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God is not Great - Uma analise.

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God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sex 09 Jan 2009, 7:17 pm

Hitchens - God is not Great I
March 7th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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This week I begin my review of Christopher Hitchens, “God is not Great,” the third of the big three in the current crop of atheist books. In some respects, Hitchens’ offering is much better as it seems to have a deeper understanding of religion, than Sam Harris’ The End Of Faith, or Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion”, but it is much more uneven as serious argument is suddenly marred by outbursts that are little more than cheap shots, hatred and at times bigotry.

Still Hitchens arguments, while often better stated, share many of the same problems I have already discussed in my reviews of Harris’ and Dawkins’ books. For example, early on in chapter One Hitchens attempts to describe what atheism is, or at least, what it is not.

“Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason… we do not hold our convictions dogmatically: the disagreement between Professor Stephen Jay Gould and Professor Richard Dawkins, concerning “punctuated evolution” and the unfilled gaps in post-Darwinian theory, is quite wide as well as quite deep, but we shall resolve it by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication.” (pg 5)

Now there are several problems is this passage. First I have to admit that I find this somewhat amusing for a rather abstract reason. At various times in the history of Christianity something referred to as negative theology has been popular. Negative theology is the attempt to describe God by saying what he is not, as in statements such as God is not a created being. One of the criticisms of negative theology is that such negations ultimately say very little if anything. Which is somewhat how I felt after reading Hitchens definition of atheism; as the more I read it, the less it seemed to say.

And this goes to the heart of one of the problems with atheists’ arguments. If Hitchens’ definition above is read very strictly, it says little more than that there is no organization in atheist belief and that while they may share some things in common there really is no such thing as atheism. For example, I have had many self-proclaimed atheist say that they rely solely on science and reason. But this flatly contradicts Hitchens’ negative definition of atheism. So are these people atheists?

But that is the thing about atheists, while they believe that the religious are a coherent group where anyone who is religious must defend anything ever done by anyone else who was religious, whatever their motive, or how nominal their belief, atheism on the other hand is not a group, or as Hitchens put it, not a belief or faith. They as atheists never have to defend what others atheists have done, unless of course they like what they did, then they can claim it as an expression of atheism.

You can see this in his claim that a “proper statistical inquiry” would find that “the faithful” commit more crimes of greed or violence than atheists. If “the faithful” is defined broad enough, and “atheist” narrow enough, I have no doubt that this would be true, but it would only be as valid as the definitions. The recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey claims that 78.4% of Americans are Christians and 89.7% are religious, while only 10.3% are secular, with only 1.6% claiming to be Atheists.

Given these statistics I am sure that the nearly 90% who are religious would have a higher rate of violent criminality than the 1.6% who are atheists. But, I am also sure that most pastors would be happy if just everyone who attended Church regularly, about half of those who claim to be religious, were fully committed to serving the Lord. But most atheist lump all believers from all religious beliefs together as if they were the same.

As for his statement that “we do not hold our convictions dogmatically” such claims are often only in the eye of the beholder. One only has to point out one of the many problems with evolution, to an atheist to see a display of dogmatism in action.

In addition, as I point out in my book, Christianity and Secularism, everyone has beliefs that ultimate must depend on faith to some extent. This includes atheists. So while atheists like to portray themselves as driven by reason and evidence while theist are driven by dogmatism and faith, such a view is not only self-serving, but false.

There are quite large difference among Christians on a whole range of issues such as was the earth created in 7 literal days less than 10,000 years ago, or is the earth billions of years old? Even Christians who believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God, can be found on both sides of this question, and contrary to Hitchens implications, most get along quite nicely, often worshipping together.

Sure if one judges all religions and all followers as essentially the same, and focuses on the worst actions of the followers of religion, then religion comes off pretty bad. But then if you focus only on the negative, anything can be rejected. But if one looks at the larger picture, weight both the pros and cons, the picture is nowhere near as bad as Hitchens tries to paint it, and in fact Christianity come off quite well.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

Fonte: http://www.consider.org/blog/Index.php?paged=8


Última edição por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:11 pm, editado 1 vez(es)

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sex 09 Jan 2009, 7:19 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great II
March 14th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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This week in my review of Christopher Hitchens, “God is not Great,” I will look at what Hitchens calls the “four irreducible objections to religious faith.” According to him religious faith “wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.” (p 4)

One immediate objection to these objections, is that Hitchens is committing a mistake common to so many atheist critiques, which is that these objections don’t really apply to religion as a general concept for religion is simply too diverse. They really apply mainly to Christianity. But casting them in terms of religion in general allows the atheist to talk of the problems of one religion as if they apply to all religions.

Frankly, it is hard to apply them even to all of Christianity. For example, Hitchens first objection is that religious faith misrepresent the origins of man and the cosmos. Yet within Christianity, there is a whole range of opinions on origins, from a special creation in 7 days all the way to views that are virtually indistinguishable from those held by Hitchens, except that they would ultimately say that God was behind it all.

Now perhaps Hitchens considers merely attributing the origin of man and the Cosmos to God as objectionable, but even here there are problems. One huge problem is that scientist can’t explain the origins of man or the cosmos, and as I describe in my book Evidence for the Bible there are serious problems explaining how the process started in the first place.

Similar problems apply to his second objection, that religion combines “the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism.” Frankly it is not even clear how this really applies to Christianity, much less religion in general. Granted the NT does teach that we are servants of Christ, but I find this hard to square with Hitchens’ claim that this is the maximum of servility as our position is also the Children of God who can say of God “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:15-16) As for his claim that religion is at the same time, the maximum of solipsism, or extreme egocentrism, this is a complete mystery. One could try to guess at what he means, but an argument that has to be guessed at is hardly a cogent one.

Hitchens third objection is “that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression.” Again his one size fits all objection, hardly fits at all. After all can one really describe some of the other first century religions whose worships centered around visits to the temple prostitute, as sexually repressed? Sure, an over regulation of sex has been a feature of some religions, and some forms of Christianity, but some is not all.

There is also the problem that what constitutes sexual repression is somewhat of a relative concept. For some any restrictions on sex is “sexual repression.” Is saying that sex should be restricted to the confines of marriage, sexual repression? We are certainly seeing the results of 40 years of sexual freedom, and they are not good. The breaking of the link between sex and marriage, has resulted in a huge increase in single parent households and the problems they bring. And often it is the children who often suffer the most.

Contrary to the modern myths, men and women are different, and sex can have consequences. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control released this week, one in four teenagers, aged 14–19 has at least one sexually transmitted disease. In African-American girls the rate is 50%. And the study did not even include all sexually transmitted diseases. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun “There are 19 million sexually transmitted diseases in the United States - costing the health care system $15 billion a year - and almost half occur among the 14 to 25 age group.” And this is with modern medicine, antibiotics, and birth control. Given all these problems and we have only mentioned a couple, is it really all that unreasonable to think that when God said that sex should be only between a husband and wife, that perhaps he was not just trying to be a killjoy, but perhaps he really did have our best interests in mind?

Hitchens fourth objection is that religious faith is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking. There is a rational problem with considering this an objection to religious faith, because it tends to be circular. The purpose of Hitchens objections is to say that religious false. But to say something is grounded on wish-thinking is to say that something is false. Thus, Hitchens is basically saying that religious faith is false, because it is false which is a circular argument and thus irrational.

So Hitchens four irreducible objections to religious faith, are hardly even sound objections to religious faith in general, much less Christianity in particular. That he sees them as some insight into religion is sad.


Última edição por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:11 pm, editado 1 vez(es)

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sex 09 Jan 2009, 7:20 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great III
May 9th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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This week I return to my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great,” Similar to Dawkins and Harris, serious problems abound in the early pages of the Hitchens’ book. Many are simply statements of personal opinion with at best questionable background or support, such as his claims that “Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble, or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism.” (p 7)



Other statements go straight to the heart of Hitchens critique. An example of the latter can be found in his claim that “the believer still claims to know! Not just to know, but to know everything.”(Author’s emphasis) This would be a valid criticism if it were true. But it is not. In fact not only does this fail as an accurate description of religion in general, or even of Christianity in specific, it would be hard to find believers who would actually make this claim.



Now a few paragraphs later, Hitchens does qualify this statement somewhat, by restating this criticism as “the sheer arrogance to tell us that we already have the essential information we need.”



While this is a somewhat more defendable statement, its open ended nature, and the general context of the discussion leads to the conclusion that Hitchens is still referring to essential information about everything.



One problem with this restatement is that “essential” is a somewhat relative term as there are many degrees of essential. Ask someone what essential knowledge is to live in the United States, and you will likely get completely different answers than if you ask someone who lives in a third world country. Essential knowledge for one, such as how to grow food or find it in the wild, may be completely irrelevant for someone who buys their food at a market.



Yet, if one tries to provide some definition to Hitchens’ use of “essential knowledge” either his argument disappears, or the definition is invalid. If “essential knowledge” is defined as the knowledge needed for our relationship with God, then I would say that this not only applies to Christianity, but that it has a biblical warrant. Jude 3 speaks of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” In the Bible we have all the knowledge that we need for our relationship with God. But even here, there are few Christians that would say that we know everything there is to know about the Bible.



But a view of “essential knowledge” limited to our relationship with God renders Hitchens’ argument somewhat empty, has he spends a great deal of time contrasting this belief in “essential knowledge” with all that we have learned in science. While we have learned a lot with science, Hitchens would hardly argue that a more detailed understanding of Gravity or knowledge of quantum mechanics is needed for salvation. Thus an understanding of “essential knowledge” limited to our relationship with God renders his argument a non-sequitur.



Hitchens needs believers claiming to know everything about everything because it justifies what would otherwise be a major inconsistency in his argument. Hitchens is highly critical of the pre-scientific beliefs of early believers and he sees this as a reason why religion as a whole is to be rejected today. For example he says “Augustine, Aquinas, Maimonides, and Newman [may have] been laughably ignorant of the germ theory of disease or the place of the terrestrial globe in the solar system, let alone the universe, and this is the plain reason why there are no more of them today, and will be no more of them tomorrow.”(p 7)



Yet when it comes to atheists, such erroneous beliefs are explained away by Hitchens, for earlier atheists were “great and fallible imaginative essayists.” Atheists don’t claim to know everything about everything, so it is ok if they made mistakes in the past, as that is part of the learning process.



This distorted view of religion can be seen in much of Hitchens’ criticisms, such as when he asks “How many needless assumptions must be made, and how much contortion is required to receive every new insight of science and manipulate it so as to ‘fit’ with the revealed words of ancient man-made deities?” (p 7)



Though I would drop the slanting found in words such as “needless” and “contortion,” pretty much the same could be asked of atheism. Just look at the assumptions and efforts they go through trying to explain how life started, some even going to the point of arguing that life was brought to earth by aliens from another planet.



The history of Christianity can be seen as a people striving to come to a better understanding of, and relationship with, God. This journey has been full of missteps and even back steps, of wrong turns and dead ends, but on the whole has been marked by a better understanding; and the fruits of this have been seen in what I would argue have been great advancement made by society that came out of Christianity, from the birth of modern science, to the origin of Human Rights, from end of slavery, to the advancement of civil rights.



Throughout the world Christians working through their churches are ministering to those in need, not only in their local communities, but around the world. They have been, and continue to be a tremendous force for good.


Última edição por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:12 pm, editado 1 vez(es)

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sex 09 Jan 2009, 7:20 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great IV
May 16th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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This week I continue my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great,” At the core of much of Hitchens’ problems with religion is that he sees it in opposition to reason. This core can be seen in many of his statements, such as when he writes, “Past and present religious atrocities have occurred not because we are evil, but because it is a fact of nature that the human species is, biologically, only partly rational.” (pg 8 ) For Hitchens’ religion comes from the irrational part of our nature and is to be resisted.

There are many problems with Hitchens’ view. For one the idea that “evil” comes from a lack of reason is an overly simplistic one that simply will not stand any serious scrutiny. Reason is a tool of learning, a process or a way of thinking that helps us organize data into meaningful conclusions. But like any tool, such as a hammer, or a gun, whether is it is good or bad, depends on how it is used. Reason can be either good or bad, because intrinsically it is neither. A hammer can be use to build a house, or murder someone. A gun can be used to protect innocent life or take it. Likewise reason is neither moral nor immoral. Reason is amoral.

Another problem is that the results of reason, the conclusions that are reached using it, are only as good as the raw data used and the framework in which it is applied. To use a phrase common in computers: ‘garbage in garbage out.’

A recent and visible example of this problem can be seen in the conclusion reached concerning WMD’s in the run up to Iraq war. While critics of the war charge Bush lied, the simple fact is that the conclusion that Iraq had WMD’s was the rational conclusion given the information that was available at the time.

This is demonstrated by the fact that this conclusion was reached, not just by Bush, or even just by those who supported the war, but was also reached by many who opposed the war. The conclusion was also reached by intelligent services around the world, again even in countries that opposed the war. In fact many of Iraq’s own general’s though they had WMDs. The problem was not that the conclusion was irrational; rather the problem was that data upon which the conclusion was based was flawed.

Now some would argue that this is not a problem with reason itself, but a problem with the data reason had to work with. Perhaps; and if reason is seen merely as a tool, then there would be little problem. But if reason is seen as a comprehensive worldview in competition with other worldviews, such as those found in religion, then this remains a serious problem for we will never have all the data we would like.

An even a more serious problem is that if reason is just a tool and requires a framework in which to work, how can the framework be chosen? Hitchens seems to ignore this problem and simply assume the atheistic worldview is the only rational worldview and as such religious worldviews are inherently irrational. Yet reason can function just as well using a Christian worldview as an atheistic worldview. The difference in the conclusions is not because, one is being irrational and the other rational, but rather is driven more by the different fundamental assumptions built in to the respective frameworks.

For example, Christians look at all the evidence that points to the existence of a god who created the universe. As a result of all this evidence, the conclusion that there is a God who created the world is a rational and easy conclusion to reach. The evidence is pretty clear that the natural universe is not eternal, but rather had a beginning. Since self-creation is a logical absurdity, something else had to cause the universe to come into existence. When one begins to explore what could create the universe as it is, the conclusion that it was God is not at all hard to reach.

Yet one of the fundamental assumptions of the atheistic worldview is that the material world is the only thing that exists. Given this belief, the only valid evidence would be evidence of the material, which is why atheists so frequently claim there is no evidence for the existence of God. In their worldview the only valid evidence would be direct material evidence sufficient to constitute proof that God exists. Anything else, is deemed insufficient and not really evidence. Thus their claim, that there is no evidence. For the atheist there cannot be, their worldview precludes it.

How do they explain the origin of the universe? Despite the evidence to the contrary, they believe that it must have been by natural means, as that is the only thing their worldview allows, and any problems are simply explained away as a lack of sufficient knowledge.

But there are still more problems with Hitchens’ view for as I will point out next time, evil is not always the result of a lack of reason. When unguided by morality, at time evil can be quite rational.


Última edição por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:12 pm, editado 1 vez(es)

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sex 09 Jan 2009, 7:20 pm

Posted in Christianity, Culture, Morality, Secularism | 4 Comments »
Hitchens - God Is Not Great V
May 23rd, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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Last time I discussed Christopher Hitchens’ contrasting of reason and religion in his book, “God Is Not Great.” In addition to the problems mentioned last time, Hitchens premise that atrocities, religious or otherwise occur because people are not completely rational is itself flawed. Some evil can be very rational, as modern history has shown.



This is one of the core weaknesses in atheism and thus it is not too surprising that atheists try to avoid its implication, as Hitchens does later in the book. I will discuss Hitchens’ defense when we come to it, but here I want to lay out the problem and why it is so difficult for atheists.



In simple terms, atheists as a general rule see the conflict between atheism and religion as at its core one between the rational and the irrational, with atheism being on the side of reason. If humanity would only abandon its irrational, that is religious, past, we could establish a sort of secular utopia grounded on the principles of science.



This all sounds very good and wonderful but in this sense atheists are sort of like use car salesmen selling an old clunker that will hardly make it off the lot, as if it were a new sport car. It all sounds so nice as long as you don’t look too closely or ask too many questions. The main difference would be that unlike a shady used car salesman, the atheist is being completely honest for they really believe what they are saying.



As we pointed out last time, reason is merely a tool, and is only as good as the data it has to work on and the framework in which it works. With the right data and the right framework, tremendous evil can be very rational. Atheists are often allowed to avoid this problem because making it involves pointing out how rational evil can be, and thus this often puts the theist in the position of seeming to argue for evil.



However, I believe that such arguments are important for two reasons. First, it shows the serious problems with relying only on reason as the atheist claim we should. Second, and more important is that these argument are effectively being made today, even if not directly. In short as society is becoming more and more secular we are moving slowing and incrementally in this direction as each small step is justified with this reasoning, even if few are willing to point out where this line of reasoning will ultimately lead.



A key difference between the Judeo-Christian world view and the atheistic worldview is over the view of who we are. The Bible teaches that we are not only creations of God, but that we are created in his image. In fact it is from this view that the entire concept of human rights was developed for what right does anyone have to interfere with what God has given, even if they are the King?



The atheistic worldview, on the other hand, sees humanity as simply another animal, the result of a long series of random mutations and chance happenings that have resulted in human beings. In short we were the result of a process governed by the survival of the fittest.



From the time that Darwin published the Origin of the Species; the concept of evolution by natural selection was embraced by atheists. Not only did they immediately incorporate it into their attacks on Christianity, they also began to look at ways they could apply these new scientific principles to governing humanity. The result was the now discredited sciences of Eugenics and Social Darwinism.



Where Christianity teaches we are to care for the poor, the weak and the infirmed, Social Darwinism taught that those that succeeded in life must be the fittest. Those that didn’t were being selected out and little or nothing should be done for them as that only weakened society. The science of eugenics applied the principles of evolution to procreation arguing that by limiting procreate among those that were deemed inferior on the one hand, and the use of selective breeding on the other we could make better people. In fact, it was the science of eugenics that spurred efforts for birth control and were a major factor in formation of groups such as Planned Parenthood.



Ultimately these new sciences were discredited when Hitler and the Nazi’s took them to their ultimate conclusions in the Holocaust. While atheists frequently attempt to find a link between Hitler and religion, Hitler did not want to exterminate the Jews for religious reasons; he wanted them exterminated because he believed them to be inferior people who were contaminating the pure Arian or master race.



More importantly, his choices were not all that irrational, when seen in framework of Social Darwinism and Eugenics. After all people have selectively bred and or destroy animals for thousands of years so as to enhance certain traits and eliminate others. If the atheists are correct and we are just another type of animal, why not do the same with people?



The answer initially was that people have rights. But human rights are an inherently religious concept grounded in the belief that we are created in the image of God. As that foundation has been weakened the evolutionary rational of Eugenics and Social Darwinism is reemerging and next time I look at this in more detail.


Última edição por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:13 pm, editado 1 vez(es)

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por dedo-duro em Sex 09 Jan 2009, 11:53 pm

Dá uma resumida. Não estou a fim de ler tudo isso...

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 12:14 am

Basicamente um apologeta cristão analisa livro, capitulo a capitulo.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por Ed em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 5:36 am

darkshi escreveu:Listen to the MP3
Que bom seria se os cristãos brasileiros se empenhassem em fazer trabalhos como este em nossa língua!


Porque nós não somos, como muitos, falsificadores da palavra de Deus, antes falamos de Cristo com sinceridade, como de Deus na presença de Deus 2Co 2:17

O Forum Gospel Brasil completa hoje 3156 dias de existência com 228799 mensagens

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por Luís em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 11:00 am

Posso traduzir a máquina o texto, mas não fica grande coisa. Exigiria um trabalho de correção de uns 20%.


"A razão de eu jamais haver visto teu deus é que ele está na tua imaginação."

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:06 pm

Melhor não, a analise do cara é enorme, e ainda não a terminou.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:08 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great VI
July 11th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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This week I return to my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great,” Hitchens concludes his first chapter, describing his father’s funeral where he spoke on Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

For Hitchens, this is a “Secular injunction” that shines “out from the wasteland of rant and complaint and nonsense and bullying which surrounds it.” (p 12)

The last part of Hitchens’ comment can only be seen as at best hyperbole. In fact, what immediately precede this passage are injunctions to: rejoice, be gracious, don’t worry, pray, and be thankful, though I guess that these were corrupted by the “rant” about prayer.

On the other side, what follows this supposedly “secular injunction” is an encouragement to not only think about these things, but to put them into practice.

Ultimately Hitchens comments make no sense. The immediate context does not support his description of a “wasteland of rant and complaint and nonsense and bullying,” nor does the broader context of the letter, the New Testament, or even the Bible as a whole. Such distorted hyperbole may be as red meat to his fellow atheists, to be uncritically swallowed, but it hardly supports his claim that he is representing the rational position.

His description of this as a secular injunction is likewise problematic. Why is this injunction secular? Is it because the word God does not appear in the passage? The context is certainly not secular. This injunction comes as at the conclusion of the letter, in the passage Paul is summing up what it means to live as true Christians.

As a side note, I can’t help but wonder if Christians down through the ages had really taken these words to heart, how different the writings of the neo-atheists would have been, as a great deal of their critiques involve Christians who did not live up to the teachings of Bible.

Still, there are two main problems with Hitchens claim that this is a secular injunction. The first is that some of these words lose their meaning apart from a context that involves God. Granted terms like true and honest have secular meanings, thought it is worth noting that as society has become increasingly secular both of these terms have suffered. For example, it now common among those strongly influenced by secularism to believe that truth is relative, and thus is different from person to person. There is no such thing as absolute truth.

Terms such as lovely and good report are even more problematic. It would be very difficult to claim that as society has become more secular it has become lovelier, or that it has even exulted the lovely. A survey of modern art would quickly show the opposite. In fact noted the historian Jacques Barzum summed up the last 500 years of the cultural life in Western Civilization in the title of his book as From Dawn To Decadence.

Finally, terms such as pure and virtue are inherently moral and thus require a moral context before they have any meaning at all. For example, pure in the context Paul meant is something vastly different that pure in a racial context. In fact I would argue, based on the teachings of the Bible that pure in a racial context is irrelevant and to advocate it is evil.

In short the injunction itself is meaningless unless given a context or framework in which these terms can be understood. Christians have a clear framework in which to understand this injunction. Secularism has no such clear framework. Secularists are free to fill in the blanks however they see fit. Most do this from the culture in which they live, which in Western cultures means one strongly influenced by Judeo-Christian values.

As such it is very possible that Hitchens and I would have a great deal of agreement as to what this injunction is saying, but where we agreed, it is not because I am adopting a secular framework, but rather because Hitchens views overlap those derived from the Bible.

But even if we assume that these terms had some universal meaning apart from Christianity, that would still not make this a secular injunction, for there is the problem why should it be enjoined. What is the secular imperative to embody these attributes? There isn’t any.

Sure a secular rational in favor could be constructed. But a secular rational against could likewise be constructed. This is because secularism itself is neutral. In fact in the context of evolution, the key imperative would be to survive, and so whenever lying or injustice served the aim of survival, then it should be done.

In the Christian context, truth and justice are attributes of God. Since we are created in his image, we should likewise embody these attributes. Not just when it serves our personal interest, but at all times. For as Paul said in the next verse,

Likewise, keep practicing these things: what you have learned, received, heard, and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:08 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great VII
July 25th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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In my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great,” we have finally reached chapter two. This is one of the problems with the Neo-atheists, as there are so many blatant errors and problems in their writings and with their arguments that even just picking out just some of the most obvious ones takes many posts. There were for example many more problems in Chapter one that I easily could have addressed, but I have decided to move one and will attempt to pick up the pace a bit with the hopes of one day finishing.

Hitchens begins this chapter asking why the belief in “infinitely benign and all-powerful creator” (pg 15) who watches over and cares for us, and who has prepared eternity for those who obey him, does not make believers happy? He goes on to state that, “religion does not, and in the long run cannot, be content with its own marvelous claims and sublime assurances. It must seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths.” (pg 17) His prime example for this was Mother Teresa actions against a change in Irish Law to allow divorce.

To Hitchens and the other neo-atheists, no doubt this is a powerful and devastating indictment of religion. My reaction, on the other hand, is more along the lines of shaking my head and saying, so many errors, so little time.

Let’s start with Hitchens’ question about happiness. The simple fact is that believers are, as a general rule happier, as many polls have demonstrated. For example, an extensive survey of teenagers and young adults last year found that those who said that religion or spirituality was the most important thing in their lives were a third more likely to be happy than those for whom it was not important. So the premise of Hitchens argument is just false and the question we should be asking is why are so many of those who reject God unhappy? But I suspect the answer to this question would not support Hitchens as well.

Hitchens’ broader claim about interfering with the lives of nonbelievers is not so clear cut, though his prime example reveals some significant problems with his reasoning. Now it is certainly true, that Christians have at times interfered with the lives of non-believers. But this is not the black and white question implied by Hitchens.

While Hitchens points to negative examples of such interference to bolster his case, what about the positive examples? What about those Christians who felt compelled to interfere in the slave trade because they believed it to be immoral? What about those Christians today who feel compelled to interfere for the poor, the sick, and the persecuted around the world? Would the world really be a better place if Christians just closed their eyes to such suffering, as not any of their business? Would the world really be a better place if, instead of vigorously fighting to end the slave trade, William Wilberforce had adopted the secular motto of “who am I to judge”?

Just as Christians tend to be happier than atheists, numerous polls also show that Christians are more charitable as well. For example, the United States is not only more religious than Europe; it is the most charitable country in the world; and not only in total dollars, but in percentage of Gross National Product as well. In fact, the US gave more than twice as much as percentage of GNP than its closest competitor, England, and more than ten times than the far more secular France.

Even if you factor in Government “contributions,” in addition charitable giving by individuals, the US still gives nearly 50 percent more than England, and over twice as much as France. This difference between secular vs. religious giving continues within the United States as well, as states where religion is strong and important tend to out give the more secular states.

So while Hitchens bemoans interference, it is often good and to be commended rather than attacked. Even his example of Mother Teresa opposing a change in divorce law is problematic, though not surprising. I have frequently been told by secular opponents that my position on this or that political issue is invalid because it is “religious.” Carried to its logical conclusion such reasoning would make Christians and other people of faith second class citizens, whose very participation in the democratic process was suspect.

It would seem that for many secularists in democracy people are free to enact the social policies they want, just as long as those social policies cannot in any way be considered religious. Hitchens suggest that the Catholics could continue to follow their church’s teaching on divorce without “imposing them on all other citizens.” In other words, do what you want, but keep your religious noses out of social policy, that is for us secularist to determine based on what we think our reason tells us at any given moment.

Of course if the secularist were correct, one could just as easily ask why even have a Government policy on divorce or marriage at all. Just let everyone do whatever they want, for as soon as you have any policy at all, someone will not like it. While secularist I have talked to object to such counterarguments, when you look at the social trends and recent court rulings, that seems to be exactly where we are headed.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:09 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great VIII
August 1st, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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This week I continue my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great.” Following his comments on happiness and Mother Teresa that I discussed last week, the bulk of the second chapter consists of a response to an argument made by Dennis Prager. As presented by Hitchens, “I was to imagine myself in a strange city as the evening was coming on. Towards me I was to imagine I saw a large group of men approaching. Now would I feel safer, or less safe, if I was to learn that they were coming from a prayer meeting?” Hitchens’ answer was that he had personal experience in places where he would not feel safe, such as Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem, and Baghdad, just to stay in the letter ‘B.’ The bulk of the chapter then recounts the conflict in these areas.

When Hitchens appeared on Dennis Prager’s show, an interesting discussion occurred concerning the details of this argument. Prager claimed that instead of a prayer meeting, he had specified a Bible study, and that he has restricted it to the United States. While I was not at the panel discussion mentioned by Hitchens, this is an argument I have heard Prager make many times, and in fact I cited this argument in my book, Christianity and Secularism (pg 180). Both my memory, and the version in my book, supports Prager.



These are not trivial details. All of Hitchens examples cite areas of active conflict, split along religious lines, and which, except for Belfast, all involve Islam. In such places the primary source of fear would come, not so much because they had come from a prayer meeting or Bible class, but rather that they were a group of partisans in an ongoing violent conflict. In such a conflict of course you would fear a group from the side of the conflict, or where you might be mistaken as the enemy.



This is vastly different than the situation presented by Prager. The United States has no such ongoing violent conflict. Here crime is the main concern. With the exception of extremist Islam, few if any of those who become religious, are worst people for it, and in fact there are many examples of those who turn their lives around and become significantly better people. So unless one was driven by some bigotry against Christianity or Judaism of course one would feel safer. So as a rebuttal to Prager’s argument, the chapter fails.



There remains the culpability of religion in the conflicts Hitchens mentions, which is his broader point. As I have discussed many times in the past, this is not the clear cut indictment on religion that the neo-atheists claim.



There is nothing inherent in the claims of Christianity or Judaism that says all religions are good. Quite the opposite, in the Bible God strongly condemns some other religions, such as the practice of the Canaanites to sacrifice their children. Finally, it is simply irrational to claim that because some, or even most religions are bad, therefore all religions must be bad.



In terms of the list given by Hitchens, remove the conflicts involving Islam and you are left with just Belfast. While this conflict is split along Catholic and Protestant lines, that is not the reason for the conflict. The conflict existed well before Henry VIII decided that England should become protestant, and if for some reason one side suddenly converted to the religion of the other side, that would not resolve the conflict, which is far more historical and political than religious. So again Hitchens’ argument fails, at least in relation to Christianity.



But there are a few things we can learn from Hitchens. For one, Hitchens misunderstanding of Prager’s argument is something we all should be on guard against. When we hear an argument that challenges something we believe, there is a natural tendency to seek flaws in the argument, and in that process, unless we are careful, we will distort the argument so as to more easily answer it. If we are going to correct the flaw in our own thinking we must listen carefully to the criticism of others.



More importantly, as Christians, we must remember that we represent God. To use God’s name to justify our own personal beliefs and actions imputes our errors and folly to God. This is, I believe, the true meaning behind of the Commandment to not take the name of God in vain. (Ex 20). It is not just to use the name of God as if it were nothing more than a verbal punctuation mark, or worst as an explicative, though this is wrong. Rather, we must not justify our beliefs and actions by claiming we are acting in the name of God, unless we are very certain that we are.



It is one thing to be mistaken and wrong, to act in ways that we later regret. We are human and we all do this. But when we attempt to justify ourselves by appealing to God or the Bible, we in effect make God responsible for our errors.



To see the damage done, just look at the crusades. So while Hitchens’ argument is false, the there is nevertheless something we as Christians can learn from the fact that it is so easy for him to make this argument.



This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:09 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great IX
August 8th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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This week I continue my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great.” In Chapter Three, Hitchens addresses the question of why Jews and Muslims will not eat pork. This question does not directly concern Christianity, but the overall discussion deserves some comment.



In this short chapter Hitchens quickly disposes of the normal justification for this law, which concerns health, a justification he calls, absurd. Hitchens is correct that the dietary dangers of eating pork, even in ancient times, are at best marginal. In fact for some of the other prohibited foods, the dangers are non-existent, or at least no different than the dangers of acceptable kosher foods. So while pointing to health reasons can provide some explanation in some cases, it is not a complete answer, and marginal at best for pork.



Yet Hitchens explanations is hardly any better. Hitchens believes that the prohibition grew out of a “simultaneous attraction and repulsion” for the pig; that the pig had very human qualities, including taste, that set it apart from other animals. Hitchens believes that the prohibition followed a night of human sacrifice and cannibalism in which the participants clearly saw the similarities. As Hitchens puts it, “Nothing optional – from homosexuality to adultery – is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting…have a repressed desire to participate.” (pg 40)



This statement is one of those generalized indictments that leaves me with more question than answers. The claim that there must be a repressed desire to want to make something punishable is hardly any better than the health explanations, i.e. it might explain a few cases but hardly explains them all. Hitchens examples, homosexuality, adultery and then later prostitution, all involve sex, where his explanation is at least possible even if still questionable as this would not even be a good explanation for all sexual prohibitions. Does one really have to have a repressed sexual desire for children to want a child molestation prohibited?



When you move beyond the realm of sexuality, his explanation is even less satisfying. Must one have a repressed desire for theft or murder to want them prohibited? My guess is that Hitchens would claim that these do not match is initial qualification of “Nothing optional” but this qualification is so vague as to be meaningless.



In the end, natural justifications such as those pointing to health benefits or that given by Hitchens miss the point, though I believe that Hitchens unknowingly touches on a much more likely explanation. Hitchens defended the lack of a health hazard in pork, by pointing to those living around the ancient Jews who did eat it, for “ancient Jewish settlements in the land of Canaan can easily be distinguished by archaeologists by the absence of pig bones in their rubbish.”(p. 39)



The Deuteronomy 14, which specifics some of these laws, begin with “You are the children of the LORD…you are a people Holy to the LORD your God.” The ancient Jews were God’s people Holy or set apart from those around them. This was the primary reason for the dietary laws, which included the prohibition on eating pork. Of course there is the secondary question as to why individual items such as pork were on the list or while beef was not. But we should keep clear that this is a secondary question. Sometimes we can see possible reasons why particular items were or were not prohibited in either health, or the religious practices of other groups. But we must be careful not to focus on these secondary reasons to the point that we neglect the primary reason.



There is a tendency when defending the Bible to fall into trap of accepting the assumptions of the critics, and thereby seeking natural explanation for things that are inherently spiritual, as if without a natural justification, a commandment must be nothing more than an irrational superstition. The dietary laws are then explained as health oriented for a time before modern medicine and refrigerators. As health oriented we can ignore them, since the need has passed.



Such reasoning is very convenient for Christians, since because of the teaching of the New Testament, we don’t have to follow the dietary laws in any event. But again this is to focus only on the secondary reason, not the primary, which is to be set apart for God.



Non-Jews may look at the distinctive aspects of Judaism, such as the dietary laws and say that they are old legalisms, or even superstitions, but they have performed a very important function: they have kept the Jewish people set apart for over 3000 years, which just happen to be exactly what God said they were for.



As Christians we are children of God. While we do not need to follow the dietary laws, we are still called to be holy, to be set apart for God (1 Pet 1:15). Today the church seems more aimed at fitting in and keeping up with the culture, and to some extent this is a good thing, for we have a living faith and worships a living God. If we are Holy, that is set apart, for God, what is it that sets us apart? It cannot just be our eternal destination, for we are called to live Holy lives now. So what is it that sets you apart?


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:14 pm

Hitchens - God is not Great X
August 15th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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Continuing my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great” brings be to Chapter Four, which is called, “A Note on Health, to which Religion Can be Hazardous.” In one sense is completely true. That some religious beliefs can be has hazardous to your health, is a statement few if any would disagree with. After all, in those religions that practiced human sacrifice, there was a definite health hazard for the one chosen to be sacrifice. However, I suspect that is not what Hitchens is arguing, as he is seeking a much more universal condemnation of religion.

The problem is that the evidence he present does not support anything more universal. The evidence he presents is basically a stroll through, what even many believers in religion would considered the strange and bizarre. His initial offering is the account of how the attempt to eradicate polio from the world, where blocked by a few “Muslim die-hards” who claimed that that polio vaccine was really joint conspiracy between the United States and United Nation to sterilize true followers of Islam and thereby eradicate the faith. As a result of the ensuing fatwa against taking the vaccine, predictably polio, which had been on the verge of eradication, reemerged in Nigeria, and then to Mecca, from which pilgrims took it disease back to what had been polio free countries.

While a sad and even maddening account, it is hardly an incitement of all of Islam, much less all religion. The reason Hitchens gives for these clerics issuing the fatwa against taking the vaccine had nothing to do with the teaching Islam concerning vaccines, or even medical care in general. It stemmed from a belief that the vaccine was part of a conspiracy. So if anything this is an indictment against that mode of thinking that tends to see grand conspiracies, and secret forces behind events, not an indictment of religion, accept that in this instance the conspiracy involved Islam.

Now perhaps Hitchens would have a point if such conspiracy theories were uniquely tied to religion, but a glance through the currently popular conspiracy theories argues strongly against this. Consider this partial list: That 9/11 was an inside job; The Federal Reserve is part of a secret plan control the United States; the Moon landing was faked; The government is hiding evidence on UFO’s; The Trilateral Commission is trying to take over the world; and of course the many and conflicting theories on the Kennedy Assassination. (I reject all of these as false.) All are secular conspiracies. In fact the first two are two of the three conspiracies addressed in the Zeitgeist the movie, the third being that Christianity is itself a conspiracy to control society. When it comes to conspiracy theories that do involve Christianity some are defended by a few atheists such as the resurrection was really a conspiracy, by the early disciples.

Rather than being an indictment against religion one could probably make a good case that these are an indictment against secularism, for as G. K. Chesterton observed, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.” Still, I would write them off as a particular problem of the human species, one of many. Such conspiracy thinking is certainly found among those who are religious, but it is hardly limited to the religious, nor is caused by religion.

That Hitchens uses this as an indictment of religion in general reveals a very fundamental problem that pervades much of his book, and in fact is found in much of the writings of the neo-atheists. The problem centers around two logical fallacies, the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, and the fallacy of Hasty generalization. I will look at Hasty generalization next time, as it is not only a problem here, but indicative of the examples throughout the rest of the chapter.

As for the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, it is also called the fallacy of false cause, and refers to claiming a causal relationship between two things, because on preceded the other. The fallacious reasoning behind this fallacy was clearly presented by one of my teachers by the following example. There is a definite relationship between the amount of concrete in an area, and the amount of rape, the more concrete per square mile, the more rape. Therefore concrete causes rape. Now even though the premises are correct, the conclusion is absurd. The reason for the relationship is that the more concrete, the more people, the more people the more rape. People cause rape, not concrete.

Yet Hitchens’ example is not much better. The fatwa against the vaccine was issue by people who were religious, therefore religion must be the problem. In reality the problem was not religion, but conspiracy theories, which are not inherently religious.

This is a peculiar problem with so many of the neo-atheist arguments. They are purportedly arguing against religion because it is so irrational. And yet so many of their arguments are grounded in not only error, but irrationality. Now this was just Hitchens opening example, but, as I will discuss next time, the rest of the chapter, does not do much better.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:14 pm

Hitchens - God is not Great XI
August 22nd, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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Last time in my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great” I discussed the opening example in Hitchens’ Chapter on how religion can be hazardous to health. Even if it did not have the problems that I pointed out last time, Hitchens admits that this is an isolated case. So he attempts draw a more coherent link by pointing to “Cardinal Alfonso Lopez de Trujillo, the Vatican’s president of the Pontifical Council for the Family carefully warning his audience that all condoms are secretly made with many microscopic holes, through which the AIDS virus can pass.”



When I tried to check this claim, I found many articles where the Cardinal said that the AIDS virus could pass through microscopic holes in condoms, however, nothing that supported the claim that these holes were secretly being made in condoms.



This example reveals two problems, one with Hitchens, and one with science. I had originally started to write this as three problems, the third being the Cardinal’s error and in fact I went back and forth several times as to whether or not there was an error on the part of Cardinal.



In an interview the Cardinal said, “In the case of the AIDS virus, which is around 450 times smaller than the sperm cell, the condom’s latex material obviously gives much less security. Some studies reveal permeability of condoms in 15% or even up to 20% of cases.” In a report he cites the evidence he believes backs up this claim.



In one respect this whole controversy was much to do about nothing, as there is virtually universal agreement that condoms are not 100% effective. There is also broad agreement that failure rate is between 10 - 15 percent. This controversy was more over the reasons for the failure rate, not the failure rate itself. Even here there are some semantic games going on, as one of the tests of condoms is a leak test, and again it is virtually universally agreed that not all condoms made can pass this test.



To focus on minor points that do not materially affect the major points is called quibbling. To focus on whether one of the reasons for the failure rate in condoms is microscopic holes, when there is general agreement on the failure rate itself, is quibbling at its finest.



The problem with Hitchens is not only is he quibbling, he presents this as if there were no controversy at all and that Cardinal López Trujillo’s claims are on par with those who claim the US and UN are part of conspiracy to sterilize true believers in Islam by means of a polio vaccine. One does not have to agree with the Cardinal’s position to see that this is at best a tremendous exaggeration, and that is being charitable.



This is a common problem with atheist in general and neo-atheists in particular. They have a very black and white view of things and if you are religious and disagree with their view of the evidence, you are automatically in the realm of the superstition and irrationality.



The problem with science is more complex. In a perfect world, questions like this would simply be a matter of evidence. Experts could look at the evidence and render a verdict of yes, no, or inconclusive with the latter needing more research to resolve. But one does not need to believe in Adam and Eve, to realize that we do not live in a perfect world.



It is not, as Hitchens claims, that religion that poisons everything, it is far more general: people poison everything. In this case, scientists are people, and thus science is tainted by all the problems possessed by all other human institutions. In this case science has become politicized and thus cannot always be trusted.



While organizations such as the CDC issue reports on the safety of condoms, others question their objectivity. As the Cardinal pointed out in one interview, “groups representing 10,000 doctors” accused the CDC of covering up research on problems with condoms.



The research that the group, the Physicians Consortium, claimed that CDC was suppressing showed that “condoms are 85 percent effective in helping prevent the spread of HIV” and even worst for other sexually transmitted diseases.



The real problem here is that the dispute is not really even a scientific one, though it is often cast as such. Again there is general agreement that condoms have a 10-15 percent failure rate. The dispute is over whether or not this failure rate constitutes safe sex. That is inherently a judgment call not a scientific one. Granted some protection is better than no protection, but condoms are not recommended on this basis, but on the notion that sex with condoms is safe sex.



To make matters worse, the problems in Africa, where most AIDS occurs, is much large and more complex than a lack of condom use. For example, one contributing factor is the myth in parts of Africa that unprotected sex with a virgin will cure AIDS.



Thus Hitchens’ attempt to link Cardinal López Trujillo’s statement on condoms with the claims of a few Islamic clerics concerning the polio vaccine fails miserably. Hitchens may not like Cardinal López Trujillo’s solution of abstinence before marriage, and fidelity within marriage, but when practiced it has a much lower failure rate than his solution.

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:15 pm

Hitchens - God is not Great XII
August 29th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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Continuing my extended review of Christopher Hitchens’, “God Is Not Great,” after the first two examples in chapter four, which, as I have show fail to make Hitchens’ claim that religion is hazardous to health, Hitchens proceeds on a tour of the strange and obscure; the practice of some Islamic clerics of issuing a package deal for marriage and divorce certificates permitting men to legally marry and then an hour later divorce a prostitute; the killing of cats in the Middle Ages because it was thought that the Black Death was linked to black magic, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal of blood transfusions, among others. Hitchens sums up his view when he says, “The attitude of religion to medicine, like the attitude of religion to science, is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile.” (46-47)



This brings us to the second of the two fallacies mentioned in an earlier post, Hasty Generalization. The fallacy of Hasty Generalization occurs when you try to derive general rules form what are inherently individual cases or very small samples. For example, when driving, a man or woman cuts you off, and based on that you claim that all men or all women are bad drivers. That is essentially what Hitchens is doing here. Some religious people, or even some religious groups, have practices that are harmful to health; therefore religion in general is harmful to health.



But there is an even deeper problem for Hitchens. Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning. The do not necessarily mean that the conclusion is wrong, only that a particular way of justifying a conclusion does not work. More troublesome for Hitchens is his claim that religion must be hostile to medicine, for it is clearly false and easily demonstrated as such.



While it is true that here have been some groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientists who have been hostile to some or all of medicine, they are hardly the norm. In fact the norm at least within Judaism and Christianity has been the opposite. If Hitchens were correct that religion’s attitude to medicine “is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile,” then why are there so many Christian hospitals? Why are there so many Christian and Jewish doctors and nurses? Why do so many churches sponsor trips to third world counties to provide health care, clean water, and basic sanitary practices?



Hitchens points to the superstition that surrounded the Black Death, though he does concede that “We may make allowances for the orgies of stupidity and cruelty that were indulged in before humanity had a clear concept of the germ theory of disease.” (pg 47) But has the noted Historian Will Durant points out, while a few clergy hid in fear, “the great majority of them faced the ordeal manfully” (Will Durant, The Reformation, pg 64) and thousand gave their lives doing what little they could for the sick, for it would be over 500 years from the first outbreak before the cause was finally determined.



Even with the germ theory of disease things are not quite so clear. In school I was taught the germ theory was a clear victory of science over superstition the latter coming in the guise of spontaneous generation. On more than one occasion I have been told by atheists that it was also a victory of atheism over religion. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, as I recount in my book Christianity and Secularism, the view of those atheist has it backwards.



The Germ theory was put forth by Pastor, and defended by Lister, both of whom were Christians, while the opposition to the germ theory came from secularist who needs spontaneous generation to explain the origin of life apart form religion. It was only after Darwin’s theory of evolution was adapted to try and explain the origin of live that the opposition to the germ theory was finally dropped. In this case it was secular, not the religious, who were a hazard to health.



To be clear, I do not use this example as an attack on secularism, but rather to show that the traits Hitchens is attacking in religion, are not inherently religious traits, but traits that extent to all of humanity, including even atheists.



Towards the end of Chapter four, Hitchens summarizes his argument as, “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women, and coercive towards children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.” It is very true that far too many examples can be found of religious people who fit into these categories.



But it is equally true that even more examples can be found of religious people who not only do not fit into these categories, but precisely because they were religious have argued and fought against these very things, some even giving their lives in the process. Just to take the first one, violence, during the Middle Ages the Church sought to limit the violence in the wars between the European kingdoms, and it is just an historical fact that the weakening of the Church in the Renaissance, brought about a marked increase, not a decrease in violence. In short Hitchens’ claims are not only logically fallacious and at their core irrational, they are just wrong.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:16 pm

Posted in Atheist, Books, Reviews | 1 Comment »
Hitchens - God is not Great XIII
September 5th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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Continuing my extended review of Christopher Hitchens’, “God Is Not Great,” I come to Chapter Five where Hitchens asserts that the Metaphysical claims of Religion are False. He begins the chapter with one of his typically broad attacks, that a Faith that can stand up to reason, “is now plainly impossible.” In very limited way there is some truth in Hitchens’ claim. Christianity, as a rational system of thought, does have some problems; there are questions for which we do not have completely satisfactory answers.



Now while the atheist may pounce on this as evidence that Christianity can’t stand up to reason, it is in reality little more than an admission that Christians do not have all the answers, which is hardly surprising, for nobody has all the answers. It is just a fact that all major systems of thought have some problems for which they do not have the answer.



This is why the atheist’s frequent demands for proof are at their core irrational. There are many problems with the atheist’s demands for proofs, but one is that when comparing major systems of thought to demand proof is absurd for nobody has it.



Atheists attempt to avoid this little problem by declaring that they are the default view, and as such don’t need to provide proof, but this is at best a little self-serving. After all a Christian could just as easily declare that Christianity was the default view, and demand that atheist prove their claims.



A much more rational approach is to realize that demands for proof are out of place when contrasting world views. Instead of who can prove what, a much better approach is to compare the evidenced pro and con. Instead of who can prove their system, which system of thought has the best explanation. When this is done Christianity comes off quite well, and in fact I believe, though this is hardly surprising, does the best. This may perhaps be why atheists I have talked to so dogmatically insist on proof.



From there Hitchens begins to savage and ridicule believers in the past in his typical fashion which seems founded more in hatred that in reason. The best that can be said of it is that it is distorted slanting, that is, when it is not straying into the irrational fallacy of ad hominem attack. It may please the atheist choir, but argues against Hitchens for those seeking a serious rational discussion.



But Hitchens does eventually finish his rant and come to a coherent point, which in this case is “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody … had the smallest idea what was going on.” From which he concludes “All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule.” (pg 64-5)



Well in terms of a scientific understanding of the physical laws of the universe, Hitchens premise is correct. And for those religions with a large and significant focus on the problems of nature, the advancement of science is a significant problem and reconciliation is impossible.



However neither Judaism nor Christianity are focused on these natural problems but on the human condition, how it is broken and particularly in the case of Christianity, how it can be fixed. These are spiritual issues about which science is as silent as the Bible is on quantum mechanics.



Some atheists claim that the behavioral sciences have shown that religion is not needed to explain human behavior, but such arguments are based more in the philosophical/religious view call scientism, and on writing off all problems as either not important, or with the atheistic catch all, we figure it out some day.



For example, naturalistic science cannot even explain the phenomena of consciousness, or explain how we have free will and some have written these off as illusions. But real problems remain. For example, why are atheists trying to encourage people to abandon their belief in God, if people don’t even have a choice in the matter?



And while Hitchens can point to the absurd beliefs held by Christians in the past, did these beliefs come from Christianity, or from accepting what was the science of their day? Then again, Christians can point to the absurdities of secular belief today, such as the belief that there is no real difference between men and women which is behind much of current secular thought.



One of the problems with science is that it frequently confuses ignorance of a subject with a lack of evidence. For example, science saw no reason for biblical view of sex, therefore it must be false and based on superstition, something Hitchens frequently claims. This despite all the visible problems of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, broken homes and the other problems that are conveniently just ignored. But now recent studies on the brain are showing the casual sex with multiple partners does have detrimental impact on brain development. (See Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affection Our Children).

Science may have the best answer for how an apple falls when dropped, but when it comes to issue of good and evil or how we should live our lives, Christianity still have the best answers. Perhaps this is why in studies, religious people are happier.

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:16 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great XIV
September 12th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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This week, I am continuing in the fifth chapter of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” where Hitchens attempts to show that the metaphysical claims of religion are false. After stating his claim that “All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule,” (pg 64-5) which I addressed last time, Hitchens briefly sketches the rise of secularism, lauding those who saw the light, ridiculing any who lagged behind.

Now there is no doubt that there has been a trend toward the secularization of society, but this is hardly an argument one way or the other, and to be fair, it is not completely clear if Hitchens intends this as an actual argument or if he is just using this as background, or perhaps filler, as it takes up most of the chapter. If he intends this as an argument, it fails because it commits one or both of the following fallacies, appeal to the people, and appeal to misplaced authority.

The fallacy of appeal to the people occurs when appeal is made to what the majority believe, instead of pointing to actual evidence. About the only place it can be somewhat acceptable, is when, after laying out the evidence, appeal is made to how many find the evidence convincing, but to be valid the emphasis must remain on the evidence.

Now at times the evidence is so complex as to require special training to evaluate, for example, when dealing complex medical issues one should seek out a doctor. Appealing to people who are authorities instead of the evidence in these cases is not fallacious. But if Hitchens is intending this, then he commits the other fallacy.

The fallacy of appeal to misplace authority occurs when citing an authority who is not an authority in the particular field in question. That someone is an authority on nuclear physic does not automatically mean they are an authority in other sciences such as botany, much less non-scientific areas like metaphysics. But again, it is not completely clear that Hitchens is even intending this as an actual argument.

It is the last two pages of the chapter before Hitchens finally gets around to clearly making an actual argument, one based on Ockham’s razor, which holds that answers should not be unnecessarily complex. Basically his argument is, “it cannot be strictly proved that God, if defined as a being who possesses the qualities of supremacy, perfection, uniqueness, and infinity exists at all” (p 70), and we don’t need God to explain the universe, therefore, using Ockham’s razor God does not exist.

There are many problems with this argument. The first is that Hitchens hides a lot in his carefully worded sentence. It is true that Ockham rejected that such a supremely absolute God could strictly be proved. This is because we only know about our universe. As such we can not say for sure that there are not other universes, and other gods for those universes.

Ockham did however believe that it could be shown that were was a creator God, or first cause, for this universe. In addition he believed that probable arguments could be made for the existence of a Supreme God. (See Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy III, pg 84) While atheists dismiss probable arguments when it comes to God and religion, they have no problem with them elsewhere. This is because at some level virtually everything we know depends on probable arguments.

In logic this distinction between what can be strictly proved and what is an argument based on probability is what lies behind deductive logic and inductive logic. The results of a sound deductive argument, where the premises are true and the reasoning valid, are strictly proved. Induction at best only yields results that are probably true for there always remains a chance however small that the conclusion might be incorrect; there always remains some doubt.

Atheists jump on this doubt as a reason to reject induction when talking about God. However, they are quick to use induction elsewhere. After all, virtually all of science is based on induction. The theory of Gravity is based on induction, not deduction and thus there remains some doubt about it, though admittedly this doubt is more theoretical than anything else. In other areas this doubt is larger.

Evolution is not even close to being strictly proved, and considerable doubts exists, but, this does not stop atheists from attacking and ridiculing those who point out problems and raise questions about the theory. So when atheists reject probably arguments for the existence of God they are being extremely selective.

Hitchens seems to be aware that Ockham believes a first cause, if not a supreme God, could be demonstrated for he proceeds briefly attack the idea. But it is a feeble attempt. Those interested can find a more completely discussion of the argument from first cause in my book Christianity and Secularism chapter two.

In the end this chapter strikes me more as filler that could better have been summarized as the opening paragraph or two of the next chapter, where Hitchens discusses arguments from design.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:16 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great XV
September 19th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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I come to six chapter of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” where Hitchens addresses the concept of design. He opens the chapter with one of his typical descriptions of religion, in this case the three monotheistic faiths, but a description which most in those faiths would see as at best distorted to the point of error.

For Hitchens, God is an “ill-tempered monarch” to whom we should be in continual submission, gratitude, and fear.” (p 73-4) One wonders if he has ever encountered passages such as Roman 8:21 which states, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father,” or how such passage would fit into his view.

Hitchens then proceed to claim a paradox between this view of submission and slavery, with the claim that, according to Hitchens, “religion teaches people to be extremely self-centered and conceited.” (p 74) This last statement is so stunningly wrongly that, while it tells us nothing about religion, tells us a great deal about Hitchens.

Oh sure, there are some believers who are self-centered and conceited. Yet, I don’t remember any verses in the Bible teaching that we should be self-centered or conceited. But I do know of many that teach we should be humble and serve others.

In short, this error demonstrates clearly that Hitchens is not dealing with reality. He has some sort of artificial construct in his head, which he labels religion and which he then tries to refute. But he labors in vain, for his artificial construct does not exist. Thus, at it very core, his effort is Quixotic.

From there, Hitchens begins an attack on superstition, either not realizing, or hoping his reader will not realize, that religion and superstition are two different things. Either way, he no doubt hopes that the negative comments on superstition will redound against religion. Hitchens then jumps to an attack on astrology, but astrology is not a religion. If anything it is an early form of science.

In all of this diversion, Hitchens does make a criticism valid of at least some Christians. Hitchens summarizes it as, “the human wish to credit good things as miraculous and to charge bad things to another account.” Hitchens points to the West Virginia mine disaster where thirteen miners were trapped in an explosion. When it was announced that they had been found alive and safe it was proclaimed a miracle, an act of God. Yet a few minutes later when it was learned that only one was in fact alive, and he was seriously injured, the attribution was drop.

This example goes to the heart of the problem of evil or why God allows such things to happen. The three simplest answers would be that these things happen because God is either not good or powerful enough to stop them, or does not exist at all. However all of these answers are incompatible with the Christian view of God and so if Christianity is correct, the answer is not going to be so simple.

A partial answer can be found in the belief that we have freewill and that this includes not only the freedom to make choices, but to suffer the consequences. We have freedom to dig a mine, but not to suspend the laws of nature that led to the explosion. But again, admittedly this is only a partial answer. A full discussion of this issue would take a book, as indeed many books have been written and a great place to start would be the book of Job.

Given the complexities and difficulties of the issues, it is not surprising that Christians often get it wrong and often fall into our own simplistic answers. One of the most common is that God blesses the good and punishes the evil. Examples of this are numerous. Probably one of the more notable recent examples would be Jerry Falwell linking 911 to God being mad at America because of things like abortion and groups like the ACLU, a statement for which he later apologized.

This view in not only wrong, it is spiritually very dangerous. This can be seen historically in the Lisbon earthquake of November 1st 1755 and accompanying fire and Tsunami. Based on the damage and the range over which it was felt it has been estimated at a magnitude nine. Such a large quake in Europe was a watershed event in many ways, one of which was spiritual.

At the time many Christians held the view that such natural disasters where an indication of God punishing the wicked. The problem was however that the Lisbon earthquake occurred in the morning on a religious holiday. As a result many of those killed were the faithful, when the churches in which they were worshipping that morning collapsed. On that morning it was safer to have been an atheist, a point noted by many such as Voltaire. The earthquake became one of the factors in the rise of rationalism.

While Hitchens does have a valid criticism of some Christians here, it is hardly an indictment of all of religion. Nor does it have much to do with Arguments from design, which Hitchens does not actually get to until the fifth page of the chapter. That is where I will pick up next time.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:17 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great XVI
September 26th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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Continuing in chapter six of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” Hitchens finally comes to the subject of the chapter: Arguments from design. He starts with the famous argument of William Paley about finding a watch on a beach. While we may not know who or what made the watch, its complexity and construction shows that it was not produced by natural forces, but was designed and made by some intelligence for some purpose.

Hitchens links in the first part of the chapter where he pointed to the tendency of some to attribute whatever is good to God and everything else to something other source, by claiming that believers only attribute to design what appears to be a good design. Since not everything can be attributed to good design, we are wrong to attribute anything to it. However such an all-or-nothing argument really makes no sense. To see why, consider for the moment that Paley’s mythical beachcomber had found the watch next to a plain old rock. According to Hitchens’ reasoning, since it does not appear that the rock was designed, there is no reason to conclude the watch was designed either.

Hitchens quickly moves on to talked about design in living things, which he of course then explains away by the atheistic catch all of evolution, ridiculing the very notion of creation. One of the things about Hitchens, is that he makes what seem to him to be brilliant and unanswerable points, but which are really just slanted statements about which the only thing that is really puzzling is that he would actually consider them arguments in the first place.

Consider the following example. When talking about death, Hitchens writes, “This of course raises the uncomfortable (for believers) idea of the built-in fault that no repairman can fix. Should this be counted as part of the “design” as well?” And just in case, it is not clear enough to the reader how brilliantly stunning this argument is, Hitchens then adds, “(As usual, those who take the credit for the one will fall silent and start shuffling when it comes to the other side of the ledger.)” (p 79)

Hitchens may call it shuffling, but I certainly see no reason to be silent on this. If other Christians are silent, it probably more for puzzlement that anyone would see in this as a difficulty much less an argument against Christianity. In fact, the Bible it pretty clear on this point. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death,” and Hebrews 9:27 says “people are destined to die.” Psalm 90 tells us that “We live for 70 years, or 80 years if we’re healthy” (ISV) Sure death is unpleasant, but it does seem to be built into to our present state.

This is what make Hitchens’ smug argument that design must be false, because we have a “built-in fault that no repairman can fix” to be so puzzling. This is not a problem for Christianity, this a key teaching; though Christians would clarify this as no mere human repairman can fix, as that it can be fixed, that we can live forever, also a key teaching of Christianity.

This raises another key issue. Whenever arguing against a position, to be truly successful one must argue against the totality of the position, not some idealized subset. Most atheists, including Hitchens here, address the issue of God as a designer, isolated from the rest of Christian teaching. In short they completely ignore that no longer live in the first two chapters of Genesis, where God created the world and it was good. We live in the fallen world of the rest of the Bible. Sin corrupted not only humanity but the rest of creation as well (Roman 8:18-22). Exactly how the rest of creation was affected is not stated in the Bible. But it is a part of the teaching of the Bible, and cannot be ignored when considering questions of design in the universe.

From this puzzling argument, Hitchens goes to yet an even more puzzling argument. He writes, “when it comes to the whirling, howling, wilderness of outer space, with its red giants and white dwarfs and black holes, it titanic explosions and extinctions, we can only dimly and shiveringly conclude that the ‘design’ hasn’t been imposed quite yet.” (pg 79-80).

The only thing that would leave me speechless about such an argument is the utter ignorance of the natural laws that govern this and the evidence of design they show. Hitchens cites as additional evidence that the other planets in our solar system can’t support life and that our sun “is getting ready to explode.” (pg 80), as if these were somehow arguments against design. The problem is that a key aspect of design is purpose. A watch may be more carefully designed than a hammer, but if you need something to drive a nail, the a watch is probably unless. That the other planets can’t support life says nothing about their design, unless God wanted them to support life. That the sun will no longer support life in the distance future says nothing about design unless God needed it to support life in the distance future.

So Hitchens’ macro arguments come to nothing. But having silenced the opposition in his own mind on these macro issues, Hitchens then proceeds to the micro arguments, which is where I will pick up next time.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:17 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great XVII
October 3rd, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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Continuing in chapter six of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” I come to his discussion of the specific arguments for design. Again there is a great deal of hyperbole and ridicule that one must wade through, and given the subject matter, a great deal of it is somewhat ironic. Hitchens attempts to claim that it is theists that have been forced into this argument “with great reluctance,” and that atheists “have to improve our minds by the laborious exercise of refuting the latest foolishness contrived by the faithful. (pg 80-81)

Hitchens would do to well to seriously read Jonathan Wells’ book Icons of Evolution in which Wells exposes a number of not only foolish arguments, but distortions, errors and in many cases outright fraud that has been and continues to be used to defend evolution. The many examples documented by Wells are not obscure pieces of evidence, but well known and commonly cited examples, such as that evolution is mirrored in the development of an embryo, or the Pepper moths that changed from white to dark because of pollution, both of which are in fraud category. Yet, despite the fact some of these have been known to be false for decades, and in the case of the embryos for over a century, these and the other examples in the book were still being used in standard biology textbooks at least as late as 1998.

Nor is this simply a problem of the past. Hitchens, himself falls victim to one more recent examples is this string of myths used to support evolution, a supposed computer model that proved the evolution of the eye. The simple fact is that there was no such program, nor, more importantly, could there be, at least any time soon, for reasons we will come to in a moment.

In Hitchens defense, apparently he was relying on Richard Dawkins here who popularized this error. Once the error was pointed out, atheists were quick to claim that Dawkins was only partially in error, for he was referring to a mathematical model develop by Nilsson and Pelger which he merely confused as a computer program.

The differences between the study and a computer program aside, the problem with Nilsson and Pelger’s paper as a proof for evolution is the same that would plague any computer model; it is based on a whole series of assumptions which go to the core of the theory of evolution. If you accept all of the assumptions, that is, if you already accept evolution, then the paper will make a plausible case. But in the end, the conclusion of the paper is only as valid as the assumptions that are behind it. It can at best only say how the eye might have evolved if all the assumptions were correct. It is hardly a proof of evolution as Hitchens was falsely led to believe.

Unfortunately this is how much of evolution is defended. Pieces of information are distorted, expanded, or in some cases even created, and then strung together as so called proofs of evolution. Anyone who dares questions this alleged evidence is ridiculed, attacked and rejected. If they persist and expose the error, then we are told the error really doesn’t matter anyway.

To further compound his problem, one of the points Hitchens makes against design, apparently unbeknownst to him, is a major problem for evolution. Hitchens quite correctly states that, “a theory that is unfalsifiable is to that extent a weak one.” (pg 81)

The problem of Hitchens is that evolution is unfalsifiable for two reasons. The first is that it depend heavily on imagination. A great deal, if not the vast majority, of what we think of as evolution, is not based on what we actually know happened, but on what scientist imagine might have happened. Since we have a great capacity for imagination, evolution has a rich texture of what might have been, especially given how little we really know about the prehistoric past.

Hitchens might object to this by claiming that evolution is science, and therefore must pass peer review and conform to the evidence. But modern science is not the open-minded investigation atheists like to claim. It is a narrow-mind and oppressive system that will severely punish any who question the current orthodoxy, as Pamela Winnick shows in her book A Jealous God. One of the quickest ways to lose funding for your research, your job, and your livelihood is to raise a question about evolution.

As for the evidence, there is in reality very little, and more importantly any potential problems are brushed aside with the claim that future research will resolve them. Even worst is the often used argument that we are here therefore evolution must have happened. The bottom line is that evolution is unfalsifiable.

Sure if you interpret all evidence to fit your theory, let your imagination fill in any blanks, strenuously ignore any problems, and suppress any criticism so that only believers of evolution, or at least those who will not voice any doubts, can be considered scientists, then evolution will seem to be firmly established. And yet, despite this the evidence for design grows stronger, not weaker, the more we know.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:18 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great XVIII
October 10th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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In my extended review of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” I considered a further discussion concerning the evidence that points strongly to design, but since I cover this in chapter four of my book Evidence for the Bible, I have decided to move on. Those interested, should see my discussion there.

Hitchens leaves no doubt about where he is going in the title of chapter seven “Revelation: The Nightmare of the ‘Old’ Testament.” Hitchens once again starts by creating a strawman, which he then proceeds to knockdown, defining revelation as God giving “unalterable laws” to “randomly selected human beings.” Even with such a strawman, Hitchens still misses the mark with his first objection, i.e., that “several such disclosures have been claimed to occur, at different times and places, to hugely discrepant prophets or mediums” (pg 97) They cannot all be true, and while one may be authentic, “this seems dubious… and appears to necessitate religious wars.” As with so many of Hitchens’ claims, this is more commentary than argument.

Hitchens argues that, “the syncretic tendency of monotheism, and the common ancestry of the tales, mean in effect that a rebuttal to one is a rebuttal to all.” (pg 98) This could only be true if all alleged revelation were equally true, or equally false. Yet they cannot all be equally true, if for nothing else, one of the revelations is that there would be false prophets, and thus false revelation. On the other hand, if you start by assuming they are all equally false, then there would be no need to make a rebuttal in the first place. So once again Hitchens argument simply does not make sense.

From here Hitchens quickly moves to a discussion of the Ten Commandments, which he believes are “proof that religion is man-made.” (pg 99) However his justifications for this claim are at best nonsensical, such as his claim, yet another he considers “unanswerable,” that for God to included a prohibition against murder would imply that before this murder was acceptable, as if God could only give moral laws that were otherwise unknown.

Much of Hitchens analysis ignores that while grounded in universal principles, many of the laws given to Moses were for a particular purpose, to a particular people, at a particular time and in a particular cultural setting. In fact that they show this characteristic is for Hitchens evidence that they are man-made. However, this is a much easier conclusion to reach for one living in a culture that has been shaped and molded by the Bible for 3000 years and thus where it is easy to overlook the revolutionary character of these laws and the huge moral advancement that they represented.

Hitchens ignores, or is unaware of, the advancement and complains that these laws don’t match his conception of perfect. As an example, he points to the Bible regulations of slavery. Granted in a perfect world God would have just banned slavery, but we don’t have a perfect world. While Hitchens complains about the regulations, at the time they were a marked step forward over having no regulation at all.

Like it or not slavery was so completely entrenched in the societies of the time, that a total prohibition was likely to be ignored. However, more humane treatment was easier to follows and thus much more likely to actually improve things. Historically this is what happened. In fact the rules governing slaves were so restrictive that over time it resulted in later rabbis concluding “He who buys a Hebrew slave buys a master” and slavery virtually disappeared over time. Thus while in theory, one might argue that an outright ban would have better reflected a perfect moral code, the result of the Laws on slavery did effectively end the practice.

Hitchens also cites one of the other common examples of alleged cruelty, the stoning of children for disobedience. Again he ignores the revolutionary improvement the law brought about. What was new about the law was not the killing of children. That a parent had the right of life and death over a child was common place. sWhat was new was this power was being taken away from the parents, and transferred to the community, where it seems never to have been exercised. Contrast this with the honor killing that continues to be a problem in some parts of the world.

This is not to say that there are not difficult passages in the Old Testament. There are, such as God’s command to kill all the Amalekites, and some of which only God has the answer. But, these are for isolated and special events under unique circumstances. They are not general moral precepts to be followed.

Much of the rest of the chapter is taken up with the claims that the Old Testament is unhistorical and a restatement of theory that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible. Both subjects I deal with in my book Evidence for the Bible.

In the end, Hitchens exegesis of the Old Testament leaves a lot to be desired and his argument that it is a nightmare stands in stark contrast to what the Old Testament has actually produce.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por darkshi em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:19 pm

Hitchens - God Is Not Great XIX
October 17th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck
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Continuing in my extended review of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” After having dealt with the Old Testament, in chapter seven, chapter eight takes on New, claim it “Exceeds the Evil of the ‘Old’ One.” Hitchens starts by claiming the New Testament is “a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events” and that this has been borne out by Biblical scholarship. (p 110)

But not content to make this point, Hitchens follows it with a gratuitous insult claiming, ‘this arguments takes place over the heads of those to whom the ‘Good Book’ is all that is required.” and as an example, refers to a unnamed governor of Texas whom he quotes as saying “if English was good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me.” (p 110)

The quote sounded to me like one of many smears spread by atheists and agnostics to attack believers. Such bigoted smears have a long history and are so entrenched into the culture that some are even taught in schools. For example, I was taught as a kid that Columbus had to battle the ignorance of Christians who believed that the earth was flat. This is a complete myth as was shown by the Historian Jeffery Burton Russell, in his book Inventing the Flat Earth. Still it is not at all uncommon to hear atheist and agnostics continue to perpetuate this and other anti-Christian myths.

As for Hitchens’ quote, I checked the back of the book for a reference and found none. I then read a discussion that I found on snopes.com a great place to check out urban legends, which pointed out that this quote was questionable as it had been attributed to a number of different people. A person in another discussion I read claimed that they had found the exact quote at NewsPaperArchive.com in a article published in 1927, but the article attributed the quote to a person from Arkansas, not Texas, and it was said as a joke. I would have check out this article but NewsPaperArchive.com is a paid site that charges $99 to join. So lacking any specific citation, it would appear that this quote is just another in a long line of myths used to attack Christianity.

As for his other insult that his argument concerning biblical scholarship was “over the heads of those to whom the ‘Good Book’ is all that is required.” (pg 110) there is a problem. If Hitchens qualification of “to whom the ‘Good Book’ is all that is required” refers to those who reject or ignore everything not in the Bible, then this refers to such a small faction of Christians as to be irrelevant. On the other hand if this is meant to refer to Christians in general, then it is simply false.

This brings me to the main problem with Hitchens argument concerning biblical scholarship, it is one sided and outdated. As for being one-sided, it would appear that to Hitchens biblical scholarship consists only of those who are critical of the Bible. Though, in his defense, one of the problems with liberal scholarship, is that it is very insular, ignoring for the most part criticism, problems and issues raised by conservative scholars. As I point out in Chapter Two of my book, Evidence for the Bible, there are some serious problems with the claims of liberal scholars.

More damaging to his claim is that, while earlier liberal scholarship was very critical of the NT, believing the books to have been dated long after the events as Hitchens claims, later scholarship has reversed this to some extent and more recent scholarship has been pushing the date of the writing back to, and in some cases even earlier than, the traditional dates. For example, liberal scholars of the 19th century dated the Gospel of John as late as 170 A.D., long after John had died. Then a fragment of the Gospel was found dating 125-130 destroying the later dates. More recent scholarship points to a date somewhat earlier than the traditional date in the 90s, with a few scholars even arguing for a date in the 50s or 60s.

The simple fact is that, rather than being over their heads, scholarship plays and important role in many Christians’ understanding of the Bible, and contrary to the impression Hitchens gives, many scholars are believing Christians who see their scholarship as deepening their faith. Now I know that Hitchens is aware of these Conservative scholars as he has debated some of them. But rather than a reasoned discussion of the evidence for and against his position, we get one sided pronouncements that ignore any scholarly disagreements, followed by a few insults to try and stifle any debate.

What makes this even more problematic is that Hitchens is claiming to be arguing for the rational over the irrational. But a one sided presentation filled with invective is not what one would call the epitome of rationality and in the end Hitchens comes off somewhat as parent vainly arguing do as I say, not what I do.

After taking time to attack and ridicule Mel Gibson for making The Passion of The Christ, what follows is then a one sided rehash of many of the common objections raised by skeptics. And that is where I will pick up next time.


"Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public." J. B. S. Haldane

darkshi
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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por fzapp em Sab 10 Jan 2009, 1:21 pm

Darkshi, você imagina quantas pessoas neste fórum leem em inglês fluentemante ? Eu me acho privilegiado nesse quesito e já acho dificuldades nesse texto. Você poderia pelo menos traduzir uma parte dele ?


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Re: God is not Great - Uma analise.

Mensagem por Conteúdo patrocinado Hoje à(s) 11:39 am


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