief less tenable than the relatively well-documented resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and a hypothesis that wouldn't get past a first-year science student. For if the atheist authors bothered to investigate anything other than the most apparently bizarre topics of religious interest, they'd discover that only a belief that God directly controls the actions of believers - in other words, the kind of determinism that Christians and others long ago rejected - would make God somehow culpable for the violent actions of his followers.
Similarly, only scientific proof that a man's religious affiliation predicts his behaviour, a hypothesis long ago rejected by psychologists, would make religion an obviously poisonous thing.
Rather, those tragedies, these examples of war and violence seem to favour an interpretation more common to the great Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam): namely that we live in a degraded reality and that man, left to his own devices, is a fairly despicable creature.
In the absence of a divinely endorsed militia, the most obvious explanation for war and chaos is that humans take up arms and nations of humans continually declare war, and for many reasons. Sometimes we use religious claims to justify our actions, but these are most certainly human reasons, human interpretations of religious claims and human actions.
The responsibility for strife rests with humanity. To paraphrase a well-known slogan, religion doesn't kill people, people kill people.
Indeed, most religious believers, certainly a Christian looking for empirical support for his interior convictions, could reasonably conclude from the misery of the present context and the long history of human strife that there might just be something to a religion that looks beyond human weakness for inspiration.
Certainly, in many cases the appeal to God as a restorer of divine balance, as the creator of a serene and charitable community, particularly in the Western political and legal systems, is the only thing that moderates nationalism, greed, vengeance, victor's justice and other examples of excess.
Similarly, there have been great crimes committed in the name of religion, but it is wild to claim, as some atheists have, that bad fruit fills the religion basket.
On the contrary, the gifts of Christianity alone to culture, Islam to early medicine, Roman Stoicism to philosophy and Judaism to the legal order are priceless. It is also impossible to think of anti-theist print journalists without the Gutenberg printing press invented by Christians to make mass copies of the Bible. Similarly, various atheists' positions as academics would be inconceivable if the Christian monastic tradition hadn't preserved ancient knowledge during the Dark Ages, then shared it again in newly created universities from the Middle Ages onwards.
Indeed, the only reason religion rejecters can tally the apparently long list of religious errors is because religious believers invented the intellectual disciplines and furnished the academic tools that are used today to attack religion. And it was a Christian, Pope Gregory XIII, who divided time into units - days, months and years - to tell monks and priests when to pray and atheists when to launch their books. Similarly, atheists too often forget that, while they're tallying the lists of death and destruction apparently wrought by believers, they'd better add the most egregious numbers, the most horrendous crimes - the Holocaust, Mao's Cultural Revolution, Stalin's famines, gulags and secret police - to the column reserved for totalitarian regimes of a decidedly anti-religious and often officially atheistic bent.
Competing universalising urges within various religions may throw up extremist Christians, militant Muslims and the kind of fanatical Jews who carried out the assassination of Yitzak Rabin, but none of these criminals, no fanatical movement in the eons of religious history, not even modern Islamofascism or the whole miserable chapter of the Crusades, has wreaked the sort of havoc the Jew and Christian-hating Nazi regime achieved in one brief decade.
On the contrary, time and time again religious faith has applied the brakes to monstrous human excess.
It is also true that no religious nation on earth, not even theocratic Shi'ite Iran, offends against basic human rights on the scale of officially atheist China.
It is a big leap then, a leap of blind faith perhaps, to look to selected examples of violence or chaos linked to religious believers and conclude that God doesn't exist or isn't great, that religion poisons everything or that those who believe in God are somehow deluded.
No, the responsibility for mass suffering, for warfare and violence, the secret to the strife humanity has always endured appears to rest within, God help us, the human heart.

John Heard is a Melbourne writer.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au...7-7583,00.html
June 7th, 2007  
Del Boy
 
Padre has posted a good piece here by John Heard. One point springs to mind regarding the quote below I would make.

Quote:-

Similarly, atheists too often forget that, while they're tallying the lists of
death and destruction apparently wrought by believers, they'd better add the most egregious numbers, the most horrendous crimes - the Holocaust, Mao's Cultural Revolution, Stalin's famines, gulags and secret police - to the column reserved for totalitarian regimes of a decidedly anti-religious and often officially atheistic bent.

End of quote.

Interestingly enough, the main exception of global proportions to this proposition is the question of the control of abortion, even though this was originally the result of anti-religious efforts. So the uncomfortable question arises again in the midst of all this - as, in the case of paedophelia, what good is a society which fails to protect the children in it's responsibility ? What is such a society worth; Is it a sign of the decadence of a society, of the kind that marks its decline?

To be or not to be ?
June 7th, 2007  
bulldogg
 
 
Religion has been the pet whipping boy of the self-centred MEologists for a few decades now to be sure. I for one am glad to see their tripe countered in print for once.
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God Pleads Innocence to Sceptical Jury
June 10th, 2007  
major liability
 
 
Atheists are just as closed-minded as the devout types. I'm agnostic. No one has proof that any religion is true. But at the same time, no one can hope to prove that the religions are false. It's really up to the individual and his/her capacity for faith. Mine is pretty low.
June 10th, 2007  
Donkey
 
 
The time line of religion is very different than that of the Homo sapiens, it has emerged from non existent, to polytheistic, and currently monotheistic. Funny how it transitions and adapts over time isn't it. Perhaps it is more a guide not a instruction manual.

I know for myself that I do not need a book to tell me how to treat others.
June 11th, 2007  
Missileer
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by major liability
Atheists are just as closed-minded as the devout types. I'm agnostic. No one has proof that any religion is true. But at the same time, no one can hope to prove that the religions are false. It's really up to the individual and his/her capacity for faith. Mine is pretty low.
You can't see the wind but you know it's there Grasshopper.
 


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