Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant?

An Interesting Debate: Dawkins vs. Sacks

I don’t have much time these days for posts, but I decided to post this debate between Richard Dawkins and Britain’s chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Sacks is pretty good, but fairly week on some issues. For example, he had no idea on how to follow up on his charge of anti-Semitism. However, he did get Dawkins to apologize that he had no idea that the people who persecuted the Jews in the Middle Ages had the same view of the OT (a God of violence etc.) as he does. Frankly, I was very surprised by his complete lack of historical understanding about the Jewish people (I take him at his word that he did not know).  There is a lot to be said about this.  I hope to do it in a future post.

It is also interesting to see the encounter about “junk DNA,” as it seems fairly clear that Dawkins changed his view on this, but the Rabbi did not know to press him on this. See for example thisanalysis by David Klinghoffer.

Rabbi Sacks does a fairly good job showing Dawkins that he reads the Bible as a (I would add ignorant) fundamentalist, and he admits that he hasn’t read one Jewish commentary before he made his comments about the God of the OT. I wonder if he would be mad at creationists (or ID defenders) if they never read a biology book and they made comments on science!?

The Rabbi also does a good job toward the end discussing the problem of morality, but I think he is rather weak at explaining why many non-religious people still have good morals. In the case of Britain is fairly easy to explain. It is (like the USA) a society built on Judeo-Christian values, so even if you took religion out from many people and places, a lot of the foundation still stands. The moral atheists are simply “running on the fumes” left from their predecessors (to paraphrase another Rabbi). An atheist in the jungles of South America would certainly not behave like an atheist raised in Great Britain! :)

Of course, there are plenty of places around the world (especially in the last century) where you can see what an atheistic morality has produced. Take Soviet Union and China for example. Yes – I know that atheists typically say that the bad things done by Stalin, Mao etc were not done “in the name of atheism.”

I agree. But who said that Stalin did wicked things ‘in the name of atheism’? That is NOT the point. Frankly, I do not think you can even get out of bed in the name of atheism. The point has always been that if you do not believe in God (and by implication in a future judgment), than anything is permissible (Dostoievsky). Stalin did not do what he did “in the name of atheism,” but he felt free to kill and abuse because he did not believe in God, a personal God who will one day call him to account. And so did Mao and many others.

The fact is, and this is indisputable, that atheists in less than one century killed a lot more people than “Christians” in nineteen centuries. And there is no doubt that most (if not all) communists were atheists, but there are serious objections to the Christianity of the Crusaders etc. It would be nice if these ‘straight talking and honest’ atheists (because that is how the present themselves) would acknowledge the damage done by atheistic regimes (and I lived under one), but I do not expect that to happen very soon. Why? Because those atrocities were not done “in the name of atheism.”

Question to ponder: If I say that I do something in the name of Christ/Christianity (e.g the Crusades), but Christ clearly does not teach that [in fact he teaches the opposite], am I still justified to blame it on Christianity? The atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.) seem to have no problem blaming ‘Christians’ for doing things that Christ clearly does not condone.

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3 responses

  1. Your Friendly Atheist.

    You:
    “I agree. But who said that Stalin did wicked things ‘in the name of atheism’? That is NOT the point. Frankly, I do not think you can even get out of bed in the name of atheism. The point has always been that if you do not believe in God (and by implication in a future judgment), than anything is permissible (Dostoievsky). Stalin did not do what he did “in the name of atheism,” but he felt free to kill and abuse because he did not believe in God, a personal God who will one day call him to account. And so did Mao and many others.”

    Response:
    Just because one believes in God does not in itself prevent atrocities.Through out history monarchies and churches has killed for religion sake e.g inquisition, crusade and Harlem witch trial and that’s just Christianity. So clearly believing in God does not prevent wars and atrocities from happening. Also the correlation between belief and ones action is completely flawed, using Hitler as an example. Using the same logic you applied to Mao and Stalin, Hitler who caused the holocaust, believes in Catholicism, therefore Catholicism is the cause of the holocaust. Lets bring it to a modern context, the US President goes to war with Vietnam and he was Christian, therefore Christianity is because of the Vietnam war. From these examples hopefully you can see that ones beliefs is not the direct cause of ones wicked actions. Similarly Hitler and Stalin both had moustaches could that be the cause?

    You:
    “The fact is, and this is indisputable, that atheists in less than one century killed a lot more people than “Christians” in nineteen centuries. And there is no doubt that most (if not all) communists were atheists, but there are serious objections to the Christianity of the Crusaders etc. It would be nice if these ‘straight talking and honest’ atheists (because that is how the present themselves) would acknowledge the damage done by atheistic regimes (and I lived under one), but I do not expect that to happen very soon. Why? Because those atrocities were not done “in the name of atheism.”

    This fact cannot be disputed because the fact does NOT exist. No point in history, has there been any proof that any atrocity has been committed, as a result of believing in atheism or indirectly through the lack of believing in God (which I have demonstrated in response to your previous arguments). This is in stark contrast to religion, where it is all too frequent and common, in history and in the present. Also not all communist are atheist, Communism is a political ideal not religious. Communist states like Russia and China do have churches and Christian followers, so your point is invalid. Also religion has done incredible damage to society such as persecution of other religions and non-followers in general. As well as the recent scandal of the church trying cover up the crime of child molestation committed by senior member of church. Religion has also been used to incite hatred and violence against other countries and members of society. So the reason why you wouldn’t get an apology is because you do not deserve one.

    You:
    Question to ponder: If I say that I do something in the name of Christ/Christianity (e.g the Crusades), but Christ clearly does not teach, am I still justified to blame it on Christianity? The atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.) seem to have no problem blaming ‘Christians’ for doing things that Christ clearly does not condone.

    Response:
    Question to ponder: Atheism does not teach or condone killing or mass murder. So why should atheist be blamed for the acts of Stalin or Mao? And if the Crusaders (aka Christians) killed in the name of Christianity, then ‘yes’, you can be justified in blaming it on Christians. Not even blame, Christianity is guilty of it!

    September 22, 2012 at 12:21 am

    • YOU:
      Just because one believes in God does not in itself prevent atrocities.Through out history monarchies and churches has killed for religion sake e.g inquisition, crusade and Harlem witch trial and that’s just Christianity. So clearly believing in God does not prevent wars and atrocities from happening. Also the correlation between belief and ones action is completely flawed, using Hitler as an example. Using the same logic you applied to Mao and Stalin, Hitler who caused the holocaust, believes in Catholicism, therefore Catholicism is the cause of the holocaust. Lets bring it to a modern context, the US President goes to war with Vietnam and he was Christian, therefore Christianity is because of the Vietnam war. From these examples hopefully you can see that ones beliefs is not the direct cause of ones wicked actions. Similarly Hitler and Stalin both had moustaches could that be the cause?

      RESPONSE: I never said that “just because one believes in God does not prevent atrocities.” However, a true believer in the God of the Bible should obey the God that he says he believes in and then that would prevent atrocities. In any case, you are wrong to say that inquisition, crusades and witch trials = Christianity, because what they did (or at least most of what they did) clearly goes against the teachings (and example) of Christ. If a Christian is a follower of Christ, and that is a most basic definition, those people were NOT followers of Christ (at least not when they did the bad things). But – I will grant you (for the sake of the argument) that they were Christians. Do you know how many people were killed by the Inquisition and witch trials? I don’t have the numbers handy, but I am confident that there were less than 40,000 in a span of about 300+ years! Atheist communists killed close to 100 million in less than 50 years!!! Not to add the 50 million aborted only in the US in the last 30 years!

      Hitler was not a Catholic! A war is different. One has to see if the war is just or not. I am not counting the people Stalin and Mao killed in a war, only the people that were killed in their own countries because they did not conform to their ideologies.

      YOU:
      This fact cannot be disputed because the fact does NOT exist. No point in history, has there been any proof that any atrocity has been committed, as a result of believing in atheism or indirectly through the lack of believing in God (which I have demonstrated in response to your previous arguments). This is in stark contrast to religion, where it is all too frequent and common, in history and in the present. Also not all communist are atheist, Communism is a political ideal not religious. Communist states like Russia and China do have churches and Christian followers, so your point is invalid. Also religion has done incredible damage to society such as persecution of other religions and non-followers in general. As well as the recent scandal of the church trying cover up the crime of child molestation committed by senior member of church. Religion has also been used to incite hatred and violence against other countries and members of society. So the reason why you wouldn’t get an apology is because you do not deserve one.

      RESPONSE: Let me repeat that this is a cop-out: “They did not kill in the name of atheism.” As I mentioned – you cannot even get out of bed in the name of atheism. The only thing you can do in the name of atheism is close churches and put believers in prison (as most atheistic regimes promptly did, and I lived under one!). My point is (following Dostoevsky) that without God anything is permissible and the 20th century has demonstrated this.
      WHO will tell an atheist that he is wrong and he should not commit atrocities? His moral compass? The society? (FYI – If morality is a social construct than burning witches was morally right because that society believed that burning witches was fine). A true atheist has no authority above him. He is the captain of his soul and he wants to decide for himself what is right and what is wrong and has no fear of judgment etc. That is why a society without God is a lot worse than one without God and the 20th century brief (thank God) experiments more than prove this.

      “This is in stark contrast to religion, where it is all too frequent and common, in history and in the present.” A strong argument can be made (and has been made) that most of the ‘religious wars’ were, like most of the other, wars for resources, power, wealth etc. That is not to deny that religion was used to rally the troupes etc. Name one ‘Christian war’! The Crusades were an attempt to recover land conquered by Muslims and not an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity etc. Having said that, I do not condone (as many Christians at that time did not) at all the atrocities they committed (mild however compared to happened in Communist China, North Korea etc).

      I am not a Catholic and I agree with you that the CC has a lot of explaining to do etc. However, FYI – the percentage of child abusers in the Catholic CHurch is smaller than the percentage of child abusers in the general population. They make the news, and rightly so, because they should not be doing this as they are supposed to be “men of God” who should care for their congregations and not abuse them. They should certainly be justly punished just as the rest of the abusers.

      I never said that all Communists were atheists, though most of their leaders were and were actively promoting an atheistic society and agenda.

      Question to ponder: Atheism does not teach or condone killing or mass murder. So why should atheist be blamed for the acts of Stalin or Mao? And if the Crusaders (aka Christians) killed in the name of Christianity, then ‘yes’, you can be justified in blaming it on Christians. Not even blame, Christianity is guilty of it!

      What does Atheism teach except that “God does not exist?” Again – the point is that a person who has no authority and law above him has to invent and make his own laws. And then ANYTHING is possible, as the few atheistic regimes of the 20th century have proven. If I say that I killed someone in your name (though you clearly told me NOT to kill that person), did I kill in your name? Did Jesus (whom Christians are supposed to follow) ever say to kill or to do what the Crusaders did? I don’t think so. So – to say that Christianity is guilty of something that clearly goes against its core teachings (love God and your neighbor like yourself) is just not fair. Just as it would be unfair for you to be blamed if someone killed another person and then said that it was done in your name.

      P.S. I am not saying that all atheistic states will be murderous states. That remains to be seen. Many are still living on Judeo-Christian foundations. But in an atheistic regime, where man is the measure of all things, you never know what leader(s) you are going to get. One thing is sure, it will be one without fear of God. And, in my humble evaluation, that can only be bad. Time will tell who is right or wrong. The 20th century is certainly supporting my point. Let’s see what happens in the 21st!

      September 24, 2012 at 2:45 am

  2. David Young

    Communism killed millions. That is not the same as saying that atheism (the belief that there is no god) killed millions.

    As for saying that ‘Christ’ didn’t tell you to do something evil, ‘Christ’ is whatever you want him to be. Just choose any apparently obvious teaching of his (or, failing that, Paul), and, when you find a contradictory one, use the one you chose first to interpret the second (or have you sold everything you owned and given it to the poor?).

    You seem to have as much of a grasp of ethical controversies as you have of spelling.

    September 24, 2012 at 9:34 am

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