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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label war. Show all posts

Monday, May 26, 2014

On the Cost of Liberty

Today in the United States we observe Memorial Day. While most only see today as the traditional opening of the summer vacation season (can I now wear my white Vans?), Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who have given their lives to protect the freedoms of our country. Services will be held at most national cemeteries, and thoughts and prayers offered by family members of soldiers who were killed in service to their country.

While most nations mark their countries' fallen, there is a bigger issue that Memorial Day arouses in my mind. Western culture is enjoying the highest quality of living in the history of humanity, in no small part to the Judeo-Christian ethic. But as we become comfortable in this newfound success, we also become forgetful of how difficult life can be for many people throughout the world. We become complacent, thinking that things like liberty and freedom do not require sacrifices, even the sacrifice that some of our sons and daughters make for those ideals.

Is a concept worth sacrifice? Are there things more valuable than life and comfort? Our Founding Fathers thought that such a position is not only the patriotic one, but the Christian thing to do. Below is a quote from Patrick Henry's famous speech before the Virginia Convention, asking to establish armies across the colony. He recognized that people were fearful of the cost of war, and that they would be sacrificing their sons and daughters. Henry addressed their concerns head on, but holds that the ideal of liberty for the sake of their posterity is worth "whatever anguish of spirit it may cost."
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it
Henry recognizes that, unlike today, the colonies were not nearly as likely to win a war against Britain, the superpower of that day. Yet, he ends his argument with some of the most powerful prose to come out of the founding period:
Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
I'm thankful for those who continue to see that ideals like freedom and liberty are extremely valuable, and I recognize those who have sacrificed themselves so that they may continue to flourish. May we never take their sacrifices for granted, nor trample underfoot the liberties for which they fought.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Would the World Be Better Without Religion? (podcast)

Skeptics such as Richard Dawkins often claim that the biggest evils in the world are perpetrated because of religious beliefs. Does religion cause more wars, more hatred and prejudice than other views? What would a world free of religion look like? Listen into our latest podcast series where I demonstrate why why such claims have no grounding in reality.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Does Religion Cause War?

The charge that most of the wars in history were religiously motivated is a popular one, especially with the New Atheists and their followers. Sam Harris has written in his book The End of Faith that religion is "the most prolific source of violence in our history."1 But a cursory review of the wars fought throughout history shows the opposite is true.

As Robin Schumacher reports "An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod's three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%."2

To see just how far the New Atheists will go to keep their fable about religion being the major source of war and violence in the world, one has to look no farther than Christopher Hitchens. As William T Cavanaugh writes in his book The Myth of Religious Violence, Hitchens is guilty of very selective classification of not only what causes violence, but what classifies as religion and what doesn't.3 Not only does Cavanaugh provide examples where Hitchens takes clearly secular states, such as Stalin's regime, and ascribes their atrocities to the "religious impulse", but he also points out that religious pacifism is discounted because it isn't violent. He writes:
"Hitchens thus seems to employ a functionalist conception of religion, but he does not do so consistently. For most of his book, what Hitchens means by religion seems to be limited to some substantivist list of world religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism all come in for criticism and dismissal. When it helps to make his case against religion, however, things like Kim Jong-Il's militantly atheist regime in North Korea count as religion too. … Religion poisons everything because Hitchens identifies everything poisonous as religion. Likewise, everything good ends up on the other side of the religious-secular divide. For example, Hitchens writes of Martin Luther King, Jr. 'In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was he a Christian.' Hitchens bases this remark­able conclusion on the fact that King was nonviolent and preached forgiveness and love of enemies, as opposed to the Bible, which in both the Old and New Testaments is marked by a vengeful God. Here, what is not violent cannot possibly be religious, because religion is defined as violent."4

Echoing Cavanaugh's concern on the misleading lumping of the pacifistic teachings of Jesus and his act of self-sacrifice that becomes the ultimate example of humility and peace for all his followers, Keith Ward tells us the real reason for the continual string of wars that color our history:
"Human history as a whole is a history of warfare and violence. The early recorded history of humanity is a story of imperial conquests and wars. Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Egypt and Greece, together with almost endless waves of so-called barbarian hordes, make our books of early human history into chronicles of almost continual conquest and warfare.

"Religion may have played some part in these affairs, but it is the desire for power and wealth that is the constant factor. It is natural that warrior-kings should try to enlist the loyalty of their followers by getting them to defend some preferred set of values, and to denigrate the values of other societies. Since religions usually embody values, kings can readily enlist the gods on their side, as protectors of the values of the empire."5
It is clear, then, that the charge of religion as the primary progenitor of war is on its face absurd and folks like Harris and Hitchens really have neither interest in history nor the roots of conflict between states.  Rather, they simply want to continue to paint a picture that may win them their own converts and offer slick talking points, Unfortunately , those interested in facts find a different answer.


1. Harris, Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.
(New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005). 27.

2. Schumacher, Robin. "The Myth that Religion is the #1 Cause of War" Accessed 3-5-2013

3. Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth of Religious Violence:Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict.
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 218.

4. Ibid.

5. Ward, Keith. Is Religion Dangerous?(Oxford: Lion Hudson ple, 2011). 68.
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