Who is on a Crusade here?

Janet Kuypers

    Note: all italicized passages are quotes from other sources. (Because these passages often contain quotes from others, we have chosen it italicize large blocks of quotes from other sources.)

    Periodically a pair of Jehovah’s Witness women come to my door to give me pamphlets, and every time I come to the door I have a phone in my hand because I am busy working. They see that I am busy, give me copies of Awake! and The Watchtower, I thank them profusely, and they go on their way.
    Now, The Watchtower is generally a little too overloaded in quoting Scripture, so I usually look to the “Watching Your World” section of Awake! to see what spin they have on news stories. But in the November 2010 issue of Awake!, they probably dedicated close to half of the issue to Atheism.
    And I thought, usually they are trying to convert believers, so this should be interesting...
    Well, I started reading the articles, and... I think I’ll just start quoting what I’ve read, and then give you my opinion as I read it.
    On the Table of Contents page, it stated: “Some of the world’s leading atheists are on a mission: They want to convert you to their way of thinking. But is their reasoning sound?” As I read this little blurb, I thought two things... One is that I have met atheists, and none of them have ever tried to change other people’s opinions (usually people’s opinions are so rooted and unchanging that even if their beliefs don’t make sense it’s still insanely difficult to change their minds). I also thought that if atheists base their thinking on science (which is often more provable than any religion, where you have to have faith and lack of evidence to believe in something), then yes, their reasoning probably is sound.
    Humph. I found issue with their statement before I even get to their articles. This should be interesting.

    Part One: ATHEISTS on a CRUSADE
    Okay, it’s time to start with the first article: “ATHEISTS on a CRUSADE”. Their first paragraph talked about atheists “actively, angrily, passionately trying to persuade the religious to change their point of view” (which, as I said before, is something I have never seen). But the second paragraph started with a quote: “The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religious belief,” said Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg. Okay, we have a Nobel laureate stating an opinion. Thanks for sharing it with us, Awake!. But after Awake! finished quoting atheists in paragraph two, they started the third paragraph with: Religion has aided the cause of the new atheists, as people have become fed up with the religious extremism, terrorism, and conflict plaguing the world. “Religion poisons everything,” says one leading atheist.
    Well, thanks for point that out to us as well. (Maybe I don’t have to really make commentary, if Awake! is just going to share the atheist view with everyone.) But they do have a point: Catholic churchgoers fear the sexual safety of their young boys. Some branches of Christianity seem too far-fetched for most (like Mormons marrying multiple wives). Other religions (sorry for bringing up the radical Islamists) have such a problem with equal rights for women (as short-lived as women’s rights has attempted to be in America) or Capitalism in general that they think it is right and noble to die while trying to kill as many Capitalist Americans as they can.
    Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t think about religions starting wars, since Christians historically have killed so many people... Off the top of my head I think of the Muslim conquests, the French Wars of Religion, the Reconquista, the Crusades (and I won’t start singing the Inquisition song from Monty Python’s Flying Circus). It seems that most all religions are littered with mass bloodshed to try to prove which religion should reign supreme.
    But wait, the next paragraph makes a statement that I can support for their religious argument (though it is still only an ethical question, not a religious one). Awake! goes on to say: While the new atheists reproach religion, they revere science, some even claiming that it disproves the existence of God. (Wait a minute, I think: nothing disproves the existence of something that is never proven.) But does it? In fact, can it?
    No, Awake!, it cannot. I think that is one of the basic things we learned in Philosophy 101 in school. Something like this cannot be disproved.
    Then again, it cannot be proven either.
    If you were worried that Awake! would spend the entire article talking about the positive points to atheism, have no fear: their last paragraph turned into a question-asking section about which side you’d rather take, including asking if an atheist world would make more sense. They only use their last sentences to lead you into their next article...

    I turned the page for article #2 from Awake!, and started reading about the British philosopher Anthony Flew, who was highly respected as an atheist by his peers. “Theology and Falsification,” his 1950 paper, “became the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the [20th] century.” (Really? I thought the atheist Ayn Rand’s philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged was reprinted a lot more.) Awake! even went on to say that in 1986 Flew was called “the most profound of the contemporary critics of theism.” But the magazine went on to explain that Flew changed his mind, because of science.
    Okay, that one kind of gets me... Science is what usually pulls people away from theism. Something doesn’t jive here. But Awake! explained his reasoning (or lack thereof): He became convinced that the universe, the laws of nature, and life itself could not have arisen merely by chance.
    I turned livid when I saw this line. No, that sentence is NOT a natural progression, logically and historically (you know, based on science). A fully developed and fully functioning human being as we see it today did not just happen instantaneously. (But if you learned anything in school you would have known that, but there I go, relying on science again.)
    But you know, I shouldn’t have stopped that quote from Awake! right there, because that passage above was immediately followed by their question: Is that a reasonable conclusion?
    Well, apparently I don’t think it is, and I hope that someone who uses their brain would come to the same conclusion.

    So before I went to the subheading: How Did the Laws of Nature Arise, I went on line to see if there was any more data about this article, and the first thing I found was an article from Atheist Geek News about the magazine article (available online at http://www.atheistgeeknews.com/from-the-awake-magazine-has-science-done-away-with-god-1578.htm). “The Atheist Geek” points out that real scientists don’t agree with Flew’s interpretation of the data. But the one important point I missed that Atheist Geek News included was that readers [of Awake!] are salivating at the opportunity to tell atheists like myself that it was science that gave a prominent nonbeliever like Flew his change of mind rather than blind faith.
    Let me reiterate that – this man did not decide to believe in God, but this non-scientist questioned the science. Good point.
    As I read this article, it went on to make points I have already discussed, about how humanity started on this planet. “The Atheist Geek” states: The article [Has Science Done Away with God, in Awake!] makes another small misstep when it tells us that Flew “became convinced that the universe, the laws of nature, and life itself could not have arisen merely by chance.” Actually, this is something that theists, deists, atheists, and scientists can all agree on. To my knowledge, the scientific community has never told us that these things came about “merely by chance.” That’s a huge (and convenient) oversimplification. The real truth is that scientists still aren’t sure how the universe began, so no one is saying too much definitively about it at this point. Except creationists, that is.
    In “How Did the Laws of Nature Arise?”, Awake! Magazine instantly brings up physicist and author Paul Davies, who states “When it comes to . . . questions such as ‘Why are there laws of nature’ the situation is less clear. These sorts of questions are not much affected by specific scientific discoveries: many of the really big questions have remained unchanged since the birth of civilization and still vex us today.”
    As soon as I read this, I went back to Atheist Geek News, because they started to research what Davies said in full context. The paper being quoted in this article is online, but the Atheist Geek thought it’s important to note that Davies also said this in the same paper: “To be sure, we don’t know how life began, and we are almost completely ignorant about the origin of consciousness. But just because science doesn’t have all the answers at this time doesn’t mean that there is no satisfactory scientific account available. Curiously, the origin of the universe, which might seem to be the hardest of the three origin problems, is possibly the easiest. Cosmologists actually have a credible theoretical framework based on quantum mechanics and gravitational theory that can describe how a universe might originate in a big bang.”
    Basically, the quote in the Awake! article would probably lead most readers to believe that Davies–as a physicist–thinks that these problems cannot be explained by science, or that he–as a physicist–thinks the only way to answer them is to say “God did it.”

    Because we cannot explain something, it must be a God. Wow, I can’t explain how a car runs (because I haven’t done the research), so a God must make a car run... Sorry, that car statement might seem over the top, but in earlier history societies created gods for all of the things they could not explain – there was a Sun God, a Rain God, and so on. Since people have evolved and have found explanations for why these basic natural events exist (which even includes why societies no longer fear comets as harbingers of doom because of an angry God, once again using the concept of god to explain what we do not have the answers for), we do not assume that a single God controls these things. Since we do not know what happens after death (and we want to believe that procreation and bearing children LIKE us is not the only way we can live on), we still hold on to this notion of a God to explain to us that no, it’s not all over when we die. You can be happy forever with Jesus.
    As an editorial writer, I can understand deciding to cherry-pick quotes from a source to get your point across, but both myself and “the Atheist Geek” note how extensively Awake! Magazine chooses to only selectively quote people they are basing a few articles on in their magazine.
    Now, since I am commenting on their selectively quoting others, I will try to go over everything in their writing (because I don’t want to leave anything out and give you a false impression)...
    So, since Awake! seems to quote things regularly that do not necessarily support their argument, maybe I should let them continue to quote away... Because I also found Flew being quoted from them in their article, since Flew wrote in 2007: “but that these regularities are mathematically precise, universal, and ‘tied together.’” Well, the laws of nature are not half-hazard. There are laws we all understand and abide by in the universe, so of course all things that happen in nature are mathematically precise.
    I do appreciate in these articles that Awake! Magazine ends a lot of its listings with questions, because it is so easy to answer their questions rationally, instead of assuming the answer they want everyone to come to. Awake! asks: The question we should ask is how nature came so prepackaged in this fashion. (I thought that was pretty much answered. Sorry. Are they asking why gravity works the way it does, or why celestial objects travel in the orbits they do? Really?) But Awake! follows this question with their conclusion: This is certainly the question that scientists from Newton to Einstein to Heisenberg have asked—and answered. Their answer was the Mind of God. These men come to this opinion, like every opinion stated about religion (religious comments are opinions, since there is no proof, it is an opinion). If an opinion gains more and more scientific evidence to support it, it may become a theory (like the Big Bang Theory), but until there is evidence to support the conclusion, it is merely an opinion.So let me go on with what the article has to say. Awake! then states:
    Indeed, many highly respected scientists do not consider it unscientific to believe in an intelligent First Cause.
    And they’re right — they even brought up scientists like Newton and Einstein. But their second sentence in that paragraph started to ruffle my feathers: On the other hand, to say that the universe, its laws, and life just happened is intellectually unsatisfactory. Hmm. I’m sorry if something naturally happening (you know, getting to the laws of nature thing) is “intellectually unsatisfactory” to you, well, too bad. When people try to answer meaningful questions like these, they don’t look for answers that you will merit as “intellectually satisfactory.”
    Okay Janet, don’t get too angry, maybe their copy gets better if you read the rest of their three-sentence paragraph... Awake! finishes their thought by stating: Everyday experience tells us that design—especially highly sophisticated design— calls for a designer.
    Humph. If any of their quoted atheists were trying to state that people just spontaneously came to be in the form they are in today, you might have a point. But that was NEVER the argument, so this is a completely irrelevant sentence. If these atheists relied on Darwinism (like Richard Dawkins may, whom Awake! mentions in the next section) as evolutionary theory (and Darwinism is Natural Selection, which is different from evolution), they would most definitely not agree with the conclusions this magazine draws.

    Ah, but now we get to
    Part 3: Which Faith Will You Choose?
    Wow, I haven’t even read the paragraph, and I am angry at the world “faith” used. Atheists don’t rely on the religious notion of faith, so... Oh, there I go again, jumping to conclusions. I should read what they have to say before I blurt out my opinionated thoughts.
    The first sentence states that nobody (atheists or theists) relies purely on science. (Okay Janet, type the rest of their sentence out before you comment...) Both involve faith—atheist in purposeless blind chance; theist in an intelligent First Cause. This magazine has searched for the most denigrating-sounding words to describe that atheists don’t count on somehow living after their death to justify their existence. Atheists don’t have faith in things there is absolutely no concrete or physical evidence of – which by definition would be “blind faith.”
    Speaking of “blind faith,” Awake! then goes on to state that the new atheists promote the notion that “all religious faith is blind faith,” writes John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, England.
    Well fine, let me be a pain in the butt and get on the Web and see if I can find any sort of definition for the phrase “blind faith.” And crap, there is a band called “blind faith,” and that takes up a ton of listings, as does (lucky me, living in Chicago) the Blind Faith Cafˇ, with “innovative vegetarian cuisine” (okay, I might not go there, but as a vegetarian it’s cool to see a link like that appear).
    Sorry for that, let me get back to defining “blind faith.” Dictionary.com defines it as belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination. But let me look a little further... apocalipsis.org contained blindfaith.htm, which stated that A popular definition of faith is “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence”; this is what people commonly call blind faith, however that is not biblical faith. A better definition is “The belief in the historic truthfulness of the Scripture narrative, and the supernatural origin of its teachings, sometimes called historical and speculative faith.” And when having discussion in reference to religious faith versus “other” faiths, the second more descriptive definition might be helpful for the religious, but at the core the differences are the same. In this more elaborate second definition, it looks for histories truthfulness when there is not enough tangible physical evidence (and to them, a few people writing a single book collection a few hundred years after their Savior’s life ended is not enough evidence for them). Ergo blind faith.
    It may seem silly to go on about the negative implications with the phrase “blind faith,” but Awake! says atheists use purposeless blind chance, which seems a lot more daunting than the phrase “blind faith.”
    The article goes on to ask: Which faith stands up under test—that of the atheist of that of the religious believer? And it goes on to talk about the origin of life to try to make its point. They state (truthfully) that evolutionists readily acknowledge that the origin of life remains a mystery. Okay we knew that, and Awake! goes on to state that there are differences in opinion about leading theories. (Of course there are differences in opinions on theories, people debate while they learn more before the gain enough evidence to come to sound conclusions. That is the scientific method, to acquire new knowledge while correcting and integrating previous knowledge.) Dawkins postulates that due to the size of the universe there must be life somewhere else in the universe, but other scientists are not sure. Cambridge Professor John Barrow says that the belief in “the evolution of life and mind... There are just so many ways in which life can fail to evolve in a complex and hostile environment that it would be sheer hubris to suppose that, simply given enough carbon and enough time, anything is possible.”
    Well, that is one opinion. That’s what talking about theories is all about. But it is foolish to state, as Awake! does: Would chance accidents produce complex information, such as a computer program, an algebraic formula, an encyclopedia, or even a recipe for a cake? Unless the chance series of “accidents” are the evolution of humankind to the breeding of Betty Crocker, who by chance created cake recipes, or the accidents are the evolution of humankind to the breeding of Alan Turing (known to some now as the father of computer science), which led to the accidental creation of ENIAC —the first general-purpose, electronic computer, which led to people accidentally writing computer programs.
    Awake! does make a point soon afterward, though: that all of the things that man creates may not compare to the biological splendor of DNA, or the information stored in the genetic code of living organisms. But in their next section:

    Part 4: Luck as the First Cause—Good Science?
    Paul Davies (physicist, cosmologist and astrobiologist working at Arizona State University) is quoted heavily in the beginning of this section, hypothesizing that the way the universe has developed allowed for life as we know it. “The universe may or may not have a deep underlying unity, but there is no design, purpose, or point to it all—at least none that would make sense to us.” As far as Mr. Davies knows. These are theories, right? Religion to him is a series of theories, but at least the conclusions he has drawn on what he believes is based on scientific data. Apparently he, or anyone really, has not learned the theory explaining it all.
    Because that’s what religion is too, isn’t it? Trying to come up with a theory to explain it all? The religious use “blind faith,” others use science and logic and reason. The only real difference is faith without evidence and faith with evidence.
    But let me get back to the article... It starts to quote molecular biologist Michael Denton, who later adapts Intelligent Design, but the theme of the rest of the article becomes guessing if it was chance that created everything, or if it was a God. If an archaeologist found a perfectly formed shape of a human bust, down to the finest details... Does he attribute this item to chance? No, his logical mind says ‘Someone made this.’ Using similar reasoning, the Bible states: “Every house is constructed by someone, but he that he constructed all things is God.” (Hebrews 3:4) Do you agree with that statement?
    And that is how Awake! finishes their article; with a series of questions. Bringing up evil perpetuated in God’s name, they postulate what others have thought: that mankind may be better off without religion. So without really forcing their beliefs down the reader’s throat in their articles, they give you only selective quotes from people, trying to lead you down the path to the decision they want you to make.

    A later article asks: A WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION—AN IMPROVEMENT? Questioning whether or not war would cease to exist. Although many evils have been done historically in God’s name, many atrocities have also existed without religion as a defined base.
    I would, however, question law professor Philip Johnson, who is quoted in this article, who concludes that ‘no God’ [means] “no objective values which we are obligated to respect.” The only reason I would question this is because I know a number of atheists who seem to hold higher values than some Christians I’ve known...



this website copyright scars publications and design. All rights reserved. No material may be reprinted without express permission from the author.

this page was downloaded to your computer