Category Archives: atheology

New Atheists look better by comparison

This entry is wrong, but typical. What is painful is that it is so stupid from a man reputed to know something and to have integrity.  Only one of those could possibly be true for the author of such a piece.  It is simply false and obviously false to anyone who reads the text of the OT that the Jewish treatment of the Samaritans was pleasing to God.

Much of what we find in the OT is, to use an NA phrase, “Iron Age tribalism”: our god is better than your god, and he told us to take your land, kill all of you, and keep the booty. When Christians respond that the OT also carries the injunction to “love your neighbor,” NA responds that one’s ”neighbor” in the OT is fellow Israelites. God is not telling the Israelites to walk on over to the Canaanites and “love them.” Rather, he is telling them to wipe them out and take their land.

Enns actually sides with this libel.  I suppose he will insist these were redacted insertions for a later time: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19.34).

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear (Deuteronomy 10.12-20).

What anti-intellectual morons are our new sophisticates.  They notice that God ordered the extermination of the Canaanites that remained in the Land and that is all they need to hear.  God preaches hate of all non-Israelites until Jesus comes to correct him.  There couldn’t possibly be any depth or complexity in the OT record.  We already know that it is Iron Age primitivism.

So Jesus is the answer to this?  Eternal conscious torture?  Yes, that will win the New Atheists over.  “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matthew 10.28).  Glad we’ve got Jesus to protect us from the Iron Age god of the Old Testament.

What reeks about all this is that it refuses to face up to the real offense of the OT ethics and face up to the real problem of God.  The New Atheists will face it, but not neo-whatever professors.

God kills children.  And in the case of the Canaanites and the Amalekits he made a special provision to do so by human agency.  It was always exceptional.  It climaxed in the book of Esther where those who allied with Haman the Agagite (from King Agag of the Amalekites) were destroyed (though many actually converted and became Jews–strange form of tribalism that would allow for that–but I’ll bet Enn’s thinks Esther is all fiction anyway).  It was never a standard practice in war or any other time.  On the contrary, Isrealites were to show love to non-Israelites.  When Saul killed Gibeanites (descendants of Canaanites who, due to their faith in the true God, tricked Joshua into a perpetual covenant with them), God cursed the land in retaliation.

But why are we engaged in the fantasy that there is any possible God who does not kill the innocent?  I just attended the burial of a baby God killed within days of her deliverance from the womb.  We see people being struck with decrepitude all around us, though we try to keep them out of site to be tormented by low-wage “health care workers.”  God kills every single human being to whom he gives life.  There are a few people who have resisted His inexorable attack for over a century but they will soon be gone.

The extermination of the Canaanites is a drop in the ocean of blood.  If it doesn’t detract from the general OT ethic that one should love the stranger as well as the native born as oneself, then the only thing left, is “the problem of evil.”  And in that context, it barely merits comment.

New Atheists are probably aware of cancer wards for children.  If we can preach an ethic of love in such circumstances, we can show the basic courtesy of the OT to not lie about its ethic of love.

The fact is, the United States own policy toward strangers (“illegal” aliens) is precisely a barbarous monstrosity that violates every principle of the civilized ethic found in the OT.

I have tried to stay away from the Enns mess because I can’t stand giving any credit to the machine that railed against him.  But there was no way I could read this and not comment. And I resent that he makes such bad guides look more credible by his own wandering from the path in such obvious and unjustifiable ways.  He’s not the only one to do this and he won’t be the last.  Pharisees and Saducees and all that.

PostScript: An awesome providence in blogging.

PostPostScript: Notice that Jesus’ reasoning about loving others is directly from the Deutoronomy 10, quoted above.  In Deuteronomy, Moses points out that God feeds and clothes the sojourners.  Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

How wide is the anarchist principle?

The definition in the preface of Chrispin Sartwell’s Against the State seems surprisingly soft to me. “By anarchism I refer to the view that all forms of human association ought to be, as far as possible, voluntary.”  Wouldn’t any minarchist say the same?  Or even a social democrat?  I doubt this statement rules out neocons.

I look forward to reading more of the argument.

But it also strikes me that there is no reason why what is possibly voluntary would remain constant in all human history and in all situations.  This reminds me of the situation in Judges where there is no tax-supported offices that constitute a unified civil society.  But in times of war, while there is no ordinary conscription, towns that refused to help liberate their brothers could be attacked.  A non-voluntary state, if you will, assembled and then dis-assembled as the situation demanded.

Lot easier to get work done when kids are at school and one isn’t feeling sick

But I hear an author interview on the TV in another room and it prompts this quick entry.

If you listen to author interviews who tell you what they want for their characters, how they demand that they change between the beginning and the end, it really gives one an interesting perspective for thinking about the problem of evil as it gets batted around between theologians and atheologians.

I have no idea if it can or how it could be incorporated into an argument one way or the other.  I’m just saying it gives one a different attitudinal stance toward the problem.

J. Gresham Machen on the archaic world

The real indictment against the modern world is that by the modern world human liberty is being destroyed. At that point I know many modern men could only with difficulty repress a smile. The word liberty has today a very archaic sound; it suggests G.A. Henty, flag waving, the boys of ’76, and the like. Twentieth-century intellectuals, it is thought, have long ago outgrown all such childishness as that. So the modern historians are spelling “liberty,” when they are obliged to use the ridiculous word, in quotation marks: no principle, they are telling us, was involved, for example, in the American Revolution; economic causes alone produced that struggle; and Patrick Henry was engaging in cheap melodrama when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Here is my source. Machen was the leader of the orthodox party against the liberal Presbyterian Church that was trying so hard to take over Princeton Seminary. The context of his comments was opposing the establishment of a federal Department of Education in 1929. Here are some other things he said in that speech:

Liberty, in present day education, is regarded as entirely out of date; and standardization has taken its place. If, it is said, we allow all sorts of queer private schools and church schools to confuse the minds of youth, what will become of the welfare of the state? How can we have a unified nation without a standardized school?

The bill establishing a Federal Department of Education, despite the powerful lobby working in behalf of it, has not yet become a law, but I fear that these setbacks to the attack upon liberty, unless the underlying temper of the people changes, are but temporary, and that the process of standardization and centralization will go ruthlessly on.

From such a slavery, which is already stalking through the entire earth today, in the particular form of the materialistic paternalism of the modern state, from such a world of unrelieved drabness, we seek escape in the high adventure of the Christian religion. There and there only, we think, is liberty to be found.”

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On homo-eroticizing history

OK, I’m late, but I finally figured out why Scalzi is a popular blogger. His post on Today’s Example of an Egregious Use of Something a Writer Once Learned in a Freshman Philosophy Course was completely hysterical and quite right. His target is the claim that movies and philosophies should be labeled homo-erotic (though, careful, he is agreeing with Feeney). Actually, that’s just an aside. His real point is that

More seriously, however, reaching all the way back to Nietzsche and Aristotle to explain why Keanu and Patrick are not [totally deleted because this is a PG blog] is completely unnecessary, the middlebrow cultural commentary equivalent of going after a fly with an axe.

But really, as someone who, in college, loved reading Ayn Rand, the final paragraph was a ROFL moment:

In short: Dragging philosophy into the discussion is not always as effective as you might think it is. Just because Ayn Rand ran to Aristotle for every little thing doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Hell, it didn’t actually work for Ayn Rand. Let’s not get into that now. Although I will say this: if Howard Roark and John Galt ever got together, that would be hot.

Signal to Noise

I had a dream the other night….

And I saw Christian riding in a train. His good friend Atheos was riding with him. They were leaving the city of Destruction (which was the capital of the country that share its name) and going to the country of Annihilation.

While they were passing the time in chitchat and observing the pleasant scenery outside their window, Christian spied some white rocks that, against a green lawn, rested together in such a way as that they seemed to form lines arranged in the shape of letters:



“Well, this is new!” quoth Christian.

“Yes, indeed,” agreed Atheos. “Those rocks had not fallen there the last time we took this trip. I wonder if they fell off some train or cart, or if they are the fragments of some bright falling star that burned the sky. Mayhap they were pushed up from the ground by subterranean forces.”

Christian marveled greatly at this. He gestured back at the rocks, which now disappeared as they speedily continued hurtling on their way. “What do you mean? How can you wonder at all. Those rocks were placed there for the very purpose, plainly, of welcoming passengers like us to the great nation of Annihilation.”

Atheos laughed cheerfully. “Ah my friend,” he replied, “Once again you insist on a complicated explanation for simple things that require no such artifice. I saw no evidence of any grand designer laying out those rocks in a purposeful pattern for our benefit.”

And in my dream, Christian and Atheos conversed in earnestness about the white rocks on the green lawn and whether it as more reasonable to consider them the product of chance or to hold as plainly evident that they were arranged by some intelligence for a purpose. They disourse for quite some time, yet in my dream time sped up too fast for me to listen, and when time slowed to its natural pace, and audibility returned, they had evidently decided to cease their vain efforts, and turn their conversation, if not their minds, to more peaceful paths.

“Well,” said Christian, “in a valiant effort to change the subject, “when do you think we will cross the border and enter into Annihilation? Are we still in Destruction, or are have we left the territory of our homeland yet?”

Atheos started in surprise, and then laughed. “Surely you jest, Christian. You know when we crossed over to Annihilation as well as I do.  Has that not been our point of controversy this last half hour?  There can be no doubt in your mind, as there is none in mine, but that we traversed the border between the two realms a score of minutes and half again ago.”

Christian’s faced showed him utterly bewildered.  “What mean ye, fair Atheos?  How do you know that we have crossed?”

“Prithee stop pretending,” said Atheos, “Else I will die laughing.”

“Humor me or take me with utter seriousness,” replied Christian, “but tell me how you know.”

“To state the obvious, then,” said Atheos, “we both saw the rocks–the self-same rocks we have been arguing about.  The told us we were entering Annihilation and were welcome to it.  Did you not have eyes?  Can you not read?  The words from the pattern of the rocks were clear and unmistakable.  How can you pretend us ignorant, that we have entered that great nation?”

The blasphemy challenge is not quite as dangerous as it is being made out to be

A pretty impressive attempt at atheist viral marketing.


You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like, but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase: “I deny the Holy Spirit.”

Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” Jesus will forgive you for just about anything, but he won’t forgive you for denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is a one-way road you’re taking here.

Looking at the background to this story in Mark’s gospel we see that John prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and at John’s baptism the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus. Jesus received his Pentecost at the Jordan so that he would be able to accomplish his mission and arrange a Pentecost in Jerusalem for his followers. Thus, we have two stages set forth for us in Mark’s Gospel: The ministry of the Son and then the ministry of the Spirit. Though the Spirit is unquestionably present in Jesus, it has not yet flowed out of Jesus to others, as it will on the day of Pentecost.

The Scribes from Jerusalem are rejecting the witness of Jesus, but that does not bring immediate judgment. Indeed, they go on rejecting Jesus during his years of ministry. What the scribes from Jerusalem reject in Galilee will be offered again in Jerusalem by disciples from Galilee (see Acts 2). The Holy Spirit will come upon the disciples and they will witness to the scribes. At that point, everything will still be forgivable. The great day of vengeance will still not fall on Israel if they repent. But if this second witness—the witness of the Spirit—is spoken against, then time will run out and the wrath of God will fall. Because Israel rejected the witness of the Spirit during the forty years of the early Church, they were eventually judged by God (c.f. Luke 19.41-45).

Luke clearly spells this out by recording Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples to bear witness for him when his time comes:

And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you should speak in your defense, or what you should say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:9-12).

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit here is the rejection of the Spirit-taught witnesses who confess the Son of Man before men. Bear in mind that in the Bible, a prosecution requires no less than two witness (Deut 19.15; Matt 18.16; John 8.17; 2 Cor 13.1; 1 Tim 5.19; Heb 10.28).

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then, is not to be explained in terms of some difference in being or eternal status between the Son and the Holy Spirit so that curse words involving Jesus’ name are forgivable, but not expletives involving the Spirit. Rather, it refers to the historical framework of Jesus’ work in his own generation. The rejection of Jesus, as serious as that is, does not bring immediate condemnation. Forgiveness is still available. But after rejecting the second witness of the Spirit after Pentecost, time runs out for that generation of Israel. There is no forgiveness for blasphemy against the Spirit—the rejection of the second witness.

If I met someone who thought they had said something about the Spirit that damned him without hope, I would tell him to repent and believe. The general application of Jesus’ warning against blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to not reject repeated warning: “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken and there is no remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

God sends us different witnesses and warnings via the ministry of the Church both official and unofficial, as well as through providence. He is patient and slow to anger. But if we continue in sin we will be judged.

Jesus’ warning against blasphemy against the Holy Spirit means we should to repent the first time.

So, making a blasphemous video is not exactly recommended. But it is not irreversible. Sorry, atheists. You’re going to have to keep heading to hell one step at a time just like every one else. If that is what you want.

PS: this is all in my book, if anyone is interested.

Hat tip: Boars Head Tavern

An historical aside

Trying to track down what might be a Proudhon quotation, it suddenly occurred to me: maybe it is all Malthus’ fault.  Marxism, I mean.  Or modern revolutionary thought, including modern atheism.

Imagine the world as a cannibal chamber in which those with power deserve to destroy those without it.  I could see that generating some rather extreme reactions against the world and the god who allegedly made it.