September 2006

Jesus?Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith, previously attended to on this blog) has a new book out called "Letter to a Christian Nation". Now I must say it's an ingenious title. It's also ingeniously misinformative, since few (Christian, religious, or atheist) would term the United States a "Christian nation". While many of its citizens are Christian, the nation itself has become mostly secularized. Instead of Why Faith, perhaps I should change the title of this blog to "Letters to a Secular Nation"? Hmmm.

Since I have not read the book (nor do I have plans to considering what I know about it) I will instead comment on the quotes from it posted on the book's website:

According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will only return after things have gone horribly wrong. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the US government believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population believes this should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.

I'm not sure why this would be considered an "emergency" considering that there have always been large numbers of Christians in America. I suppose the implication is that there now exists the technology to actually bring about the world's destruction. Yet anyone who has done even a cursory study of the Bible would never suggest that it even hints that people should willfully bring about the world's destruction, so Harris' insinuation here falls flat.

There are also plenty of statistics like "80% of Americans expect to be called before God on judgement day to answer for their sins" or "73% believe in Hell". While such statements may be accurate, I'm not sure what Harris' point is in quoting them. This belief is indeed ridiculous if Christianity is false. If it's false, of course it would be ridiculous to believe that. But if it's true, it's quite reasonable. According to Harris, "83% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead." Considering that, the statistics above are not surprising.

Is there good evidence for believing Jesus rose from the dead? Check the resources below, and decide for yourself. Don't allow those like Sam Harris to, in a sense, throw the baby out with the bathwater. I agree that there is a lot of "bad" that goes on in religion, just as there's even more "bad" that goes on everywhere in life. But does that mean all religion (and Christianity in particular) is untrue? I was an atheist, researched it myself, and came to my own conclusion …

Read more:

EarthLee Strobel gives his answer the question: "Do You Think Intelligent Design Should Be Taught in School?" See the video linked below for his answer. I think it's reasonable:

Video: Do You Think Intelligent Design Should Be Taught in School? (1:33)

This is one of several videos based on Strobel's book Case for a Creator on his site. All are fairly short and viewable online. I'd prefer he'd put them up on YouTube or something so that people could post them on their own sites. Oh well. Still interesting stuff, as well as the rest of Strobel's site.

Not everything old is bad!In modern times, what's new is good, and what's old is bad. At least, this is very much the case in the secularized West. How has this philosophy come about?

Technology is partially to blame. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a luddite. I have my Bachelors of Information Systems & Human Behavior degree, and I might experience withdrawl should I be forced to go without Internet access for an extended period of time. However, I recognize that the pace of technological advancement has accelerated rapidly in the last century. It's not quite true that computer equipment is obsolete as soon as it hits store shelves, but that's not too far off, either. Technology has become a huge part of most people's lives, and when it comes to technology, there's little argument that newer is better, and this attitude toward technology has (in part) contributed to the idea that what is old is bad.

While in previous cultures tradition and history were highly valued, this is becoming less and less the case in modern culture. "Who cares about the past? We're living for tomorrow!" is a popular (if unspoken) attitude. There's nothing wrong with looking forward to the future, but we have become historical amnesiacs and ignore our past at our own peril.

What relevance is this to faith? Only this: The Bible is an old book. The New Testament was written nearly 2,000 years ago, and the Old Testament is even older than that. (The fact it's got "Old" right in its name doesn't help either.) So is this one reason why some people in the west seem less interested in faith? Could "newness" be a possible reason why some modern religions like Scientology are relatively popular, despite their untenability? Examine your own thinking … has this sort of "old is bad" mentality crept into your own life philosophy?

(BTW, for good arguments not to give credence to Scientology see … or view the South Park Scientology episode on YouTube … yes, it's accurate.)

SpaceThe Cosmological Argument (also known as the Kalam Argument) goes something like this:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

This is a deductive argument, so if we agree that the two premises (1 & 2) are true, then the conclusion (3) is also true. (Which also implies God as the cause for the universe's existence.)

Let's grant that (1) is true; it seems intuitively true that things do not come into existence without a cause. Premise (2) is the major cause for debate. Did the universe begin to exist? Two main arguments support this premise.

First, the philosophical argument. This argument acknowledges that an "actual infinite" cannot exist within the confines of our universe. This refers to both an infinite collection of things and an infinite series of time. While a conceptual infinite may exist (say, within the theoretical world of mathematics, ie "in the mind") a real infinite thing cannot exist in reality. We might observe or conceptualize a potential infinite, that is, something which is approaching infinity, but never actually reaches it. However, actual infinites do not exist in our universe. (Somewhat similar to Zeno's Paradox.) The existence of an actual infinite in our universe would lead to logical absurdities. (See William Lane Craig's "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe" for an indepth examination of this point.)

Objection: "But wait!" some may say, "Christians believe they will live forever with God! Sounds like infinite time to me." While it is true that Christians believe we will spend eternity with God, this still never is an infinite amount of time, since measurement of time between two points will necessarily be finite. Peter Kreeft explains: "Christians believe that their life with God will never end. That means it will never form an actually completed infinite series. In more technical language: an endless future is potentially but never actually infinite. This means that although the future will never cease to expand and increase, still its actual extent will always be finite. But that can only be true if all of created reality had a beginning." (Kreeft, 20 Arguments)

A second reason to accept premise (2) as being true is that scientific evidence points towards the universe having existed a finite amount of time, with a so-called "Big Bang" approximately 15 billion years ago. (For more on this subject, which is too indepth to get into here in a simple blog post, see The Case for a Creator at … essentially a summary of some of the content in Lee Strobel's excellent Case for a Creator book.)

If we accept both premise (1) and premise (2), then we have reasonable reason to believe God exists, as God (as the entity which is behind our universe, being both infinite and great in every way that our universe is not) would be that cause behind the universe. Note that the common objection "Who made God?" either misreads the argument as proposed above (it only necessitates that what begins to exist has a cause, therefore God which has always existed does not need a "cause") or forgets that God (if God exists) requires no cause. This is not special pleading for God; remember that there are both philosophical and scientific reasons why the universe cannot have always existed, whereas neither apply to God.

Go deeper with related readings:

(Thanks goes to NASA's Image of the Day for the space image.)

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