A friend of mine from the 1940s era once told me an amusing tale. He was himself a Jewish Christian, and one given to argument, who liked to bat himself against all forms of opposition to his faith in Christ. And so he made repeated use of one of England’s favourite places for sharing views with the public, namely Hyde Park Corner in London, where many have had their own “soap box” and let forth on whatever views kept their brains steaming. However, his tale on this particular occasion was not some personal anecdote connected with his own stand at the “Corner”. It was what happened after he had finished for the day, and as he wandered away, only to hear the tail end of another man’s ranting. Clearly this man was an atheist, and had been haranguing his listeners about the uselessness of believing in God. A couple of dozen men stood round listening, when a Cockney voice at the back shouted, “If there ain’t no bloomin’ God, why don’t you leave ‘im alone?” This caused universal laughter from his crowd, which immediately wandered off to listen to something else, leaving the atheist on his box full of embarrassment.
I mention this because it happened in the post-war era, some 60 years ago. In those days the battle between Creation and Evolution was usually an academic exercise that often created more heat than light, but like politics, was just another subject for debate, with strong adherents on either side. Atheists would often pour ridicule on Bible-believing Christians, as they tried to undermine their grounds of faith, but only in the same way that Socialists, for example, might do the same against what they thought as the “stupidity” of the Tories. That has been the way of life in the free-speaking Western World, and we have always been proud of the fact that we have been able to express ourselves freely and openly without being accosted by Law-enforcement agents, and frog-marched off to a police cell.
Gone are those days. Although the Western World still prides itself on Free Speech, it is becoming increasing clear that it doesn’t any longer exist in certain directions. Political Correctness is now the order of the day, and on investigating further, one finds that much of the clamping down is focused on the Christian Faith. Take these two examples. The Gay Lobby has used Political Correctness to stop any Christian from declaring what the Bible says about homosexuality. And then we have Islam on the offensive throughout the world, declaring the Christian faith to be the religion of infidels, and in many countries, subject to a death sentence. The West is allowing this type of propaganda to proliferate due to the demise of Judaeo-Christian standards of morality, which had formerly been the foundation-stone of western democratic society.
But now we have yet a third member in this group, this trinity of anti-Christian strength, and it was expressed with remarkable clarity by Marvin Olasky on 2nd August this year. (Olasky is Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas, at Austin. See www.Townhall.com) His article was entitled, “Desperate Atheist Rage.” He recognised a new element arising in the battle between Creationists and Evolutionists, far removed from the old days of mockery or friendly (if heated) debate. He saw Evolutionists rising up in anger and rage, demanding to be heard, and treating everything belonging to Christianity (and indeed, religion as a whole) with the utmost contempt, saying that it has been responsible for the most atrocious inhumanity this world has ever known, and insisting that all forms of religion be totally excluded from educational establishments. This approach is new, in that it now seeks to attack people, rather than ideas. Olasky mentions three names in particular – Professor Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, saying that their combined output in published literature has reached astronomical proportions in the last few years, thereby showing the voracious appetite of today’s Western-World readers for anything contrary to our Christian heritage.
Let’s hear what these men are saying, in brief quotes that give the flavour of their contempt.
Prof. Dawkins. His view of God is that He is “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Such words show the ferocity of the new Atheist, or as he now likes to be called, Anti-theist.
Sam Harris. “An average Christian, in an average church, listening to an average Sunday sermon, has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse.” Such words are difficult to answer because they come from an attitude of loathing.
Christopher Hitchens. “Monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism, of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few non-events.” As Olasky rightly says, such words ooze scorn.
So who are these men?
Clinton Richard Dawkins, born 1941, is a British evolutionary biologist and popular science writer, who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is an outspoken atheist, secular humanist, and sceptic. In Darwin’s day, Thomas Huxley used to be called “Darwin’s bulldog.” But Dawkins’ impassioned advocacy of evolution has earned him the appellation, “Darwin’s rottweiler.” He has written a book entitled, “The God Delusion”, which the Publishers Weekly noted, “For a scientist who criticises religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe. Even atheists . . . may have trouble stomaching some of his rhetoric.”
Sam Harris, born 1967, is an American writer, author of “The End of Faith” (2004) which was inspired by 9/11 2001, and which won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award. He has a degree in philosophy from Stanford University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience. “The End of Faith” is a book that Dawkins argues should replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in the land. Harris acknowledges that he advocates a form of intolerance, distinguishing it from historical religious persecution. He promotes instead conversational intolerance, in which personal convictions are scaled against evidence.
Christopher Eric Hitchens, born 1949, is a British-American author, journalist and literary critic, currently living in Washington, D.C. Formerly a Trotskyite, from which he has recently departed, he is known for his iconoclasm, atheism, and antitheism. He has always been a believer in the Enlightenment values of secularism, humanism, and reason. He has written a book entitled, “God is not Great: how Religion Poisons Everything.” He became a U.S. citizen on his 58th birthday, April 13th 2007.
Olasky’s final comment in his article is worth quoting. “The McGraths, in their book, “The Dawkins Delusion” said, “Western atheism has waited patiently, believing that belief on God would simply die out. But now a whiff of panic is evident. Far from dying out, belief in God has rebounded.” So pity the atheists: they’re cornered and desperate. But God can break through and change their lives and thinking, as He changed mine in the 1970s when I was saying what Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens say.”
In May this year a public written debate began between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson. (Douglas Wilson is senior fellow of theology at New Saint Andrews College, and minister at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. He is also the editor of Credenda/Addenda magazine and has written (among other things ) “Reforming Marriage”. His Blog andMablog site inevitably makes for provocative reading.) The full text of this debate may be read on www.christianitytoday.com under the heading, “Is Christianity Good for the World?”, the title of the debate.
Although I have not read any of the on-going transcripts of the debate, I found it most enlightening to read through a list of published comments. Those who agreed with Hitchenswere in the majority by almost 90%, and the only way in which I can describe the general tone of the comments is to say that they were scornful, angry, vilifying, defamatory, and loathing. Take this as an example – “Of all people to represent Christianity! Doug Wilson, who heads up a cult in Idaho. ……….. Wilson, who is viciously sarcastic towards anyone who doesn’t agree with him, has made himself pope of his own church.” This comment is first and foremost a personal attack, rather than an attack on Christian dogma.
But again and again I came across what seemed to me quite cogent and unanswerable attacks, not against Wilson, but against his belief in Eternal Hell Fire. They began by quoting his insistence on God’s forgiveness for sin, and then said that in effect God was saying, “If you don’t believe I’ve forgiven you, then you’re for the Brimstone Lake!” Now I happen to know that Doug Wilson has no time for Universal Reconciliation. He entered into a written debate with my son-in-law on that issue, and was not convinced. But how could he be, as a self-confessed Calvinist? Universalism doesn’t go with Calvinism. When someone of the calibre of Hitchens meets a hell-fire Christian, he is right to query this mistaken concept, and sees through the illogicality, for which one such as Wilson cannot provide an adequate answer.
But what shall we say to this? Regardless of anything else that has cropped up in this issue, and what it means in the context of today’s world-attitude, the issue of everlasting hell-fire must be dealt with. At no time in the past has it been so desperately needed as now, when so many people are thinking for themselves, and beginning to appreciate the awful double standard that appears in God’s character, unless the concept of hell-fire is properly understood and appreciated as a God-given means to bring wicked people to the point of salvation. And that the expression everlasting is also understood within the ancient figures of speech of the Hebrew language as an unknown period of time in which purgative fires must operate to achieve this beneficial end.
What should my attitude be towards the angry anti-theist vultures? First and foremost to see why this is happening just now. I’m sure Olasky has a good answer, as also the McGraths, quoted above. Yes, there is a great move of the Spirit of God in the world today, even though the media continually play it down. Satan doesn’t like this, and incites those of an atheistic persuasion to rise up and roundly condemn all believers. Then in the second place, to observe the form in which these detractors speak, which does them no credit. In fact they tend to shoot themselves in the foot. This is no laughing matter. They have been pawns in a power struggle, and have used language that is more akin to the Dark Powers, than even to their own normal conversational speech. For this reason I find that I must pray for them, rather than use the same type of angry rhetoric myself. Olaskysaid that he was of one mind with these three men until God met with him and changed him. What he has done for Olasky, He did for Saul of Tarsus, and He can equally well do for these other three men. In the third place, to mention what I said at the beginning, I see this new attitude alongside that of the Militant Gay lobby, and the raging Islamofascists, all of which is probably the death-throes of an evil empire, on the eve of the manifestation of God’s Kingdom, when all such matters will be seen in quite a different light.
May I propose this attitude to my readers as being more God-fearing, and more spiritually powerful than entering into debate, and inflaming each other with anger? Days long gone by I would have found myself entering into such debate, believing it to be necessary for establishing “the truth.” But as the years have progressed, I have been shown the wisdom of prayer, rather than open debate with those who wish to denounce all forms of belief. Furthermore, to recognise the agitation of the Devil and his evil powers, and why they are so angry, is to help us to remain calm in the midst of this storm of debate, and allow the peace of God to rule (that is, to be umpire) in our hearts, that we might know how to stand fast, and not be moved, as Paul set forth in his warfare chapter in Ephesians 6.
I have purposely written this today because the subject is very much in the news. I found a most useful analysis in today’s Daily Mail, written by Melanie Phillips. She has also seen through the “rage”. The address is http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/columnists.html?in_article_id=473347&in_page_id=1772&in_author_id=256&in_check=N I believe it has been necessary to see through the “mystery” of this present situation, thereby to maintain a solid and unmoveable faith in the One Who died for all, and that includes Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. May God bless them, and reveal Himself to them, so that they may rejoice in the same light He has graciously shown us. Amen.