Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is Christianity Responsible for the Mass Murders of History?

If you were to sit through a Western Civilization 101 class today, it would not take long to get the impression that Christianity is responsible for the worst atrocities in history. Exhibits A, B, and C would be the Crusades, Inquisition, and witch trials. My point here is not to delve into the intricacies of history or justify what did or did not happen; though I would encourage people to go beyond the often unsubstantiated slogans and rhetoric to the facts of history themselves (it is one thing to take responsibility for what you did, it is quite another to struggle under the weight of what others wrongly perceive you to have done). Rather, I want to compare these events with Atheistic atrocities—which seem to get far less press.

If you were to only examine the big three Atheistic regimes of the 20th century—Mao in china, Stalin in Russia, and Hitler in Nazi Germany—then you would discover that they are responsible for more than 100 million deaths (and that does not even include others like Pol Pot’s mass killings in Cambodia). Dinesh D’Souza observes that:

"Religion-inspired killing simply cannot compete with the murders perpetrated by atheist regimes. I recognize that population levels were much lower in the past, and that it’s much easier to kill people today with sophisticated weapons than it was in pervious centuries to kill with swords and arrows. Even taking higher populations into account, atheist violence surpasses religious violence by staggering proportions. Here is a rough calculation. The world’s population rose from around 500 million in 1450 A.D. to 2.5 billion in 1950, a fivefold increase. Taken together, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings killed approximately 200,000 people. Adjusting for the increase in population, that’s the equivalent of one million deaths today. Even so, these deaths caused by Christian rulers over a five-hundred-year period amount to only 1 percent of the deaths caused by Stalin, Hitler, and Mao in the space of a few decades."

D’Souza further adds that, “If Christianity has to answer for Torquemada [cf. Inquisition], atheism has to answer for Stalin. By the same token, if the ordinary Christian who has never burned anyone at the stake must bear some responsibility for what other self-styled Christians have done on behalf of religion, then atheists who think of themselves as the kinder, gentler type do not get to absolve themselves for the horrible suffering that their beliefs have caused in recent history.” All loss of life is tragic, and I am certainly not trying to “white-wash” the evils done in the name of Christianity, but the facts of history show that atheism, not Christianity, is responsible for the mass murders of history.
For more on interacting with the New Atheism, check out Dinesh D'Souza's book, What's So Great About Christianity

Monday, February 16, 2009

Is the God of the Old Testament a Moral Monster?

That is a question that gets raised by a lot of the New Athiests. And there is probably no more passionate defender of atheism than Richard Dawkins of Oxford University.

Here are his devotional thoughts on the God of the Old Testamet:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Hey...Richard...tell us how you really feel.

What can / should a Christian say in response to this?

First, Christians recognize that the God of the OT is the God of the NT--they are one and the same. So however we answer this, we can't right the OT off.

Second, We live in a fallen, broken world; God did not do this to us or intend this for us, humanity did this to ourselves by rejecting God. This is important because God used Israel (a deeply flawed people just like everyone else in the Ancient Near East) to be a force for good in the world...but Israel was not God's ideal community. He worked with fallen people in a very violent society to help show a better way and prepare the way for the messiah.

Now, none of these take away the bite of the passages that seem to advocate genocide in the OT. But they help us better appreciate the situation.

Dr. Paul Copan has written a thoughtful article engaging this issue called Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics

It is well worth a read. He also deals with issues like this in That's Just Your Interpretation

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Darwin's 200th, a Theory Still in Controversy

On Darwin's 200th, a Theory Still in Controversy is an article that talks about the influence and controversy that Darwin's life and ideas sparked.

Darwinism is pitted against Creationism and then also Intelligent Design (which are different).

In light of that I want to highlight two books that explain what Creationism is and also what Intelligent Design is: Both are worth a read, and no backround knowledge is necessary to benefit from them.

Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Creation

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thinking like Non-Christians?

“Our churches are filled with people who are spiritually born again, but who still think like non-Christians.”—William Lane Craig

According to recent polls and surveys...this seems accurate. It is critical for the vitality and health of the church for us all to engage God and our world with our minds. That is a common and biblical command:

Luke 10:27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

1 Corinthians 10:31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

This will not just happen. It will require us to arrange our lives around Scripture and Community. We need times of quiet, times of study and solitude to renew our minds so that we can grow and engage our world with the eternal kind of life that Jesus offers.

A great place to begin this journey is by reading good books like The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning by JP Moreland.