Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Beginning of the Argument

In this, at times, moving video Peter Hitchens talks about the motivation for writing his new book, Rage Against God: How Atheism Led me to Belief (see post below, Monday March 15th 2010).

According to Hitchens it was 'atheism', which he describes as 'the beginning of the argument', that led him to faith. He talks about why he changed his mind and how his brother Christopher Hitchens' atheism was a major motivating force in writing this book. As a young atheist and 'revolutionary socialist', reporting around the world in his capacity as a journalist, Peter Hitchens witnessed at first hand the hostility of totalitarian regimes to belief in God and the dangers posed by atheist attempts (both old and new) to drive God from the world.

Hitchens also talks about some of the other influences in his life and recalls the moment his consciousness was raised by seeing Van der Weyden's startling depiction of The last Judgement. It was then that he realised for the first time that his life, like everyone else's, would be judged.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The ungrateful atheist

We have been told (and keep being told) that belief in God is old fashioned, outmoded, on the wane etc, but even a brief look at the figures disputes this. In the middle of the eleventh century it has been estimated that there were around eighty million Christians in the world. Today the number of Christian believers in the world is thought to be more than two billion and is on the increase (to say nothing of Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists). Novak suggests that this may be one of the reasons why atheists hate religion, why they are so angry with believers: there are just so many of them.

It appears that the default position of humanity is belief in God. Indeed it seems one has to work quite hard at non-belief. As Sartre noted on observing a sunset, one's natural inclination is to thank someone (God) for it. But who can the atheist be grateful to? He can hardly give thanks to God. Maybe this points to another deeper reason for the atheists fury, beyond a mere frustration at being outnumbered, an inability (or unwillingness) to express gratitude or give thanks for what has been received. Perhaps it is true that as Scruton suggests, 'gratitude is the precondition of joy. Only those who give thanks are able to rejoice, for only they are conscious that life, freedom and well-being are not rights but gifts'.

Michael Novak, No one sees God: The dark night of Atheists and Believers, New York 2008, p.177.
Roger Scruton, Gentle Regrets: Thoughts from a Life, London 2005, p.238.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dawkins on Anselm

Dawkins approach of ridiculing rather than addressing serious philosophical arguments and concerns is becoming more than a little tiresome to serious scholars. Here is what Ian Logan, an Oxford Anselm scholar, has to say about Dawkins' treatment of Anselm's famous philosophical argument to prove the existence of God.

'In the process of writing my book on the Proslogion, I came across hundreds of accounts of Anselm's argument, some more flawed than others, to the most serious and influential of which I tried to respond. Nothing, however, comes close to Dawkins' account in terms of sheer stupidity.'

It seems that Dawkins has failed to heed Anthony Flew's advice that in order to be taken seriously as an academic one should present one's opponents' arguments in their strongest form. Perhaps Dawkins is afraid that if he presents his opponents' arguments thus he will be unable to refute them?

Monday, March 15, 2010

From atheism to belief in God

Peter Hitchens has a new book out today called Rage against God which, according to the publisher, is 'an autobiographical and spiritual journey from atheism to faith in God through the power of reasoning'. In this article Peter Hitchens describes how his generation thought they 'had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels and Heaven. We had modern medicine, penicillin, jet engines, the Welfare State, the United Nations and 'science', which explained everything that needed to be explained.' Hitchens later came to see the poverty of this vision, and the inadequacies and dangers of atheism led him to eventually reject it as a worldview and embrace belief in God. In this article he also discusses the lifelong rivalry between him and his brother, Christopher, and, interestingly, his brother's failure to acknowledge, let alone address, the problems with atheism.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why is there something rather than nothing?

'Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe? Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Or does it need a creator, and, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe? And who created him?'

(Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, London 1988, p.174.)

Stephen Hawking is a scientist who recognises there is a distinction between questions which ask what exists in the universe and those that concern why the universe exists, even if his subsequent, and notorious, comment about knowing the mind of God is forgetful of this.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Atheists and Fairytales

At a literary conference in Oxford ten years ago Philip Pullman, talking about the final book in his well known children's trilogy in which God dies, said: 'We're used to the Kingdom of Heaven; but you can tell from the genera thrust of the book that I'm of the devil's party, like Milton. And I think it's time we thought about a republic of Heaven instead of the Kingdom of Heaven. The King is dead. That's to say I believe the King is dead. I'm an atheist.'

However, all this blatant atheistic propaganda didn't go down too well in the United States where they still care about the messages their children receive. And, in spite of Pullman's hypocritical attempts to conceal his atheistic message, The Golden Compass flopped at the American box office in 2007 and plans to complete the trilogy were dropped by the film studio.

This month Pullman is again talking in Oxford about another book which he is promoting at the Oxford Literary Festival. An atheist of long standing and as far as I know not a New Testament scholar, Pullman has written a book on Christ. According to Pullman his new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is part novel, part history and part fairy tale. This sort of thing, of course, has never been done before! Do I detect a slight whiff of desperation?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pursuing The Truth

Contrary to persistent atheist rumours, Antony Flew has not backtracked on his commitment to theism, though, as he himself freely admits in this BBC interview, he has not reached a finally settled position. It seems that any degree of uncertainty in the pursuit of truth is anathema to atheists who mistake openness to enquiry as a sign of weakness, rather than strength.