Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Brief History of Thanksgiving

Close to 400 years ago in the early 1600's, a mere 102 people who had come from a small group of separatists in England sailed from Europe across the Atlantic in the autumn, in the hope of escaping the persecution of the corrupt Church of England, which had established royalty as head of the Church, in favor of establishing their own form of worship where Christ was recognized as the head of the Church as dictated by their Christian conscience. They had initially left to Holland and the Netherlands where religious tolerance was common but they found that the worldly debauchery and materialism of Amsterdam, even back then, was a troubling environment and so the more daring of them suggested sailing to new lands. They sought a place where they could honor their relationship with Christ without interruption or compromise. These separatists who came to America were what we know as the pilgrims.

William Bradford who later became the governor of Plymouth colony documented the journey. He wrote: When they [the pilgrims]came to Delfshaven, they found the ship and all things ready and such of their friends could not come with them followed after them and sundry came back from Amsterdam to see them shipped and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse and other expressions of true Christian love. The next day they went on board and their friends with them where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them. What tears did gush from every eye and pithy speeches pierced each others heart that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the [dock] as spectators could not refrain from tears, but the tide which stays for no man calling them away that were thus loathe to depart. Their reverent pastor falling down on his knees and they all with him with watery cheeks commended them the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing. And then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another which proved to be the last leave for many of them.

Upon the Mayflower and the Speedwell, an smaller ship that accompanied the Mayflower, most of the passengers were crammed into stuffy, dark, wooden rooms where the stench of human, the pains of hunger from having little to eat but salted pork, sickness, and the incessant rolling of the sea made the journey particularly unpleasant. The deeply religious separatists were also accompanied by bigoted sailors who would often mock and harass them for their pious devotion, that is until the self-identified leader of them, who had laughed at their sea-sickness and told them how he looked forward to sowing up their shrouds and feeding them to the fishes, came down with a mysterious fever and died. It was his body ended up being thrown to the fishes and no one harassed the pilgrims again.

The Mayflower had intended to reach New York but the navigation of the sailors was not exactly accurate and instead they ended up in Cape Cod. Unfortunately, the land was too desolate to build a colony and the windy air and sea were too turbulent and bitterly cold. It was late November already. So the crew sent out a small boat of men to explore the coast of the bay and against all odds and the miserable, lethal weather that turned the spray of the sea waves into ice on their clothing, they found the harbor of Plymouth which proved to be much more hospitable and suitable for habitation. The exploring party then returned to the Mayflower only to find that William Bradford's wife had committed suicide by throwing herself into the sea in despair.

Upon first seeing the new land that is now America, Bradford wrote in his account: Being now past the vast ocean and a sea of troubles before them and expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses or much less towns to repair unto to seek for succor, and for the season it was winter and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places much more to search unknown coasts. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness full of wild beasts and wild men and what multitudes of them there were they then knew not, for which way so ever they turned their eyes save upward to heaven, they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward objects. For summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weather-beaten face and the whole country full of woods and thickets represented a wild and savage hue. If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed and now as a main bar or gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world. Let it also be considered what weak hope of supply and succor they left behind them what could now sustain them but the spirit of God and His grace?"

Winter came and the new settlers did not even have enough provisions and had to little time to build much more than crude shelter, mainly an unfinished church building which they called the "meeting house." The separatists did not believe that any building should be called or considered a church because they emphasized that THE Church is the body of believers and so they used ordinary meeting houses for worship as well as many other activities. Out of 102 people, half of them died during the grim winter from sickness and malnutrition. By February the death rate was at least two people per day or more. By March, 13 out of 18 wives had died, mainly because they devoted their energies to protecting their children of whom most survived. Keep in mind that there had been several other attempts to set up colonies that proved unsuccessful because most of the people either died or disappeared entirely. It must have seemed utterly hopeless to the bereft pilgrims.

At last, a ray of hope seemed to shine on the devastated settlers in the middle of March when the weather cleared and the sky was fair. On that day, the 16th, they saw a very formidable native, tall and muscular coming towards them and they shouted "Indian coming!" and picked up their weapons to face him. But then the Indian shouted with a deep and resonant voice, and in perfect English surprisingly enough: "Welcome!" The pilgrims responded in kind and then, at one of the most pivotal and profound moments in American and human history, the great native asked the stirring question of the ages...

"Have you got
any beer?"

Unfortunately, the pilgrims had no beer but they did have Brandy to offer instead and the Indian, a sagamore (subordinate chief) of Chief Massasoit and originally from the Abenaki tribe named Samoset, gladly accepted. Through Samoset, the pilgrims were introduced to Squanto, a Christian Native American who was literally considered a godsend because he ended up helping and teaching the pilgrims how to find and best utilize resources, where to build, where to fish, and where to plant crop.

As the summer passed and autumn fell upon them again, the pilgrims where fairing much better and they declared a day of thanksgiving to celebrate their survival and success. They invited Massasoit to join them in the first thanksgiving feast sometime in October of 1621 but they had not expected the 90 Indian men who came along with the chief. It was up to four women to prepare and cook the food for 140 people. Fortunately, the braves helped to lighten the load by providing several dressed deer, wild fowl and fish.

The typical menu of the modern day American Thanksgiving feast is quite different from the original. Venison, duck, goose, cod, and sea bass, made up the bulk of the main meat dishes. There was some turkey but it certainly was not the central focal point. There may have been cranberries but certainly no cranberry sauce and no pumpkin pie I'm afraid. The first thanksgiving feast also lasted for three days, not just one.

It was not until much later that Thanksgiving became an official holiday recognized by the government. Samuel Adams was the first since after the American Revolution to call for a national day of thanksgiving on December 18, 1777 after the colonists had won the battle of Saratoga. Adams issued a resolution which said: with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favour, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance; that it may please him graciously to afford his blessing on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace; that it may please him to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase; to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under his nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth "in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."

Later in 1782, John Hanson made a proclamation that was unanimously agreed upon and adopted by Congress.

IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to almighty God, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of Thursday the twenty-eight day of November next, as a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to God for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

And finally, there was Abraham Lincoln who issued the Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863 where he said: “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies...which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God....No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…[and] they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”

When you look at the history of the United States, particularly the story of Thanksgiving, a common theme, a single thread, a singular song seems to weave and dance through it all: the hand of providence, the hand of God. First and foremost the extraordinary "coincidences" and near miracles such as the fact that only two people had died on the Mayflower voyage when other ships had lost almost their entire crew to sickness, the improbable chance that the exploring party managed to find such a beautiful and practical location to set up their colony in such abysmal weather conditions, an area that had been previously inhabited by a tribe of natives who just happened to die not long before hand leaving the land free for the pilgrims, the fact that even sick men rolling on the floor in agony found the unnatural strength to save their meeting house from burning to the ground, the fact that the first native was both friendly and English speaking, and that through him they met another Indian who just happened to be a devout Christian (an extreme rarity at that time) willing to show and teach the pilgrims all the techniques on how to survive and prosper in the new land.

Moreover, the entire tradition of Thanksgiving is a deeply religious one, nay a Christian one. It was established by profoundly religious (and also scholarly) people who came to this land not to seek and establish a secular society based on pluralistic relativism but a free Christian utopia based on the inherent and absolute nature of divine moral law and human dignity. Without God, Thanksgiving could not exist because it was precisely God who was the subject of gratitude. The pilgrims and most of the Founding Fathers were thankful to God for the freedoms and blessings they received because they understood that all freedom, goodness, and blessing originate and emanate from God and God alone. And we certainly should thank God, for the very reason why the United States is what it is today is because of the devout nature of the pilgrims' legacy. The very reason why the United States is such a richly diverse amalgam of culture, thought, and worldviews is because of the reformed Christian ideals like religious freedom and respect to personal conscience that the separatists brought with them.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and DO NOT forget the beer ;)

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Pilgrimage of the Dalai Bama

There are many reasons why I will not and never would vote for the Barack Obama, praise be to his name, but there is one particularly disturbing reason that stands out above the rest: the religious fascination and obsession with the Dalai Bama.

And yes, I do mean religious in every sense of the world. The Dalai Bama, has cultivated an irrational and zealous following of believers who have cast aside all reason and logic to follow and worship, yes worship, himself, Barack Obama. It would be laughably ridiculous if it wasn't so disgusting and if it didn't potentially affect the greatest nation in the world, and my home country.

If you do not believe me about the religious movement and Messianic reverence and adoration of the holy Dalai Bama, the three videos I am posting here will illustrate it. Women have fainted over hearing this man speak. The media has never been as loyally dedicated and biased toward a single presidential candidate in all of history. The typical Obama supporter cannot even elaborate or give a coherent explanation as to why they believe Obama should be president and why he is so wonderful. They just know it and believe it by pure blind faith and emotion.

You might argue that just because the Dalai Bama has a bunch of stupid nutcases supporting him (and associated with him) does not disqualify him as an efficient leader or as a good man. This is true, however, if Obama were a good man and indeed, the humble Christian that he makes himself out to be, then he would make a conscious effort to denounce the people who are calling him the Messiah and savior and point them to the true Savior, Jesus Christ. But no, the Dalai Bama (may his name forever be praised) not only condones such worship, he revels and delights in it, capitalizing on every opportunity that he can to enhance his personal image and benevolence. Obama has got to be the most conceited and arrogant politician I have ever seen. This is a man who would rather show off how often he works out at the gym than visit injured troops. This is a man who pretends to be like a Jew at the Wailing Wall and deliberately leaves a prayer on a piece of paper in the wall so that the world can see what kind of godly and reverent man he is! It has been my observation that whenever a liberal tries to be religious, it's cool, but if a conservative expresses his or her religiosity, he or she is a fundamentalist bigoted psychopath. Funny how that works.

Here is a very clever video featuring Gerard Baker reading an absolutely brilliant satirical piece he wrote regarding the holy pilgrimage of the savior Obama. This actually made me laugh.

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organization with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Al Gore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

And speaking of "Yes We Can," that is the name of Boy George's latest hymn to the almighty Dalai Bama.

If you've ever listened to contemporary Christian music or been in any mainstream church that embraces modern style worship, you will note how similar Boy George's song is to the kind of songs played during worship sessions. It has a very upbeat, uplifting tune. But the lyrics are appalling.

Since when does Obama have the power or ability to forgive people for their sins or their lack of faith? And how will Obama lead us to the Promised Land? I thought those were things only God did/could do. This is disgusting.

Normally I would never go this far, but I have to say that no Christian should vote for Obama because it is a sin. In addition to his disastrous policies, this man deceives people and leads them to worship a false good, a false savior, and false idols. He advocates the sacrifice of unborn children and the sacrifice of our money, through the enormous increase of our tax dollars, to himself. This man is not the Anointed One. He is not divine. He is not God. No politician, whether liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, religious or non-religious, is the solution to our problems. There is only one solution to humanity's state of sin and suffering and only one way to heal this nation: Christ.

The current state of America is profoundly sad. Despite all the hatred there is directed towards Christians, people are desperately thirsty and yearning for a savior. People want hope. They want something to believe in and something to worship. They want Jesus and they don't even know it. They think He is the enemy, but He is, in fact, what their hearts truly desire.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Myths of the Founders

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

I always love hearing and reading this beautiful and moving document. The Declaration was of course penned by Thomas Jefferson, the same Jefferson that atheists and the anti-religious crowd love to quote frequently as "proof" that Christianity had no significant role among the founding of America. Naturally, they'll always ignore these famous words of the Declaration.

But even the deist, not atheist, Jefferson acknowledged the basic understanding that moral rights come from God. There is no other rational basis for human freedom and rights than the knowledge that they were given to us from on high because of the intrinsic value human beings hold as sentient, intelligent, and moral creatures fashioned in the image of the Creator. That is Natural Law.

How far has America fallen from her glorious foundation? It's time to move back to the fundamental values of the Constitution and the founding of America. The corruption must end. We need to re-establish where our rights come from and why we are entitled to them.

But many argue that the United States and her government was meant to be a completely secular and faith-free institution and that Judeo-Christianity played little, if any substantial role in creating the laws and building the foundations upon which America was founded. This faulty notion is based on historical ignorance and denial but regrettably is becoming more regularly believed and accepted, thus I feel the need to shed light on the truth, and part the murky clouds of the sky to expose the sun on the falsehoods I commonly see being spread about the Founding Fathers, particularly Jefferson.

Before I continue, I know people are going to falsely accuse me of advocating a theocracy. That's fine, but for the record I am not agreeing with any such accusation. I don't desire my faith or any other faith to be forced upon everyone else under penalty of the law. I don't want the government to tell all of you what you should think and believe in your personal life or to force you against your own conscience. Many of those who always cry "theocracy" in reaction to any public religious acknowledgment, do not understand what a real theocracy is.

Despite what many would like to think, the Founders (most of them) never set out to establish a purely secular state nor did they set out to set up an impenetrable wall to remove all traces of religion from public and even governmental institutions. However, they also did not set out to establish a theocracy or a government dictated by the Church, but at the same time they never abandoned or rejected the Christian identity of America or the vital role that religion should and must play in society. And even if one were to argue that they did, then they failed miserably. Christianity has been an integral part of American society and government since the beginning.

In fact, the same congress that approved the First Amendment, issued a resolution 24 hours later that said, "Resolved, that a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceable to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness." Congress issued proclamations of national days for fasting and prayer numerous times. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln issued a general order for the military to observe the Sabbath and for a long time most of American society acknowledged the Sabbath by keeping most businesses and stores closed on Sunday.

Unfortunately, most people do not know how to read the First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." Many people assume this means that religion can have absolutely no role or support in any public or government setting. What it actually means is that Congress cannot establish a federal denomination. It cannot recognize or honor and enforce the beliefs a specific church or religious organization and adopt it as the State Church or a national religion. Madison, who proposed the wording for the First Amendment said, "It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other." He also said, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established." Madison though once supportive of paid chaplains later denounced his activities as unconstitutional. Of course it was George Mason and other Founders who supported the Bill of Rights which Madison initially opposed several times.

Admittedly, quoting either Madison or Jefferson is somewhat dubious because both men made statements that flatly contradict each other and as a result, people on both sides of this argument use them to justify their views.

Thomas Jefferson

Even Thomas Jefferson was not as anti-religion as many secular and atheist militants wish to make him. Jefferson, who was indeed a deist is often claimed by the secularists as one of their own. But consider the fact that Jefferson was among the least religious of the Founders and yet he was more reverent and supportive of religion than most atheists would want to admit.

Deism, for those that don't know, is a near extinct belief system that few people hold anymore. Deists believe in the existence of God or a higher power and intelligence but they believe that God is inactive in creation. God initiated the creation process but stepped back and lets the natural workings of the universe continue on without any concern or interference. In other words God is impersonal, apathetic, and unknowable in contrast to the theistic notion that God is personally interested and active in the affairs of the universe and human beings. It must also be contrasted with atheism which asserts that there is no God or any supernatural, higher being. This is important to note.

A fact that few of you probably know about and may be surprised to hear is that the United States Capital building was also used as a church before congress officially moved into the building up until after the Civil War. Many prominent figures attended including Jefferson (who was the most regular attendee), John Quincy Adams, James Madison, and later on Abraham Lincoln. Dorothy Ripley was the first woman to preach before the House in that building and Henry Highland Garnet became the first black man to preach in front of Congress to commemorate the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. Christian prayer was held unchallenged in the federal Capital building for 71 years.

Here the House would hold religious services of prayer and sermons that could last 2-3 hours before they began their sessions. Not only did Jefferson regularly attend the services, but he asked Congress to support religious causes. In 1803, Jefferson recommended to Congress the approval of a treaty providing government funds to Catholic priests to minister to the Kaskaskia Indians. He signed extensions of a measure, three different times, which was described as a "an Act regulating the grants of land appropriated for Military services and for the Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen."

But wait, didn't Jefferson give the "wall" metaphor? Yes he did. "Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

But there is a little problematic factor here that people who quote Jefferson forget to acknowledge...context. Jefferson wrote these words in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. Jefferson's rhetoric here was intended to assure the Baptists that the government would not infringe on their right to worship or interfere with their religious life. He also said this immediately after the wall of separation line, 'Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem.' Secularists conveniently leave that part out. Jefferson never said anything about religion having no role in government but he indeed said that the government must never interfere with religious freedom.

It wasn't until 1947 that the Supreme Court created the doctrine of a wall of separation between church and state, quoting Jefferson out of context as the basis for the decision.

Another quote that has been misused, "I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands where the Constitution has deposited it... Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents."

Jefferson is merely reiterating here that government must not direct or interfere with religious practice and that religious institutions have the right to establish their own doctrine and practices where the Constitution has placed protective status. He is not saying that religion should have no part or role in the government. He also says that everyone must act according to the dictates of his or her own reason. Jefferson applied this to public prayer, not demanding that it be abolished but that if a man decides to pray, he should pray however he believes. In other words, Jefferson actually rejected generic public prayers and advocated that an individual, say a Christian, use Jesus Christ in his prayers in the public setting. Jefferson definitely stressed individual conscious and reason. That had nothing to do with whether or not he was against public expressions of faith.

Jefferson also said, "[O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary."

"[N]o power over the freedom of religion . . . [is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution."

"In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government."

But didn't Jefferson say "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature" and "I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology," and "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear?" Indeed he did.

But strangely, he also said, "The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of mankind."

"I concur with the author in considering the moral precepts of Jesus as more pure, correct, and sublime than those of ancient philosophers."

"No nation has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example."

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

And of course, there is the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately for secularists and atheists, there is just as much material by Jefferson speaking kindly about Christianity and religion as there is against it, perhaps even more so. And given Jefferson's documented actions and behavior regarding his religious activity and support, the more logical conclusion is that he was a firm supporter of religious rights and the positive impact of religion, specifically Christianity, on society.

Jefferson spent most of his life reading and studying the Bible, although supposedly he ripped out the pages that involved miracles and things he didn't like. His admiration for the teachings of Christ were undeniable however.

At worst it seems Jefferson contradicted himself. But he certainly was not limited to just negative remarks about Christianity and religion. Actions speak louder than words and Jefferson's affirming actions overpower his verbal criticism.

"Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you. Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly. Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual. From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death."

Faith-Affirming Quotes and Statements from Other Founders

But as stated previously, Jefferson was one of the -least- religious of the Founders. Consider this extensive list of quotes by some of the most famous and significant framers and founders of the United States that describe the Judeo-Christian foundation for national law and conduct.

"[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion." - Noah Webster

"The most perfect maxims and examples for regulating your social conduct and domestic economy, as well as the best rules of morality and religion, are to be found in the Bible. . . . The moral principles and precepts found in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation. . . . All the evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. . . . For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts." -Noah Webster

"To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the Divine. . . . If any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it we are bound to transgress that human law. . . . But, with regard to matters that are . . . not commanded or forbidden by those superior laws such, for instance, as exporting of wool into foreign countries; here the . . . legislature has scope and opportunity to interpose." - Blackstone's commentaries

"All [laws], however, may be arranged in two different classes. 1) Divine. 2) Human. . . . But it should always be remembered that this law, natural or revealed, made for men or for nations, flows from the same Divine source: it is the law of God. . . . Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine." - James Wilson, Signer of the Constitution; U. S. Supreme Court Justice

"Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both." -James Wilson

"[T]he law . . . dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this." - Alexander Hamilton, Signer of the Constitution

"[T]he . . . law established by the Creator . . . extends over the whole globe, is everywhere and at all times binding upon mankind. . . . [This] is the law of God by which he makes his way known to man and is paramount to all human control. - Rufus King, Signer of the Constitution

John Adams
"[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."

"[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

"The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shalt not covet," and "Thou shalt not steal," were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free."

"Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. A patriot must be a religious man."

John Quincy Adams
"The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes . . . of universal application-laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation which ever professed any code of laws."

"There are three points of doctrine the belief of which forms the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these three articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark. The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy."

"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." - Samuel Adams

"Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers." - Fisher Arms (Framer of the First Amendment)

Benjamin Rush
"The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments."

"We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism."

By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. . . . All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it [the Bible] must perish, and how consoling the thought, it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself. "The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." [Matthew 1:18]

"Remember that national crimes require national punishments, and without declaring what punishment awaits this evil, you may venture to assure them that it cannot pass with impunity, unless God shall cease to be just or merciful."

"[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community."

George Washington
"While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support."

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of man and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?"

"And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?"

"reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle...Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, [and] which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, and [which] insured to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments." - Charles Carroll (signer of the Declaration of Independence)

"[T]he primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important. . . . [T]he legislature, charged with the great interests of the community, may, and ought to countenance, aid and protect religious institutions—institutions wisely calculated to direct men to the performance of all the duties arising from their connection with each other, and to prevent or repress those evils which flow from unrestrained passion." -Oliver Ellsworth (Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court)

"[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."
- Benjamin Franklin

"[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience." - James McHenry (Signer of the Constitution)

"To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them." - Jedediah Morse

"[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God's, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar's." - William Penn

"No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country."
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court

"Indeed, the right of a society or government to [participate] in matters of religion will hardly be contested by any persons who believe that piety, religion, and morality are intimately connected with the well being of the state and indispensable to the administrations of civil justice. The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion—the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to Him for all our actions, founded upon moral accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues—these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered community. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how any civilized society can well exist without them." - Joseph Story

"Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet." -Robert Winthrop

"There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [2 Chron. 32:8]. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone [Eccl. 9:11]; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace [Jer. 6:14]. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle [Matt. 20:6]? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
-Excerpt from the famous speech given by Patrick Henry in 1775

"It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author. When we examine an extraordinary piece of machinery, an astonishing pile of architecture, a well executed statue or a highly finished painting where life and action are imitated, and habit only prevents our mistaking a surface of light and shade for cubical solidity, our ideas are naturally led to think of the extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them from the Being who is the author of them." - Thomas Paine (yes, the Thomas Paine who authored The Age of Reason)

Another interesting fact taken from states that "according to Donald S. Lutz in his book The Origins of American Constitutionalism, the leaders of the Revolution and framers of the US Constitution quoted William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles Secondat de Montesquieu quite significantly. These three men had a massive influence on the formation of American government. Quotes from the Bible, though, outnumbered all the quotes from these men combined. Of 3154 citations from the 1760's - 1805, a full 34 percent were from the Bible. Montesquieu came in second with 8.3 percent of the quotes. It's also important to note 7.9 percent of the quotes were from the great jurist William Blackstone, whose Commentaries depended on the God of the Bible as the true Giver of law and the One on whom all human law should be based."

My argument here has not been whether it is good or bad for the United States to consider herself a "Christian nation," although it is of my opinion that Christianity has been a mostly beneficial, vital, and foundational influence in American society, government, and judiciary, but I am arguing for the reality that Christianity has been a dominant, if not THE dominant ideological, philosophical, and moral force that molded the United States into what it is today.

"The framers may not have mentioned Christianity in the Constitution, but they clearly intended that charter of liberty to govern a society of fervent faith, freely encouraged by government for the benefit of all. Their noble and unprecedented experiment never involved a religion-free or faithless state but did indeed presuppose America's unequivocal identity as a Christian nation." - Michael Medved

"Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants." - William Penn

(Credit to for the quotes. Very interesting and informative website.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Great Christian Mind: John Wesley

Sadly enough, the history of Christianity and its teachings have not been very kind or flattering to the animal kingdom. I became increasingly aware of this through my high school years and into college as I became more active in my faith. Humans were created in the image of God and animals on the other hand are worthless, soulless machines given to us by God to use in whatever way we see fit. I remember sermons, speakers, and the comments of other Christians who made light of and even seemed to take joy in the idea of killing animals, eating them, or causing them to go extinct. Needless to say, this disturbed me greatly. Not only did it disturb me but it struck at my core as being fundamentally wrong. Most frustrating of all was the isolation and aloneness I felt. It seems that very few Christians seem to understand what appears to me to be a very obvious truth.

Now, I do not reject the teaching that humans were created imago Dei nor am I denying that there is a clear difference between humans and animals in their capabilities and value. However, I do not and never have accepted that just because humans are God's image bearers, animals must be as worthless and have no value at all. I've never understood that extreme. I see God as an artist and in everything that an artist creates, he puts himself into his artwork, into his creation. If animals were also created by God, then God put a bit of Himself into them as well. How could someone look at a horse and not believe God placed a sparkle of His own majesty, beauty, and nobility into it? How could someone look at a dog and not see the image of God's faithfulness and companionship? Whatever differences there are between humans and animals, it is very clear that animals, especially higher mammals are sentient, feel emotion, possess intelligence, and feel pain which by any standard of ethics, Christian ethics no less so, demands a necessity for moral and compassionate treatment.

John Wesley was one of the few prominent Christian voices of his time to preach this view. I found a copy of his sermon titled "General Deliverance." Here is a link to it for those who may be interested:

What really makes Wesley unique is not the fact that he argued for the humane treatment of animals and against the tyranny and unjust rule of man....

Is the gene
rous horse, that serves his master’s necessity or pleasure with unwearied diligence, — is the faithful dog, that waits the motion of his hand, or his eye, exempt from this? What returns for their long and faithful service do many of these poor creatures find? And what a dreadful difference is there, between what they suffer from their fellow-brutes, and what they suffer from the tyrant man! The lion, the tiger, or the shark, gives them pain from mere necessity, in order to prolong their own life; and puts them out of their pain at once: But the human shark, without any such necessity, torments them of his free choice; and perhaps continues their lingering pain till, after months or years, death signs their release.

...but he views about the original condition of the animal kingdom and his vision of its restoration and improvement in the New Kingdom to come.

What, if it should then please the all-wise, the all-gracious Creator to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What, if it should please him, when he makes us “equal to angels,” to make them what we are now, — creatures capable of God; capable of knowing and loving and enjoying the Author of their being? If it should be so, ought our eye to be evil because he is good? However this be, he will certainly do what will be most for his own glory.

The whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigour, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed. They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it as much higher than that, as the understanding of an elephant is beyond that of a worm. And whatever affections they had in the garden of God, will be restored with vast increase; being exalted and refined in a manner which we ourselves are not now able to comprehend. The liberty they then had will be completely restored, and they will be free in all their motions. They will be delivered from all irregular appetites, from all unruly passions, from every disposition that is either evil in itself, or has any tendency to evil. No rage will be found in any creature, no fierceness, no cruelty, or thirst for blood. So far from it that “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 11:6.)

What an immensely beautiful and interesting thought. I am especially fascinated with Wesley's belief that animals would be given human intellect in heaven and the new earth. I can't help but think of the talking beasts of Narnia, who may have represented the ideal state of animals, who were chosen out of the "dumb beasts" and could return to that state if they engaged in evil. Narnia, of course, was conceived by C.S. Lewis, who was another great animal-loving Christian thinker. It's ironic that many Christians who love and appeal to Lewis, do not actually understand some of the more "radical" ideals he held that did not align with traditional Christianity.

What I also love about this concept is that it provides some answers into the question of animal suffering, a topic that, disturbingly, many Christians seem unconcerned about.

I am very thankful for the few enlightened thinkers of God who were able to understand this vision, this truth, despite being taught otherwise in most cases. St. Francis who not only believed in the stewardship of nature and the kinship of animals, but believed the gospel applied to all of God's creatures. John Wesley as just mentioned. William Wilberforce who not only was a pioneer in the abolitionist movement to end slavery, but also established his own humane organization to preserve the ethical treatment of animals. C.S. Lewis who not only had the audacity to commit such offensive blasphemy by illustrating the Christian story and even Christ himself through the image of talking animals, but who also addressed the issue of animal suffering in relationship to a loving God. It is nice to know that I am in good company.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bill Maher and Stupid Atheism

I usually try to not make the mistake that I often observe among many of those who disagree with me and label people with different views than my own as intellectually inferior. However, there are times when really noticeable cases standout and must be mentioned for the sake of truth and for the sake of others.

Often there is talk radio playing in my house and I admit I like to listen to it because it is interesting. Radio host Hugh Hewitt played some audio clips from Bill Maher's late night show last week, in which Maher characteristically trashes religion in the most tasteless ways possible.

Here is what Maher said regarding the Pope's visit to the U.S. last week:
"Whenever you combine a secretive compound, religion, and weirdos in pioneer outfits, there's gonna be some child f*cking going on. In fact, whenever a cult leader sets himself up as God's infallible wingman here on earth, lock away the kids. Which is why I'd like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult; its leader also has a compound and this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he use to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. That's right, the Pope is coming to America this week..."

There are people who are wrong. Then there are people who are wrong and rotten. Bill Maher is the latter. I know that he is a comedian and that apparently the new trend in comedy is to be as grossly offensive, vulgar, and as unfunny as possible, but he's clearly expressing his true feelings as are most other comedians. Comedians merely get away with hate speech because they say it in a way that makes people laugh.

I am not a Catholic and I'd like to establish that right now. I do not agree with the Catholic Church's doctrine and tradition regarding the Pope, nor do I believe that the Pope is inherently more holy than any other devout follower of Christ. However, Bill Maher's remarks about the Pope and the Catholic Church are sadistically rude and offensive to millions of sincerely religious people. Not everyone in the Catholic clergy is having sex with prepubescent boys. In fact, the majority of priest molestation cases are more accurately described as homosexual acts, rather than true pedophilia because the "children" involved are teenagers with adult bodies. He's also twisting the facts by calling the Pope a "Nazi." Yes, the current Pope Benedict XVI was at one time apart of the Hitler youth as was practically every young male at that time. It was a part of school and cultural doctrine and it was popular. If you know anything about history, particularly the disastrous effects WWI had on Germany, you know why Hitler seemed like a shining light of hope to the bereaved Germans. The Pope did join the German military but he later left it after discovering what was really going on. His family was also openly against Hitler's regime and had to move constantly to avoid being caught. This is a man who turned away from Nazism. Labeling him and associating him with the same people who cast Jews into ovens and used Jewish babies for target practice is not only nonsensical, but downright shameful and disgusting.

Even though Pope Benedict XVI may look a bit like Darth Sidious from Star Wars except with a white robe, he is certainly no emperor of the Darkside, at least I hope not.

But, the moron, Bill Maher has much more to say: "Now I know what you're thinking. Bill, you can't be saying that the Catholic Church is no better than this creepy Texas cult? Well, for one thing, alter boys can't even get pregnant. But really, what tripped up the little cult on the prairie? Was it that they only abused hundreds of kids, not thousands all over the world. Cults get raided, religions get parades. How does the Catholic Church get away with all their buggery? Volume, volume, volume! If you have a few hundred followers and you let some of them molest children, they call you a cult leader. If you have a billion they call you Pope."

What trash. No class here. But wait! Guess who the special guest is on the show? Richard Dawkins! Excellent. Now we have one of the most idiotic of atheists joined by one of the most arrogant. One must read this most enlightening and engaging discussion about God and the universe between these two free-thinking geniuses as the challenge each other.

Maher: What I first want to ask you is, why is this book [The God Delusion] such a phenomenon? It was so much more than a best seller, it really changed the people talked about this subject all over the world. Why this book and why now?

Dawkins: Well, it has sold more than a million and a half copies now and similar sales have been posted for Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, so it looks like there is something going on...

Hewitt breaks in here to point out that the 1.5 million copies sold is menial compared to the best selling religious-based books, not including the Bible itself. If Dawkins is using the premise that book sales indicate changes in the culture, then all it tells us is that there are at least 20-30 times more religious people than there are atheists and that it is primarily atheists who read atheistic books. It's the atheist club. (I am happy to confess that I personally have been reading the very book being discussed here.)

Dawkins: ...I think people are getting a bit fed up with other people thrusting their imaginary friends down their throat. I think especially in America, there has been a tendency for God to rule the roost in a way that I think people are rightly getting fed up with and when a group of books come alone to challenge that, people warm to it.

Hewitt, almost chuckling, chimes in about Dawkins' arrogance by basically implying that the fact that he has sold 1.5 million books (mostly to atheists no doubt) somehow indicates that people are fed up with "faith" which is clearly not true. What a brilliant comment by the Oxford zoologist...

Maher: I notice you call it "imaginary friend," a phrase I enjoy because it's so, it gets at so what this is and yet I...

Dawkins: Yeah, did you coin it? Who invented that phrase? Did you coin it?

Maher: Well, I use to use it in my stand-up act... (Maher sounds like he takes great pride in the unparalleled wit of his amazing phrase)

Dawkins: Well maybe it's your phrase. It's very good anyway. (Does he really think calling God an imaginary friend is that creative and clever? If so that's really sad.)

Maher: And believe me, I've stolen many of yours so I think we're even. But I think that people would be interested to find out that in the book you establish a scale of 1 to 7 of atheism: 1 being someone who is utterly certain there is a god and 7 being someone who is utterly certain there is not, but you yourself say you're only a 6. Can you tell us why?

Dawkins: I think any scientist would be unwise to commit himself to saying that there is definitely not anything. I mean, I can't definitely commit myself to saying there are no fairies. Uh, I'm pretty sure there are no fairies. But I think it would be unscientific to do what the extreme religious people do and say "I know there is a God." I can't say I know there is no God. I can't say I know there are no pink unicorns. So a 6...maybe a 6.9 is reasonable.

Hewitt: You see, it's so self-indulgent. They're assuring each other of their absolute rightness about this when the vast experience of human kind is that they are wrong. That's just the vast experience of human kind and the key argument of Mere Christianity which is the essential moral consciousness as to what is right and wrong, "Tao" as C.S. Lewis called it, is the indictment of their certainty.

Maher: One reason why I think yourself and so many others are beginning to speak out against organized religion is...*starts some very forced laughter* BECAUSE IT'S RIDICULOUS! IT'S JUST RIDICULOUS! There's a talking snake in the garden of Eden and people fly up to heaven bodily! It's just ridiculous! How do you explain bright people, and there are many, come on we have to admit this. I talked to your friend, the scientist, Francis Collins (hardly anyone in the audience knows who that is) who discovered the human genome. How does a man go to the lab all day and then go home and believe in the talking snake? How do you explain that phenomenon?

Dawkins: Well, Francis Collins did not discover the human genome. He was head of the worldwide operation that discovered it, so he was an administrator. He's a very good scientist too, but don't say he was the one who discovered the human genome. It was a team effort and he was the administrator who organized it.

Maher: Okay, so he's a bright guy...

Dawkins: Well...yeah, I guess he's a bright guy. But (Dawkins is really hesitant and reluctant to attribute any intelligence to a Christian scientist, not surprising).

Maher: Okay, take another example: Tony Blair your former Prime Minister who just converted to Catholicism...

Dawkins: He's not a bright guy. *chuckles* He's not a bright guy. Francis Collins is a much brighter guy than Tony Blair is, I'll give him that much.

Hewitt points out that Tony Blair was an exceptionally gifted leader and was Prime Minister for more consecutive years than just about any other Prime Minister in history. But more importantly, he goes on to say this which I thought was particularly apt: 'My guess is that they are laughing at what they perceive to be the intellectual put down, which not actually very intellectual, because it's not something that serious thinkers do. Serious thinkers don't indulge in this stand-up dismissal of argument and this peptic hatred of the other side. They're curious, they engage, they talk, but that's not what the atheists are about. At least not these two atheists. They are about attempting to win through intellectual intimidation."

Hewitt has it dead on there. That is exactly what militant atheists do. They are just as bad any religious fundamentalists, just as close-minded, just as arrogant, and just as bigoted and hateful of the opposing side. Religious zealots love to call atheists "evil" and atheists love to label all people of faith as stupid and delusional which is strangely the same exact tactic leftists use against anyone who holds any conservative values. If you're not a socialist, a Democrat, or an atheist, you are stupid. That is the one absolute truth atheists cling to besides Darwinism. It is this elitist and sardonic attitude against theists, Christians especially, that I find infinitely irritating, not to mention monumentally hypocritical. Those who would claim sole reservation of reason, free thought, and objectivity but in actuality are ruled by highly irrational and prejudiced behavior and radically faith-based claims.

Here's another quote that is oh-so-revealing of Bill Maher's personal character, his insipidity, his moral depravity, and the kind of belief system that atheism tends to foster and produce: "I'm the guy who thinks religion is bad and drugs are good. I think children aren't innocent, god doesn't write books, and Jesus wasn't a republican. I think girls hate each other, no doesn't mean no and being drunk is funny. I'm for mad cow disease, how am I gonna win that? I'm against suing tobacco companies. I think abstinence is a perversion. I think Bush's lies are worse than Clinton's. I think Vegas was better when it was run by the mob. I think men are only as loyal as their options. I think stereotypes are true and rehab is for quitters."

And for the record, Jesus indeed, was not a Republican nor a member of any other political party and the Bible was not written by God directly but written by humans who were inspired by God. Please don't twist what we stupid Christians believe and then try to attack it. That's logically fallacious.

I am also amused by all the Darwinists who are foaming at the mouth over Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. We sure don't like free speech, dissent, and alternative opinions that defy established naturalistic orthodoxy, do we? If atheism is not a religion, why are its proponents treating it like one?

Finally, for those who may accuse me of being hateful and cruel, I do not hate Maher or Dawkins personally, but I have little respect for the way they carry themselves and trash other people. I do NOT hate atheists. I know several atheists whom I cherish a lot. I also know that the best response is not to complain but to pray for these very misguided but valuable human beings. However, I will call nonsense where I see it and I will demand fair play when I believe it is called for and I am unapologetic about that.

God: Just Another Sky Pixie?

It has become a popular trend among atheists to compare all supernatural phenomenon and religious deities, including the God of Christianity, to other mythical beings such as pixies, fairies, or unicorns. The basic idea is that there is no scientific or logical justification for pixies and fairies and no evidence for their existence other than the fluid power of human imagination and the same is true of God. Of course, comparing the God of the Bible with pixies is not just silly but plain stupid as well. Anyone who makes this claim is surely attesting to their own ignorance of God.

The atheist may wonder why I, like other Christian theists, can believe in God but deny the existence of pixies and on what criteria I base my conclusion. Maybe I am being unfair. I suppose it is possible that pixies do exist.

Perhaps we should consider the possibility in which it might actually be rational to believe in such diminutive magical creatures. If it just so happens that there comes a book attesting to the existence of pixies that contains scientific facts about the earth and the universe thousands of years in advance of science, is confirmed by archaeological evidence, makes dozens of specific prophecies over thousands of years that have come true, advocates a moral and ethical conduct far advanced for its time of writing, and if millions of people throughout history and worldwide have claimed with sincerity that they've been touched and felt the presence of pixies and that most of those claims have integrity and continuity, and that there was at least one pixie who made itself physical for thousands of people to see and whose existence was well documented by honest, reliable sources and eyewitnesses who were willing to die to preserve the truth of the pixies, and I personally had felt the presence and seen the working of pixies in my own life, it might be wise for me to consider the possibility that pixies exist.

Unfortunately for the pixie enthusiast, we have not seen that kind of compelling evidence in favor of "pixieism" unless one wishes to insist that childhood fantasies, faerie tales, and drug induced hallucinations (perhaps the effect of abusing "pixie dust") constitute compelling evidence. However, such evidence does apply to the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the God Christians believe in.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What is Good?

The great Greek philosopher Plato once posed a very profound dilemma about the nature of "good" and virtuous action that atheists and other anti-religious minded people have hailed as one of the most devastating intellectual blows to theism. Specifically, it seeks to destroy the claim that apart from God there can be no absolute standard for good and evil.

In his Dialogues, Plato tells a story where Socrates comes into contact with Euthyphro, a man who is on his way to the courthouse to testify against his own father on an account of murder. Socrates is astonished by this and asks Euthyphro why he is doing such a thing. Euthyphro responds that it is the pious (right and good) thing to do.

Socrates then asks the question: "Do the gods wish for what is good, because it is good; or is what is good, good, because the gods wish for it?"

This is indeed a provocative question and I've heard it before but in my view and understanding, it is not anywhere near as devastating or insurmountable as atheists might like to think.

As a Christian, I will answer this from the Christian perspective specifically, meaning that "the gods" will refer to the one triune God of the Bible.

Does God wish for what is good, because it is good; or is what is good, good, because God wishes for it? In speaking of the theistic-Christian concept of God, I would have to say that the answer is the latter. In other words, good is good because God wishes it. The latter option, that God wishes for good because it is good, cannot be true because if it was, God would not be needed to define good.

But wait, the atheist argues, then if the latter is true then God can say anything is good, even killing people or children. Yes, that's exactly right. God is the sole determiner and definer of what is good and what is evil. But before I get to that point, I will more directly address the dilemma at hand. For the atheist who quibbles that God could or would consider something most people would consider evil such as murdering children as being good, they are making an irrelevant and self-defeating claim. I would then ask them, "why do you think murdering children is wrong? On what grounds and on what basis do you believe murdering children is wrong?" The most likely and truthful answer they could give is that their own conscience tells them it is wrong. At which point I would ask "Where does your conscience come from and why do you have this innate sense of moral judgment to begin with?" The two most reasonable answers would be that either it is an internal mechanism produced by natural evolution, or it is an a priori awareness of divine moral law that was instilled by the Law Giver, God, who made mankind in His own image and made them moral beings. In this case, I am obviously claiming that the latter is true.

If the latter is true, then the one who criticizes and condemns God's ability to define goodness is doing so with the very same standards God gave them in the first place. Thus, their argument becomes circular and self-defeating. In effect they are saying "God can't define good because then God can say things that are evil are good, yet the very things I consider to be evil, I consider evil because God has said they are evil to begin with." Why is murdering children wrong? Because God has established that law. Why do most people believe murdering children is wrong? Because that moral law which governs us is instilled into our being, giving us awareness of what good should and shouldn't be.

Why does God have the right to define good? Because He IS good. He embodies the essence of good and good is His very nature. Because of His omnipotence and goodness, He created the universe and has authority over all of it. For every law there is a law giver. Just as gravity is a law that governs the workings of the physical universe, God's moral law so governs and judges the actions of human beings. God is also just and immutable. He does not change. His nature does not change and His principles and standards do not change. That means God is not going to suddenly change His mind someday and say that something that is evil is actually good. Jesus made the same challenge about people's notions of good when he was called a "good teacher." ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’ Mark 10:17-18 In other words, Jesus was pointing out that the only true definition and standard for all good is God Himself.

And like I have said before, God is necessary for morality to be objective. Humans possess a moral conscience and an awareness of divine moral law, but at the same time, because we are sinful and corrupt in our very nature, our consciences and sense of right and wrong are also corrupted. This is the reason why people will widely disagree on varying issues. With such common confusion and discrepancy among so many moral issues, it would seem that morality cannot exist in any meaningful sense apart from God. For if that were the case that good stood on its own apart from God, then it would seem more probable that people be in further agreement on what is good but they are not. C.S. Lewis made the comparison between flawed human perceived morality and true objective morality like this: "The Divine 'goodness' differs from ours, but it is not sheerly different; it differs from ours not as white from black but as a perfect circle from a child's first attempt to draw a wheel. But when the child has learned to draw, it will know that the circle it then makes is what it was trying to make from the very beginning." Humans have a basic grasp of God's goodness, but naturally it falls far shy of His definitions and therefore we must reform and align our morals to His absolute and objective standard.

If God did not exist, then there would be no basis to say that human beings are corrupt in nature. If God exists, then there is an objective and immutable standard for good and evil that applies to every single person and does not change based on any one person's opinion. Without God's existence, we have no objective means or absolute standard by which to judge what is good and what is not.

Further, if we are to believe that the universe is a purely natural atheistic one, then the concept of good and evil do not exist. Relative morality has no value and no more effectiveness than a relative law does. The only absolute truth in a Darwinian world is survival of the fittest. The strong survive and the weak die. Morality has little do with survival and in fact, it often impedes survival because morality dictates that you put the concern of others before yourself. Survival is about looking after yourself and your own best interests. Because of this reason, it is illogical to believe that the concept and awareness of morality was something that merely evolved or was produced naturally, especially when you consider the fact that only one species on this planet happens to be motivated and controlled by moral values.

To sum it up, I don't see what the problem is with the idea of a God who is intrinsically just and good defining what good and right action is. I know that some would say that my reasoning is too simplistic. I say the most powerful logic is simple logic.

It should also be noted that the appeal to Plato by atheists is somewhat ironic considering Plato was actually very conservative-minded. He was deeply concerned with the moral depravity he saw around him in his time and culture and he was also a big believer in the metaphysical. He believed that reality was better represented by the spiritual or immaterial realm than the physical one and also rejected the pagan Greek gods and adopted what could be considered quasi-monothesitic beliefs.