Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thoughts About the Reason Rally, Conversations in the Midst of Un-reason


The Reason Rally was promoted by new atheists such as Richard Dawkins and David Silverman as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history.”  One section of the Reason Rally website stated the following:
The Reason Rally is a movement-wide event sponsored by the country’s major secular organizations. The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society and having a d^#! good time doing it! . . . It will be the largest secular event in world history. 
For those of us attending the Reason Rally as part of a coalition of apologists with True Reason.Org and Ratio Christi, it was a successful and incredible experience of outreach to those who deny the existence of God and those who hate an accountability to any absolute moral framework.  

One of the privileges of this event for me is that I have maintained correspondence with one self-professed atheist who does not agree with the new popular atheism, calling it in an email, “the neo-positivist atheism promoted by Richard Dawkins.”  This is interesting and accurate to say the least. 
Once we arrived and settled in, and the introductions were completed, it was “into the front lines” we go.   I was joined up with “Dale,” a brother who holds a great passion for cosmology and the physical sciences as a whole.  What we had is one member of the team possessing a passion for logic, philosophy, theology and epistemology.  The other has the same with much strength (vocationally)  in the arena of the science.  What a tag team combination! I am grateful to have had Dale for a “fishing buddy." I learned a lot of science in one afternoon.  One of the ministry blessings is being able to work off of and with one another very well.
OPENING OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE RALLY
One of the things that learned about the rally was that it was promoted one way and manifested the converse. You see, the new atheists tried to promote themselves with "reason" and "belief,” however they “shot themselves in foot” with rhetoric replacing reason and the bashing of religion.  Though they say they did not believe, their words and actions were reflect of a belief that is bent toward rants against religion.  Taking one of their statements off the Reason Rally website:

“Are we just going to use this opportunity to trash religion? Answer: No. This will be a positive experience, focusing on all non-theists have achieved in the past several years (and beyond) and motivating those in attendance to become more active.”  
Practically every speaker did their outright best to “trash” religion in general and Christianity more specifically, with all the vitriolic rhetoric they could muster, all demonstrated by a severe lack of critical thinking.  It was critical of religion and anyone who believed in something beyond the materialistic natural realm.  The only thing that was missing besides an accurate representation of Christianity was sound reason that would convince a reasonable person that atheism was the best worldview.  It just was not there.

There is something that needs to be remembered here.  Not all folks professing to atheists agree with this new movement.  Most of the atheists in the halls of academia that are not part of this movement, men like Kai Nielsen and Michael Ruse, consider this movement as an embarrassment to atheism.  
What made the engagement with the skeptics, for lack of a better adjective, “enjoyable” was not the speakers but it was some of the great conversations we engaged in.  Dale and I were able to have some very thought provoking conversations with individuals and groups of two or three at a time.
 
Before hitting some of the highlights of our conversations, we both remarked while looking at the monitors on several occasions seeing many families having their young children with them.  Are you kidding me?   A fascinating side note here, is when I first announced to my wife and daughter that I was participating in the Reason Rally with several apologists, my daughter got excited and asked if she could come with me.  I told her that I appreciated her enthusiasm, but this was not the place for someone of her sensitivity, especially if they are going to to be ridiculing the Christian faith.  The speakers, comedians and musicians were a great “disappointment,” as they were quite liberal with profanity and lewd language.  So much for a “high moral ground.”
STARTING UP CONVERSATIONS
How does one strike up a conversation with someone who is hostile to your worldview?  How do you carry on as long as possible an intelligent and cordial conversation with that individual?    A quick answer to these questions is, you build bridges by looking for common starting points.  This involves looking and listening intently to the one you are talking to and trying to share the gospel.  
This happened in several different ways ranging from offering to exchange information with one atheist passing out information for their brand of atheism.  Some were sporting what I call “the hat.” What is “the hat”?  Being a Red Sox fan, there were some that were wearing a Red Sox hat, which gave me an “in road” to ask the person, "Hey are you a Red Sox fan or do you just like the hat?"  Now before you start thinking that I spoke only to those who wore “the hat” the answer is a firm “No”, we spoke to folks of all different stripes.  One visit we had was with a  couple atheists that graduated from a Christian high school.    
Other conversations were struck up with a question like, “How do you like the speaker?”  Another question was, “Hey how are you doing?” OR “How do you like the Rally?” 
Once the ice was broken, and cordialities were understood, we were asking things like, “What is the strongest argument that you have heard for the existence of God?”  Another question was “why are you an atheist” OR “why don’t you believe in the existence of God?”  Once the answers were given, the conversations took off like a 747 jet plane.  Almost all of the conversations were cordial.  One young man got a little “excited,” however this was after he was verbally abused by one of the members of Westboro Baptist Church.
ADDRESSING SOME OF NEW ATHEISTS’ OBJECTIONS
How many times did we hear the word “believe”
One of the interesting things that we heard from the event’s speakers is the number of times that they used the word, “belief” or “believe” in order to describe their worldview that is devoid of any belief.  Think of this for a moment, you have folks who are heavily into the scientific, but they don’t believe.  My question is this: They don’t believe, what?
Dale and I had a similar encounter with the two young men, who claimed to have left the Christian faith, and graduated from a Christian high school.  One of them claimed that they became an atheist at the impressionable age of sixteen.  
I had shared with them that I shared a similar experience, having started on the trail to skepticism at that age.  At the end of the conversation with all their arguing for science and Dale waxing eloquently on the fine tuning of the universe and the anthropic principle, the word “atheism” came up.  This prompted me to ask a question, “When you say atheism can you tell me what you mean by that word?”   One of them proceeded to tell us that “atheism is a lack of belief.”  
The interesting point to make here is that this is a statement that is professing what?  It is professing a belief in. . . a lack of belief.  I could not resist pointing that out to my young skeptic, and he did not know what to say other than “you have me on that one.”  On that Dale and I encouraged these young novice atheists to research the information that we shared with them on the historical evidences given them and the anthropic principle for the fine tuning of universe.  Whether they will or not the Lord knows.
Morals with no absolute moral framework
One of the more popular answers to the question, “what is the strongest argument . . .?”  centered upon the moral law argument.  Summarizing Penn Gillette’s attack on Christianity he stated, and I am summarizing here, that Christians are only moral because they are trying to earn rewards in the afterlife.  Nothing could be further from the truth!
I had one atheist tell met this. However his problem was demonstrated in a lack of understanding the where a moral framework is grounded.  You see most atheists, in arguing their morals, have to smuggle in Christian terminology in order to make their defense.  However, the atheist’s foundation for a moral framework is on a relativistic, slippery slope with no footing.  What does this leave them with?  What it produces is nothing more than a false sense of altruism (selflessness) while being philanthropic toward their fellow man.  In essence that they are left with is a pseudo-selflessness.  When I pointed this out to my atheistic friend in a Red Sox hat he stated that we were at an impasse.  
Conversations were also engaged in discussions on the intrinsic value of human beings.  What Dale and I exposed was that the atheist has no sense about the  intrinsic value of a human being, without compromising their worldview.  While denying the existence of God, who declares the sacredness of a human life, the kind intentions of the atheist become nothing more than selfish deeds that display the deadly pride enchaining their worldview.  Their moral high ground is not very pretty when it is exposed in the light of a Moral Lawgiver.
How can you have a beginning to the universe with nothing prior to it?
Lastly, Dale and I met an atheist Justin Schiebers, who co-hosts the podcast  called “Reasonable Doubts.”  Both Dale and I have continued our contact with Justin on Facebook and hopefully Skype in the future. 
The conversation with Justin started in cosmology, which is Dale’s specialty. His problem was that “if the universe had a beginning”, he could not acknowledge something or Someone who caused that beginning.  Dale was able to share with Justin some fascinating facts about the beginning of the universe.  I reminded him of the principle of causality.  We then moved into a discussion with him on the anthropic principle.  Interestingly enough, Justin did not balk at anything we had to say to him.  We could also tell that he was not too impressed toward accepting what we shared with him.  Hopefully we put a stone in his shoe.
Conclusion : A Confirming Impression.
I believe that each of the opportunities made evident the reason for this mission at the rally. Much could be said about the Orwellian 1984 “double speak” that emerged in the rhetoric to stir the masses.  Words like “faith,” “belief,” and “morals” were being redefined by the speakers and the doubly thousands of people cheered mindlessly to the rhetoric and vitriol. 

Who says there is no need for apologetics in the church?  It is high time we hunker down, load up our clip with the evidences in the mind of Christ and love the culture for the sake the gospel and the truth of the Christian faith which once for all delivered to the saints.
For me personally, I liken my experience to a scene from the Lord of the Rings.  As Frodo Baggins was taking the ring to Mordor, he felt the burden of the mission become even heavier the closer he came to the mountain. 

The Lord has wired me, over the last thirty plus years, with the passion for defending the faith with the goal toward sharing the gospel with those looking for and open to discussing the truth issues of our day.

“The world is changing” and I am seeing the shifts in our culture toward a loss of thinking in the churches, and the fallout from the faith as students walk away.  What does this say to us?  It says that there is a famine in the land and that the apologetic mandate has never been heavier in my heart and mind. We need apologetics in our churches and in the marketplace of ideas.  If this does not happen, I believe the church will be ineffective in this nation.  And I am afraid that we could be standing on the brink of that ineffectiveness right now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Quick Thought Toward the New Atheism and the Reason Rally

by Rob Lundberg, Director 
Fredericksburg Apologetics Project

A couple of years ago, I was speaking in one of the break out session speakers at an apologetics conference in Chesapeake, VA.  The topic my talk was “Who Really Holds the Crutch?  Christianity or Atheism?” (You can find the general summation of the talk here)  While at the conference I had the privilege of meeting the infamous John Loftus, who would be debating David Wood that evening.    I also had the chance to meet my Facebook antagonist, who seems to have dropped off the circuit.

After completing my talk during the “Crutch” talk, we entered into the Q and A session, where I was called to task by a visiting atheist who took issue of my definition of atheism.   The definition I used was from the article on “atheism and agnosticism,” the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  In the article written by J. J. C. Smart on the subject of "atheism and agnosticism he states the classical definition of atheism as “the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”

Many of those embracing this “new atheism” do not like this definition.  Whether it is those who would be considered as my antagonists on the local Fredericksburg, "hot seat" board under “Religion” or my wife’s cousin, the definition of classical atheism is not a welcome one.  With the coming of the Reason Rally in a few days, many of the folks rallying around the new atheism embrace a different definition of "atheism" than the classical definition.

 I would like to venture into the definition that the new atheists use in the attempt to show themselves  reasonable than one holding to a reasonable faith in Christianity.  The problem is that the new atheist's skirting of the classical definition fails rather miserably. First off let’s deal with some of the definition of atheism.   If we look at the word and break it down,  the alpha privative of negation (a - "no") and the root theos meaning "God," combined together, leads you to "the negation of theism, vis-a-vis, "the denial of the existence of God."  So if atheism is the absolute denial of the existence of God, or as Etienne Bourne defines atheism, “the absolute denial of the Absolute,” why do they try to redefine it?

Perhaps the classical definition gives too much of a negative connotation to the word atheism.  Think of it, someone saying that there is no God.  What would you think about that claim that God does not exist.  Whether we want to admit it, every person has a moral framework inside them that was put there by the God who created them, whether one wants to believe it or not.  It is not an intellectual step to disavow God, but a moral one.  The problem is that one has a moral framework, but is it a good one?

The new atheists, by claiming atheism being "a lack of belief" in God want to try and claim an "intellectual" high ground with this softer definition.  Try as they may, it is not a good definition, because it  proves nothing.  This is the same definition  my questioner threw down at the Q and A:

Questioner: "I don't like your definition of atheism." 
Response: "What is your understanding of the definition of atheism?"
Questioner:  "Atheism is a lack of belief in the existence of God."
Response:  "Why are you not a pantheist or something else, you obviously believe in something."

Indeed this is the case. The new atheist groupies do believe in something.  Reason.  Science.  Evolution.  The latest book written by Dawkins, Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, Dennet, Shermer, Meyers or someone else.

But if we look long and hard enough, without turning to a response to the aforementioned three (reason, science, or evolution), just looking at the definition of a "lack of belief" does not prove their brand of atheism as true.  Let me explain.

If I say that I have a lack of belief that something does not exist, it does not mean that that which I do not believe in is non-existent.  That which I am denying very well could exist, but I am just stating that I have a lack of belief that it does.  This is not atheism and if one wants to claim that it is atheism, they need to get honest with the real definition and "buck up."

So the Christian does not need to be worried when an adherent of the new atheism says, "atheism is a lack of belief in God."  Just tell them so what.  Your definition does not prove God's non-existence no matter how vitriolic you want to be and no matter how vehement you want to prove your point.  God very well could exist, and there are reasonable proofs that would conclude it reasonable to believe than not to believe in the existence of God.

So looking at science, and reason and the definition of the new kind of atheism is all the new atheist has in their clip.  But there are things that science cannot prove; evolution is just a theory with many holes in it.  And reason?  Calling thinking Christians names is not reasonable.  Claiming that scientific facts will eventually come and what they believe about God's non-existence will be true.  Well we are waiting on that something we may not see in our lifetime.  Take all this and then the definition of a lack of belief, which seeks to skirt the classical definition and what you have is one big meaningless system of mush that is inconsistent with reality.  And as an adherent to the new atheism attending the Reason Rally you really believe that?   How reasonable is that? 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Every so often I stumble on a relevant posting.  This one was from a year ago to the day!  Enjoy


by Brian Hearn, Apologetics.Net

Have you run across one of these lovely little gems on the back of someone’s car? The first time I saw one I asked: “What the heck is it?” But my question quickly changed to: “What sort of insult is this on the Christian worldview?” (It’s obviously meant to resemble the Ichthus.) So I looked it up and sure enough it is one of the atheist’s new parodies on religion. It originated in response to the Intelligent Design (ID) movement as a substitute to an ambiguous unspecified creator. Since ID focuses on design-detection instead of the attributes of the designer, why couldn’t the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) be an acceptable proxy? If teachers can invoke God as the unspecified Designer; why not the FSM? So goes the joke. In recent debates between theists and atheists I’ve noticed the FSM has been re-tasked. The argument goes something like this: “I do not need to present a case for the nonexistence of invisible pink unicorns or the flying spaghetti monster; therefore I do not need to present a case for the nonexistence of God.”

Let’s first deal with the intelligent design case since it’s relatively trivial to put to bed. ID focuses on the methodology of design-detection and not the designer. Dembski’s Design Inference (DI) is a mathematical filter to determine chance, necessity or design causation from its effects. I’ve read his works and as an engineer the filter makes sense to me and I just don’t see the controversy. ID may have their work cut out for them in showing how the DI filter is applicable to biology, but the idea design can be detected without knowledge of the designer’s attributes is straightforward. Many ID proponents are theists, so when asked to go off topic and speculate about the designer of the universe or complex cellular machinery, they look to God. Some teachers conflate ID with Creation Science giving the Darwinist an opening to draw attention away from the real debate. Can a design inference be drawn in biology or in cosmology? That’s what the ID community is trying to answer. When the Darwinist’s arguments are lacking, they turn to a somewhat humorous red herring.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reason Rally Supporter Not Very 'Reasonable' Inviting Christian Fringe Group

The more and more I think about the premises of those spearheading the Reason Rally, the more I find them to be most unreasonable.   Not too long ago I had two postings concerning comments made by an atheist on my blog, who was parroting P. Z. Meyers with statements like, we are being obnoxious, arrogant, along with a whole bunch of other rhetorical insinuations about making plans to go to the Reason Rally.  Those of us blogging on the rally have opened up and extended invitations to any atheist who wants to grace the door of our respective churches holding what is called an Atheist at Church Day.

Just in the last couple of days we have seen the next wave of illogical rhetoric hitting the web.  This time it is an ardent supporter of the Reason Rally (Jim Klawon) showing his skill in emotional rhetoric and unreasonable nonsense.  The vehicle is inviting a group like Westboro Baptist Church to the Reason Rally.

Amid all the responses from our 'coalition' of apologetics bloggers (e.g., True Reason.org, Ratio Christi, Thinking Christian, Deeper Waters, Reasons for God, along with this and other blogs), we are somewhat amazed and scratching our heads, trying to figure out where the "reason" is in Klawon's invitation to Westboro Baptist Church (here is the letter of invite from the Center for Inquiry).  

For those who have not followed the events, let me give a little history behind the events of the Reason Rally up to this point:  

  1. The premise of the Reason Rally is supposedly to show the nation that atheism/secularism is reasonable.
  2. TrueReason.org responds by declaring its intent to come to the rally to reason with atheists.
  3. Atheists respond with mocking and outrage and demand to be allowed into Christian churches (example).
  4. TrueReason.org responds with an initiative to invite atheists and skeptics to churches.
  5. Many atheists respond by indicating that they don't want to go to church (example).
  6. TrueReason.org publishes a book demonstrating that though the “New Atheists” claim to be the defenders of reason, they’re not very good at it.
  7. The rally organizers invite the Westboro Baptists to the rally. Westboro is known for its angry demonstrations and un-Christian and un-reasonable responses to cultural issues. (Source:Ratio Christi, Let's Set Up Our Own Straw men posting)

We now come to the events of #7, and I have to ask, "where in the world is the 'reason' in Klawon's invitation to a  hyper-fringe group of fundamentalists, claiming to be a genuine representation of Christianity?  The Westboro Baptist Church has been in the media at "rights" marches, military funerals and other events stating their view of the Bible.  Let me say that though they may believe the Bible, and "preach the Bible", the action of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, patience, joy, kindness, and self control is missing; and is therefore NOT a good representation of Christianity.  In fact, it sounds like Westboro has cut out Galatians 5:22-23 from their Bibles!

This said, the atheists, being charged up by this invitation, are once again demonstrating the folly of their reasoning skills.  through the committing of a couple of informal fallacies in logic (the study of sound critical thinking and reasoning).  Let me illustrate these fallacies coming from those promoting "reason" from an atheistic perspective:

1.  The Straw Man fallacy:   The straw man fallacy is an informal fallacy that is based upon the misrepresentation of an opponent's position.  It has nothing to do with the argument being made, but doing everything to misrepresent the opponent.  How is this fleshed out with Jim Klawon inviting Westboro Baptist Church?

Klawon invites a fringe group, professing to be Christians but known for their hateful demonstrations.  This group professes Christianity and Klawon's strategy appears to create this illusion for people toward lumping all Christians under the temperament of the likes of Westboro Baptist Church.  Some of us on the side of faith and reason have called this a diversion and a distraction.  To say the least it makes life interesting for us on the side of truth and logical thinking.

There is another fallacy that is crawling around in the straw of the atheist straw man and that is what is called the fallacy of the excluded middle term.

2.  The Excluded Middle fallacy:  This is also known as a faulty dilemma, or a false dichotomy where one argues for "sameness" when there are some things in common between two entities (i.e., religions or religious leaders), but those two entities do not share all (the main) things in common    Here are a couple of syllogisms to give you a taste for this kind argument:

Premise 1:  David Koresh had  huge following.
Premise 2:  Jesus had a huge following.
Conclusion:  Therefore they are the same.
Analysis:   Just because there are parts of the both religious leaders having a huge following, it does not mean that they are all the same.

here is another. . .

Premise 1:  Hinduism is polytheistic
Premise 2:  Mormonism is polytheistic
Conclusion:  Therefore they are the same.
Analysis:   Just because there are parts of the both that are same does not mean that they are all the same.

Do you see the problem here?  This is how the new atheism is arguing when Mr. Klawon invites a fringe "Christian" group to say, "we are opening up the invite to 'all Christians'."  Really?  Let's follow this now because I am smelling more than just "stinky red fish."  It is reductio ad absurdum (reduced to absurdity).  Here is how Klawon's rationale for inviting Westboro Baptist Church is not even congruent.

Premise 1:  The "reasonable skeptic," Klawon, thinking (whether ignorantly or maliciously) that Westboro Baptist Church is a true representation of Christianity, invites them to the rally as a kind gesture, "celebrating  diversity, logic, acceptance and reason."

Premise 2:  The ministries aligned with True Reason are Christian groups.  Some are from Baptist churches, Bible churches, evangelical and mainline churches all of which profess to be Bible believing Christian groups.

Premise 3:  All these groups profess to be "Christian" in their beliefs. 

Conclusion: Therefore they are the same.

Analysis:   Just because one says that one is a Christian, it does not mean that they are a Christian as defined within the bounds of Scripture.  This is not to be judgemental.  It is to say that when you look at the bottle, the contents of bottle must match the label.  There are certain beliefs that meet the historical Christian faith, (biblical views God, man, salvation, damnation, Christ, eternity etc etc.).   If a group does not meet those biblical beliefs nor demonstrate the fruit of those beliefs, I believe that we should question it.  Just because you are Christian does not mean that it truly the case unless the contents of one's faith match the biblical criteria.


Conclusion.

Is the Reason Rally and the demonstration of reason from atheists truly reasonable?  Absolutely not!  It is totally illogical!  It is a poor demonstration of reason and is nothing more than menial rhetoric that holds no water.  I, along with my colleagues, are seeing an unbroken principle emerging here; one that I have seen in many a discussion on the internet with local atheists.  The problem that many of the new atheists share is that they are very weak in their reasoning skills.  Every time they do or say something against the Christian faith, they display this hypocrisy toward reason.  It may be that this is not always the case; one could only hope.  So far in my experiences there have been very few (counting on one hand) exceptions.  This appears the greatest chink in their armor, seeking to put reason as their strength, only coming short every time.   I along with others would like to say that we are ready to meet them at the point of reason every time, in order to show that Christianity is a most reasonable faith.


More from those writing on this event toward the Reason Rally

Reason Rally Organizer to Reasoning Christians: We Want No Dialogue, Tom Gilson
The Reason Rally and the Westboro Invitation, Carson Weitnauer
The Reason Rally in a Pickle, Tom Gilson
The Reason Rally's Brilliant Maneuver, Tom Gilson
Let's Set Up Our Own Straw Men, Rick Schenker
Coalition to Offer 'Christian Response' at Reason Rally to Engage Non-Believers, The Christian Post
Deeper Waters: Westboro Baptist Church, Nick Peters

Monday, March 12, 2012

Christians Respond to the Extreme Claims of the Reason Rally


posted by Caitlin Bendall, Ratio Christi

Authors of new book highlight irrationality of atheists' claim to be defenders of reason
Charlotte, NC, March 12, 2012 -- Leading atheist Richard Dawkins has said, “The time has come for people of reason to say: Enough is enough!  Religious faith discourages independent thought, it's divisive and it's dangerous.” Today, Christian thinkers from around the world announce the publication of the Patheos Press ebook “True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism.
Featuring chapters by Dr. William Lane Craig, Sean McDowell, and eleven other Christian scholars and thinkers, “True Reason” presents a well-reasoned rejoinder to the arrogance of the New Atheists and their upcoming “Reason Rally.” The book:
  • Demonstrates New Atheist leaders’ consistent failure in the use of reasoning.
  • Explains how the Christian faith and good reasoning work well together.
  • Clarifies the reasonability of Christian practice now and throughout history.
“This is a book to encourage, inform, and equip Christian believers. It's also bound to raise controversy,” said general editor Tom Gilson. “The careful reasoning of this book will deliver a tremendous challenge to the New Atheists as they prepare for their ‘Reason’ Rally in Washington. And it will benefit Christians long after that, by equipping them for challenges to the faith that are bound to keep on coming,” added Gilson.
“True Reason” is co-edited by Gilson, a ministry strategist and author working jointly with Campus Crusade for Christ and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and Carson Weitnauer, director of Telos Ministries, a campus ministry that reaches the intellectual elite at Boston area universities including Harvard.
The book is being released in conjunction with an initiative to bring dozens of thoughtful Christians to the Reason Rally, to create an obvious contrast between the Reason Rally and True Reason. The Reason Rally takes place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on March 24, 2012, with headline speakers including Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Adam Savage of Mythbusters, and the rock band Bad Religion.
The united Christian outreach to the Reason Rally is being led by: Ratio ChristiThinkingChristian.net,Reasons for God, The Apologetics Bloggers Alliance, and The Christian Apologetics Alliance.

Blogs related to the True Reason book:

Editor's Note:  Once I have completed the reading of this book, I will be posting my review.   So far, I appreciate what the contributors have set forth.   

Coalition to Offer 'Christian Response' at Reason Rally to Engage Non-Believers

By Stoyan Zaimov
Christian Post Reporter

March 6, 2012
(Posted in the Christian Post, N. America section, Sunday March 11, 2012)

A number of Christian organizations will attend the Reason Rally on March 24 in Washington, D.C,
and engage in what they call "reasonable discussion" with atheists at the event, promising that their only aim is to "share Christ person to person as opportunity arises."

The Reason Rally is being heralded as the biggest gathering of atheist speakers and celebrities to ever come together, and will include presenters such as Richard Dawkins, Dr. PZ Myers, Adam Savage, James Randi, Dr. Elizabeth Cornwell, and Gretta Christina among others. The rally will be focused on encouraging atheists to "come out of the closet" about their non-belief and stand up for fellow non-believers.

A number of Christian organizations, however, such as Ratio Christi, ThinkingChristian.net, Reasons for God, the Apologetics Bloggers Alliance and the Christian Apologetics Alliance, are putting together a "Christian response" to the event. They insist that it is not a counter-demonstration and that they do not wish to gather in large groups, but instead want to engage with atheists willing to talk to them. The coalition of Christian groups will also share copies of a mini-book version of Reason Really, a soon-to-be-published ebook addressing atheist-Christian relationships and the logistical reason found within faith, CrossExamined.org reported.  Click here to read the rest of the article.

If you are interested in more information on the Christian presence at the Reason Rally, contact us by email at stand4truthapologetics@gmail.com.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Weeks and Counting Until the Reason Rally

This week has been a busy week and I have been having bloggers flooding my email inbox with postings to put up.  Most Sunday mornings you would see a posting of a Sunday morning posting.  This post will provide a few quotes and then some links to some blogs for you to check out in preparation for the Reason Rally coming up on the 24th of this month.  Pardon my limited reading as part of that have been due to the fact of limiting myself on who and what I read, which by the way, can be to my detriment.  First the quips and quotes from a person who goes by b. hearn:

Panspermia n; "Desperate naturalists begging the question."   This is one of those funnies that shows how this idea that life was created by extraterrestrials from outside of this universe is so . .  reductio ad absurdum  It simply does beg the question.

"Extreme open-mindedness is merely empty mindedness."  We are often accused by brute fact arguing atheists and those who profess to be "in the know" about reality of being closed minded or narrow.  Could it be that the more open minded one becomes the more empty minded they become?   Hmmm.

"Faith is not belief held in the absence of evidence but rather a commitment to what one already believes when an insatiable appetite for more evidence is unmet."  We are often accused by the new atheists that having faith is stupid, immature, and primitive.  But faith implies three things:  knowledge, belief, and trust.  The more evidence we have, the more knowledge we have.  The more knowledge we have, the more we believe and then trust the faith given to us in what lies supportive but beyond the known evidence.   Does not sound blind to me.  If anything, atheism is based upon blind faith.

Now for some blog postings from Nick Peters' blog Deeper Waters. . .

Reason Rally:  Outrage!
Reason Rally:  The Problems With the New Atheism
Reason Rally:  Why Christians Should Accept Science
Reason Rally:  Do You Really Know the Bible?

Care for some "Poached Egg"?  Here is a great post from Greg West's Poached Egg Worldview and Apologetics Network entitled. . .

12 Quotes on Evolution and Intelligent Design

Tomorrow the "true reason book" comes out!  Feel free to ask what that is all about.  Send me an email and I will answer you come tomorrow and beyond.

Okay, that is enough musing for now.  I have to get adapted to the time change.  



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Age of the Apologist

by Rick Schenker

Creating confident witnesses—A new strategy for church growth

The modern church is under intellectual attack. The university is the breeding ground of skepticism, secularism, atheism, and neo-Darwinism. In the past, this was a relatively non-toxic situation. Intellectuals at the university used to simply dismiss Christianity as anti-intellectual, but all that has changed. Today they are on the attack and they are aggressively recruiting students to their cause. Neo-atheists are now proselytizing with the zeal of evangelists. They have a coordinated effort and use the same language and the same arguments from Oxford to Appalachia.

What is happening at the university is a preview of what will happen to the culture at-large. Alvin Plantinga, a Christian philosopher said, “The contemporary Western intellectual world is a battleground…in which rages a battle for men’s souls.” That is the battle the church faces today. Out of necessity, the church must engage the culture intellectually, and that is why Christianity is heading into the Age of the Apologist.

Now that the neo-atheists are evangelizing our youth, some churches have begun to wonder what to do. Up until recently the church has largely ignored apologetics. But with young people leaving the church in droves, and church members hungering to have answers to the questions being poised by friends, neighbors, and even their own kids, some churches have started to look to apologists for answers. Yet, very few churches have sought to utilize apologists as part of their team strategy to protect their membership, or to reach their community for Christ. In fact, most of the graduates with Masters Degrees in apologetics find that churches have been a closed door.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sam Harris' Book on No "Free Will" Will Be Unreasonable Rhetoric

Tomorrow, March 6th, marks the date for Sam Harris' book on "Free Will" hits the news stands and book sellers' shelves.  This book is promoted on Richard Dawkins' web page, and states the following:

"A BELIEF IN FREE WILL touches nearly everything that human beings value.  It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationship, morality -- as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement -- without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions.  And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.  In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life." (Source:  http://richarddawkins.net/articles/645155-free-will)

What?  No free will?  You might  think that kind of strange coming from one who holds to a balanced view of the doctrines of grace (reform theology, "Calvinism"), but I can't help but take a swing at this.

First off while some of you let the fur go down on the back of your neck, I want to let you know that I do believe in "freedom".  The question is what kind of freedom do I believe in?  First it is not a fatalistic view that those who want to say that Calvinist's hold.

Then what does it mean to be free or what does it take for a decision to be free?  I mean we believe that God causes faith to come to the person seeking truth, and in some sense that faith is even secured by God Himself.  Supposedly at the opposites of the spectrum is the conflict between the freedom of choice and the view that God causes and secures salvation for the individual by the provisions of His grace and mercy and not the individual.

What does this have to do with Sam Harris not believing in free will?  Well, I would like to ask Sam a pretty vital question, "what does it mean to be free?"  This is a question that many people have never really thought about carefully, and I suspect that Sam's book is going to be a production of his illogical rhetoric to say that you and I are not free.  I suspect that Sam, like many others think that there are only simple and obvious alternatives.  Those alternatives are:

1.  We are determined, puppets on a string making mechanistic decisions completely dictated from the outside like one domino falling against the other.  I think this is probably where Harris is landing.  My question here are as follows:   Does he think that because one does not have a choice in when and where one is born that the rest of life's choices are the same?  How did he freely think up the thoughts he put on the page?

What about those thoughts or the initial thought to write a book on no free will?  He cannot say that he did not freely think up the thoughts he put together for the book.  He cannot say that he was a puppet on a string hammering out the rhetoric that he was not free to write what he was writing.   Does he really think that each thought was "a domino" of one thought falling upon thought "domino" after another and on and on?  Where did the initial thought come from?

One of the problems that Sam and atheists parroting his rhetoric need to admit but will refuse, is that there cannot be an infinite regression of current causes of thoughts.  There must be a starting point; a thought has to start somewhere and usually that is one that is freely thought up.  Just like thoughts on this posting; they are not the production of random chemicals and neurons firing.  There is information, and where there is information there is design.  Hmmm, sounds like a teleological argument brewing, eh Sam?

2.  The second option is more liberating!  We are not determined.  What I had for breakfast this morning and what Sam had for breakfast whatever morning was chosen freely.   My choice, under the sovereignty of God this morning, of a blueberry bagel, toasted and spread with Promise margarine with a glass of orange juice was a free choice that I made.

We are not chess pieces or puppets being strung by an unseen maniacal cosmic puppeteer.  We are completely free with all choices available to us, no matter whether one is a Christian or a skeptic.  There is a free choice that is made.  The former is a free choice, that is given, to respond to the liberating work of God toward redemption. The latter is the freedom to continue in bondage, in the deadness and bankruptcy of atheism.  What about Sam's thoughts that are going to be bound between the covers of his book coming out on the morning of March 6th?

My question to Sam would be:  "Where did those thoughts come from Sam, for you to weave your web of rhetoric"?  We know that all the atheist groupies will parrot his words, will they do this by some fatalistic domino factor of thoughts wrought by a chemical reaction of neurons and stuff?  No, Sam and those who read and believe his nonsense will make a free volitional choice to push it on those that they freely believe are deluded by their belief in a supernatural "God".

You see I believe God does elect those who He draws to Himself and we respond.  I also believe in evangelism.  At the same time there are those, I believe, that are spiritually dead in their sins who are freely making the volitional choices to disbelieve and do the works of unbelief or false religion, or the diabolical things done in the past of Western civilization where millions were killed under atheistic regimes.  (I am sure some skeptic will get riled up on this one.)

I started off in making a statement that I believe in the doctrines of grace, but I do not believe in pre determinism.  What we do as believers will either glorify God or the self.  Those who are atheists and agnostics and skeptics of whatever flavor will do what they know to do and they will do it FREELY.

So what about Sam's book that is coming out tomorrow?  What am I guessing it will be like?  My prediction is that it will be nothing more than rhetorical banter and a futile attempt to continue his rant in hopes to bash and destroy Christianity. Yes, he will have some folks cheering his work.  You know that his cheerleader, Richard Dawkins will be singing the book's praises at the Reason Rally on March 24th.  But what will that prove?

It will prove that as a free "moral agent", Sam freely wrote a book, and he freely expressed his thoughts and put them in a book about the fact that he [freely] does not believe in free will.  Sam is freely going boldly into the realm of unreasonable rhetoric. . . once again.  As a free moral agent, is he really willing to go there and think that he is being reasonable?

Sam, surely you jest!



Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Rejoinder to My Unreasonable "Anonymous" Commenter


Well, my Anonymous commenter is back and not showing much reason in his arguing why my "brothers and sisters in arms" and I should not attend the Reason Rally this coming March 24th.  As I mentioned in my previous "Leaky Bucket" posting, that much of the rhetoric that is espoused by groupies like this commenter. hails out of the writings of Dawkins, Harris,  Dennett and what I suspect the new fourth horseman, P. Z. Meyers.  It is emotional, vitriolic and not demonstrative of any good use of reason.   That's right reason (and these folks are spear heading a Reason Rally).
"I'll try one more time: Reasons NOT to show up and evangelize at the Reason Rally:
(1) You respect the rights of others to be different from you. Freedom of religion is also freedom from religion. On a few special occasions like the reason rally, it could mean freedom from being accosted by evangelical strangers."
This comment on respect is a red herring.  This is not about respect as much as it is on truth matters.  At the same time, our desire is to handle each conversation the Lord allows us to partake in with utmost “gentleness and respect.”  We respect the rights of others.  We respect the right for atheists to assemble and we  expect that from them for us to be on the outskirts of the rally.
Folks, this is a free country.  One is free to assemble peaceably, speak freely within certain parameters.  One has the right to believe or disbelieve in a God who is transcendent, personal, absolute in power, knowledge, presence and love.    The problem with this appeal from my ‘anonymous commenter‘ is that he/she is trying to put up an emotional and imaginary “do not disturb” sign so that we who are “immature” and deemed delusional do not rain on their rally.   


We will not be there to pick an argument or raise our voices.  We will be there to share with whomever be willing to ask questions or engage in a cordial dialogue.  We have things to offer for anyone wanting to accept or reject, be it a booklet, bottled water, or an opportunity for a conversation, with no questions asked.  What is the problem with that?   We cannot read the “do not disturb” sign because the sign is not there.
Secondly with reference this appeal, the  statement, "freedom of religion is also freedom from religion" is an interesting quip.  I am not sure where it comes from but it is a play on faulty word games.  Freedom of religion is one of the attributes of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  The freedom from religion is a skewed way of stating that atheism should be the only ideology and that all religions are not acceptable.  It is a confusion of objective/descriptive (of) versus source (from) categories.  This little game playing is nothing more than demonstrative of a lack of reason from the commenter.

As for evangelicals "accosting" anyone, this is reductio ad absurd um.  Does this commenter think that our very presence at the Reason Rally is accosting to anyone.  This is an appeal to pity on the part of the Anonymous commenter.
"(2) You treat others the way you want them to treat you. If You would be offended to have atheists crash a Christian rally trying to engage people on why you should become an an atheist, then you will respect atheists desire to meet without Christian interference."
First off, speaking for myself, and some of my colleagues have also stated that we would not expect it any other way when it comes to treating others the way that we would want to be treated.  With reference to an atheist crashing a Christian meeting like a rally or even a church service, some folks in some churches might be offended by "evangelistic" atheists doing such a thing.  If it was cordially done in the way that we are going to be at the Reason Rally, we would relish the opportunity to have an atheist visit our churches.  What we would expect is good behavior and cordial conversation that is OPEN and HONEST and EVEN HANDED.   Again, this commenter’s lack of reason is shining forth in this proposal. 

"(3) You don't want to be a jerk. You recognize how arrogant, obnoxious and intrusive it is to crash somebody else's (sp) celebration and try to talk them out of it. Perhaps atheists should show up at your church picnics or Christmas services and debate the likelihood of a virgin birth? You do see the arrogance don't you? Are you so full of self-importance that you can't perceive that evangelizing is unwelcome at an atheist celebration? I hope you are not so lacking in self-perception?"
This appeal as unreasonable as it is has P. Z. Meyers all over it!  Apparently this commenter has not read truereason.org’s website.  Let me share a snippet briefly. . .
From True Reason's announcement: 
This is not a counter-demonstration. We are going there to share Christ person to person as opportunity arises. We will not raise our voices. We will talk with those who want to talk with us. We will offer gifts and materials to all, but we will not press ourselves on those who do not wish to converse
What is so "jerk-ish" about this?  Nothing.   Calling someone a jerk, arrogant or obnoxious is what is called in formal logic a fallacy known as an "ad hominem" (an attack against the person or the character of the person). In committing this fallacy the only thing this commenter can do is convey, in brute fact fashion, a sense of feeling “picked on” (appeal to pity) because of a group of confident Christians showing up on the outskirts of the Reason Rally to visit with anyone "who wants to" know why we believe we have the truth and not atheism.  
I will have more coming in another post on this charge of arrogance and obnoxiousness being spewed from P. Z. Meyers.  But REAL quickly here; our attitude toward our belief in God is not one of arrogance.  It is one of humble thanksgiving for the redemption that He has provided for us through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  Arrogance in our context is sin.  If we think that we are better than our atheist counter parts railing at us, we are grossly misunderstanding the issues.  The major thing that separates the saint from the skeptic is a cross in real time space history and a resurrection in real time space history.  Plain and simple.
Again, as for an atheist showing up at our churches, let me say that some of our churches may be ready, and others. . . well, they need to be readied.  Me personally I am definitely not opposed to having an atheist day.   Again, the issue is whether a church is open or even ready for something like this.   As an elder in our church, we are somewhere at an ‘almost ready’ for something like an "invite an atheist to church" event.  
So is this third appeal reasonable?  Well my Anonymous commenter is not doing very well convincing us to stay away from the Mall on March 24th.  Next?
"Again 
(4) You are sensitive about slights to your faith. You can be certain that speakers at the Reason Rally will be just as blunt about all the problems with religion and gods as preachers in the pulpit are when trying to discredit atheists. If you consider such free speech "trashing religion" then attending will disconcerting for you."
Being sensitive to any slights of my faith is important.  To my commenter, I would like to say that if atheism were true, I would have stayed an atheist.  If Islam were true, I would want to be a Muslim.  But after continual examination of these two world views, I am convinced that Christianity is that which meets and passes the tests of a viable world view.  Atheism is an absolute denial of the Absolute according the French philosopher Etienne Bourne.  This is a logical contradiction, so no matter what Richard Dawkins wants to say is not going to impact my position in any way.  
In fact we look forward to maybe hearing a little of the bluntness of one of "Darwin's bulldogs".  At the same time, we respect the right for people to freely speak their opinion, and that includes atheists.  We expect the same courtesy.  Why is this?  Because people have a right to think and believe what they believe is right, but what they believe may not be right.  Let me encourage my “vitriolic” Anonymous commenter to examine what they believe and see if it truly lines up with consistently reality (ethically and morally, and philosophically and logically); after all as Socrates once said, "the unexamined life is not worth living." 
Let’s see if my commenter does better on the last appeal since the first four have essentially “died in the water.”

"(5) Atheists don't need your water or your Kool-Aid.. . .This will be the last time I comment on your blog because discussing religion just isn't interesting to me. It is like talking about why I don't collect stamps. There are forums for theists and atheists to debate, the Reason Rally is not one of those forums.
Thanks for trying to be reasonable. May you find reason attractive enough that you become comfortable outgrowing all supernatural beliefs."
No my commenter is correct, atheists don’t need our Kool-Aid, because they have already drank the “Kool Aid of Non-reason”.  I love the line where he/she says, “discussing religion just isn’t interesting to me.”  Apparently there was enough interest in this commenter’s psyche to post a couple of comments as unreasonable as they were. 

A commenter like this is always invited to comment on my blog.  I appreciate appreciate the attention and it let’s me know that people from all over are checking out our blog.   
A Final Note:

As I have moved through the five appeals from this commenter, it is quite clear that in their appealing for me to use reason they have demonstrated that their “reasoning” is definitively unreasonable.  This commenter is just showing how atheism is traitor to its adherent.  It is a traitor in that in the hopes of being reasonable, it commits the violation of the law of non contradiction.