Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Rejecting Christian theism because it’s just too much work

On J Warner Wallace’s Please Convince Me site, I saw that Al Serrato was discussing the possibility of eternal life with an atheist, and I thought some of her response were very helpful to understand why some people are atheists.

Al asks whether it is worth her time to investigate the God question.

She replies:

No, I don’t think it’s worth my investigation. I also don’t think I should spend my time investigating UFO’s, zombies, or Big Foot. I hate things that require lots of time and thought where you are virtually guaranteed not to accomplish anything or get a definitive answer.

Al asks her why she is coming to conclusions before examining the evidence.

She replies:

“Well,” she said, “you are assuming people meet god; that’s a pretty big leap too. Who do you know who has met him? And I think most believers do so blindly; I don’t believe most of those people do any scholarly inquiry and draw conclusions based on evidence. They believe what they raised on, like me, or what they want to believe.

That’s the genetic fallacy, discredit a belief because of the origin of that belief, instead of whether the belief is true or false.

Al then writes this:

“The fact that people believe what they were raised to believe,” I countered, “does not amount to a real argument. It’s a variant of the genetic fallacy. You’re trying to prove why believers might be wrong – they just were raised that way – without first proving that they are wrong. So, if I told you that I believed the earth was flat, and I was raised that way, you wouldn’t just shrug your shoulders and say I’m entitled to that belief. You would show me evidence that the earth is round and expect me to use reason to conform my view to the evidence. If I told you that you were entitled to that belief but you just believed it because you were raised by some round earthers and you never saw the whole earth so you couldn’t really know, then… you’d start to see how I feel.”

“One last analogy. Let’s say this was 50 years ago, and when I saw you, you were chain smoking cigarettes with your kids always nearby. I know where medical science is headed, so I tell you that you are hurting yourself, and your kids. You respond that no one can really know those things; after all, you can point to doctors who advertise cigarettes and smoke them themselves, and you feel fine when you smoke. I point to other doctors who think that its really bad for you. You respond, ‘see, it’s a tie, so stop bothering me. Each believes what they were raised to believe. Plus, other things can kill me too, so why should I worry about cigarettes? Or, maybe you say that even if I am right, you’ll be one of the lucky ones who won’t be hurt by it.

Do you see that the conflict between the doctors should not lead you to conclude that neither is right, or that the answer is not knowable? As a friend, should I keep trying to bring you back to the truth about cigarettes, or should I let you persist in believing something that is, in the end, hurting you and your loved ones?”

And here is her response:

Have you ever noticed how so many things are bad/wrong only at certain points in a cycle? Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs; give your kids soy, soy is bad; babies should sleep on their backs, no their stomachs, no their sides, no their backs etc., etc. When my daughter was born I would put her on her back to sleep and when I left the room my mother would put her on her side and when my mother left the room my grandmother would put her on her stomach. Over time the answer comes full circle. Why go around and around with it? What I am saying is not just throw up your hands and quit; what I am saying is that I do what feels right to me and that is the best I can do. Sometimes I listen to friends (and doctors) and sometimes I don’t. I think the ‘answer’ to many of these things is unknowable. At one time it would have been totally unacceptable to all of society for a mother to work and put a child in daycare 10 hours a day. Now, 10 hours of daycare is the norm. I get that most people think that daycare schedule is fine, but I don’t. I make up my own mind by doing what feels right. Have you ever considered that the answer doesn’t matter? Maybe the search is the whole point and maybe I am done already and you’re just slow.

I don’t think you can prove God like you can prove that the world is round. To prove the world was really round and have everyone believe, we needed real-time pictures from space. Bring me a picture of god and we’ll talk.”

Al then replies to her.

So what do we get from this? Well, here are the five reasons she gave. 1) she knows in advance, before investigating, that there is no definitive answer to the question of whether God exists, 2) people believe what they are raised to believe and want to believe, including her, so your beliefs aren’t under the control of evidence anyway, 3) facts change all the time so it’s pointless to try reasoning about what is true on the basis of what the facts are today – so I don’t really care what anyone in authority says since they all change their minds the next day anyway, 4) I don’t think anyone can construct an argument for God’s existence based on evidence, 5) the burden of proof is on others to show me the evidence for God, I don’t have to look into myself, my job is to do what feels right to me, and I don’t conduct any inquiries into the evidence that might override what feels right to me.

How can you know in advance of inquiry that there is no definitive answer? You can only assume that there is no definitive answer, since you admit that you haven’t looked into it yourself. And this person seems to have made the decision without evidence that there is no definite answer, and that looking into it is not worth her time and effort. What I am trying to emphasize is that those are decisions. And you can be held responsible for making decisions. Notice how she is able to get around the authority of someone who talks about the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, just by saying that expert opinions change all the time, so no expert has to be listened to, (unless it feels right to her). In fact, she is not even aware of these arguments, but she has already pre-judged them as less authoritative than her feelings.

So often, we Christians get caught in the trap of judging atheists based on whether they do good deeds, by which we mean, they make other people feel good – they are nice. We neglect to ask whether they are being good to God - by puzzling about his existence and character, and by regularly dialoging with believers to see if they might not be mistaken. Heaven is for people who desire God, and who spend time studying the evidence so that they can make an informed decision about his existence and character. Heaven is not for people who are content doing what feels right to them without any desire to know what God thinks about it, because they just don’t think his existence and character is important at all. To me this is just another way of saying, I want to do what feels good and learning that there is another person there might override my right to do what feels good, so I don’t want to know whether there is another person there.

When you see atheists like Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens get that deer in the headlights look the first time they hear William Lane Craig’s arguments in a debate, and his citing of peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support his premises, it becomes immediately clear that these people are not atheists because they know God doesn’t exist, but because they don’t want God to exist. And avoiding the arguments for Christian theism is an important part of keeping God, and his moral demands on us, at a safe distance.

What does the Bible say? Look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I think that the first part of loving God if you are not sure he is there is to have an open mind about his existence and character, and a willingness to re-prioritize your life in case he is there and has a personality different from yours. People have a rational obligation to conduct an inquiry without pre-judging what the outcome will be. If God exists and Jesus rose from the dead, then people ought to care what Jesus thought about things.

I think that non-Christians understand what Christianity would require of them if it were true – radical abandonment to God’s calling on their lives. And they turn away from investigating the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus precisely in order to keep their freedom to do what they feel is right, without having to care about conforming their will to an objective state of affairs where there is another person there that they have to care about. Whatever guilty feelings they have for doing this can be dealt with by adopting a new moral standard, maybe involving recycling, vegetarianism, animal rights activism and yoga. Whatever it takes to make the people around them call them “good”, so that they feel good. Do what feels right, don’t worry about what is true – that’s too much work and we don’t want to find out anything that’s going to take away our ability to do what feels right – to us.

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

Rejecting Christian theism because it’s just too much work

On J Warner Wallace’s Please Convince Me site, I saw that Al Serrato was discussing the possibility of eternal life with an atheist, and I thought some of her response were very helpful to understand why some people are atheists.

Al asks whether it is worth her time to investigate the God question.

She replies:

No, I don’t think it’s worth my investigation. I also don’t think I should spend my time investigating UFO’s, zombies, or Big Foot. I hate things that require lots of time and thought where you are virtually guaranteed not to accomplish anything or get a definitive answer.

Al asks her why she is coming to conclusions before examining the evidence.

She replies:

“Well,” she said, “you are assuming people meet god; that’s a pretty big leap too. Who do you know who has met him? And I think most believers do so blindly; I don’t believe most of those people do any scholarly inquiry and draw conclusions based on evidence. They believe what they raised on, like me, or what they want to believe.

That’s the genetic fallacy, discredit a belief because of the origin of that belief, instead of whether the belief is true or false.

Al then writes this:

“The fact that people believe what they were raised to believe,” I countered, “does not amount to a real argument. It’s a variant of the genetic fallacy. You’re trying to prove why believers might be wrong – they just were raised that way – without first proving that they are wrong. So, if I told you that I believed the earth was flat, and I was raised that way, you wouldn’t just shrug your shoulders and say I’m entitled to that belief. You would show me evidence that the earth is round and expect me to use reason to conform my view to the evidence. If I told you that you were entitled to that belief but you just believed it because you were raised by some round earthers and you never saw the whole earth so you couldn’t really know, then… you’d start to see how I feel.”

“One last analogy. Let’s say this was 50 years ago, and when I saw you, you were chain smoking cigarettes with your kids always nearby. I know where medical science is headed, so I tell you that you are hurting yourself, and your kids. You respond that no one can really know those things; after all, you can point to doctors who advertise cigarettes and smoke them themselves, and you feel fine when you smoke. I point to other doctors who think that its really bad for you. You respond, ‘see, it’s a tie, so stop bothering me. Each believes what they were raised to believe. Plus, other things can kill me too, so why should I worry about cigarettes? Or, maybe you say that even if I am right, you’ll be one of the lucky ones who won’t be hurt by it.

Do you see that the conflict between the doctors should not lead you to conclude that neither is right, or that the answer is not knowable? As a friend, should I keep trying to bring you back to the truth about cigarettes, or should I let you persist in believing something that is, in the end, hurting you and your loved ones?”

And here is her response:

Have you ever noticed how so many things are bad/wrong only at certain points in a cycle? Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs; give your kids soy, soy is bad; babies should sleep on their backs, no their stomachs, no their sides, no their backs etc., etc. When my daughter was born I would put her on her back to sleep and when I left the room my mother would put her on her side and when my mother left the room my grandmother would put her on her stomach. Over time the answer comes full circle. Why go around and around with it? What I am saying is not just throw up your hands and quit; what I am saying is that I do what feels right to me and that is the best I can do. Sometimes I listen to friends (and doctors) and sometimes I don’t. I think the ‘answer’ to many of these things is unknowable. At one time it would have been totally unacceptable to all of society for a mother to work and put a child in daycare 10 hours a day. Now, 10 hours of daycare is the norm. I get that most people think that daycare schedule is fine, but I don’t. I make up my own mind by doing what feels right. Have you ever considered that the answer doesn’t matter? Maybe the search is the whole point and maybe I am done already and you’re just slow.

I don’t think you can prove God like you can prove that the world is round. To prove the world was really round and have everyone believe, we needed real-time pictures from space. Bring me a picture of god and we’ll talk.”

Al then replies to her.

So what do we get from this? Well, here are the five reasons she gave. 1) she knows in advance, before investigating, that there is no definitive answer to the question of whether God exists, 2) people believe what they are raised to believe and want to believe, including her, so your beliefs aren’t under the control of evidence anyway, 3) facts change all the time so it’s pointless to try reasoning about what is true on the basis of what the facts are today – so I don’t really care what anyone in authority says since they all change their minds the next day anyway, 4) I don’t think anyone can construct an argument for God’s existence based on evidence, 5) the burden of proof is on others to show me the evidence for God, I don’t have to look into myself, my job is to do what feels right to me, and I don’t conduct any inquiries into the evidence that might override what feels right to me.

How can you know in advance of inquiry that there is no definitive answer? You can only assume that there is no definitive answer, since you admit that you haven’t looked into it yourself. And this person seems to have made the decision without evidence that there is no definite answer, and that looking into it is not worth her time and effort. What I am trying to emphasize is that those are decisions. And you can be held responsible for making decisions. Notice how she is able to get around the authority of someone who talks about the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, just by saying that expert opinions change all the time, so no expert has to be listened to, (unless it feels right to her). In fact, she is not even aware of these arguments, but she has already pre-judged them as less authoritative than her feelings.

So often, we Christians get caught in the trap of judging atheists based on whether they do good deeds, by which we mean, they make other people feel good – they are nice. We neglect to ask whether they are being good to God - by puzzling about his existence and character, and by regularly dialoging with believers to see if they might not be mistaken. Heaven is for people who desire God, and who spend time studying the evidence so that they can make an informed decision about his existence and character. Heaven is not for people who are content doing what feels right to them without any desire to know what God thinks about it, because they just don’t think his existence and character is important at all. To me this is just another way of saying, I want to do what feels good and learning that there is another person there might override my right to do what feels good, so I don’t want to know whether there is another person there.

When you see atheists like Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens get that deer in the headlights look the first time they hear William Lane Craig’s arguments in a debate, and his citing of peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support his premises, it becomes immediately clear that these people are not atheists because they know God doesn’t exist, but because they don’t want God to exist. And avoiding the arguments for Christian theism is an important part of keeping God, and his moral demands on us, at a safe distance.

What does the Bible say? Look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I think that the first part of loving God if you are not sure he is there is to have an open mind about his existence and character, and a willingness to re-prioritize your life in case he is there and has a personality different from yours. People have a rational obligation to conduct an inquiry without pre-judging what the outcome will be. If God exists and Jesus rose from the dead, then people ought to care what Jesus thought about things.

I think that non-Christians understand what Christianity would require of them if it were true – radical abandonment to God’s calling on their lives. And they turn away from investigating the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus precisely in order to keep their freedom to do what they feel is right, without having to care about conforming their will to an objective state of affairs where there is another person there that they have to care about. Whatever guilty feelings they have for doing this can be dealt with by adopting a new moral standard, maybe involving recycling, vegetarianism, animal rights activism and yoga. Whatever it takes to make the people around them call them “good”, so that they feel good. Do what feels right, don’t worry about what is true – that’s too much work and we don’t want to find out anything that’s going to take away our ability to do what feels right – to us.

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

A look at how a former skeptic changed his mind about God’s existence

Reformed Seth sent me this post from the ultimate object blog.

Excerpt:

“There has been some confusion and more than a few requests for explanation about what is going on with my core beliefs. Some time last week, I realized that I could no longer call myself a skeptic. After fifteen years away from Christianity, most of which was spent as an atheist with an active, busy intent on destroying the faith, I returned to a church (with a real intention of going for worship) last Sunday. Although I know I may struggle with doubt for the rest of my life, my life as an atheist is over.

The primary motivator in my change of heart from a Christ-hater to a card-carrying Disciples of Christ member was apologetic arguments for God’s existence. Those interested in these arguments may pursue them in the comments section, but I don’t want to muddle this explanation up with formal philosophical proofs. Briefly, I grew tired of the lack of explanation for: the existence of the universe, moral values and duties, objective human worth, consciousness and will, and many other topics. The only valid foundation for many of those ideas is a personal, immaterial, unchanging and unchangeable entity. As I fought so desperately  to come up with refutations of these arguments – even going out of my way to personally meet many of their originators, defenders, and opponents  – I realized that I could not answer them no matter how many long nights I spent hitting the books. The months of study rolled on to years, and eventually I found an increasing comfort around my God-believing enemies and a growing discontent and even anger at my atheist friends’ inability to kill off these fleas in debate and in writing, an anger that gave birth to my first feeling of separateness from skepticism after reading comments related to a definitively refuted version of the Christ Myth theory, the idea that Jesus Christ never even existed as a person at all. Line after line after line of people hating Christianity and laughing at its “lie,” when solid scholarship refuting their idea was ignored completely. It showed that the motive of bashing and hating Christianity for some skeptics wasn’t based in reason and “free thinking” at all, although it would be unfair to lump many of my more intellectually rigorous and mentally cool skeptic friends in this way.

As time went on, I reverted the path I traced after giving up Christianity so long ago: I went from atheist to agnostic to … gulp … *leaning* in the direction of God, to finally accepting that he very well could exist, and then to coming out and admitting (quietly) He did exist. After considering Deism (the belief in a God who abandons His creation), Islam, Hinduism (yes, Krishna, don’t laugh), Baha’i, and even Jainism briefly, I have decided to select Christianity due to its superior model for human evil and its reconciliation, coupled with the belief that God interacted with man directly and face-to-face and had *the* crucial role in this reconciliation. This, of course, doesn’t prove that Christianity is absolutely true (although I can prove that God exists), but rather reflects my recognition that Christianity is exactly what I would expect to be the case given that God exists.

I feel guilty when I read posts like that… I think to myself “you shouldn’t be so mean to people who disagree with you, maybe they are like this guy – honestly thinking things through and willing to change their minds”. Sigh. I feel so guilty right now.

I really like what he had to say about reconciliation, though. I feel the pressure to reconcile people to God through Christ’s offer of forgiveness – that’s why I work so hard on apologetics, and to have money to buy people things they need for their studying. To really get people to be reconciled, you have to be convincing. You have to be persuasive. And you can’t do that without having studied the arguments and the evidence.

I also agree with him about the reconciliation. The resurrection is a good argument, but it’s inductive – it’s the best explanation based on the historical bedrock that we have. But what clinches the case for Christianity in the end is Christ descending from his glory to suffer with us – and for us, too.

In case any of you haven’t read my testimony, it’s right here.

Seth also found evidence that this guy really was a skeptic before. (That link goes to John Loftus’ “Debunking Christianity” web site)

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

Contrasting the moral motivations of Christians and humanists

First, consider this article from the LA Times, about a South Korean pastor who takes in abandoned, disabled children.

Excerpt:

In a country that prizes physical perfection, Pastor Lee Jong-rak, his eyes opened after caring for his own disabled son, has been taking in unwanted infants, who if not for his drop box would be left in the street.

The drop box is attached to the side of a home in a ragged working-class neighborhood. It is lined with a soft pink and blue blanket, and has a bell that rings when the little door is opened.

Because this depository isn’t for books, it’s for babies — and not just any infants; these children are the unwanted ones, a burden many parents find too terrible to bear.

One is deaf, blind and paralyzed; another has a tiny misshapen head. There’s a baby with Down syndrome, another with cerebral palsy, still another who is quadriplegic, with permanent brain damage.

But to Pastor Lee Jong-rak, they are all perfect. And they have found a home here at the ad hoc orphanage he runs with his wife and small staff. It is the only private center for disabled children in South Korea.

“This is a facility for the protection of life,” reads a hand-scrawled sign outside the drop box. “If you can’t take care of your disabled babies, don’t throw them away or leave them on the street. Bring them here.”

Since 1998, Lee, now 57, has taken in nearly three dozen children — raised them, loved them, sent them to school. He has changed their diapers, tended to their cries in the middle of the night. Today, he has 21 wards: the youngest a 2-month-old, the oldest 18.

His motivation is painfully personal. Twenty-five years ago, Lee’s wife, Chun-ja, gave birth to a baby so disfigured Lee kept the boy from her for a month until he could figure out a way to tell her the unthinkable, explaining only that the child had a serious illness and was rushed to another hospital.

The baby was born with cerebral palsy. A mammoth cyst on his head choked off the blood flow, slowly rendering him brain-damaged. Doctors gave him months to live.

Today he lies on a bed in Lee’s home, his legs splayed at impossible angles, his feet turned back inward. Eyeing the room impassively, he occasionally lets out a snort or sigh, as his parents regularly vacuum his saliva through a tracheal hole in his throat. They call him Eun-man, which means full of God’s grace.

Let’s take a closer look at what counts as morality in a Christian worldview.

Christianity and self-sacrificial personal morality

Well, first of all, the moral activity is proceeding from a true worldview. The worldview of Christian theism is grounded on facts. A scientific case can be made for the existence of God, from the origin of the universe, the cosmic fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, habitability and so forth. Second that case can be augmented by philosophical arguments like the ontological argument from reason, the epistemological argument from evil, the moral argument, and so forth. And finally, a historical argument can be made made for the resurrection of Jesus, which shows the self-sacrificial and loving character of God.

Most importantly, the Christian worldview holds that our happiness is not the purpose of life. The purpose of life is to be rightly related to God the Father, and that this knowing God can involve some self-sacrificial suffering. The purpose of life is not for us to feel happy, to be liked by others, or to be concerned about equalizing the distributions of material possessions through government. What is required of Christians is that they sacrifice their own interests on an individual basis and help their neighbors personally, etc. There is little mention of accomplishing good through government, the emphasis is all on personal morality. Any earning, saving and spending that we do is expected to be partly for the goal of helping others directly. We don’t concern ourselves with the decisions that others are making with respect to earning, saving and spending. We don’t care about how rich or poor someone is. We just care about our own ability to earn, save and spend – with the goal of making all of it serve God.

Additionally, we are commanded to give reasons for what we believe, based on good science, good philosophy and good history.

Morality on secular humanism

Now let’s contrast that outward-focused example of good behavior, based on a true worldview, with the “morality” of secular humanism. This article written by Rick Heller, from The Humanist.

Excerpt:

If solving the climate change problem were as simple as handing out light bulbs, we’d be all set. This April, three dozen humanists paired up like Mormon missionaries and rang doorbells in Cambridge, Massachusetts—but not to spread a message of faith. Instead, they gave away free energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs to residents who surrendered their old-fashioned incandescent bulbs in exchange. Coming at the conclusion of the American Humanist Association’s 2011 conference, this community service project collected a couple hundred energy-hogging bulbs for reuse in children’s crafts projects.

Technological improvements such as better light bulbs are part of the solution to the climate problem. But events like the 2010 BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico and the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex make it hard to place all one’s faith in large-scale engineering projects. Furthermore, Boston College economist Juliet Schor warns that the growth in consumption has been outpacing efficiency improvements. “We get more efficient, but that makes people want to buy more energy, because it’s effectively cheaper,” she told me. “So you have to control the demand.”

But people typically don’t want less; they want more. That may be why some even deny the reality of climate change. What if we could offer the prospect of more satisfaction, but in a different form that was less damaging to the planet? People could have more of what they really want—to feel good—while purchasing fewer things that depend on atmosphere-polluting industries.

First, what is the basis for action in secular humanism? Well, in secular humanism, the universe is an accident, and there is no objective meaning or purpose to the universe as a whole. There is no objective moral law that specifies what humans ought to do in secular humanism. Inalienable human rights are also not grounded because there is no Creator to ground them. However, people have happy feelings, so the humanists have decided that we should maximize happy feelings and call that “morality”. (It’s not clear to me how this would not be competitive, since what makes you happy may not make me happy). Humanists act to maximize their own happiness. (And really, by happiness, I mean self-indulgence, as opposed to the Christian sense of happiness which is more like eudaimonia). Humanists are not acting on the motives of the South Korean pastor to comply with an objective moral standard by serving God self-sacrificially or by imitating Christ’s suffering and obedience.

The global  warming myth as a noble lie

Rick appeals to global warming as a reason why we should constrain our consumption. I agree that people should reduce their consumption voluntarily, and I would incentivize that with tax-free savings accounts, etc. But I don’t think that global warming should be used to persuade people to reduce their consumption, because man-made global warming is a false view. The myth of global warming, (which was the myth of global cooling 30 years ago and will become the myth of global cooling 30 years from now), serves two purposes in the secular humanist mythology.

The first purpose of global warming/cooling mythology is to allow people to substitute easy/fake virtues, like recycling for hard/real virtues, like chastity and fidelity. That way, they can be “moral” without having to really deny themselves, especially in sexual areas. Second, the global cooling/warming mythology allows them to draw the wider public into supporting a political program of wealth redistribution and government control. This means that a person can be moral not by giving away their own money to the poor, but by taxing their productive neighbor in order to redistribute that wealth to favored groups. Note that recycling and redistributing wealth are not the same as being self-controlled or being faithful to your wife or taking care of disabled children. It’s not about personal self-denial.

If you want to understand the dangers of pursuing happy feelings instead of self-sacrificial morality, just think of liberal politicians like Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Elliott Spitzer. They will rail and rail about the evil rich  in speeches and receive applause from people who envy the rich and covet their wealth. But then they go out and cheat on their wives in private. They major in redistributive rhetoric but minor in personal sexual morality. Their goal is feelings of happiness – not the obligation to do right when it goes against their self-interest. They feel happy when people applaud them for wanting to take money from one group and give it to another.

They get feelings of happiness from indulging in sinful behavior in private. But there is no self-denial and self-sacrifice in the personal realm, especially on sexual issues. The recycling is meant to provide cover for them to reject traditional moral obligations. The public speeches about wealth redistribution also “balance out” the private vices. That’s why Bill Clinton can still claim to be a good person after cheating on his wife – being willing to redistribute the wealth of others made him a good person, he thinks – and he didn’t have to do anything personally self-sacrificial. 

Is mindfulness the answer?

And this is where we get back to Rick’s article. Rick isn’t advocating easy substitute moralities or wealth redistribution as a path to feelings of happiness.  He is trying to get people to generate happy feelings by themselves by reflecting on the wonders of the things they already own or have access to, like roses and fingers and such. He is very clear that he doesn’t want secular humanists to be grateful to God, though. He just wants them to spend more time acknowledging stimulating things that they’ve been ignoring. He hopes that this will cause them to become less interested in consumption and consumerism, because they appreciate what they already have. He wants them to voluntarily constrain their own material consumption, in order to fight global warming/cooling. So what should Christians make of this?

Well, this would be a good idea, I think, because it might remove a lot of the envy that left-wing politicians tap into in order to lead envious people down the road to serfdom. If non-Christians stop being taken in by flowery speeches about wealth redistribution, then we will all be a lot more free and prosperous. It seems to me that it is a lot less harmful for non-Christians to reduce their guilty feelings through “mindfulness” than by supporting passing price controls, minimum wage increases, carbon taxes, and so forth, as a way to get goodies without having to work for them. I don’t think that it provides a rational basis for morality, but it might provide an emotional basis for resisting socialist rhetoric.

It would also be a good idea for us to encourage non-Christians to stop spending so much money. The massive national debt that we are accumulating will be bad for our future freedom and prosperity. It is also bad for future generations who will be saddled with crushing debt. Charitable enterprises like the South Korean pastor’s drop box operation run on private donations. The more we restrain spending and make people immune to the secular left’s envy rhetoric, the less government will spend, and the more money we Christians will have in our pockets for charity. We need to keep what we earn in order to love God effectively. The government will never sponsor something like a William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens debate. We need to keep more of our own money so that we can fund that debate.

Self-sacrifice as a way of relating to God in Christ

As good as Rick’s idea is, it still doesn’t go as far as Christian morality goes.

Consider what morality is like in the normal Christian life. The normal Christian is always trying to give of his own self and possessions in order to help others – and not because it makes him feel good, but because it really IS objectively good – it is his way of imitating Christ and having a relationship with God based on the experience of acting on God’s value system. It is because we have a Creator and a Designer that we have an obligation to act in a particular way – there is a way we ought to be, in other words.

We don’t need other people to celebrate our speeches to make up for our rebellion and guilt. We don’t need to have “Chastity Pride” marches or “Fidelity Pride” marches or “Taking Care of Disabled Children” marches. We are not trying to feel happy by doing what we do. We already know that what we are doing is good. We don’t need to force people to celebrate our decisions or to make others be like us through public school indoctrination. We get a sense of joy and fulfillment from the relationship with God. It’s not happiness as self-indulgence, it’s human flourishing according to an objective design. We were designed to be in a relationship with God, and that relationship requires enduring suffering, not avoiding it.


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

Wintery Tweets

Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 4,299,700 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,019 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,019 other followers

%d bloggers like this: