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Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

Well, this caught me off guard. And maybe it will surprise you, too.

In his new book Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, British author and historian Tom Holland, who is not a Christian, claims the morals of the western world would not exist without Christianity.

For many people, this claim might seem heretical, deluded and just plain wrong. But Holland makes a strong case.

Writing for stream.org, reviewer Jonathon Van Maren notes this:

While studying the ancient world, Holland writes, he realized something. Simply, the ancients were cruel, and their values utterly foreign to him. The Spartans routinely murdered “imperfect” children. The bodies of slaves were treated like outlets for the physical pleasure of those with power. Infanticide was common. The poor and the weak had no rights.

So how did we get from that horrific past to the much better (yet still very imperfect) present? Van Maren picks this up from Holland’s book:

It was Christianity, Holland writes. Christianity revolutionized sex and marriage, demanding that men control themselves and prohibiting all forms of rape. Christianity confined sexuality within monogamy. (It is ironic, Holland notes, that these are now the very standards for which Christianity is derided.) Christianity elevated women. In short, Christianity utterly transformed the world.

This is stunning – until you realize it’s part of a trend. Richard Dawkins, the celebrity atheist who wrote The God Delusion (considered by many to be a modern-day bible of atheism) has recently warned that if Christianity is wiped off the map in the western world, it could be replaced by something far, far worse.

That’s not a glowing endorsement for following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the divine Son of God), until you remember it’s coming from a very public, articulate and strident critic of Christianity.

If you’ve gotten this far, perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, that’s nice. Glad Christianity did some good stuff. But what does that have to do with me?”

Well, since you’re open to spirituality, this is a good time to ask yourself what other faiths have contributed to western civilization. And I include atheism here, because it takes faith to believe there’s nothing behind all we see and experience.

If you’re partial to the self-help approach to spirituality, then my pastor friend Ross Carkner has a few questions:

Does self-help make the world a better place? Or does it just help me? And if it’s just about me, isn’t that narcissistic? To be worth anything, self-help must eventually be turned outwards — and when it does, what guides it?

Given the viewpoints of Tom Holland and Richard Dawkins, and given Ross’s thoughts about a self-help approach to life, let me ask you this: is it time you seriously investigated the claims of Jesus?

I believe if you do this with open-minded honesty, you’ll be drawn to this extraordinary man and place Him at the centre your world now and in the life to come.

Agree? Disagree? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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I imagine there are some folks who’ll read this meme, helpfully supplied by an atheist internet site, and nod their heads in agreement.

If you’re one of those people, then let me pose these questions: Why is the second question like the first? Can you explain the connection?

This strikes me as a ‘bait-and-switch’, like showing up to take advantage of a great deal on a car, then told none of those cars are available but hey, how about this vehicle at a higher price?

Just as those deals have nothing in common, so it is with this atheist meme.

A wise pastor friend weighed in on it. Ross Carkner noted that the term “master” often has nothing to do with the viewpoint advanced in the meme. How about ‘master electrician’ or ‘master craftsman’? Those images are every bit as relevant as the ancient cliche of the slave-driving master.

The work done by master craftsmen (or women) brings shapeless objects to life and provides them with a purpose. A master craftsman sees potential in what the rest of us may only dismiss as a gnarly piece of driftwood.

The craftsman shapes that wood, cutting away the bits that take away from the whole, sanding the sharp, brittle edges to gentle curves that are appealing to touch. Then he applies layers of lacquer to bring out the barely-seen colours and make the finished product something people admire as art.

I’ve seen so much evidence, in my life and the lives of others, that the Creator of the universe – the creator of you and me – is that kind of master. (This Frank’s Cottage blog details a remarkable example of God’s transforming work: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-5g.)

In the ancient world, a dude named Paul experienced this transformation. Then he told others about it: “I’m sure about this: the One who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus [who many people believe is God’s Son].”

That’s right; whether you know it or not, God the master craftsman has begun a good work in YOU. And He’s no quitter; He wants to finish that work and make you the person He knows you can be.

So how can you get in on this? Simple. Accept the gift of Jesus – His perfect life, sacrificial death and mind-blowing resurrection – whom God offers to every person on this planet.

When you decide to follow Jesus, then God comes into your life to begin changing you, a process that won’t end until you’re finished with this life. And when that day comes, you’ll spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven because God won’t see any of the wrong things you’ve done or the right things you’ve failed to do. He’ll only see His Son’s perfection.

There’s no bait-and-switch here. The incredible deal you came to accept is the incredible deal you’ll get. Sound good? Yes or no, comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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A few months ago, I found an entertaining blog that listed “32 Reasons to be an Atheist (as Opposed to a Christian),” by someone calling themselves ‘Violetwisp’.

I responded to some of them — you can read the response here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-rT — but Violetwisp’s content is so rich that I’m revisiting it to tell you more about the truth of following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son). So let’s check out four more of those 32 points:

22. You can look at natural wonders and be amazed by them instead of thinking an all-powerful deity made them on a whim or plan.

Fascinating how this is presented as an “either-or” thing. Why can’t I be amazed by natural wonders AND think about their creator? Is it really wrong or backward to simply say “thanks for making this, God,” when I experience a mountain lake or a prairie sunrise?

23. You don’t have to worry that every political shift in the world is a sign of the inevitable end times.

Yes, there are Jesus followers who fixate on the end of the world and how this or that event is leading us to it.

I feel bad for those folks. They seem to forget that even Jesus didn’t know when the world would end. He says “No one knows when that day or time will be. The Son and the angels in heaven don’t know when it will be. Only the Father knows.

That statement alone should be enough to stop people from wasting time on the unanswerable question – especially when Jesus spent far more of his time telling us the best ways to live in the here and now.

24. You don’t have to worry about dying because there’s no sense that maybe you didn’t make it with your brand of faith (what if the Mormons are right?).

Sadly, there are some people who, despite having accepted God’s gift of His Son (and assurance of eternity in Heaven with Him) still worry about what happens after they die.

Sometimes, I’m one of them. I get caught up in this world’s superficial, ultimately meaningless concerns. I forget that I have nothing to worry about – and you won’t either, if you decide to follow Jesus.

25. You can let your children make up their mind about life, and not brainwash them with a specific belief.

It’s my firm belief that everyone, including me, is brainwashed in some way. (I explain that belief here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-nb). I also know that as they grow up, children will receive a tsunami of brainwashing about our culture’s likes and dislikes.

Based on that, every parent should equip their children with a solid anchor when that brainwashing takes place. That’s why I write that Jesus followers who don’t tell their children about the benefits (and challenges) of following Jesus are seriously shirking their duty.

These parents are allowing others to twist and shape their children’s beliefs on something of utmost importance. After all, what happens after this life ends is gonna last a whole lot longer than the 70 or 80 years most of us have on planet earth.

So, what do you think about these four reasons and my responses? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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This meme, helpfully posted on an Atheist website, makes two points:

  1.  God isn’t real
  2.  People are afraid of reality.

I won’t bother with the first point; many websites explore the question of God’s reality (here are two from the perspective of Christianity, which is my faith: http://carm.org/ and http://www.ReasonableFaith.org), so I’ll leave it up to them.

As for the second point, my first reaction was to immediately think this: people believe in God because they are all TOO aware of the reality of their condition.

People who believe in God and follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son) usually know they don’t live anything close to an ideal life.

Take me, for example. I’m aware that I’m:

  • Self-centred (and therefore don’t care enough about others)
  • Greedy (Frank, you have 700 CDs; do you really need more??)
  • Prone to hold grudges (which always hurts me, not the person who made me so angry)
  • Usually looking for something in return whenever I’m generous (It took me awhile to figure out this is giving with my hand out).

These are just the faults I can immediately identify; I’m sure my very patient wife can suggest more.

However long the list is, here’s the truth: while I can make little improvements, I can never truly fix all my weaknesses. I don’t have the willpower, the discipline or the discernment. And I’ll be bold here and declare that YOU don’t have what it takes to fix all your faults, either. In fact, no one does.

That’s the absolute, unblinking reality of humanity’s condition.

So, if we can’t fix ourselves, who can? Let me be quite radical and declare that God, our creator, is up for the task. In fact, His prime business is repairing broken people. The Internet has many stories about how following Jesus has restored damaged people. (I touch on two of those stories in this blog: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-fz.)

If you’ve met serious Jesus followers, I’m sure you’ll know we’re not perfect. Which might lead you to wonder if I’m truthful about God fixing people who following His Son.

I am truthful, but all this is mixed in with the mystery of free will. The horrors of human history make it plain God has never wanted humanity to be a race of goose-stepping robots. This means He permits people — including Jesus followers— to resist His efforts to fix us.

But when we accept the gift of Jesus and believe that He died for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do, then we welcome Him into our lives to start the repair work.

When will that work end? When this life is finished and we go to Heaven to spend eternity with Him. Until then, we serve as His ambassadors in a hurting world.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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I discovered this fascinating meme on Pinterest then, after confirming its authenticity (Jillette is half of the renowned Penn & Teller duo of magicians), I decided to see if my life as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth is compatible with his commandments.

Let’s go through the list.

1. Intelligence, creativity and love are wonderful ideals. The last one, in fact, is so important that an ancient Jesus follower wrote “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”.

2. Putting things or ideas above other people inevitably leads to disaster. Look at the misery caused by ideas like communism and fascism. Look how some people drive themselves into bankruptcy in their pursuit of a bigger house, fancier vehicles and more vacations. So I’m definitely with Penn on this one.

3. Saying what you mean, even when talking to yourself, is a great ‘commandment’; how many of us delude ourselves—and others—through carefully worded deceptions?

4. Putting aside time to rest and think is vital. In fact, it’s a pillar of following Jesus. Not only do ancient writers and prophets depict God as resting after creating the universe, one of the Ten Commandments (#4) tells us “Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work.”

5. Loving your parents, partner and children is sometimes hard (given complicated family dynamics), but it’s still a no-brainer for pretty much everyone.

6. Respect and protect all human life. Yes! That’s why most serious Jesus followers are pro-life.

7. Keep your promises. Of course. And this requires us to be very thoughtful about what promises we make.

8. Don’t steal. So glad atheists like Penn agree with #8 in God’s Ten Commandments. 🙂

9. Don’t lie. This one lines up with #9 in God’s Ten Commandments.

10. Wasting time wishing, hoping and being envious? There’s nothing wrong with a little hoping. In fact, one of Jesus’s earliest followers wrote “I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in him. Then you will have more and more hope.” Envy? Another ancient writer addressed it this way: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

How about that? Turns out Jesus followers and atheists have more in common than many folks might think. So, if you’re one of those people who leans toward atheism, maybe it’s time to give Jesus an open-minded second look.

In fact, you might find the ideas that (1) you actually have a soul and it’s vitally important to Someone, and (2) there’s an eternity beyond our 80-or-so years of working, eating and sleeping to be very attractive.

Your thoughts? Post them below and Let’s have a conversation.

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Lists are usually easy and fun to read, so I’ve been enjoying “32 Reasons to be an Atheist (as Opposed to a Christian)”, a blog by someone calling themselves ‘Violetwisp’.

Many of his/her points are worth consideration by people who are open to spirituality. Let’s check out a few of them:

1. You don’t have to get up on Sunday mornings if you don’t feel like it. This is referring to attending church services. Well, I’m a church goer and there are Sundays when I don’t go. People who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) don’t have to go to church—indeed, going to church doesn’t make anyone a Jesus follower, just as going to McDonald’s doesn’t make anyone a Big Mac.

The idea behind attending church is to be surrounded by people who are doing their best to follow Jesus. Together, we learn from each other and from our leaders what it means to be a Jesus follower. And there’s no one taking attendance.

3. You don’t have to fake smile at people and pretend God is making your life wonderful. Sadly, there are lots of Jesus followers who are faking their way through their faith. Sometimes, I’m one of them. The key thing that ‘Violetwisp’ misses here is that Jesus never, ever promised people that following Him would make their lives wonderful.

In fact, sometimes following Jesus makes my life harder—for example, I’m the only Jesus follower in my biological family and that creates some challenges. But that’s OK; I didn’t decide to follow Him to put me on Easy Street. I follow Him because on my own, I can’t make me the person I want to be. But He can and, by the time this life ends, I’ll be much closer to that ideal person.

4. You can stop pretending that three gods are one god. This is referring to the Trinity, a key element of following Jesus that says there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Do I understand this fully? Certainly not. Does this cause me to lose sleep? Certainly not.

I don’t need to understand how the Trinity works to believe it, just as I don’t need to understand how airplanes defy gravity before taking a flight.

11. You don’t have to worry about your god being racist, choosing only one ethnic group to care about, then deciding Europe and North America are worth it only in recent years, but Asia is a lost cause. Just because God started His mysterious, planet-changing work in the Middle East hardly means he doesn’t care about the rest of the world.

In fact, one of the primary source documents of Jesus’s life fully explains how He thinks about humanity: God loved the world [that means everyone in it, including Asians] so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.

God wants all people—including YOU—to accept the gift of His Son and, through Him, have their sins forgiven and spend eternity in Heaven. Interested? Yes or no, share your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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This meme, helpfully supplied by an atheist faith community, left me puzzled.

The viewpoint, from the creator of the animated TV shows Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show, sets up an adversarial relationship between faith and knowledge.

So let’s ask the question: are faith and knowledge compatible? Does one have to “win” over the other?

Consider the words from thoughtful people of faith:

Blogger Tom Gilson (ThinkingChristian.net) says “belief doesn’t arrive out of thin air, or wishful thinking, or fear, or hopefulness, or (especially) pretending. There is a strong knowledge connection there.”

The website BibleAsk.org goes even further, stating “There is no such thing as ‘blind’ faith. Genuine faith is built on facts presented to the mind. Faith and knowledge are never in contradiction. Knowledge always comes before faith, and where there is no knowledge there can be no faith. Without knowledge, it is impossible to have faith.”

The point here is that thoughtful followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) have no interest in the either-or relationship between faith and knowledge advanced by Seth MacFarlane and others. And they’re backed up by the ancient writers and prophets. Chew on these examples:

  • Wise people want to learn more, so they listen closely to gain knowledge.
  • Intelligent people want more knowledge, but fools only want more nonsense.
  • Drinking from the beautiful chalice of knowledge is better than adorning oneself with gold and rare gems.

Most Jesus followers take these words seriously. In fact, some of those Jesus followers, like author and geneticist Francis S. Collins, are among the most knowledgeable in the world and they work to advance knowledge, not hinder it. You can read about just a few of these people here: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-3o.

So that’s the good news. You can accept God’s gift of His Son — whose sacrificial death and amazing resurrection makes up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do — and also advance the cause of knowledge. Both are utterly, beautifully compatible.

Interesting in knowing more about Jesus and how He can make you into the person God intends you to be? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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The late, great Andy Rooney (a beloved commentator on TV’s 60 Minutes for more than 30 years) said many profound and witty things during his 92 years on this planet. The quote in this meme, helpfully supplied by an Atheist internet community, is definitely among his most compelling thoughts.

First off, as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son), I’m 100 percent with Andy. We have centuries of history, much of it downright horrifying, to absolutely prove his point. More often than not, religious people are simply awful.

Here’s a brief list of what religion does:

  • It makes people judgemental
  • It creates a dangerous ‘us versus them’ mentality
  • It causes people to think that since they’re right, then everyone else is wrong and that leads to intolerance and persecution
  • It sparks vicious tribalism and if you want examples of how bad that is, think of the endless bombings in the Middle East or the 1990s genocidal ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and in Rwanda.

So who else opposes religion? How about Jesus? Some of His harshest words are saved for arrogant, judgemental, rule-obsessed religious leaders.

Furthermore, a case can be credibly advanced that part of Jesus’ mission was to get rid of religion altogether. In his book The End of Religion, pastor Bruxey Cavey says “I’m not suggesting that Jesus opposes all forms of organization, but that he opposes dependence on any one organization for our connection with God.”

In fact, Bruxey quotes Jesus (Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest.) to make the point that “Jesus is not pointing toward a different and better religion, but instead he invites us to himself as an alternative to the weary way of religion.”

Now this is an invitation that should be attractive to anyone interested in spirituality (and I assume that’s YOU, since you’re reading this blog). Skip religion and connect with Jesus!

So what happens when you do this? Consider Jesus to be God’s gift to every person on this planet, regardless of what they’ve done or not done, regardless of their social status, gender, or age.

Anyone who accepts that gift invites Jesus into their heart and mind to begin a life-long process of making them the kind of people that God wants them to be. And when this life is over, all the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do will be irrelevant. All God will see is His Son’s perfection.

Call me crazy, but this sounds like a GREAT deal. Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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As soon as I saw this meme, found in a Facebook atheist group, my “spidey-sense” started tingling because it presents a golden opportunity to tell you the truth about “belief systems”.

First of all, every person on this planet has a belief system, including atheists. I’ve had hundreds of online interactions with atheist people. In almost every encounter, I’ve found:

  1. They believe there is nothing behind all we see and experience
.
  2. They believe humans have no soul, so when we die, all that we are becomes nothing more than rancid worm food (sorry to be so blunt, but it’s necessary).
  3. They believe all people of faith are deluded, lacking in intelligence and even dangerous.

So, what kind of belief system do YOU have? This is an important question because if you’re open to spirituality, then you have beliefs about existence and the universe. You might even have beliefs about what comes after this life is finished.

So…do you honestly think (as the meme suggests) that your belief system has submerged you in mediocrity and distracted you from the real dangers of our existence?

Let me toss something else your way. Think about the often horrifying history of humanity. Think about our culture as it is today—the obsession with social media and celebrities, the belief that being “politically correct” will somehow make life better for everyone, the fixation on getting more money, more “toys” and more power.

Does all this make you even slightly confident that humanity can somehow save the world without any help?

You might be feeling a little down now, so let me reveal a belief system that’s shot through with hope for you and for humanity.

This belief system starts with the creator and master of time, space and the universe. He loves every person on this planet, including YOU, He knows you better than you know yourself and He wants to be involved in your life.

What do I base this on? Consider the words of Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son:

All who love me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them. My Father and I will come to them and live with them.

From an ancient prophet:

You [God] know all about me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts from far away. You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do.

So how can you let God get involved in your life? Accept the gift of His Son. When you do that, God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection. And then Jesus comes into your life and starts to make you more like Him. It’s a process that won’t end until you’re in Heaven with Jesus.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Wow. There’s a lot of heavy stuff to digest here. So let me break it down as best as I can and hopefully help you see things very differently than the atheist who created and published this meme.

1.  As much as followers of Jesus of Nazareth may try, we can’t “save” anyone from spending eternity separated from the creator and master of time, space and the universe. Only God can do that, and thousands of years of history suggests that more often than not, He chooses to do that saving through very imperfect people like me.

2.  God has absolutely ZERO desire to “torture” anyone, even people that you and I may think deserve to be tortured. One of men trained by Jesus to tell people about God describes God’s character like this: God is being patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change their ways and stop sinning.

In fact, God wants every person on this planet to be in Heaven with Him and Jesus, who many people believe is God’s Son. This can be infuriating to some people, because they want particularly nasty people to “burn in hell”.

I’m so thankful that God’s willingness to forgive everyone, for all the wrong things they’ve done and the right things they’ve failed to do, is so much broader than any forgiveness even the best of us humans can ever offer. (Here’s just one astonishing example of God’s unfathomable forgiveness: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K.)

3.  Who puts who into hell? Consider the person who created this meme. He or she seems to have pretty good basic knowledge of Jesus. Not only has this person rejected every part of Him, he or she has gone out of their way to make that rejection public.

The only possible conclusion from this is they’ve decided they want to spend eternity separated from their creator. So God will grant that wish, even as He’s patiently hoping they’ll change their minds (see the quote above.)

4.  After everything I’ve written, you shouldn’t be surprised to know that I can’t love, respect, worship or believe in the kind of god this atheist created, then rejected. So we’re absolutely in agreement on this.

I can confidently write that the creator of the universe has a gift for YOU. That gift is Jesus —his life and astonishing teachings, His horrible death on a Roman cross (to make up for the “sins” of everyone who believes in Him and follows Him) and his triumphant resurrection.

All you need to do is accept that gift, then watch as Jesus enters into your life and begins to change you for the better, all in preparation for spending eternity with Him. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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