Bastardized Christianity

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A new worldview which exists in the west these days is something called New Atheism. The main proponents are Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, and others like them.

New Atheists tend to believe that their worldview was created in a vacuum — that, in and of itself, it formed from nothingness and exists as a stand-alone philosophy on life.

Atheism is nothing new. Simple atheism has been around probably as long as simple religion has been around. But New Atheism is something different. It is a completely reactionary phenomenon.

New Atheism is a reaction to Christianity; it can not exist without Christianity; it carries with it many of the attributes of Christianity.

We can look at three attributes of New Atheism…

  1. Morality — New Atheists are very moral. They want fairness and equality. They care about the under-dog.
  2. Hope for a better future — New Atheists believe that, through natural evolution and social programs, life can and will get better for humanity.
  3. Evangelism — New Atheists believe that all must adopt their worldview in order to “save mankind.”

These three attributes can only be found previously in Christianity (and before that, Judaism). In no other religion will you find the moral concern for people that you find in Christianity. In no other religion will you find the concept of life getting better on a linear timeline. No other religion evangelizes.*

There is a belief that the world drastically changed in the 18th century. To some extent that may be true. But to the New Atheist, the 18th century is when humanity’s eyes were finally opened to the truth. The darkness of the past was swept away by the shining lights of science and reason. For the Christian, the darkness of the world was swept away two thousand years ago with the advent of Jesus Christ.

In the days of Jesus, when a new king came to power, heralds (called euaggelistēs in Greek, or evangelist in English) would proclaim this good news (or euaggelion in Greek) to all the people.** It was good news if you previously supported this king. It might not have been good news if you opposed him. But, if you had opposed him, you were give a chance to turn away (repent) from your previous allegiances and commit your loyalty to the new king.

New Atheists  believe that the event of the euaggelion occurred in the 18th century, and are very frustrated at the fact that not everyone has pledged their allegiance to the new prevailing  order.

With the euaggelion comes a hope for a better future. In Christianity, the belief is that, because Jesus is now king, the world will be restored to a state of purity with freedom, love, and eternal life.

The New Atheists also believe that humanity is progressing to a better existence, and that this will be brought about by our continued evolution, both in the natural sense and the social sense. The problem with this is that there is no reason to believe that humans will evolve into anything better than what we are currently. Suppose some natural disaster happens, limiting the food supply, drastically changing the environment, and only the physically strongest and those who have no problem with killing survive? What would humanity evolve into then? Back to apes?

Most of the world’s religions in the past, and the present, view time as cyclical. Life just keeps on going with no change, around and around forever. Only in Judaism and Christianity will you find a hope for a better future coming to pass on a linear timeline. This idea is now found in New Atheism.

Westerners love Buddhism. They love the peace and the meditation practices and whatnot. But all you have to do is spend some time living in a Buddhist country and you’ll see what it really is. Buddhists suppress emotion, they don’t control it, they suppress it — and as a result, there can be some unexplained, unpredictable violent outbursts. Buddhists do not help the poor. The poor are poor because of karma. They deserve it. To try to relieve them from poverty is to go against karmic fate. This is the morality of Buddhism. Only in Christianity and Judaism will you find a moral duty to help the poor, the under-dog, and the suffering.

New Atheists hold to the very same moral structure that Christians do, they just don’t know where they got it from.

As we can see above, New Atheism is defined by Christianity. All of its main attributes come from Christianity. New Atheism would not have arisen in a Buddhist culture. It is entirely a reaction to Christianity.

Another misconception of New Atheism is the belief that Christianity, and all other religions, are an attempt to explain the natural world, and now that we have science to do that, there’s no reason for anyone to continue to hold on to religion.  But no religious people throughout human history saw their religious beliefs in this way. In fact, not all religions, Buddhism for example, even believe in a creator.

So where did New Atheism come from? As I write above, it came from within Christianity itself. Who were the fathers? It was all those who, while still believing in God, figured that they could explain God with reason. They brought God, who is outside our universe, and pulled Him into our world, into a lab, and tried to study and define Him. They took reason itself off of the foundation of God, gave it its own foundation, and from there began to critique God. That was the birth on New Atheism.

It’s like a man, being born blind, taking the whole visible world, with all its colours, and limiting it to his own confining senses. If he doesn’t know he’s blind, he won’t know he’s doing anything wrong. Taking reason off of the foundation of God is like gouging our own eyes out, and then erasing our memories of anything we once saw.

I, as a Christian, of course cannot help but criticize New Atheism, but there are atheists who do so as well:

The Atheist Delusion by John Gray

The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins by John Gray

Know Nothing: The True History of Atheism by Michael Robbins

* Muslims do not evangelize. The definition of the word implies “good news” and that’s not what Muslims proclaim. Muslims proselytize. Christians proselytize too, but only in conjunction with evangelism.

** The Greek words euaggelion and euaggelistēs both have the prefix eu (pronounced ‘you’) which means “joyful.” The second part of the word, aggelion (pronounced ‘ang-ghelion’) means messenger or message and is where the English word “angel” comes from.

Simply Good News by N.T. Wright (Brief Book Review)

Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It GoodSimply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N.T. Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wright starts off by defining the word gospel (good news) as how it would mean to first century people. For many today the gospel is good advice (believe this and you’ll go to heaven when you die) rather than good news. But, the gospel really is news, and that’s how we should present it.

The good news is that Jesus has become king and He is now restoring the world. He’s not going to whisk us all away to heaven and destroy the world. Jesus started this restoration at the cross and will complete it at the last day. N.T. Wright uses an example of a Roman emperor defeating his enemy and taking power. The news of this would be good to all who support this emperor, and they would be happy to hear that he was now in charge. But first, the emperor would have to consolidate his power before taking his throne. So, the good news of his coming to power would include both something that had happened (the defeat of his enemy) and something that would happen (his coming full rule).

We today are living in that between time. Jesus defeated sin and death at the cross, and now His enemies are being put under His feet, and He will one day come and complete the work He has begun of building His kingdom on earth.

Wright also discusses misunderstood concepts people have today about God (and His anger), sin, hell, eschatology, atonement, creation, covenant, rationalism, and romanticism.

I highly recommend this one.

An excerpt…

Most people who regard the statement that Jesus died in your place as the center of the gospel place this truth, this beautiful fragment, into a larger story that goes like this. There is a God, and this God is angry with humans because of their sin. This God has the right, the duty, and the desire to punish us all. If we did but know it, we are all heading for an eternal torment in hell. But this angry God has decided to vent his fury on someone else instead — someone who happens to be completely innocent. Indeed, it is his very own son! His wrath is therefore quenched, and we no longer face that terrible destiny. All we have to do is believe this story and we will be safe. That is the reconstructed scene offered in many churches, sermons, and books. It is not completely wrong. But as it stands, it is deeply misleading. It distorts the very thing it is trying to frame. It takes the truth that Jesus died in your place and puts it in the wrong context. It does indeed make some sense there. But this is not the same sense that it would make if you put it the right context. This, in anyone’s account, is near the heart of what the early Christians meant by the good news. Since it is also, clearly, near the heart of what many Christians today understand by the good news, it is important that we sort this out.
~Page 68 or Location 976 (Kindle)

* You can take an online course on this book taught by N.T. Wright for (I think) $29USD.
Click here for that.

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Morality Wars

Within Buddhism there is a thing called Karma. Karma is based on good or bad deeds which then translates to future happiness or future suffering. If you build up bad Karma in this life you will pay for it with suffering in the next life. If you build up good Karma you will be rewarded. This system is the framework for Buddhist morality.

Christian morality is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Because He first loved me, I must love others. Because He has forgiven me, I must forgive others. Because He stripped Himself of His power to come save poor humans, I must work to help the poor.

A Buddhist will be reluctant to help the poor. The poor person may be paying for something horrible he did in a past life, and if someone were to alleviate his suffering, that someone would be going against the Karma system and will put her own future happiness at risk. “Live and let live” is the Buddhist moral standard. This actually creates a kind of tolerance that many western Humanists would be envious of. But where the Buddhist would be tolerant of something like homosexual lifestyles, a tolerance which would be celebrated by the Humanist, the Buddhist would also be tolerant of allowing the poor to stay poor, a tolerance which the Humanist would rail against. This is because Humanist morality is a bastardized version of Christian and anti-Christian values.

I remember telling someone how I was helping poor children in Cambodia to get a proper education. She thought that was wonderful. But then her face dropped and she asked if I was also teaching the people about Christianity. “You’re not trying to convert them are you? Don’t they already have their own religion?”

Sigh. So your morality praises me for helping poor children, but then, that same morality scolds me for opposing a religion (Buddhism) which has a moral system that actually prevents Cambodians from helping their own poor children? But to her, her thinking was completely logical, and that is because she has no idea where her Humanist morality comes from.

Humanism is doomed. So what will be the next moral battle fought in the western world? Nihilism versus Humanism? Islam versus Humanism?

Will Christians wake up to the fact that Christendom fell a long time ago and join the fight?

Atheism is Not a Religion, But…

Atheism is not a religion, but it is a world-view, and as a world-view it takes on many of the attributes of religion.

1) Seeking Converts

Atheists want everyone to believe as they do and are continuously trying to convert people to their world-view. If you don’t agree, think of Bill Maher, the late Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, that guy with the bow-tie who does kid’s shows, and all the guys on Youtube.

2) Controlling Politics

Atheists want their people in office to create policies which favour the atheistic world-view.

3) Punishing the Heretics

If you are not an atheist, you are not welcome in their society.

4) Preaching Salvation

Salvation comes through atheistic/humanistic moralism and science.

Religious people and atheists do all these things alike. This is why people will say that atheism is a religion. Sure, atheists don’t worship a super-natural being, but they do worship something. We all worship something.

Facing Darker Days

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One thing that western Christians need to remember is that the Christian Church does not revolve around the western world. And so, if it appears that the Church is “dying” in the west, that certainly does not mean it is dying worldwide. In fact, the Church is growing worldwide.

But is the Church really dying in the west? Or is this some kind of publicity stunt?

Something that is indeed happening in the west is that the secular and political realms are no longer paying homage to the Church. The “new atheism” we see these days does not just want to deny God’s existence, but it wants to tear down all Christian power in society. And this does seem to be happening; the Church has been and is losing power in the secular and political spheres.

But dying? Well I guess that depends on whether or not people are really getting saved and are joining churches. The numbers of those calling themselves Christian may be down, but how reliable are those numbers anyways? Ten years ago, if a surveyor went to any given house and asked what religion the home’s dweller belongs to, they’d probably get a response like, “Well, I grew up in a Catholic family, so I guess I’m Christian.” Yet the person hasn’t set foot in a church for 25 years. These days I think people are more inclined to be honest and say they are non-religious. They no longer feel the need to show some kind of respectful acknowledgment of religious tradition.

So perhaps the Church is not dying, but rather, with the loss of the Church’s political power, we are just seeing more honesty and realism. This is a good thing. The Church thrived in a hostile Roman Empire. No one dared to pretend to be Christian for personal gain. Nor did anyone sleepily pay tribute to the faith out of some obligation to tradition. Lines were clearly drawn, and no one could be a “casual believer”.

So, as the Church loses religious control over society, no one should lament that the end is near. The Church’s true influence will grow as its false religious and political clout dwindles.

photo credit: “A Letter From Pastor Mark”