More religion in foreign policy: what the road to hell is paved with…

Q: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is recommending that the U.S. government develop a strategy to make religion ‘integral’ … Continued

Q: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is recommending that the U.S. government develop a strategy to make religion ‘integral’ to American foreign policy. Should U.S. foreign policy get religion?

I have rarely read a document filled with more destructive premises and recommendations than the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ 99-page report to the White House, “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.” The report’s basic premise–that American foreign policy is characterized by “uncompromising Western secularism” and that secularism fuels religious extremism throughout the world–tells you everything you need to know about the biases of this group. We launched a war in Iraq after President George W. Bush used the word “crusade” and said he had consulted a “Higher Power” before making his decision. This is secularism? A wise secularist would surely have told the president that getting involved in ancient sectarian religious/tribal quarrels might, in the long run, prove to be a very bad idea.

I can heartily endorse just one recommendation of this report–that foreign service officers and other officials dealing with international affairs should be educated to understand more about religion’s impact in various communities throughout the world. Religious literacy is part of cultural literacy and ought to be required of every diplomat. One aspect of this awareness, however, should be a respect for and understanding of the profound secular objections by many government officials in Europe and Asia to the religiosity, both real and perceived, that influences American policy.

Most of the other recommendations are stunning in their naivete. One major suggestion to the White House is that obstacles, real and perceived, “to constructive engagement with religious groups overseas” should be removed. The First Amendment, it seems, is one of those obstacles. The group doesn’t recommend revoking the First Amendment, of course. It simply recommends that U.S. diplomats be disabused of any notion that they are constitutionally prohibited from engaging with religious communities overseas because of the separation of church and state at home. Considering the mischief and outright harm that has resulted from the engagement of American private citizens with religious groups abroad (such as the engagement of right-wing Christian homophobes with homophobic Christian groups in Uganda), one can only shudder at the thought of diplomats being urged to work more closely with religious groups. And exactly how are we to know which sects within religious groups shuld be engaged? Should U.S. diplomats in Israel sit down with ultra-right rabbis who strongly support the expansion of settlements? Or should we offend the right-wingers by meeting with Jewish groups in Israel that consider the settlements a moral disaster? There is a huge difference between being aware of the importance of religious differences in a society and directly engaging with such groups.

Another recommendation is that foreign policy-makers “clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.” Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, one of the leaders of the task force, noted that in some areas of the world–including the Middle East, China, Russia and India–the U.S. government’s emphasis on religious freedom is seen as a form of imperialism–even Christian imperialism. Well, that’s true. The Russian government, while officially secular, is playing footsie with the Russian Orthodox Church and is quite hostile to proselytizers like Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Chinese government doesn’t like it when we support the rights of Tibetan Buddhists. Throughout the Middle East, fundamentalist Muslims see our upholding of universal human rights–such as the rights of women–as an insult to their religion. I am not even sure, after reading the report, what we could possibly say to “clarify” these issues. Should we say that we support women’s rights–but not if this position offends someone else’s religion? Do we or do we not think it’s a good idea to have American missionaries proselytizing in places where any misunderstanding has the potential to set off a major foreign policy crisis? Or should we perhaps tell the rest of the world that while religious liberty is guaranteed by our Constitution, other countries may conduct beheadings for heresy, and we won’t say a word, if their cultural or religious traditions permit such acts?

The role of religion around the world, and in individual nations and regions, is so complicated that I cannot imagine anything good resulting from American diplomats becoming more closely involved with religious communities abroad. How do we know, for example, which group of imams in Nigeria is likely to approve of polio vaccination and which is likely to denounce vaccinations as a Christian-Zionist-imperialist plot?

One thing is clear about this task force: it was anything but impartial. This report was not written by vigorous upholders of the separation of church and state. Many of the people who prepared this unwise set of recommendations are dedicated to the idea that there should be more religious involvement in government at home, so it was entirely predictable that they would recommend that America become more involved with religion abroad. President Obama should deal with this report the way Abraham Lincoln dealt with Protestant ministers who, during the Civil War, asked him to support a Christian amendment to the Constitution that would declare Jesus Christ the source of all governmental power. Lincoln promised to “take such action as my conscience and my duty to my country demand.” His action was to take no action at all.

About

Susan Jacoby Susan Jacoby is the author of "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism"­ and is completing a secular history of religious conversion.
  • justillthennow

    Although I have not read and do not know this report in any intricate way, from what I understand this is in no way analogous to the example of President Lincoln and Protestant ministers seeking to insert an amendment into the Constitution claiming Jesus Christ as source of American governmental power. How is this the same?I agree with Susan that there is a great need for diplomatic literacy regarding foreign religious beliefs and perceptions. After all, if religion informs the minds of your friends or your enemies it would be naive and dangerous to stay ignorant of those beliefs.In a similar way, religion informs a great percentage of the worlds peoples. Right or wrong, wise or ignorant, religion is fundamental to the brains and consciousness of the greater percentage of our allies and enemies. To discount this truth because one considers the beliefs to be false or provincial is far short of astute.When one goes to Italy it serves mightily to speak Italian, and pays dividends. Do we like it when a Frenchman, to use one of our cliche’s, comes to America and insists on speaking in French. The universality of English aside, it is not only a language thing but a respect thing. You gain when you meet someone on their own terms. America, for good or ill, is not seen as a purely secular nation, but as an essentially Christian one, and certainly a Judeo-Christian one, buy the rest of the world. They are not unfamiliar with our history or the leanings of a majority of our current and historical figures. Just look at the recent legacy of GW Bush. Engagement of the American diplomatic community with the religious roots of the worlds governments and, more particularly, their peoples, is wise, not misguided.That is, if we can manage to do so in a wise and responsible way. Now, there is the question.

  • Athena4

    Personally, I think that we have had too much religion in our foreign policy during this decade. Things like supporting Israel vs. the Palestinians, the “crusade” against Al Qaeda (playing right into their hands), denying family planning funding to groups that even say the word “abortion”, etc. are odious. Meanwhile, we have lost the moral high ground because of our use of torture. We need to show the world that the U.S. is a secular democracy, not a budding theocracy. Other countries have had their religious wars. I don’t want a repeat here.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Onofrio, Persiflage,Gee.Regards,Marquessa

  • FarnazMansouri

    Susan,Back atcha.I, personally, would recommend that diplomats talk with the representatives of Vatican Nation to discover why William Cardinal Levada is now no. 2 man in Rome. That would be the Levada, who, as Archbishop of San Francisco, obstructed justice and lied under oath, protecting the largest pedophile priest group then in America, the Salesians, known to law enforcement as “Levada’s boys.”This Levada walked in on a molestation scene, shut the door, and walked out. This Levada lied under oath and tried to destroy the career of the one whistle blower among the Salesians. Said priest won a 750,000 dollar award in a law suit. That amount was the tip of the iceberg. Levada bankrupted the archdiocese just as he had done earlier in Portland for the same reason.For his service to humanity, he was summoned to Rome, where he now oversees pedophile priest complaints worldwide. This Levada is the man to whom disaffected Anglicans will apply.This Levada belongs in an American jail.Diplomats dealing with Vatican Nation ought to coordinate efforts with the UN, where the Vatican has an ambassador, to inquire why Vatican Bank refuses to settle with the victim survivors and survivor heirs of the 200 Franciscan priests who ran concentration camps, tortured and murdered thousands of Serbian Orthodox, Jews, and Roma. These nazi Catholic priests stole what these people had and deposited the loot in Vatican Bank, where is resides.As WaPo reported a few weeks ago, the plaintiffs were, on appeal, denied the right to sue Vatican Bank since the Vatican is a foreign nation. The law suit against the Franciscans will continue. In the meantime, I would like our diplomats and the United Nations to address the matter with the “religious group” known as the Vatican.Finally, I would like our diplomats to inquire of said Vatican why it continues to hide its records from the Nazi era.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Test

  • justillthennow

    Hello Yeal, “A major point in US foreign policy must be finding ways to delete all passages in the Koran that dictate Muslim males should control not only all females but also all the world!!!!!”What an incredibly idiotic blunder that would be! And I hate the patriarchal, d*ck focused system that Qur’anic verse elevates, don’t get me wrong. But the outcome of any attempt by ANYONE, particularly the US government, to change the Qur’an to “our” liking would be crippling. A complete non-starter. This form of self-centered and self-focused masturbation is something that American foreign policy efforts have been highly successful at. Disgusting the world with our arrogance. You clearly would like verses in the Qur’an that are insulting to you to be ‘edited out’. You are not the only one, I am sure, but you are deluded to think it is anything but a subjective wet dream. A billion people follow the worldview espoused by the Qur’an. Better or worse, ’tis the case and so ’tis a deeply personal thing for those billion.Get a realistic dream. Or, be at peace that your dream is utterly unobtainable in this lifetime. Evolution takes time, Yael.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Actually, Susan, George Bush literally stated that it was communicated to him via a divine entity that unless we invaded Iraq, “Gog and magog” would ensue.That aside, other nations already view us as a Christian nation, view our motives as Christian, just as theirs, for instance, are viewed by many of us as “Islamic.” Moreover, this view of those nations is not new.They see us as always having been driven by Christian ideology, attributing our exploitation of third-world nations, and other wretched acts, to that vision. (I wonder how they could have gotten such an idea, as a cast a glance back through time.)Elective affinities….more widesweeping than was ever dreamt of by he who coined the phrase.

  • vicsoir1

    “Heaven” and “Hell” are not hereafter states of being once one is dead. They are present in everyday life. HEAVEN is a state of pleasantness; HELL is a state of unpleasantness. Neither one is eternal unto itself. The HEAVEN or HELL experience encountered every day is contingent on the choice of behavior manifested by good or bad decisions people make daily. It is the consequence of these decisions that ultimately determine which acts are “heavenly” or “hellish.” People inherantly know if they’re in Heaven or Hell as a consequence of their own personal behavior.

  • justillthennow

    Hello Calp, I personally like the general message you were giving in referring to Pope John Paul’s description of the road to hell and heaven as symbolic of our relationship with “God” more than as a place. I do not follow a Christian pathway, though I am open to the essential message and symbolism and incorporate them, in my own way, in life. As to the “misrepresentation” of the separation of church and state, it is clear this is an area of contention. However there is no way that I can fathom any blending of church and state that does not have as it’s product deeper pain, suffering and hardship for most of the populace. There is no religion that serves the needs of even a majority of the people, none that there is no conflict around, and none that allow individual freedom of choice to all. Every religion pursues it’s own agendas even before serving the needs of the people, as all are exclusively based, elitist in essence, and insist that adherence to their dogma is the qualification for loyalty to God and Truth. None readily acknowledge the real truth, that it is loyalty to them that is the determiner of ‘righteousness’, in their own view.To give power of the state to any religious system would be the death of the freedoms and liberties that are central to the power, and viability, of America.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    People should not be given a pass on their religious beliefs, when these beliefs are just an excuse to do horrible things to each other. If it is to be a choice between respect for eccentric religious practices or for simple human dignity, then there really isn’t any choice, now, is there?

  • pgr88

    The Road to Hell is paved with….copies of the Washington PostNo wait, that’s my puppy’s travel cage.Sorry!

  • Telemachus

    Great article in response to a very poor one! The road to He11, as anyone who has been close to the brass gates can tell you, is paved with good intentions. But the straight road away from it is paved with good deeds. One of the more clever, and diabolical phrases pushed by the Reaganites is “No good deed goes unpunished.” Now whose side do you think they’re on? God is real, but looks different from every perspective. Trying to force someone to agree to your narrow perspective is what we call religion. Susan Jacoby had performed her good deed for the week. Thank you!

  • dangeroustalk

    There is breaking news from the Washington Post’s ‘On Faith’ section. Religious people think we need more religion in our foreign policy. This week they ask: Should U.S. foreign policy “get” religion?There is little doubt that we live in a world ravaged by religious mythologies. Almost ever part of the globe features a religious conflict of some sort in which two or more religions are either on the brink of war or in open conflict with each other. Then there are the moral concerns within particular religions such as the Muslim oppression of women, the Hindu cast system, and the Catholic war on contraception. The list goes on quite a bit.You can read the rest of my response to this topic:I will be responding to every issue posted in the ‘On Faith’ section. If you would like to be notified when my new response is up, please subscribe.

  • silencedogoodreturns

    I have rarely read columns filled with more destructive premises and recommendations than Susan Jacoby’s tirades. Such self-loathing and venom in this woman. Sad. Very sad.

  • Schaum

    Silencedogdoo:You want destructive reading? Try the christers bible. I will appeal to your homicidal nature.Come on back to Spirited Atheist. I’d like to introduce you to BobMoses. Like you, he also has a special…uh, need….for a man. You two could, you know, like…help each other out.

  • mokey2

    The report really makes me nervous. They want us to engage others’ religions? Really? Americans in particular are so ignorant about their own fellow countrymen’s religions, especially those that are not Christian. We’ve seen the dangers of telling others that ‘god’ doesn’t approve of homosexulity, and people in Uganda listened- and started trying to kill gays. Our words have consequences. People are dying as a direct result of us.Americans are woefully undereducated in this area, particularly when someone stands up in a church and claims to know what a Jew or a Muslim or a Pagan or humanist believes in when he/she only wants to convince others it’s ‘evil’ or ‘satanic’. We’re finally getting the Bible verse inscriptions off the sights of our military’s guns, and we’re supposed to be trusted to meet these folks in a culture of understanding?

  • timechange28

    Most Americans don’t know anything about the Muslim religion and don’t care too. I think they would find it interesting that it was delivered to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel, that’s right, the same angel that delivered the message to Mary that she was carrying the Messiah.

  • Utahreb

    Since so many of our own religious groups say that unless you believe as they do you will never get to heaven, it looks like heaven is going to be really, really empty.That said, we have too darned much religion interference in our government now. If a religious group wants to dictate to our government then it should lose its non-profit status immediately. No lobbying, no donating, no nothing in politics or they become just another organization attempting to influence government.Get rid of religions other than the so-called Christian groups? Sure, and then you would have government that is run by the Bible, including the Old Testament.Have a neighbor who works on the Sabbath? Exodus 35:2 says he should be put to death.Want to sell your daughter into slavery? Sure, that’s okay according to Exodus 21:7.Leviticus 11:6-8 says that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean – can I play football if I wear gloves?Leviticus 25:44 says that I can possess slaves, provided they are puchased from neighboring nations. So can I own both Canadian and Mexican slaves?And on and on – haven’t we gotten ourselves in enough trouble with the “crusade”? Otherwise known as the preemptive invasion of Iraq?NO – we don’t need more religion in governmental processes. Lose the self-righteousness and have a little humility. We are not always right, much less just.

  • onofrio

    Silencedogoodreturns,Thee:You need to pare back your rich prose, Silencedog, just a tad. Though your posts are fairly bursting with ideas, don’t forget that your public may miss your more heady insights unless you express yourself more plainly and concisely. I know, I know, you don’t want to dumb down too much, and it’s good to stretch your readers’ wits a bit, but to maximise the dissemination of your important ideas, try to self-edit more boldly; be ruthless, even. For example, the post I’ve quoted above will gain a great deal in clarity if you excise everything after the word “read”…

  • tbarksdl

    Right on, Susan Jacoby. Thank you for doing what your journalistic colleagues failed to do–put the Council’s report in the context of what this country is all about.The Washington Post’s coverage ranks as one of the shoddiest pieces of “journalism” ever published. It provided virtually no background on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Nothing about its age, size, membership, or sources of funds. A few sentences with a few names on who made up the task force–no details on its members or on their affiliations, backgrounds, expertise, or credentials. Much less their names. Not a word about its research protocols, extent of its interviews, or methodology. No details on the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Some obscure group of unknowns come together in Chicago and publishes a report that confirms what they already believe. Bingo! The Washington Post reports that there is a God gap in foreign policy.How truly pathetic. Katherine Graham just turned in her grave one more time.

  • DoTheRightThing

    The US government should deal politically and formally only with the governments of other countries, and only on a cultural basis with the religious organizations of other countries.

  • probashi

    From the Crusades (looting and pillaging expeditions) to the Inquisition (burning of heretics), support of wars — all wars — and oppression of ordinary citizens by corrupt, powerful dictators, the role of Christian religious bodies will not hold up to scrutiny. The Vatican and Christian churches in Germany remained silent during the Holocaust. It took a long time for the Catholic Church to acknowledge sexual abuses by members of the clergy. And all the time it carried on denunciation of homosexuals.Now the Shia and Sunni moslems are killing each other as if there is no tomorrow. If there is condemnation by Islamic leaders of the sectarian violence we do not read or hear about it.And we are going to incorporate ‘religious’ guidelines in our foreign policy! It is a bloody joke. The politicians’ prompt endorsement of the report by the Chicago Council is a no-brainer. They will do anything to project an image of being pious. Our former president did his best to dismantle the ‘wall between Church and State’. Some of us breathed a sigh of relief when his term ended but, clearly, we were wrong to expect that things would be different.

  • reformuscirf

    Even the current effort of involving religion in foreign policy is fraught with conflict of interest.There is a quite a difference between theory (i.e. IRFA 1998 law) and practice (i.e. USCIRF).In theory, All USCIRF report must comply with IRFA 1998 but reality is some what different.

  • garethharris

    My reaction is that this is a thinly veiled attempt at government support for evangelical proselytizing in foreign countries. What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, …” don’t they understand? — Fr. Gareth Scott Harris – SentimentalStargazer.com

  • lufrank1

    Amen! and Amen!Religion – Mankind’s Bane.(Religious fundamentalists don’t understand that statement of fact).

  • CalP

    I believe in what Pope John Paul 11 said abou “Hell” at the General Audience of Wednesday 28 July 1999, where he explained that “hell is the ultimate consequence of sin itself…Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitely separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy”. At the same time, he discussed Heaven as the fullness of communion with God and stated that: Heaven “is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit”.These comments suggest that the road to hell is a path that leads one away from the source of all life and joy.I believe, too, that the idea of separation of Church and State might be misrepresented. When Christ stated that we should render unto Caesar (government) the things that are his, and unto God the things that are God’s (faith),I doubt that Christ spoke of separation of Church and State, he spoke against the believers confusion of faith in God with faith in government.

  • CalP

    I believe in what Pope John Paul 11 said about “Hell” at the General Audience of Wednesday 28 July 1999, where he explained that “hell is the ultimate consequence of sin itself…Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitelt separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy”. At the same time, he discussed Heaven as the fullness of communion with God and stated that: Heaven “is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit”.These comments suggest that the road to hell is a path that leads one away from the source of all life and joy.I believe, too, that the idea of separation of Church and State might be misrepresented. When Christ stated that we should render unto Caesar (government) the things that are his, and unto God the things that are God’s (faith),I doubt that Christ spoke of separation of Church and State, he spoke against the believers confusion of faith in God with faith in government.

  • FarnazMansouri

    DITLD,Well-spoke. There is a difference between “religious engagement” (particularly when one of the nations engaged has no state religion) and cultural enlightenment, sensitivity.Learn the words, common expressions, at least something of the basic theologies, etc. Formulate an enlightened understanding of the sources of religious conflicts, comprehend how different nationals see themselves, etc. And, most importantly, the politics–understand the politics.Do not be ugly and boorish. Do not wear “native” clothing in ways it is not intended to be worn, for instance. If you are a woman in Pakistan and wish to wear shalwar qameez, wear it the way Pakistani women do.Sheesh.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Cornbread asks on Thomas Wright’s thread:”Hypothetically, is there any reason why the goals of your group could not be met by a knowledgeable, yet completely atheistic, foreign service corps?”Amen, and goodnight.

  • Schaum

    Farnaz:”Do not be ugly and boorish.”Indeed. When I was working in Saudi Arabia, we regularly negotiated and renegotiated contracts between the US Navy and the Saudi Navy (yes, they have one, for reasons no one can understand). Negotiation is a legal process, and our negotiation team from the US included a female who was Jewish. To appreciate this extraordinary Saudi concession in their willingness to deal with her, you have to understand the females are not tolerated in positions in which a male is expected to transact business with Saudis. In fact, in Saudi, women have NO place in business. And even more extraordinary in their acceptance of her was the fact that she was Jewish. Jews, as you know, are not … widely appreciated in Saudi.NO woman is allowed to drive in Saudi. So she was assigned a driver, a very nice Pakistani man named Rasheed. Instead of bothering to learn his name, much less take any initiative in learning about him and his life, she simply referred to him as “that little brown man.” This is an example of why Americans are considered insensitive, unaware, uninquiring, — and just plain ugly by so much of the rest of the world.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Schaum,Yes, that is certainly “boorish.” Racist, though, is the word I’d use.I wonder that the Jewish woman went to Saudi, though. More than once, I have been asked to go. I refused. Always will. Don’t much care for racists and misogynists, regardless of their religions.During the Gulf War, American Jewish servicemen were told to conceal their Judaism for their own welfare. Nothing from the OIL-Mongering government on this. Plenty from Farnaz pere, publicly, and from others.Tribes and their idols. And we Js aren’t exempt, needless to say.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Schaum,Speaking of Saudi, I wonder that the MEDIA does not say more about how Pakistanis, Bengladeshi, Africans, and Palestinians are treated there.Palestinians, especially, are treated as subhuman. Saudis see both Bengalasdeshi and Pakistanis as “dirty.”

  • FarnazMansouri

    Speaking of antisemitism, which I just did, check out Herschfield’s thread. And see his last.I’m soooo tired of racism. On the other hand, one catches more rats with poison….

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    CCNLIf you have something to say about Michelle Obama, why don’t you just say so, instead of making your weird, cryptic remarks? You know you’re dying to tell us; you’re dropping all kinds of hints; but you are are too obtuse for anyone to figure out. We can’t read your mind!

  • Schaum

    Farnaz:I’ll check Herschfield’s thread tomorrow. Its 1.10 am here. We have more houses and condos to look at tomorrow, and I’m tired. I should have known better than to take a late night flight to Salzburg…I just don’t sleep on planes.

  • cornbread_r2

    As FarnazMansouri noted, I asked Thomas Wright of the Chicago Council the following: Hypothetically, is there any reason why the goals of your group could not be met by a knowledgeable, yet completely atheistic, foreign service corps? His response: Good question. You’re right; there is no reason why that is not possible. The issue is not for more religion, but to understand it and engage with politically relevant religious actors abroad in appropriate and prudent ways.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Cornbread:Thank you for posting. Wright’s reply is entirely consistent with my posts. The issue is political. Quite frankly, however, I would hope that our foreign service personnel already have some cognizance of the problem.Therefore, whence the report?

  • YEAL9

    An expanded list of questions for the Chicago Council of Global Affairs:Is its previous association with Michelle Obama affect what it is doing and what areas it reviews? Mrs. Obama was once a director of CCOGA(and making over $100,000/yr?).Why does it have such a large investment portfolio (over $6 million)? Does CCOGA note this in their donation drives? i.e. give us some more of your money so we can invest in the risky stock and bond market?In 2007, why did the CCOGA cancel the visit and talk by the authors of the book “Israel’s Lobby and US Foreign Policy”?Why aren’t the “sacred” but very flawed books of the contemporary religions noted in the CCOGA report mentioned in its report? The report was obviously prepared by task force members well-versed in these books but are they??

  • FarnazMansouri

    Schaum,I read and replied to your post on Hirschfield’s thread. Didn’t know you were in Austria! Is Sebastian with you?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    What would it even mean to have religion in foreign policy? Just what is America’s religion? I’m not sure. I remember when Condileezza Rice went on her state trip to China, she went out of her way to attend church, even though, more than likely, she did not go to church in Washington. Remember Harriet Myers? Bush’s flunky lawyer and Supreme Court nominee casualty? One of the her conservative credentials was her claim to be a conservative Christian. Yet, even though she lived in Alexandria, Virginia for twenty years, her church was in Texas, which guess what? she almost never attended.So all of this posing and posturing among politicians about how much their faith means to them, I do not believe it. I do not believe that, even President Bush, had any more than a very shallow and surface interest and experience with religion, but used it only to buy Christian votes, and maybe to some very lesser extant, to make him feel better about his endless and mindless mischievous-making.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    One of the problems with Islam is its intractable intolerance. Without tolerance, a plural and free society is impossible. Merely going through the motions of up or down plebicite-type voting, does not a democracy make. Without enumerated rights of citizenship which apply to all people equally, and without the separation of religious authority from the government, there will be no democracy. Yet, we should press ahead with these ideals which are the foundation of our nation. If other countries do not like it, then that is their loss.The official recognition of religious authority in the affairs of state is nothing more than back-sliding to a more primitive time in human history.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Rabbi,I hope you will read Yeal9′s post. The problem is extremely serious in the United States and Europe, and it won’t be solved through “reasoning” and “education.”As I posted a couple of months ago, in my neighborhood a synagogue was defaced. The police were “unable to locate the suspects.”However, two teenagers were. They located them, all right, three grown men, whom they put in the hospital. The facts are out now. The men taunted and threatened the boys.One of the young men’s mother’s asked her son why he had done it. This son, by the way, was and is on his way to an ivy league university. They recruited him. HIs answer to his mother was that he was tired of the antisemtism he had to deal with in school, in the newspapers. And now he had to see it every day he walked past the synagogue.We had never experienced such violence from Jews before in this neighborhood, and we of the Jewish community went into a kind of shock. However, it was short-lived. Following this incident, there were threats to us. Two more “events” such as those the boys were involved with ended the threats.We are still discussing these incidents. This is not how we wish to live, but we are beginning to see that one does not reason with wild animals. Actually, I’ve known this for a long time, but hoped not to see this sort of thing I’ve seen happen here.We also wonder why these incidents were not picked up by the media. WE do note a radical decrease in verbal antisemitism in the area. We note ongoing discussions in the elementary and high school. A new development.

  • FarnazMansouri

    Whoops! Sorry. Posted on the wrong thread.

  • Schaum

    Farnaz:”Didn’t know you were in Austria! Is Sebastian with you?”Long story. Christian had his drivers license suspended for a year last september, for being in an accident in Germany. Has been living with his mother so he could take the bus to work. Mom decided to sell the house so she could move to Linz to be with a daughter who is recovering (?) from ovarian cancer. So became necessary to set up our living arrangements early, buy furniture, open checking accounts, etc etc. Found a very nice apartment yesterday. Buying furniture today and tomorrow. I’m flying back on Sunday morning. Sebastian is in boarding school for the duration.

  • YEAL9

    Thomas Wright’s email address is:We await a general response to our list of questions about the CCOGA.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    totally off topic here, sorry ’bout that.pam, peter, are you out there?i’m baaaaack. sorry i kind of flaked out and disappeared on you guys. the associations with posting here and smoking were just to “reinforced”. anyway, i’m still not smoking, so there’s that.anyway, pam, if you haven’t convinced peter of the errors of “worldview”, i’d be willing to pick up where we were when i “disappeared”. post here to let me know if so and where. i’ll be checking the periodically. thanks.

  • peterhuff

    Walter, have you ever read C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man?I think it points to what our societies have become to a large extent, where “we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible…We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst” p. 26″The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibilities of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.” p14.That is what evolutionary dogma has done as it has propagated our schools and universities these last two hundred years. It has led to secularism, relativism and pluralism (to name a few) in which truth is a hard nut to crack, because there is no objective standard to obtain true and real beliefs from, once the God of the Bible is abandoned. Universal values are missing in our brave new world in which there is nothing better to measure a value by than subjective human opinion; one man’s preference over another’s.This is one of the greatest quandaries of your worldview and, in my opinion, its great Achilles Heel. Why do atheist’s live contrary to their worldview and keep borrowing from the Christian framework in which good and truth and qualitative values do matter and are universal? Subjectivity never finds an adequate measure for these qualities. They change, at least in the philosophical sphere and in public opinion, although the atheist cannot live by the deepest conviction of such a worldview on a daily basis without major problems. But that has been the problem of man since the Fall.The problem is not thinking “life’s ultimate questions”, as Ronald Nash would say, through to their ultimate and final conclusions. It’s not taking a deep enough look at where such a worldview leaves and leads the atheist or agnostic, as Francis Schaeffer would say, “below the line of despair”, without a paddle of hope.There is a better way my friend!

  • peterhuff

    Hi Walter (Part 1),WALTER: “i have not read “The Abolition of Man”It is a good read on precisely the kind of analysis we are looking at here, the existence of universal values, or of knowing anything as certain. How can you get an unchanging objective value system from subjective human beings? Which human knows all things and sees all relationships in determining objectivity? How do human beings know what they believe today will remain the same in the future? Please review human history and the disagreement on any given matter for verification of this statement.WALTER: “you continue to think evolution is a “philosophy” or a “worldview” and so forth. it’s NOT. it’s just science.”Yes Walter, it is the framework that you look at everything by. Underlying this belief system are your basic building blocks, the eye glasses that you use to see everything else by.This framework you use attempts to answer ultimate questions, very unsuccessfully I might add. I have nothing against science, just against something that posses as it. As God said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”That is the problem with evolutionary science, it assumes many things that are unprovable by science, such as life coming from non-life or personality from the impersonal. It assumes many things that are improbable and not duplicable. No one (except God), was there so we have to believe both our positions on faith that we accurately see things as they really are. They are both belief systems. They are what we build what we believe on. I build on the Christian God and can make sense of these things whereas your worldview cannot. It is logically inconsistent and incoherent when put under the microscope.Science cannot duplicate or verify that life came from non-life or the personal from the impersonal. THESE ARE ASSUMPTIONS that you tie together with other assumptions. That is what you base your worldview on, assumptions, unless there is a Being that we call God that is objective and has revealed Himself to mankind that we may truly know.And if you want to take it beyond the evolutionary processes to origins you have far greater problems yet in giving reliable analysis and veracity to your worldview, since you do not see a Creator as the cause of the universe. It just happened. Mind and personality give intent, meaning, purpose and plan to anything. That is what we see in the universe and our planet, plan and purpose and intent.

  • peterhuff

    Part 3.WALTER: “nonetheless you say, “It has led to secularism, relativism and pluralism…WALTER: “well, IF the science of evolution has done that, we should THANK it. those are GOOD things.”Good things? First establish an objective standard for good and tell me why it is objective – because YOU believe it to be? You need a qualitative measure for good. If man is that measure, which man? Why does he get to be the standard? Then look around you at human history and look at its witness to the utter unreliability of your statement above. Try justifying such a position. First you have to have an objective sense of what justice is. Why is your opinion that objective sense?

  • peterhuff

    Part 4WALTER: “secularism lets everybody practice (or not) whatever religion s/he wants. that’s good, right?”Only if what is practiced is true and just and right. Since they all say contrary and opposite things how can they all be good or all be right or all be true? Try living in a world where everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes. Try living as though red is green or a harmless butterfly is the same thing as a hungry lion that you want to touch. No, you live life on different grounds from what you philosophically believe. That is the inconsistency of your belief that I continue to point out.So religion is a bad thing, not a good thing, unless it is based on what is true and a relationship with Him who is true. And if you look at every world religion that I know of, they all practice a form of works righteousness, except for the Christian faith. It is based on the work of another, of One who could meet God’s perfect and righteous standard. That makes it exclusive and different. And its foundation of Genesis provide an adequate explanation for wrongful action, for why generation after generation we pay the penalty for sin. Why there is so much inhumanity against our fellow man. They choose to ignore God’s just standards. We also see the love of God in subjecting the world to death and decay that perhaps man would reach out to and rely on God, not as it was in the Garden when they chose to disobey Him, and such has been the case ever since. The work of God is to believe on the One He has sent (John 6:29). He has done the work!I’ll finish off later. I’m off to watch the Olympic hockey game!

  • YEAL9

    Back to the topic and still waiting for even more answers to the following added questions. (Where are the CCOGA task force members hiding?)What do the five directors of CCOGA do to earn on average $150,000/year per director in 2008? Is its previous association with Michelle Obama affect what it is doing and what areas it reviews? Mrs. Obama was once a director of CCOGA(and making over $100,000/yr?).Why does it have such a large investment portfolio (over $6 million)? Does CCOGA note this in their donation drives? i.e. give us some more of your money so we can invest in the risky stock and bond market?In 2007, why did the CCOGA cancel the visit and talk by the authors of the book “Israel’s Lobby and US Foreign Policy”?Why aren’t the “sacred” but very flawed books of the contemporary religions noted in the CCOGA report mentioned in their report? The report was obviously prepared by task force members well-versed in these books but are they??Did Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Youth Corps work for Obama’s election campaign as we see Eboo is not only on the topic task force but also on Obama’s Faith advisory council?Did a Faith Intiative grant from the State Department help defray the cost of topic report?The task force was not in complete aggreement with the report? Why and what points should the general public know about said disagreements?

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    peter,hi there!i have not read “The Abolition of Man”you continue to think evolution is a “philosophy” or a “worldview” and so forth. it’s NOT. it’s just science.nonetheless you say, well, IF the science of evolution has done that, we should THANK it. those are GOOD things.secularism lets everybody practice (or not) whatever religion s/he wants. that’s good, right? in non-secular societies religion is forced upon people. and i suppose if you were king/priest of this non-secular society you’d enforce christianity, right? and of course not just any christianity, but YOUR KIND of christianity. so, you probably admire iran’s non-secualrism, but just think they picked the wrong god as their national deity….you said,oh brother. of course there are. there are plenty of so-called “objective” standards. in fact, THAT’S THE PROBLEM with using religion as an “objective” standard. there are too many “objective” standards…! it’s kind of funny to a rational person. over a billion people think the koran is the objective standard. others think it’s the book of mormon…others…well, you get the picture. so, what’s an atheist’s “objective standard”? well, it might be something like lao tse’s or buddha’s “do unto others”.you said,your choice of christianity is just one man’s preference over another’s. there is no “objective” way to pick religions….you asserted,you falsely flatter christianity by claiming kindness, empathy etc… are christian values. they precede judeochrislam and exist where people have never heard of yahweh, jesus or muhammad…

  • peterhuff

    Hi Walter,Welcome back. I’m not sure if Pam will be back before April 1, as we agreed upon in resuming the creation/evolution argument. It is giving me time to rethink some of her challenges and look at a more adequate ways of critiquing her position. I’m also anxious to hear her take on Alvin Plantiga’s lecture I left her with. I also have an assignment of reading one of her suggested evolutionary books.

  • Pamsm

    Hi Peter and Walter,Good to see you back, Walter, I was getting worried about you (although I knew you weren’t dead, based on your 15 minutes of fame re the weather interview). :)I’ll jump in on this discussion tomorrow – too much actual work to do today.Peter – I did answer about Plantiga.Scroll down.Have you started your reading yet? Which book(s) did you select?I’m just finishing an even better one, although you’d probably object to the author on principle. It’s He says in the foreword that he realized that he’d been writing about various aspects of evolution for years without actually making the case for evolution itself, and he thought it was time that he rectified that. Superbly done.I think we should get back to the believability of the bible. We still had much ground to cover on Noah’s Ark.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    peter,

  • peterhuff

    Hi Walter,I thought it was a good Olympic Games overall and it definitely was the most watch Olympic Games ever by Canadians.I’m not a hockey fan. After the strikes in the 90′s I stopped watching both hockey and baseball. This is only one of a handful of times that I have watched hockey since.The gold metal hockey game was a real nail bitter. It could have gone either way. The Canadians almost blew two games by going into that defensive shell. It was amazing to see the support across Canada during the game, including the people in the streets outside Canada Place.In my opinion it seemed the four on four in the OT period was to our advantage over the Americans, judging from possession of the puck, turnovers and shots on goal. I thought the US goalie was by far the best of the whole tournament. It seemed from the start the consensus was the Canada would have to beat either the Russians or Americans for gold. We almost did not make it there because of the Swiss.

  • peterhuff

    WALTER: “in non-secular societies religion is forced upon people. and i suppose if you were king/priest of this non-secular society you’d enforce christianity, right? and of course not just any christianity, but YOUR KIND of christianity. so, you probably admire iran’s non-secualrism, but just think they picked the wrong god as their national deity….”How can I admire something that is not true? I may plead with you to come to your senses and escape the wrath of God in judging your rebellion based on your merits or lack of them, but Christianity is not forcing or should not be forcing a person to be Christian. It is offering one person a lifeline when he/she is drowning in their own erroneous, subjective unbelief by pointing them to the One who can save them. It is asking them to account for how they can know anything for certain outside of this necessary, objective Being we call God, and not just any god.And just because there are many splits in Christian doctrine and many different denominations, there are certain essential, foundational beliefs that you cannot deny and still be a Christian. That is a mistake that Justillthennow makes in calling himself one.

  • peterhuff

    Walter, continued,ME: “…there is no objective standard to obtain true and real beliefs from, once the God of the Bible is abandoned.”WALTER: “oh brother. of course there are.”Here you go making “so-called objective” claims again, based on what? Where does your objective sense of truth come from and how do you know it is objective?WALTER: “there are plenty of so-called “objective” standards. in fact, THAT’S THE PROBLEM with using religion as an “objective” standard. there are too many “objective” standards…! it’s kind of funny to a rational person. over a billion people think the koran is the objective standard. others think it’s the book of mormon…others…well, you get the picture.”Do you think a fallible, limited person can meet a perfect standard? For your benefit, not mine, let’s play the hypothetical from your standpoint and say that IF there is a God who created all things, who knows all things, and who is pure, holy and righteous, THEN in order not to compromise His standard of good we would have to live according to His laws, for they are right. Is that logically reasonable thouht? Now if we broke even one of them would we still have merit to be in His presence and Him still be considered just? That is just one difference between Christianity and other world religions. Jesus did not make some other teachings the foundation of a right relationship with God. He Himself was that foundation, not Buddha or Mohammad or some other religious teaching or teacher – Himself.So, yes, although there are many claims to ultimate objective truth in all these religions, they cannot all be true because they say things that are contrary to all others. How can objectivity be based on two or more different, conflicting beliefs. And the difference is in the examining of them for their internal logical consistency and cohesion, their verifiable historical data and the witness or lack of witness in each to logic and truth. For a God who is true will not contradict Himself, as much as we may think so from the outside looking in. That is why Christianity is a knowing relationship with the Savior.”We know that we are children of God, and the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may KNOW Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true – even in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:19-20)That is the problem with your worldview. It claims “so-called objective standards”, for it presents its case as being true, all the time having no objective leg to stand on, just mere opinion. The science of fallible men is its objective criteria; men who were not around when these things came to be, men who presuppose that what they believe is true.

  • peterhuff

    Second last thread Walter,WALTER: “so, what’s an atheist’s “objective standard”? well, it might be something like lao tse’s or buddha’s “do unto others”.”They just borrowed from the Almighty’s “Do unto others.” He made man in His image with a moral compass – man’s conscious, however defiled it became with the Fall. That compass still witnesses to man on what is right and wrong. It is just that without God man has nothing to justify why that standard ‘should’ be so. Nothing that is objective. Without God it just becomes one opinion pitted against another, hence the ever widening variety of so-called expert opinions. They haveWhy do these fallible, subjective men get to determine that standard of objectivity? Again your language is all based on possible or probable. There is no substance behind it. “Something like” or “might be” is nothing definite, and if it is not definite how do you know it is objective? Please answer.ME: “Universal values are missing in our brave new world in which there is nothing better to measure a value by than subjective human opinion; one man’s preference over another’s.”WALTER: “your choice of christianity is just one man’s preference over another’s. there is no “objective” way to pick religions….”On the impossibility of the contrary it is not. Christianity is not just a preference, but a relationship with the Creator in which He confirms and shows His word to be true and the source of truth.Outside of a humble heart and the bowing of the knee ((Philippians 2:10) you will never find these things to be true because you will always resist them like you have been doing all along, because you place yourself as the authority over God. That is the frank truth of the matter. “‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5b,6)”Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:20b, 21)

  • peterhuff

    Last thread Walter,ME: “Why do atheist’s live contrary to their worldview and keep borrowing from the Christian framework in which good and truth and qualitative values do matter and are universal?”WALTER: “you falsely flatter christianity by claiming kindness, empathy etc… are christian values. they precede judeochrislam and exist where people have never heard of yahweh, jesus or muhammad…”No, I don’t falsely flatter Christianity. You falsely assume that I do but while you live, it seems from your conversations with me, as a man with very distinctive and some good moral values and virtues, it is despite your worldview and not because of it, whereas the Christian worldview calls the Christian to let Christ be Lord and King and as such submit to Him and be a servant to others. I know you do not see me as such, but in contending for the faith I try to speak the truth in love. Why would I be silent when your error puts you in grave peril?These virtues come from God, the same God who became Man and dwelt amongst man. In this sense they were there long before any religion for they are from Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God who precedes all religions and is one with the Father and the Spirit. So these virtues only exist because man is made in the image and likeness of God and displays some of the attributes that are in the very nature of the true and living God. But you mistakenly attribute them to predating the Christian God.But religion is man’s attempt to create God in his likeness. Christianity is God setting the records straight (Hebrews 1:1-3).Neither one of us can argue on an objective basis apart from an objective revelation from an objective Being. That is what the Gospels and Bible as a whole claim to be. And from it and only it can sense be made of anything. The starting base for anything is God. Without Him where are you going to fix your ultimate reference point? Can you answer that question?

  • peterhuff

    Hi Pam,I did not realize you had replied to the Plantiga lecture. I’m thinking about what you said.

  • peterhuff

    PH: “How do you arrive at truth? Your scientific worldview keeps adjusting. One subjective opinion of the facts follows another. That has been the course of human history and scientific history.”PAM: “What’s subjective about it? It’s based on discovered facts. Yes, the picture grows clearer with each new discovery, but it’s certainly not subjective.”Discovered facts that require interpreting, since we are talking about a frame of time in which not human being existed and we must piecemeal the facts together into an understandable system of thought. So where you start is where you end up. You start off with blind, random natural processes that start with chemicals bonding together, that came from who knows where originally. I start from God. The question is why did Natural Selection start? What made something want to survive or reproduce? Why would a chance occurrence want to survive or reproduce or guard its ancestry?It just happened. The is no rhyme or reason to it in your worldview. And yet here you are reasoning with me??? Given enough ‘random mutations’ and enough time, your magic ingredients, anything is possible in your worldview. And if anything it possible then why does something prefer survival and reproduction? It just happens given enough variables that this becomes the predominate theme? No matter how you look at it there seems to be that dreaded word ‘design’ in there. For anything to have intent it must have purpose. Why does Natural Selection produce things that have purpose? It just happens!!!!! Why do things evolve to higher states? It just happens because things WANT (intent) to survive and reproduce. And around we go in this merry circle. Kay Sera Sera.

  • peterhuff

    PAM: “There is no evidence that this is the case. We know the bible to have been written by a large collection of normal, fallible, and possibly prevaricatious human beings from a particularly ignorant era.”PH: “No, you don’t know it. That is what you suppose based on your own fallible human mind and its various influences.”PAM: “Of course I know it.”No, you presuppose it to be the case. You were not there, so you take the information available to you, and that usually the kind that agrees with what you have already built upon, and discount the rest that opposes your starting foundations. Neither of us were there to confirm or deny what actually took place.PAM: “It didn’t drop from the sky, engraved on golden tablets. It had authors – human ones. In the NT, some of them even have names (although only one of those is known for sure).”It’s claim is that all Scripture is God breathed. Or as Peter put it in 2 Peter 1:19-21,”And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place…ABOVE ALL, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For PROPHECY NEVER HAD ITS ORIGIN IN THE WILL OF MAN, BUT MEN SPOKE FROM GOD AS THEY WERE CARRIED ALONG BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.” The Bible never claims to be just the writings of men, but God speaking to and relating to men through men. Over and over we get words like ‘Thus says the Lord’ or ‘The Lord spoke to me’ or ‘This is what the LORD says’ or ‘The LORD answered’ or ‘I am the LORD.’ You can’t miss on most pages of Scriptures that it is God who is speaking to men and these men write down what He says. Show me where it claims to be the words of men alone?PAM: “You are taking the word of another group of normal, fallible, and possibly prevaricatious human beings who compiled these various writings (sometimes incoherently, viz. Genesis 1 & 2) and declared them, on no one’s authority but their own, to be the word of God.”Again, see the previous comment I made. As for Genesis, it is coherent in as far as it goes. It declares that in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth and then goes into brief detail on on what happened. PH: “Again, that is your OPINION, based on other subjective opinions with a particular bias and a propensity for human wisdom as the final and ultimate reference.”PAM: “Again, not opinion, but fact. The council of Nicaea was made up of humans. Humans who fought bitterly over what should go in, and what should stay out. Humans, some of whom split off into various sects of Christianity when their favored documents didn’t make the cut.”Superintended by God. The books and epistles that are in the Bible are there because God intended them to be there.

  • Pamsm

    PH (to Walter): “Oh, Peter, Peter…we have beaten this poor dead horse to a pulp. Is your memory so poor that you honestly don’t remember the answers?For the first part – who sez so? And who says that God is “objective”? We’ve seen that human standards of wrong and right (remember slavery??) have evolved over the years. This is a function of culture, and is only possible because we are able to communicate with one another across both time and space, thanks to language. We’re able to argue, and influence each other with our arguments, if they’re convincing. If God thought wrong many of the things we think are wrong today, he had a mighty funny way of showing it.The gospels are just one of those arguments. They were written by And to make sense of Jesus, they had to couple the whole thing to the creation myths of an even Yes, the bible “claims to be” from a god – good choice of words, Peter. But your next sentence is dead wrong, because I have no trouble making perfectly good sense of things without it – and without any circular logic or special pleading along the way – something you can’t say.There isn’t any “ultimate reference point” other than the general tendency, built into social animals by natural selection, of doing what it takes to grease the wheels of social coherence.I know it bothers you that this isn’t absolute – that some of us social humans still do “bad” things – things that aren’t conducive to the well being of society. But this is part of natural variation – the fodder for natural selection. You’re going to always get a certain small number of sociopaths. And you’re going to get those who will manage to override their social instincts for short-term personal benefit. But they know that what they’re doing is wrong by social standards (else they wouldn’t try to hide it), and they know that the larger group will punish them if they’re caught. Chimps or people, the same applies.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Pam,PAM: “I really wanted to be in that room to interject a few things when he came out with his errors.Again, there you go presuming that it wasn’t designed. You never answered the question where it came from, just made your argument from silence. You have to rule out design before you even start or else you deny your evolutionary foundation basic building blocks and your system crumbles. That is your framework. You put on your evolutionary glasses to see.You don’t know it is wrong. That is what you have been lead to believe. You take the evidence and you interpret it through your grid and the grid of those who support it. When you say, ‘we discover DNA’ the question arises from whence did it come. Information in DNA does not just compose itself in a random fashion until something bazaar happens. There has to be intent there and what causes this intent? What causes the laws that make this possible? Chance does not cause anything let alone laws. What you are saying is that DNA is a biological accident if there is nothing that caused it to happen. If you want to believe that then who is being gullible?Science discovered DNA but the question is where did it come from and why did it form?

  • peterhuff

    Hi Pam,Well, your last post has a lot to unpack.PH (to Walter): “Neither one of us can argue on an objective basis apart from an objective revelation from an objective Being. That is what the Gospels and Bible as a whole claim to be. And from it and only it can sense be made of anything. The starting base for anything is God. Without Him where are you going to fix your ultimate reference point? Can you answer that question?”PAM: “For the first part – who sez so? And who says that God is “objective”?”The Person revealed in the Bible says so. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)God’s testimony of Himself stands on its own. It is self-attesting. It is not what I say about it that is self-attesting. The Bible is a tapestry that testifies to who He is. And the ultimate questions are here answered like nowhere else. From these answers the deep questions of life can be answerer, something your worldview is completely void of.As for who sez God is objective? He does. There is no one else like Him, all knowing, all powerful, eternal, unchanging. Those are pretty good ingredients for objectivity. If you can’t see how everything is related and ties in with everything else, if you don’t know all things, if you don’t know whether things are capable of changing or when they will change, if you were not there at their conception and formation, if you did not design every intricate part of them and make them what they are, if you operate on a system of philosophy that constantly changes and is being upgraded, tweaked if you will, how certain can you be Pam?It goes to reason that for certainty we need an objective basis outside ourselves that can give it. The Christian God is that basis. If you can’t point to that objective basis then, as Plantiga pointed out in his lecture on the Probability of reliability of Naturalistic Evolutionary what Darwin himself would say: “With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

  • peterhuff

    PAM: ” We’ve seen that human standards of wrong and right (remember slavery??) have evolved over the years.”In many cultures the standards have devolved too. You can point in either direction, but that still doesn’t answer the question of what makes something right or wrong, because you have nothing fixed, no ultimate measure to compare the idea of rightness or wrongness to. Your view of the altruistic gene is poor when you look around the world and individuals today. If all I am is a bio-chemical bag of motion then what makes whatever I do right or wrong? It is just the way the electro-chemical reactions take place in my particular body. There is no right or wrong about it.PAM: “This is a function of culture, and is only possible because we are able to communicate with one another across both time and space, thanks to language. We’re able to argue, and influence each other with our arguments, if they’re convincing. If God thought wrong many of the things we think are wrong today, he had a mighty funny way of showing it.”He has made it clear on what is good and what is evil. As for arguments, why is yours the final or best propositions? PAM: “The gospels are just one of those arguments. They were written by people, they don’t agree with one another in mood, message, or even the “facts.””Sure they do agree. You just don’t understand that the apparent contradictions can be logically worked out if we think God’s thoughts though correctly.PAM: “Each one is an attempt by one person to influence other people with his view of who Jesus was, and what he meant to teach.”No, there was agreement on who Jesus was, what He did and that He conquered death. Each approached Jesus from a somewhat different standpoint. Matthew was primarily a witness to the Jew, John primarily a witness to Jesus’ deity. PAM: “And to make sense of Jesus, they had to couple the whole thing to the creation myths of an even more primitive people about a vicious, vindictive petty tyrant of a god. Actually, of gods, if you read the words without all kinds of fancy interpretation – especially in the original Hebrew/Aramaic.”Like you read Hebrew or Aramaic? God progressively revealed Himself through the course of the Old Testament to people and the nations through a nation. He gave us object lessons in order that we would know the truth, and then He fulfilled what He had promised from the beginning of creation by sending His Son.

  • peterhuff

    PAM: “Yes, the bible “claims to be” from a god – good choice of words, Peter.”Those were for your benefit Pam. I know what the Bible is. You are the one with the doubt, not me. You are the one who does not believe, therefore to you they are nothing more than claims. PAM: “But your next sentence is dead wrong, because I have no trouble making perfectly good sense of things without it – and without any circular logic or special pleading along the way – something you can’t say.”I know I bring this question up a lot, but it is important to find out what makes your view anything other than personal preference. What is your ultimate authority for what you believe Pam? Does it come from within you or from without? How do you KNOW it is true? Do you just prefer to believe because it is what you have invested so much of yourself in? And here is your answer in part,”There isn’t any “ultimate reference point” other than the general tendency, built into social animals by natural selection, of doing what it takes to grease the wheels of social coherence.”How do YOU KNOW this Pam? What makes you so dogmatic that you KNOW this Pam? And this is the point, without God you don’t. That is why there are so many wars, a disagreement on principles. Underlying it all is a maligned sense of right and wrong.

  • peterhuff

    PAM: “I know it bothers you that this isn’t absolute – that some of us social humans still do “bad” things – things that aren’t conducive to the well being of society.”There you go again, defining what you believe to be ‘bad’ or not conducive to the well being of society. Again, what makes your view so vast that you can determine the well being of society? I mean it is pretty complicated. Is abortion to the well-being of society? Is killing a baby good for that babies well-being? Do you actually know how big a population this planet is capable of supporting/sustaining?PAM: “But this is part of natural variation – the fodder for natural selection. You’re going to always get a certain small number of sociopaths. And you’re going to get those who will manage to override their social instincts for short-term personal benefit. But they know that what they’re doing is wrong by social standards (else they wouldn’t try to hide it), and they know that the larger group will punish them if they’re caught. Chimps or people, the same applies.”All you have to do is look at history to know that what you are saying doesn’t spell what is true. In the last century atheist regimes murdered some say as many as 100,000,000 people. Is that ‘good’ for society? The ‘larger group’ had no choice in the matter. Yet the smaller group culled it off. The masses were brainwashed into doing as the elite few deemed ‘fit.’ Might is the only right in such countries. Is that good? No, you are getting into an ethical area that you need to carefully think about when you or some group makes good or bad what it is, the preference of a few or the many for the perceived advantage of the many. It is what the controlling party decides that goes. Social instinct for you is all that it boils down to. And that can change with the whims of evolution.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    peter,you say things like: “without god (and here you mean the bible specifically, and your specific interpretation of the bible, no less) there is no “objective standard”. so how do we know what’s right and wrong? morals are just opinions and ever-changing.”well…ok…yes… it’s kind of like eternal life. to quote a pair of 20th century british philosophers, “you can’t always get what you want….”i guess in some ways it would be nice to have really objective inviolable standards. THERE AREN’T ANY – at least not moral/behavioral ones…. that can be kind of scary, but that’s the way it is… morals are just the consensus of human opinions, which in the long-scale view of things HAVE improved over the centuries and millennia. it seems like human societies that have survived up to now have a precious few moral/behavioral “absolutes” that seem to exist universally – so universally, among humans, that we have thought they came from god.1. 2. really, i think that’s it. and i even think “don’t kill” is just a version of “don’t steal”. it’s “don’t steal life”. this all reminds me of a humerous, i thought, re-writing of the 10 commandments where the stone tablets had extensive footnotes and caveats to all the “absolutes”.more as time permits.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    peter,yes…i agree. it sure does seem improbable. it’s hard for me personally to imagine how it happened. even cutting-edge scientists are unsure.but, the FACT is that’s what seems to have happened. (and it doesn’t seem to match the details/sequence told in genesis 1.) the oldest rocks don’t have fossils and new rocks do. furthermore old rocks that do have fossils, ONLY have very small, very simple fossils – for the first 4/5 of life’s history. “life from non-life”, “simple to complex” is not the stroy told by scientists, it’s the story told by the rocks….

  • peterhuff

    Hi Walter,Reply by Tuesday. Working this weekend and OT Monday.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    peter,where scientists examine evidence and propose mechanisms for how this might have happened (again, the physical evidence clearly indicates it DID happen), biblical authors just “waive it away” with “god did it”. and of course that could be, and largely ONCE WAS, the answer for just about every unknown:it snows because of god, the earth quakes because of god, israelites are exiled because of god…..israelites are returned because of god, and on and on and on.this attitude is really an intellectual dead end because everything’s figured out – and everything’s god’s will. why develop vaccines if disease is god’s will?at the the start of the renaissance christians thought “science”, i.e., studying god’s handwork, was a good thing. problems quickly arose when heretics like copernicus and galileo found out that bible and church were WRONG about a lot of basic things. hence the “uncomfortable” relationship between the church and science.you said somewhere how you “don’t hate science” or something like that. that’s a total load of @#$^!. when you say things like “any scientific finding cannot contradict (my interpretation of) the bible”, you are “hating” science. when you say/believe things like “the green river shales were deposited in one year”, you are “hating” science.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Walter (MARCH 4, 2010 7:45 AM),WALTER: “just about every critique of atheism applies ten-fold to theism. e.g., you said,Actually, the reason is because of the relationship with God through the Savior. “…[T]his is eternal life: that they may KNOW You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)And through that relationship the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.”My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may KNOW the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3) WALTER: “first, belief is not a “preference”.”Are you saying that you have not chosen your belief? Have you not chosen to believe in Naturalism over Supernaturalism, that somehow mindless processes produced life, then mind and then reason.It reminds me of the question of the chicken and the egg. You can’t prove your worldview without first assuming it, but once assumed it is the filter that you use to prove everything else by to the point that you can’t distinguish which came first. Even when assumed a Naturalistic worldview is plagued by difficulties of know-ability for it has no ability.WALTER: “seriously, who has more “invested” in their world view. i just went to a “lenten” service last night. everyone there (except me, i presume) was sad about all the suffering and scarifice of jesus blah blah blah but SO pleased that they get to have ETERNAL LIFE: that they get to “cheat death” – and that’s really what it’s all about, right? i mean honestly, that’s the big “draw”, right – eternal life? i mean, without that, what’s the point? quite an investment, eh?The point is being restored to a just and right relationship with your Maker.”If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) Yes, honestly honesty is the big draw in this world of hype. The ultimate question is ‘Is there life after death?’ And to go with it, ‘Can you afford to be wrong about it?’ You’re betting that your little old subjective brain can fathom and be right about whether the biblical God exists and whether believing in such a God makes a difference, not only now but also for eternity. But I believe that you know He does, you just choose not to bow the knee to Him.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    peter, you asked,yes. i do not think anyone is capable of “choosing” to believe anything. we believe what seems true to us.for instance, i cannot

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    if/when this times out, how ’bout here?doesn’t seem to be too active.

  • peterhuff

    WALTER: “it seems like human societies that have survived up to now have a precious few moral/behavioral “absolutes” that seem to exist universally – so universally, among humans, that we have thought they came from god.1. don’t kill (another human being, except under certain self-preservation or punishment circumstances…).What about the tribe in Southeast Asia that likes to eat their enemies? Who decides what is self-preservation? Does Mao or Stalin, two of the most brutally ruthless leaders of modern times who had killed tens of millions?Who makes the rules for what is self-preservation?2. don’t steal (unless you really really really need to to survive or feed your family or something, and if your seriously intend to pay it back when you can….).Why not if I like to steal and I know that no one is likely to catch me?Again just preference without God. To coin the phrase, ‘Some people love their neighbor’s, others eat them. What is your preference?’WALTER: “really, i think that’s it. and i even think “don’t kill” is just a version of “don’t steal”. it’s “don’t steal life”. this all reminds me of a humerous, i thought, re-writing of the 10 commandments where the stone tablets had extensive footnotes and caveats to all the “absolutes”.”Again, without God, looking through the eyes of a naturalist, why is it wrong to kill/murder? What makes your ‘good’ gene better than my ‘evil’ gene? What scale of measure do you use? What difference does it make? The only meaning and purpose from your standpoint is what you make it to be. Nothing matters when you are dead. You’re going to die sometime and then nothing, so it doesn’t make any difference in the long run what you do now. No one is going to judge your actions or care what you did twenty years from now. If your life is miserable what does it matter what you do or when your life ends?

  • peterhuff

    Hi Walter,WALTER: “peter,We don’t argue over all scientific evidence, just certain conclusion that are reached with it, such as that humans, or animals, can change kinds over time. Christians certainly believe that we can adapt to our environments because we have limited adaptive abilities built into each one of us that go so far and no further. This makes it possible for us to live in different parts of the globe with different climates and different vegetation and life forms and not all rely on the same food chain. WALTER: “(again, the physical evidence clearly indicates it DID happen),”Not the way you believe it happened. That evidence is interpreted and made to fit the evolutionary grid of evidence.Show me examples of life arising from non-life and then go one step further and show me how design happens without intent. Show me how without a mind to organize and purpose things how chance or possibility makes it happen??? For without mind there is not intent, no purpose, no plan. Everything is just happenstance. These are major pitfalls in your worldview.WALTER: “biblical authors just “waive it away” with “god did it”.”No, they go further than that and disclose how He did it. For creation He spoke and it was so. Show me without God how it is possible. Evolution has no idea of how life or why living things came into existence. Take that one step further and astrophysicists don’t know why the Big Bang came into existence or what was before it. Actually many say nothing. From nothing everything comes??? Take nothing and double it and what do you have??? Obviously everything according to such brilliant men! Or some say the universe is eternal. If it is eternal how did we ever arrive at the present? But according to science the universe definitely had a beginning. So what caused it? Did it just happen? What was there to make it happen? These are questions you need to tackle before you rule out God.

  • peterhuff

    WALTER: “and of course that could be, and largely ONCE WAS, the answer for just about every unknown:There again, you do not recognize that an Almighty Being is sovereign over His creation and has the right to govern it as He sees fit. To recognize God would strip you of your independence and self-sufficiency. It would be admitting you are wrong. I don’t think that is somewhere you want to go. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5b)WALTER: “this attitude is really an intellectual dead end because everything’s figured out – and everything’s god’s will. why develop vaccines if disease is god’s will?”Everything works according to His plan. That is sovereignty. But He gave man a volition, a will so that man has the ability to choose.WALTER: “at the the start of the renaissance christians thought “science”, i.e., studying god’s handwork, was a good thing. problems quickly arose when heretics like copernicus and galileo found out that bible and church were WRONG about a lot of basic things. hence the “uncomfortable” relationship between the church and science.”So, there have been a lot of scientist’s that have been wrong too. It seems a mute point because man is not the standard, God is. If the Christian wrongly supposes the sun revolves around the earth, we have been wrong before and we will be wrong again, but not when correctly interpreting the word of God or correctly thinking His thoughts after Him. He gave us minds that we could reason and interpret correctly by.And the dichotomy between faith and science happened during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, especially with the Theory of Evolution making man the measure of all things. WALTER: “you said somewhere how you “don’t hate science” or something like that. that’s a total load of @#$^!. when you say things like “any scientific finding cannot contradict (my interpretation of) the bible”, you are “hating” science.”No, I make a distinction between science and evolution, whereas you don’t. I don’t dispute gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. I dispute, based on God’s word, that things can or have changed kinds.WALTER: “when you say/believe things like “the green river shales were deposited in one year”, you are “hating” science.”I’m saying that millions/billions of fossils is the result of a catastrophic flood and catastrophic events, not the result of millions and billions of animals dying in a swamp and being encased in it. I’m saying that marine fossils at the tops of mountains don’t just happen up there. I’m saying that the “Cambrian” period shows a sudden start to life, not evolution.

  • peterhuff

    Hi Walter,ME: “Are you saying that you have not chosen your belief?”WALTER: “yes. i do not think anyone is capable of “choosing” to believe anything. we believe what seems true to us.”Choice is decision. So you are saying the choice is not a decision that you care to believe in.You look at the design and build of a chair, what it is made of, how much you weigh and you believe that by sitting in it it will either support your weight or it won’t. If you believe it will you sit in it and if you believe it won’t you don’t. So you choose one way or the other. WALTER: “for instance, i cannot choose to believe in unicorns.”No, because you have chosen not to believe in them, and rightfully so. So, in effect you have chosen your belief not to believe in unicorns. That is your choice, your decision. And I would agree that the evidence for unicorns is very slim pickings.

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