Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

If militant atheists formed their own country, what would it look like?

Here is a story about North Korea from the UK Telegraph about a government run by atheists, for atheists.

Excerpt:

Christian missionaries have set up an extraordinary network of front companies – including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, schools and orphanages – in order to spread the Gospel inside North Korea.

For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, a father of three and an American citizen, ran a successful travel company offering tours of North Korea.

But as the 44-year-old passed through the Wonjong border crossing in November 2012, he was suddenly arrested. Convicted of “hostile acts” towards North Korea, he is currently serving 15 years in a labour camp.

What exactly happened remains a mystery. Mr Bae had taken at least 15 other tour groups into North Korea without incident. However, it seems clear that his mission to spread the Christian gospel was at least one major factor that landed him in trouble.

Mr Bae is not alone in using his company, Nations Tour, to evangelise inside North Korea. While precise numbers are impossible to pin down, the network of well-financed front companies, missions operating as businesses, is extensive.

North Korea, the most hostile country in the world to organised religion, has a strong pull for a certain stripe of evangelical Christians, and the 288 sq mile “Special Economic Zone” outside the city of Rason, where Mr Bae was detained, is Ground Zero for these modern apostles.

[...]According to one American who once travelled with Mr Bae, but who asked to remain anonymous, their group was able to carry bibles with them into the zone. Possession of bibles by North Koreans can lead to imprisonment, torture and perhaps even death.

The source said a delicate dance had played out on their arrival, with their bibles being counted by the border guards on their way in and then again when they left to make sure none had been distributed.

At the final inspection, the guards even flipped through each copy to make sure no pages had been ripped out and left behind.

Before arriving at the border, the 15-member group was told by Mr Bae not to discuss politics or carry out any overt proselytising. The two or three pastors travelling with them were not to be addressed by their titles.

Once inside North Korea, they were accompanied by government minders at all times. On group hikes with these “tour guides”, the source said they sang Christian songs, but hummed key verses to avoid saying “God” out loud.

“That was our way of worshipping and praising in our hearts, even if we could not say it,” the source said. “Talking about God directly, that would be asking for a death sentence.”

This is the dream of militant groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation. North Korea has an official state religion of atheism. Is that a factor in their horrible record for human rights? Well, according to the The Black Book of Communism, published by Harvard University Press, over 100 million innocent people were killed in atheistic, communist regimes like North Korea in the last century.

I have been working on a theory about what militant atheists mean when they say that religion causes a lot of wars. My theory is that they are actually talking about themselves. They mean their religion. They are boasting that they are number one at killing innocent people. A person can justify killing very easily if you believe that no one is watching you and no one will hold you accountable when you die for what you’ve done.

Of course there are lots of atheists in the Judeo-Christian West who live more peacefully, because they are living in a background of objective morality and human rights provided by Western religions. But in countries like North Korea, with a state religion that cannot ground free will or objective morality or human rights or judgment after death, there are fewer restraints.

Even here, we have already seen over 50 million unborn children killed since abortion became legal. And I can guarantee you that it’s not authentic Christians who are having these abortions. As a group, atheists tend to be among the most radical in favor of abortion rights. The Secular Census of 2012 found that 97% of atheists vote for abortion.

The idea of the strong killing the weak for pleasure is the law of the jungle, and it’s not surprising to me that those who think that humans are just animals would act this way with vulnerable children. If you only have 80 years to be happy in an accidental universe, then anything goes. No one is there to hold you accountable. If the weak get in your way, kill them all. That’s atheist morality. You don’t have to go to North Korea to see it.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bowdoin College bans Christian student groups on campus

From the radically leftist New York Times. (H/T Nancy P.)

Excerpt:

For 40 years, evangelicals at Bowdoin College have gathered periodically to study the Bible together, to pray and to worship. They are a tiny minority on the liberal arts college campus, but they have been a part of the school’s community, gathering in the chapel, the dining center, the dorms.

After this summer, the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship will no longer be recognized by the college. Already, the college has disabled the electronic key cards of the group’s longtime volunteer advisers.

In a collision between religious freedom and antidiscrimination policies, the student group, and its advisers, have refused to agree to the college’s demand that any student, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, should be able to run for election as a leader of any group, including the Christian association.

Similar conflicts are playing out on a handful of campuses around the country, driven by the universities’ desire to rid their campuses of bias, particularly against gay men and lesbians, but also, in the eyes of evangelicals, fueled by a discomfort in academia with conservative forms of Christianity. The universities have been emboldened to regulate religious groups by a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that found it was constitutional for a public law school in California to deny recognition to a Christian student group that excluded gays.

At Cal State, the nation’s largest university system with nearly 450,000 students on 23 campuses, the chancellor is preparing this summer to withdraw official recognition from evangelical groups that are refusing to pledge not to discriminate on the basis of religion in the selection of their leaders. And at Vanderbilt, more than a dozen groups, most of them evangelical but one of them Catholic, have already lost their official standing over the same issue; one Christian group balked after a university official asked the students to cut the words “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” from their list of qualifications for leadership.

[...]The evangelical groups say they, too, welcome anyone to participate in their activities, including gay men and lesbians, as well as nonbelievers, seekers and adherents of other faiths. But they insist that, in choosing leaders, who often oversee Bible study and prayer services, it is only reasonable that they be allowed to require some basic Christian faith — in most cases, an explicit agreement that Jesus was divine and rose from the dead, and often an implicit expectation that unmarried student leaders, gay or straight, will abstain from sex.

“It would compromise our ability to be who we are as Christians if we can’t hold our leaders to some sort of doctrinal standard,” said Zackary Suhr, 23, who has just graduated from Bowdoin, where he was a leader of the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship.

The consequences for evangelical groups that refuse to agree to the nondiscrimination policies, and therefore lose their official standing, vary by campus. The students can still meet informally on campus, but in most cases their groups lose access to student activity fee money as well as first claim to low-cost or free university spaces for meetings and worship; they also lose access to standard on-campus recruiting tools, such as activities fairs and bulletin boards, and may lose the right to use the universities’ names.

Not sure how you are supposed to have a Christian student group, if the leaders don’t accept the authority of the Bible. But maybe that’s a feature, not a bug, from the point of view of these secular administrators and their allies in the judiciary. The really sad thing about this is that Christian taxpayers are paying these secular authorities to curtail their basic rights. It’s only open season on Bible-believing Christians.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

If militant atheists could form a country, what would it look like?

Nancy Pearcey posted this story about North Korea from the UK Telegraph on Facebook, and I think it’s well worth looking at, because we need to be thinking about how big government impacts our ability to do our jobs as Christians.

Excerpt:

Christian missionaries have set up an extraordinary network of front companies – including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, schools and orphanages – in order to spread the Gospel inside North Korea.

For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, a father of three and an American citizen, ran a successful travel company offering tours of North Korea.

But as the 44-year-old passed through the Wonjong border crossing in November 2012, he was suddenly arrested. Convicted of “hostile acts” towards North Korea, he is currently serving 15 years in a labour camp.

What exactly happened remains a mystery. Mr Bae had taken at least 15 other tour groups into North Korea without incident. However, it seems clear that his mission to spread the Christian gospel was at least one major factor that landed him in trouble.

Mr Bae is not alone in using his company, Nations Tour, to evangelise inside North Korea. While precise numbers are impossible to pin down, the network of well-financed front companies, missions operating as businesses, is extensive.

North Korea, the most hostile country in the world to organised religion, has a strong pull for a certain stripe of evangelical Christians, and the 288 sq mile “Special Economic Zone” outside the city of Rason, where Mr Bae was detained, is Ground Zero for these modern apostles.

[...]According to one American who once travelled with Mr Bae, but who asked to remain anonymous, their group was able to carry bibles with them into the zone. Possession of bibles by North Koreans can lead to imprisonment, torture and perhaps even death.

The source said a delicate dance had played out on their arrival, with their bibles being counted by the border guards on their way in and then again when they left to make sure none had been distributed.

At the final inspection, the guards even flipped through each copy to make sure no pages had been ripped out and left behind.

Before arriving at the border, the 15-member group was told by Mr Bae not to discuss politics or carry out any overt proselytising. The two or three pastors travelling with them were not to be addressed by their titles.

Once inside North Korea, they were accompanied by government minders at all times. On group hikes with these “tour guides”, the source said they sang Christian songs, but hummed key verses to avoid saying “God” out loud.

“That was our way of worshipping and praising in our hearts, even if we could not say it,” the source said. “Talking about God directly, that would be asking for a death sentence.”

North Korea has an official state religion of atheism. Is that a factor in their horrible record for human rights? Well, according to the The Black Book of Communism, published by Harvard University Press, over 100 million innocent people were killed in atheistic, communist regimes like North Korea in the last century.

I have been working on a theory about what militant atheists mean when they say that religion causes a lot of wars. My theory is that they are actually talking about themselves. They mean their religion. They are boasting that they are number one at killing innocent people. A person can justify killing very easily if you believe that no one is watching you and no one will hold you accountable when you die for what you’ve done.

Of course there are lots of atheists in the Judeo-Christian West who live more peacefully, because they are living in a background of objective morality and human rights provided by Western religions. But in countries like North Korea, with a state religion that cannot ground free will or objective morality or human rights or judgment after death, there are fewer restraints.

Even here, we have already seen over 50 million unborn children killed since abortion became legal. And I can guarantee you that it’s not authentic Christians who are having these abortions. As a group, atheists tend to be among the most radical in favor of abortion rights. The Secular Census of 2012 found that 97% of atheists vote for abortion.

The idea of the strong killing the weak for pleasure is the law of the jungle, and it’s not surprising to me that those who think that humans are just animals would act this way with vulnerable children. If you only have 80 years to be happy in an accidental universe, then anything goes. No one is there to hold you accountable. If the weak get in your way, kill them all. That’s atheist morality. You don’t have to go to North Korea to see it.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UK government: Christians do not have right to wear a cross at work

Tom sent me this article from the UK Telegraph.

Excerpt:

Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work, the Government is to argue in a landmark court case.

In a highly significant move, ministers will fight a case at the European Court of Human Rights in which two British women will seek to establish their right to display the cross.

It is the first time that the Government has been forced to state whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the symbol at work.

A document seen by The Sunday Telegraph discloses that ministers will argue that because it is not a “requirement” of the Christian faith, employers can ban the wearing of the cross and sack workers who insist on doing so.

[...]The Government’s refusal to say that Christians have a right to display the symbol of their faith at work emerged after its plans to legalise same-sex marriages were attacked by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.

A poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph shows that the country is split on the issue.

Overall, 45 per cent of voters support moves to allow gay marriage, with 36 per cent against, while 19 per cent say they do not know.

However, the Prime Minister is out of step with his own party.

Exactly half of Conservative voters oppose same-sex marriage in principle and only 35 per cent back it.

There is no public appetite to change the law urgently, with more than three quarters of people polled saying it was wrong to fast-track the plan before 2015 and only 14 per cent saying it was right.

The Strasbourg case hinges on whether human rights laws protect the right to wear a cross or crucifix at work under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The Christian women bringing the case, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the symbols.

They want the European Court to rule that this breached their human right to manifest their religion.

The Government’s official response states that wearing the cross is not a “requirement of the faith” and therefore does not fall under the remit of Article 9.

Lawyers for the two women claim that the Government is setting the bar too high and that “manifesting” religion includes doing things that are not a “requirement of the faith”, and that they are therefore protected by human rights.

They say that Christians are given less protection than members of other religions who have been granted special status for garments or symbols such as the Sikh turban and kara bracelet, or the Muslim hijab.

I think that many of the people in the UK who push for the marginalization of religion from society are probably the same people who decry the decline of moral standards. It is a secularist fantasy that people will act as they ought to act when people think that there is no way that the universe ought to be. The UK is self-destructing because they are cutting themselves off from the ground of morality, and one of the pillars of Western Civilization.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What atheists think about religion and how should Christians respond?

Here’s an article from radically left-wing anti-Christian New York Times that talks about what militant atheists are doing for Christmas in order to annoy Christians. (H/T Mary)

Let’s see what atheists want to say.

Excerpt:

Just in time for the holiday season, Americans are about to be hit with a spate of advertisements promoting the joy and wisdom of atheism.

Four separate and competing national organizations representing various streams of atheists, humanists and freethinkers will soon be spreading their gospel through advertisements on billboards, buses and trains, and in newspapers and magazines.

The latest, announced on Tuesday in Washington, is the first to include spots on television and cable. This campaign juxtaposes particularly primitive — even barbaric — passages from the Bible and the Koran with quotations from nonbelievers and humanists…

[...]Relying on the largess of a few wealthy atheists, these groups are now capable of bankrolling efforts to recruit and organize a population that mostly has been quiet and closeted.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., one of the groups running advertisements, said, “We feel the only way to fight the stigma toward atheists and agnostics is for people to feel like they know them, and they’re your neighbors and your friends. It’s the same idea as the out-of-the-closet campaign for gay rights.”

[...]“We must denounce politicians that contend U.S. law should be based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments,” said Todd Stiefel, a retired pharmaceutical company executive who is underwriting most of the ad campaign that cites alarming Scripture passages. “It has not been based on these and should never be. Our founding fathers created a secular democracy.”

[...] On the confrontational end of the spectrum, American Atheists, which was founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, will just before Thanksgiving put a billboard on the busy approach to the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey heading into New York.

It features a Nativity scene, and the words: “You Know it’s a Myth. This Season Celebrate Reason.”

David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, said that the idea of the campaign is to reach people who might go to church but are just going through the motions. “We’re going after that market share,” he said.

The United Coalition of Reason, a group in Washington, is sponsoring billboards and ads on bus shelters in about 15 cities that say, “Don’t Believe In God? Join the Club.”

The ads by the Freedom From Religion Foundation take a more inviting approach, with big portraits of some famous and some workaday people, listing their hobbies and professions and giving a punchy, personal declaration of independence from religion. The group, which has been running advertisements on and off since 2007, has spent about $55,000 this year to put up 150 billboards in about a dozen cities.

One, featuring Barbara Wright, a restaurateur in Madison, says: “It’s not what you believe, but how you behave.”

Wow! I’m impressed by these one-line catch phrases on billboards! So persuasive and rational! So focused on making propositional claims about the external world! So concerned with reason and evidence, not emotions and community! Such a careful investigation of the facts on both sides! The “Join the Club” argument! The “Celebrate Reason” argument! The “Be Nice If You Feel Like It” argument! Wowie wow wow! I’m impressed.

I note that the atheists are not funding formal debates, because that would require a discussion with two sides, and atheism is not something that performs well when the other side is well-represented. So, flashy sound-bite advertisements are used by atheists to present atheism to the public. It’s not rational, it’s marketing.

So how should Christians respond to this?

One group of Christians thinks that apologetics is the answer to this atheist plan. They think that Christians should learn the good scientific arguments for the existence of God from science (the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, habitability, Cambrian explosion, irreducible complexity, etc.) and the good philosophical arguments (moral argument, defense to the problem of evil, defense to the hiddenness of God, defense to religious pluralism, defense to postmodern skepticism, etc.), and the good historical arguments that don’t ASSUME the inerrancy of the Bible (1 Cor 15, minimal facts, responses to Old Testament violence, etc.).

I think that it is also important to have the money to be able to sponsor debates and conferences, as well. Nothing much would be made known the public unless deep-pocketed Christians were able to sponsor these debates and conferences. So Christians believe in choosing good degrees and getting good jobs and saving money to be able to invest in debates and conferences and such.

That’s one way to combat the sound-bite ads of the new atheists, and their rich backers.

But lately I have been having second thoughts. I talked to some of the Christians in my church, and they recommended alternative solutions to these challenges from the new atheists. They claim that these alternative solutions are superior to apologetics, so I thought I would list some of them out and you can see whether you agree with them or me.

Here they are:

  • the argument from doing yoga
  • the argument from becoming a vegetarian
  • the argument from getting body piercings and tattoos
  • the argument from reading trendy theologians whom non-Christians have never even heard of
  • the argument from reading  fiction like “The Shack”, “The Da Vinci Code” and “Conversations with God”
  • the argument from watching television shows like “American Idol”, “The Amazing Race” and “Lost”
  • the argument from short-term mission trips to Bolivia to take pictures and then tell stories (not like Neil’s)
  • the argument from having emotional experiences by singing about things we don’t know are true
  • the argument from not talking about our beliefs at work because people won’t like us
  • the argument from watching popular movies so many times that you memorize the dialog
  • the argument from listening to popular music so many times that you memorize the lyrics
  • the argument from watching sports teams play so many times that you memorize the rosters
  • the argument from breast enlargement surgery
  • the argument from turning worship into entertainment
  • the argument from telling people that things that are wrong are not really wrong so they like us
  • the argument from reading teenage vampire romance murder mysteries
  • the argument from treating cats as if they were people

And so on.

Anyway, I am not sure whether apologetics or these other church arguments are better. Can anyone help me to decide?

I actually think that William Lane Craig used a new argument in his recent debate in Mexico against Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer. I think he called it the argument from “watching the Home Decorating Network obsessively and creating detailed home renovation projects and decorating your home with expensive tacky crap and then showing it off to your neighbors”. I am not sure if that worked on Dawkins, we have to wait for the video to see what Dawkins’ response was.

Come on people. We can beat atheism like a bongo drum. We just have to be serious about out-thinking them. They have nothing. The only way they win is if we put down our apologetics and amuse ourselves with narcissism and hedonism.

UPDATE: Excellent comments here from Laura (Pursuing Holiness) about the important of good works IN ADDITION TO apologetics. She is a real culture warrior and understands all the connections between Christianity and politics.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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