Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If there is no God

by Dennis Prager

We are constantly reminded about the destructive consequences of religion -- intolerance, hatred, division, inquisitions, persecutions of "heretics," holy wars. Though far from the whole story, they are, nevertheless, true. There have been many awful consequences of religion.

What one almost never hears described are the deleterious consequences of secularism -- the terrible developments that have accompanied the breakdown of traditional religion and belief in God. For every thousand students who learn about the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials, maybe two learn to associate Gulag, Auschwitz, The Cultural Revolution and the Cambodian genocide with secular regimes and ideologies.

For all the problems associated with belief in God, the death of God leads to far more of them.

So, while it is not possible to prove (or disprove) God's existence, what is provable is what happens when people stop believing in God.

1. Without God there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil." This does not mean that an atheist cannot be a good person. Nor does it mean that all those who believe in God are good; there are good atheists and there are bad believers in God. It simply means that unless there is a moral authority that transcends humans from which emanates an objective right and wrong, "right" and "wrong" no more objectively exist than do "beautiful" and "ugly."

2. Without God, there is no objective meaning to life. We are all merely random creations of natural selection whose existence has no more intrinsic purpose or meaning than that of a pebble equally randomly produced.

3. Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God. We live, we suffer, we die -- some horrifically, many prematurely -- and there is only oblivion afterward.

4. Human beings need instruction manuals. This is as true for acting morally and wisely as it is for properly flying an airplane. One's heart is often no better a guide to what is right and wrong than it is to the right and wrong way to fly an airplane. The post-religious secular world claims to need no manual; the heart and reason are sufficient guides to leading a good life and to making a good world.

5. If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers. Only if there is a good God do Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler have different fates.

6. With the death of Judeo-Christian values in the West, many Westerners believe in little. That is why secular Western Europe has been unwilling and therefore unable to confront evil, whether it was Communism during the Cold War or Islamic totalitarians in its midst today.

7. Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed that men's and women's natures are basically the same, that perceived differences between the sexes are all socially induced. Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm.

8. If there is no God, the human being has no free will. He is a robot, whose every action is dictated by genes and environment. Only if one posits human creation by a Creator that transcends genes and environment who implanted the ability to transcend genes and environment can humans have free will.

9. If there is no God, humans and "other" animals are of equal value. Only if one posits that humans, not animals, are created in the image of God do humans have any greater intrinsic sanctity than baboons. This explains the movement among the secularized elite to equate humans and animals.

10. Without God, there is little to inspire people to create inspiring art. That is why contemporary art galleries and museums are filled with "art" that celebrates the scatological, the ugly and the shocking. Compare this art to Michelangelo's art in the Sistine chapel. The latter elevates the viewer -- because Michelangelo believed in something higher than himself and higher than all men.

11. Without God nothing is holy. This is definitional. Holiness emanates from a belief in the holy. This explains, for example, the far more widespread acceptance of public cursing in secular society than in religious society. To the religious, there is holy speech and profane speech. In much of secular society the very notion of profane speech is mocked.

12. Without God, humanist hubris is almost inevitable. If there is nothing higher than man, no Supreme Being, man becomes the supreme being.

13. Without God, there are no inalienable human rights. Evolution confers no rights. Molecules confer no rights. Energy has no moral concerns. That is why America's Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed "by our Creator" with certain inalienable rights. Rights depend upon a moral source, a rights giver.

14. "Without God," Dostoevsky famously wrote, "all is permitted." There has been plenty of evil committed by believers in God, but the widespread cruelties and the sheer number of innocents murdered by secular regimes -- specifically Nazi, Fascist and Communist regimes -- dwarfs the evil done in the name of religion.

As noted at the beginning, none of this proves, or even necessarily argues for, God's existence. It makes the case for the necessity, not the existence, of God. "Which God?" the secularist will ask. The God of Israel, the God of America's founders, "the Holy God who is made holy by justice" (Isaiah), the God of the Ten Commandments, the God who demands love of neighbor, the God who endows all human beings with certain inalienable rights, the God who is cited on the Liberty Bell because he is the author of liberty. That is the God being referred to here, without whom we will be vanquished by those who believe in less noble gods, both secular and divine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Challenge of Change

I don't like change- unless you are the one changing! Change produces anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, and even sadness and depression. Yet we want people to promise us change. Don't believe me? When was the last time you heard a politician say " Vote for me- I'll keep things status quo". Not exactly bumper sticker stuff. If the truth be told, we like it when things are a little stirred up so that it defeats the boredom of life with no change. Irrespective of whether you love change or hate change- it comes.

At my house, change is coming. My youngest is taking off to college. I am excited that he has some things figured out and is looking forward to his future. But it is going to throw my house off. Who will slam the door beneath my bedroom at 2 am? What voices will my wife and I hear in the house except each others? (and the ones in our heads!) Thousands of dollars will go out the door to that collegiate institution (that's no chump change!) And I am going to have to lift all that heavy stuff that I used to ask him to lift for me. That will be a change!

But with God, change is a promise of a different future. And as much as I am comfortable in my present- blessed, happy, productive, and settled- I am going to have to accept the changes. When everything is different, and all things seem unsettled and in the process of flux; when all the world is talking at the same time, and the rug under my proverbial feet is being tugged by change- then it is incumbant upon me to really know God. He says in the scripture- "I am the Lord and I change not". I guess that is because he is God and perfect and any change for him would be a step backwards away from perfection. So for me- change is working something better- Something truly good; not comfortable, not beautiful, not even acceptable- just good. You see, I am not good enough.

So it is with my hand in the hand of the unchanging one that I reluctantly accept change. His steady hand guides me through the stormy seas and uncertain times.

Oh, Unchanging One, perfection -moral and otherwise, grant me the firm faith to face the challenge of change; let there not be a retreat to fear but only an increased and confirmed belief that change is your way of bettering me. I yield to your disruptive grace. Amen.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

What to do with the Chinese Olympics

Well are you going to watch them? Some aren't because China has such a record of human rights abuses and persecution of Christians. As China has approached the games they have increased the persecution of our brothers in faith. The chinese government leads persecuting countries in executions. Of course, they have given lip service for decades to religious freedom, but history has shown these words to be hollow. Life for members of the chinese church is not easy(see article). Recently the New York Times told the story of a brave chinese christian woman. "She never broke when she was tortured with beatings and electrical shocks, and even when she was close to death she refused to disclose the names of members of her congregation or sign a statement renouncing her Christian faith.

But now, months later, Ma Yuqin abruptly chokes and her eyes well with tears as she recounts her worst memory: As she was being battered in one room, her son was tortured in the next so that each could hear the other's screams, as encouragement to betray their church.

''They wanted me to hear his cries,'' she said, sobbing. ''It broke my heart.''

Ms. Ma, a steel-willed woman of 54, was brave enough to tell her story of the persecution that Christians sometimes still face in China. Dozens of members of her church are still imprisoned, and those free are under tight scrutiny, but several church members dared to meet me for a tense interview after we all sneaked one by one into an unwatched farmhouse near Zhongxiang, a city in central China, 650 miles south of Beijing."

The dilemma of conscience for me has to be decided before the 8th. I will not knowingly buy Chinese goods, especially Olympic goods. I certainly question the wisdom of our President in going to China for the Olympics. Didn't we learn this lesson in Berlin under Hitler? Are we giving China a stage to legitimize it's brutal regime? What do you think?