Tag Archives: theism

Is Richard Dawkins’ Claim That Religious Faith Is the Main Cause of Violence Correct?

One of Richard Dawkins’ recurring themes is that religious faith is the primary cause of violence around the world. Mr. Dawkins is right when he says that religious faith is often manipulated for terribly evil ends. Jesus said that too, and on that point Christians should be in agreement with Mr. Dawkins. Further, I’m sure that a case can be made that the greater the claims for truth and righteousness a group or person makes, the more revolting is their hypocrisy. Perhaps this is what makes religious hypocrisy especially repugnant. But religious hypocrisy isn’t the only kind of hypocrisy, and religious faith isn’t the only kind of faith implicated in violence.

Richard Dawkins points to violence around the world that is justified with religious rationalizations, and says that it is wrong for children to be given identities such as Catholic, Muslim, and Hindu at a young age that result in their distrust and hatred of others with different religious/faith identities.

His implication seems to be that someone (presumably people who agree with him, assisted by governmental power) should stop religious indoctrination of children. This raises the question: What will replace religious training of the young? Children are inevitably going to develop identities and will have to have some kind of faith, even if it isn’t “religious.”

Would it be better if faith in a particular form of religion and the people who represent it (Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, etc.) were replaced with faith in a “universal” ideology such as Communism, or faith in one’s people or nation (Judaism, nationalism, etc.)? Probably not. The ideologies of Communism and Fascist/nationalist movements were major contributors to the two World Wars and other major and minor wars of the past century.

What about faith in something that transcends religion, ideology, ethnicity, and nationalism? Can we trust the corporate/economic system (let’s call it “mammon”—the worship of material wealth) that is currently invading and reshaping the world, obliterating cultures, peoples, and traditions, and making the poor spiritually and materially poorer while granting a small elite hitherto unimaginable riches and power?1 Degraded “mammonite” culture is proliferating like a bacterial infection by means of the Internet, mass media, and actual military and political aggression. In fact, it seems apparent to many that one of the greatest forces for destruction and evil in the world today is misguided faith in the corporate/economic beast that is reshaping the world to suit its needs.

Faith in mammon doesn’t seem to be a good idea either. How about faith in science and reason?

Unfortunately, as the political and social leaders of the past 300 years have discovered, science and reason are tools that can be used for good or evil, but they aren’t adequate objects of faith.

What’s left as a basis for faith?

  • Religion (faith in God) is out.
  • Nationalism is out.
  • Ideology is out.
  • The corporate/capitalist system is out.

It looks like Mr. Dawkins would have to say that we need to have faith that atheists like him would indoctrinate children wisely if government gave them the power to do so.

If Mr. Dawkins had this kind of power, we would discover sooner rather than later that he and others sharing his perspective are really no more trustworthy than the religionists, ideologues, and nationalists who have caused humanity so much suffering and heartache.

The ultimate cause of violence in the world is not religion, nationalism, ideology (including atheism), or even mammon. The primary cause of violence is evil that is deeply embedded in human nature, an evil deadliest when undetected or ignored. Hearts unaware of their own wickedness corrupt faith of any kind into evil and violence.

  1. In Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:9, Jesus personifies the Aramaic word for riches, making it the name for an idol/false god that people worship rather than the true God. Back To Article
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Why Is Creation Such an Emotionally Charged Issue?

Few issues are as intellectually complex and emotionally charged as the subject of creation. There are a number of reasons this issue arouses such strong emotions.

Both sides in the debate claim that the weight of evidence is on their side. For Christians and other believers in a personal God, the recently enunciated anthropic principle 1 affirms their conviction that creation requires a Creator (Psalm 8:3, 4; Romans 1:20). Believers in naturalism (atheistic evolution) counter with the assertion that there is no mathematical, scientific “proof” that God intervenes supernaturally in the “closed system” of natural cause and effect.

Another source of conflicting evidence relates to the problem of evil. Believers in a personal Creator maintain that the limitless beauty of the universe and the existence of consciousness, self-sacrifice and love imply a loving, personal Creator. Naturalists focus on the randomness of nature and the universality of disease, predation, and suffering. They insist that the destructiveness in nature can be explained more easily by an impersonal universe than a loving, personal Creator.

Unfortunately, some believers in creation have had obviously flawed philosophical and theological perspectives. For example, because the book of Joshua speaks of the “sun standing still” (Joshua 10:12-14 ), a significant number of prominent Christians in the past assumed that the sun revolved around the earth. Because of this misreading of Scripture, they opposed the Copernican revolution. 2. More recently, other prominent Christians have endorsed Ussher’s chronology 3, insisting that the world is exactly as old as a superficial reading of the Old Testament genealogies would imply 4. Such believers allowed their own interpretations of Scripture to become idols, outweighing overwhelming evidence and undermining the authority of Scripture itself.

Many atheistic evolutionists, on the other hand, make an idol of the scientific method. They are reductionists who “reduce” life to nothing more than what can be demonstrated by scientific fact. By restricting the realm of “fact” and “reality” only to things that can be demonstrated scientifically, they exclude God and the most important aspects of human life.

Believers in creation make the reasonable observation that further acceptance of atheistic evolutionism’s worldview will make the spiritual vacuum that already oppresses modern society even stronger. Godless evolutionism laid the groundwork for the violent atheistic ideologies of communism, race-based nationalism, and fascism that made the 20th century the most catastrophically murderous century in human history 5. Atheistic evolutionists (naturalists) fear—with much less evidence—that the antiscientific bias of those who affirm creation may cause a recurrence of blind superstition on a mass scale, like that produced the Medieval witch-craze in Europe. (See the ATQ articles Why Did Ancient Pagans Practice Blood Sacrifices? and Did Church Authorities Seek to Eradicate Paganism in Europe by Killing Millions of “Witches”?)

Each side has fundamental doubts about the other’s integrity. Naturalistic evolutionists tend to view religious creationists as intellectually lazy people who are unwilling to grapple honestly with the evidence. Generalizing, they conclude that unwillingness of some creationists to seriously grapple with vast areas of evidence uncovered by science implies that the faith of all creationists is propped up by mere ignorance and group consensus. On the other hand, believers in a Creator tend to see all naturalists stridently promoting a worldview that fails to answer the most basic questions of human existence and ignores the despair it creates. They view all evolutionists as arrogant zealots unhumbled before the mystery of life, motivated largely by a desire to deny their accountability to a higher Judge.

The subject of creation tends to draw out the obscurantism on both sides: an obscurantism that tends to minimize the significance of physical evidence, and an obscurantism that tends to minimize the significance of the spiritual side of reality. Each inflames its opposite. Before they can come to a fuller understanding, both creationists and evolutionists need to be willing to dispense with their “pat answers” that ignore either physical facts or spiritual reality (Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 5:1-3; Job 38, 39)

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4. See the rest of the chapter).

A hundred years ago, the weight of the spirit of the age seemed to favor the naturalist who denied the need for God. Today, the spirit of the age is swinging in favor of those acknowledging the reasonability of a Creator Yet, it would be a mistake for Christians to depend on current scientific opinion as a basis for their faith. Healthy Christian faith thrives on both spiritual and rational integrity. Its vision of reality can be expanded by new scientific discovery without mistaking the world of mathematics and scientific observation for the sum of reality. Of all people, Christians should be most open to exploring both physical and spiritual truth.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you” (Psalms 139:1-18).

  1. One of the most startling developments to come from modern physics is that the universe, in some very fundamental way, seems to have been “designed” or “tuned” to produce life and consciousness. Actually, what physicists have discovered is that there are a large number of “coincidences” inherent in the fundamental laws and constants of nature. Every one of these coincidences or specific relationships between fundamental physical parameters is needed, or the evolution of life and consciousness as we know it could not have happened. The collection of these coincidences is an undisputed fact, and collectively, have come to be known as the “Anthropic Principle.” (J. P. Provenzano, The Philosophy of Conscious Energy) Back To Article
  2. Although not all early and Medieval Christians who took this view, Martin Luther was a prominent example of those who held that Joshua 10:12-14 proved that the sun revolves around the earth, rather than the earth revolving around the sun. Of course all the Bible verifies is that the sun and moon appeared to stand still. This apparently involved some kind of miracle, but God probably made the sun appear to stand still without stopping the rotation of the earth with all of the consequences of such an action.
    Were the rotation of the earth stopped, the oceans would probably have flooded over the highest mountains and unprecedented earthquakes and volcanoes have been triggered as the result of tremendous pressures in the earth’s crust. All but the simplest life would be annihilated. Of course, God would have the power to suspend the laws of physics so that none of this would happen, but a miracle of this scale would seem to be a bit “excessive” just to help the Israelites win a battle. After all, there would be much simpler ways that God could make the sun “stand still.” Back To Article
  3. In the mid 17th century Archbishop James Ussher of the Anglican Church published a chronology that concluded the “first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday October 23, 4004 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox.” Back To Article
  4. There is no certain biblical means of determining the amount of time that has elapsed between the creation of man and the coming of Christ. The genealogies of Genesis are clearly not reliable for this purpose. For instance, the Genesis genealogies would allow for only 300 years between Noah and Abraham, yet at the time of Abraham there were already great civilizations in such widespread places as Egypt, China, India, and Mesopotamia, and Greece. In addition, detailed archaeological evidences demonstrate that in some of these places many dynasties had already come and gone, and civilization was already ancient.
    The solution to the apparent conflict between archaeological evidences and the biblical record lies in the fact that the genealogies don’t include unimportant individuals. The Hebrew word for son, ben, didn’t only mean son, but also was used to refer to grandsons and descendants. Similarly, the Hebrew word yalad (bear) also can have the meaning of “become the ancestor of” (Isaiah 29:23 is an example of yalad being used in this way).

    There are a number of good examples of how genealogies tend to omit all but the most important individuals in a line. for instance, Matthew 1:1 names only Abraham, David, and Christ. Even though there are only four generations listed between Levi and Moses (Exodus 6:16-20), Numbers 3:39 states that Levi’s descendants already were numbered at 2200 males! (The genealogy shown for Ephraim seems to show 18 generations between Ephraim and Joshua. This genealogy is found in 1 Chronicles 7:20-27). The list of kings in Matthew 1:2-17 omits a number of names that are listed in the list of kings in the Old Testament.

    These and other examples demonstrate that the genealogies of the Old Testament patriarchs are given in order to demonstrate the common descent of all mankind from Adam and Eve, not to provide an accurate chronology of the time that has elapsed from Adam to Christ. Back To Article

  5. In his book, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century (1993), Zbigniew Brzezinski lists 167,000,000 to 175,000,000 “lives deliberately extinguished by politically motivated carnage.” Back To Article
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Why Would God Allow Bad Things to Happen to “Good” People?

Life often confronts us with tragic situations that make us wonder about God’s willingness or ability to help us. Why would a good God allow such things to happen? Doesn’t He care?

This question is addressed by the Book of Job. In this amazingly relevant story, God allows His best example of a “righteous” man to suffer terribly. Job’s faith is stretched almost to the breaking point, while well-meaning friends accuse him of having done something to deserve his suffering. Job’s struggle continued until it was finally broken by the evidence of God’s infinite wisdom and power.

It is impossible for us to fully understand the ways of a God who puts our faith to such strenuous tests. Yet the story of Job reminds us that God can take evil deeds done by others and work them into the fabric of His plan for our good.

God doesn’t shield His people from all of the wickedness and suffering of a fallen world. But He alone has the power to use pain, persecution, and even death as part of His plan for our ultimate good ( Romans 8:28 ).

Another example of how God brings good out of human evil is the story of Joseph ( Genesis 37-50 ). Despite being sold by his brothers into slavery, Joseph eventually became God’s instrument to spare the lives of multitudes in Egypt, including the members of his own family. Although his brothers acted wickedly, God used their evil deeds for His good ends. When his brothers feared he would seek revenge after their father’s death, Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:19-20).

One of the wonders of God’s providence is His unfailing power to demonstrate His goodness even through the intentionally evil deeds of His creatures. What a comfort to know that no evil can thwart the good intentions of our sovereign God!

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Why Believe in God’s Existence, When It Can’t Be Proven Scientifically?

Something that can be demonstrated by the scientific method is a scientific fact. But it doesn’t follow that just because something can’t be demonstrated scientifically it is less “real” or important than “scientific fact.”

For example, the survival of human civilization depends on the distinction that most people make between good and evil. Yet moral values like good and evil can’t be scientifically proven. Does the fact that moral values can’t be proven imply that they are less real—less “factual” in an ultimate sense—than the things that science can prove?

Most people would consider it morally evil for a man/woman to abandon his/her wife/husband and young children to begin a new life with another woman/man. Most people would consider this a serious moral failure, one of the “worst” things a person could do. But is there any compelling “scientific evidence” that could be brought to bear on such behavior to “prove” that it is wrong?

What “scientific evidence” could prove that murder, rape, and robbery are wrong?  What would become of our system of justice if the prosecution had to scientifically prove that it is wrong for one person to kill, rape, or rob another person!

The existence of love, evil, and good are not “falsifiable hypotheses.” Yet most people—including atheists—admit that values like “love,” “goodness,” “friendship,” and “loyalty” are moral/spiritual realities that truly exist. Theists, whether Christian or non-Christian, have long considered the mind-boggling complexity of the material universe as evidence of a Creator. Although the scientific “spirit of the age” of the 20th century once insisted that the material world was nothing more than the product of impersonal, random evolution, today’s scientific consensus is shifting towards the conclusion that the universe was consciously designed (with incredible exactitude) for the development of life.1

Just as it is reasonable to assume that everything in physical reality has a cause, it is reasonable to assume that everything in spiritual reality has a cause. Immaterial spiritual values like love and goodness are even more amazing than the material wonders of the universe.

God’s existence cannot be proven scientifically. But although God’s existence can’t be proven, reasonable people acknowledge that the small number of alternative explanations for the wonders of material and spiritual reality can’t be proven either. Although faith is as much a matter of the heart as the mind, and belief in God is a moral as well as a rational decision, the rational case for the existence of God as the source of all reality is stronger than any other explanation.

  1. Anthony Flew, an eminent British philosopher who has been widely published as one of the world’s most intellectually capable and well-known atheists, has recently become a theist on the basis of scientific evidence for design:
    Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design. (From an interview with Anthony Flew by Gary Habermas, published by the Journal of the Evangelical Philosophic Society.Back To Article
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Is It Inconsistent for Believers in God to Look for Scientific Explanations of Natural Things?

Is it inconsistent, as Richard Dawkins claims, for believers in God to look for scientific explanations of natural things, if they don’t think it is necessary to seek scientific proof of God’s existence?

This is a classic example of comparing apples to oranges. Infinite Spirit can’t be examined the same way the physical world can.

According to the Bible, the characteristics of the physical universe have been shaped by God. As the apostle Paul writes, “God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20). Because the natural world has been created and designed by God, it reflects His power and divine nature. However, God is of an entirely different order of being. He is not physical, but Spirit, of a higher dimension of being that encompasses our universe but which cannot be directly observed and measured by the physical sciences.

But if God can’t be directly investigated by physical science, are there no compelling reasons to believe that He exists? Someone with a naïve faith in evolution might say there are no compelling reasons, but more objective scientists acknowledge that the rational basis for God’s existence is being continually strengthened as science progresses.

Even if it could be demonstrated at some future time that evolution is a seamless natural process with no “gaps” where God can be demonstrated to supernaturally intervene, atheists have to account for the components and circumstances that make the process possible. Physicists who believe in the probability of God’s existence don’t do so because of gaps in evolutionary theory, but because of the mind-boggling, overwhelming complexity of the circumstances within which natural macroevolution would have to occur.1

The fact that circumstances of such infinite, or nearly infinite, complexity exist as the necessary background to life implies design. The idea that the universe has no origin is a counterintuitive faith assumption, as everything in our experience that is complex is derived from something more complex. It’s hard to see how Dawkins and other atheists consider it more reasonable to believe that the infinite complexity of the natural world is rooted in chance.

The existence of randomness as part of the process of evolution within the space/time universe is not—as some atheists claim—evidence against design. Randomness itself appears to be an aspect of the design, making possible the development of self-aware, free beings (such as we are). Thus the existence of randomness and freedom within the context of natural law imply a much higher order of complexity than a mere “clockwork universe.”

So it isn’t unreasonable to believe in God, even if we can’t “explain” or “define” Him in scientific terms. The choices are to either take the mind-boggling complexity of a universe containing self-aware beings as mere accident, or to assume that the complexity we see within and around us is evidence of a supernatural God.

  1. One of the most startling developments to come from modern physics is that the universe, in some very fundamental way, seems to have been “designed” or “tuned” to produce life and consciousness. Actually, what physicists have discovered is that there are a large number of “coincidences” inherent in the fundamental laws and constants of nature. Every one of these coincidences or specific relationships between fundamental physical parameters is needed, or the evolution of life and consciousness as we know it could not have happened. The collection of these coincidences is an undisputed fact and, collectively, have come to be known as the “Anthropic Principle.” (From the essay, “The Holistic Anthropic Principle,” by Joseph P. Provenzano and Dan R. Provenzano.) Back To Article
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