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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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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Letting Go of God While Holding on to Biases

An interesting article appeared recently in the San Francisco Chronicle's online site There, reporter David Ian Miller interviewed Saturday Night Live comedienne Julia Sweeney (of the "It's Pat" sketch fame) on her recent autobiographical play, "Letting Go of God". The next step for Sweeney will be to release a book on the same topic, entitled "My Beautiful Loss of Faith Story".

The interview is telling. When asked how she responds to people with a strong belief in God, she replies "If somebody has credible evidence that there is a supernatural power that knows what I think and cares about me and offers me a life after death, I would look at that evidence with an open mind. On the other hand, I can't imagine there would be that evidence." She also states, "I'm adding up the evidence on either side, and I'm seeing the evidence of there not being a God is overwhelming compared to the evidence for there being a God."

Now, all this sounds as if Sweeney is trying to be fair, until you see some specific examples of just how far she has actually dug for this evidence. Here is one:

"To me, the Iliad offers more insight into human character and lessons than the Bible. You know, like Jesus was angry a lot. When he turned all those people into pigs and made them run off a mountain, it was so hateful, not just to people but to pigs. I felt upset for the pigs!"
Sweeney is trying to object to the story in Mark 5:2-13. However, her woeful misunderstanding shows that she hasn't even done a thoughtful reading of the text.

Sweeney's blog gives us a bit more honest reason for her objection to the Bible. In her June 5, 2005 post she answers the Christians who've offered interpretations of various biblical passages and says

"Yes, I know that the passages I site have all kinds of theories and complicated layers of meaning. I know the theories. I know the ways that people explain those passages. I looked into it. But now, it doesn't really matter because when I, after a long learning curve, really understood how the Bible was put together, which stories were kept and which weren't, what political situations were in place and what was useful to emphasise and so forth, then the Bible became a really interesting historical religious document to me -- inspiring but not sacred. Very much the work of ancient man and not the inspired word of God. So, you see, telling me all about the meanings behind those stories is sort of beside the point at this point."
For anyone who has been following our articles, you can see where that argument falls apart.

I hope that Sweeney will continue to try and approach the subject of God with an open mind. Like many atheists, though, what she thinks is a non-biased look at the evidence may in fact turn out to be one-sided from the very start. Let her react to the Kalam cosmological argument or to some of the best Christian thinkers out there. Only then can she say with confidence that she is earnestly seeking to find the truth.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Disinformation in "Muslims in America"

Morgan Spurlock had aired a television show looking at trying to understand different types of people in the U.S., but don't expect any objectivity from the show. 30 Days , Spurlock's series on Fox cable channel F/X sought to document the changing views of individuals who are placed in a radically different environment for thirty days. The show was entitled "Muslims in America" and looked to see what happens when a "fundamentalist Christian" is asked to live and worship as a Muslim. BBC News reported this as one of Spurlock's favorites:
"We took a fundamentalist Christian from my home state of West Virginia, somebody who is very pro-war, pro-'us versus them,' that when you hear Muslim the only thing he thinks of is a guy standing on a mountain with an AK-47," Spurlock said.
The man leaves his wife and children at home and goes to live with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States.

"He dresses as a Muslim, eats as a Muslim, he prays five time a day, he studies the Koran daily, he learns to speak Arabic, he works with an imam, a Muslim cleric, to learn the history of Islam, what are the five pillars, why are they important." And the transformation this guy goes through in 30 days is "miraculous, it's incredible," Spurlock said.
This all sounds interesting, but the main problem comes in when you find out that the "documentary" is nothing of the sort. The show's producers had the outcome determined even before they started shooting, according to Debbie Schlussel, a reporter and commentator who specializes in fundamentalist Islam.

In her blog Schlussel writes, "When I met David Stacy, I was amazed at how ignorant and uninformed he was. This newly-inducted 'expert' on Islam never heard of Wahhabism--the extremist Sunni strain of Islam that now dominates the religion. He was unfamiliar with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. He did not believe me that Hezbollah murdered hundreds of U.S. Marines and civilians in Beirut and elsewhere. He seemed mystified to learn that President Bush shut down American Islamic charities, like the Holy Land Foundation and Global Relief Foundation, for funding Hamas and Al Qaeda. He hadn't a clue about taqiyyah, the Koranic principle allowing deception of non-Muslims."

Schlussel then writes, "Spurlock planned the outcome of this 'immersion' show and he found the perfect tabula rasa in Stacy. Spurlock also found the perfect 'experts' and 'key members' of Detroit's Islamic community to propagandize their easily swayed dupe.

"Paul Findley is listed as an 'expert' consultant for the show. A non-Muslim with no special knowledge of Islam, Findley's real expertise is having been an anti-Israel congressman who was defeated when he was targeted by Jewish groups. Another 'expert' is Muqtedar Khan, a faux moderate professor with close ties to Muslim extremist group, Al Muhajiroun, as documented by Militant Islam Monitor."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Finally! Television that takes religion seriously

I've had the opportunity to watch Faith Under Fire, Lee Strobel’s show that had aired on PAX TV (now ION Television). What a breath of fresh air. The show is styled as a kind of Hardball dealing with theology, faith and ethics and it features the top luminaries from both sides of each issue. Strobel acts as the facilitator.

Previous topics have included “Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?” “Do All Roads Lead to God?” “Is the Supernatural Real?” and “Is Hollywood Anti-Faith?”

I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see people such as J.P. Moreland, Craig Hazen, Frank Beckwith, and William Lane Craig on national television presenting their views. Given the show’s format, I would love to see each topic explored more slowly and more fully, but I also understand that the quick exchange makes better television. It also will give the careful listener much to chew on. Although these are no longer on the air, you can grab the DVDs of the series or download episodes here.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Is Naturalism Opposed to Homosexuality?

In my latest Come Reason e-Newsletter, I just finished a three-part article on the problems with homosexual marriage. The last installment prompted this response by a good friend of the ministry:
It seems that the homosexual has no real world to live in. As far as
worldviews go, neither theism nor atheistic views account for homosexuality.
The naturalists rely on the principle of "survival of the fittest" to
assist in supporting their evolutionary view. If, for the sake of argument
naturalism was true, the homosexual would have been sifted out of existence (first, do to the inability to procreate and secondly do to the short life expectancy among male homosexuals). This is just some fodder for further thought.
Although I think that homosexuality could possibly be explained by Darwinists today, it can never be argued that this predisposition will advance the species. If homosexuals are evolutionists, then arguing that "they're born that way" doesn't help advance their cause.

Of course, I haven't seen the benefit in that argument no matter what they believe. Even if one were to grant that homosexuals are born with that proclivity, it doesn't prove that we should therefore embrace it. Bipolar disorder, for example, has a genetic component. Alcoholism can also be attributed in specific cases to a genetic predisposition. Does this mean we should accept it? Or does it mean that these with such a predisposition need to take more care and work harder to avoid the pitfalls of their genetics? A little clear thinking in this area will go a long way in our talk with others about this subject.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Ethicist Confuses Chickens and Humans

Peter Singer is at it again. For those of you who don't know, Singer is a strong animal rights activist and bio-ethicist at Princeton University. The main problem with him is he frequently diminishes the worth of a human being while elevating the status of animals. He has publicly stated that parents have sufficient moral grounds to kill severely disabled infants and he equated this action to putting a suffering chimpanzee out if its misery. Quoting from a fact-index article on him:
He wrote "I think that a chimpanzee certainly has greater self-awareness than a newborn baby. There are some circumstances...when killing the newborn baby is not at all wrong... not like killing the chimpanzee would be. Maybe it's not wrong at all."
Well, Singer and coauthor Karen Dawn have just published an article in the L.A. Times opinion section comparing the slaughtering practices of chickens at KFC to the abuses of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The commentary (which can be read here or here) Singer and Dawn describe some of the cruel treatment workers inflicted on the soon to be slaughtered poultry in a PETA released video. They then write "The sickening images echo the snapshots and videotapes that found their way out of another inhumane facility: Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."

I find it interesting that in this sentence they appeal to a specific dynamic of humanity - the understanding of cruelty and the responsibility to not to perpetrate acts that would be deemed "inhumane". It seems to me that this one phrase negates the basis of their argument that all biological species should be treated with equal worth. I mean, you never hear anyone criticizing the female Black Widow spider for killing and eating her mate!

Singer and Dawn try to make the case that both instances the human who felt superior inflicted torture on the weaker victim. "In both Baghdad and Moorefield, W.Va., a simple cruel dynamic was at work. When humans have unchecked power over those they see as inferior, they may abuse it."

While I believe that human beings have a responsibility to treat animals with respect and dignity as God's creation (see this article for more), I find the approach of Singer and others at PETA disgusting. If I were a victim of the Abu Ghraib abuse or a family member, I would be deeply offended that these people would be comparing my suffering to some slaughterhouse chickens. In fact, as a human being, I am deeply offended! Singer in this approach devalues human life to the point where he puts it on par with poultry. Contrary to protecting chickens, all Singer and Dawn have done is make human beings a disposable commodity. And that is an inhumane position.
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