Three stories from ‘Sunday’

Aug 18, 2015 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

The BBC Radio 4 ‘Sunday’ Programme is often a good barometer of how those interested in religion and its intersection with public life are thinking. The most recent episode (16th August) contained three interesting features which are worth highlighting.

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Five atheists who lost faith in atheism

Aug 13, 2015 by

By Martin Saunders, Christian Today: Atheism is cool. At least, that’s the popular perception of a worldview that’s enjoyed a rebrand and a renaissance in the last couple of decades. Authors like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have issued forceful public challenges to the claims of the major faiths and the rights they’ve traditionally been granted, while well-respected and high-profile public figures have lent vocal support to their ideas. When Stephen Fry outlined an atheist (or even anti-theist) position on an Irish talk show, the interview went viral in hours, while comedian Ricky Gervais frequently uses his substantial platform to attack and undermine religion in film and stand-up. Christians can naturally feel a little threatened by this kind of activity. Witness the scores of ‘response articles’ which appeared within days of Fry’s “capricious, mean-minded God” outburst. If we do feel worried or undermined in our faith, it should probably prompt some serious self-examination; a belief that is truly practiced in everyday life should be strong enough and have enough evidence to withstand a few specious celebrity soundbites. In fact, there are reasons to feel strangely positive about the atheist pronouncements of public figures. Not only are there countless people who have found themselves in church, or on an Alpha course, precisely because the arguments of Dawkins and others left them dissatisfied, but there are also many stories of formerly high-profile atheists who ended up losing their surety, and in many cases converting to the Christian faith. Below are just five of those stories, of former atheists who found that their belief in nothing ultimately led them nowhere. Read here...

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Riches, Religion, and the New Atheism

Jun 19, 2015 by

By Robert T Miller, Public Discourse: It’s not that in misery and suffering human beings grasp at foolish theories that give them some hope. Rather, amidst prosperity, human beings can blind themselves to the reality of the human condition and so never ask the questions that, once asked, cannot be plausibly answered except in theistic terms. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Dennett argues that the future of religion is bleak. Congregations are losing members at a tremendous rate, and churches everywhere are closing. There are two reasons for this, Dennett thinks. First, “with hardly any significant exceptions, religion recedes whenever human security and well-being rise,” and the Western world, at least, is enjoying a great run of peace and prosperity. Second, “the rapid growth of mutual knowledge, thanks to the global spread of electronic and digital communication,” means that religious institutions, which in the past have managed “to control what their flocks know about the world,” can no longer do so. A young Mormon in Utah can now share “the ambient knowledge that is shared by the general populace,” including by learning from an episode of South Park that many non-Mormons find his religion “comical, preposterous, ludicrous.” In other words, religion is basically a set of claims that, if true, would make bearing the hardships of life more palatable, but, as life gets better, there is less and less need for such things. Moreover, religion’s claims are not only false but usually provably false (Dennett mentions a study showing that intercessory prayer is not correlated with better results from heart surgery), and modern social conditions make it impossible for prelates to keep their congregants ignorant. Dennett doesn’t credit Marx, but this is just Marx’s theory of religion as the opiate of the masses, updated, naturally, to include the internet. Read here  ...

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What’s Really Behind the Attacks on Religious Freedoms?

Apr 14, 2015 by

By Michael Brown, Charisma News: I believe there is a common thread that unites the new atheism, the radical left and the gay activist revolution. It is the philosophy that says, “We will not have God and His Son rule over us!” It is reminiscent of what is written in Psalm 2: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear off their bonds and cast away their ropes from us'” (2:2-3). To be perfectly clear, I do not believe in trying to establish a Christian theocracy in America (or anywhere) until Jesus returns, at which time He will rule and reign over the world. Until then, we seek to be a positive influence in the society, living godly lives, raising solid families, working for social justice, caring for the poor, advocating for righteousness, being disciples and making disciples, and, in a democratic republic like America, voting according to our principles. At the same time, America does have a strong foundation in Judeo-Christian values, and everyone will give account to God one day, which is why, throughout our history, there has been a pushback against these biblical values, be it from atheistic philosophers or worldly entertainers or unscrupulous businessmen or compromised spiritual leaders. They all unite in saying, “America’s fundamentalism has got to go.” Today, however, we are seeing the most sustained anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-Christian attack in our history, and its common root is the attempt to demonize believers and remove the influence of God and His Word from society. The new atheists would love to see the eradication of all religion (other than a watered-down, compromised, toothless faith that is really no faith at all), especially in the homes and schools, where children are being shaped and molded by the ideas of their parents and educators. Read...

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UK one of world’s least religious countries, survey finds

Apr 13, 2015 by

From The Guardian: The UK is among the least religious countries in the world, according to a new survey. In a global ranking of 65 countries, the UK came six places from last, with 30% of the population calling themselves religious. While 53% of people said they were not religious, only 13% said they were a convinced atheist and the remainder did not know how to define themselves. This compares with 94% of people in Thailand and 93% of people in Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia and Morocco who said they were religious. At the bottom of the list was China where only 6% of people said they were religious while 61% said they were convinced atheists. This was followed by Japan, where just 13% of people were religious, Sweden with 19%, Czech Republic with 23%, and the Netherlands and Hong Kong with 26%. Jean-Marc Leger, president of Win/Gallup International, said globally an average of two-thirds of people still consider themselves religious. “Religion continues to dominate our everyday lives and we see that the total number of people who consider themselves to be religious is actually relatively high,” he said. “Furthermore, with the trend of an increasingly religious youth globally, we can assume that the number of people who consider themselves religious will only continue to increase.” Read here...

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Are all atheists simply angry, or just the ones to whom you’re listening?

Apr 13, 2015 by

By Oliver Burkeman, Guardian: Why are atheists so angry? The question – regularly flung around in debates about religion – is a self-fulfilling one, since atheists get pretty irritated whenever they’re asked it. But it’s revealing, too, because it pinpoints a surprising zone of agreement between believers and non-believers: many on both sides accept the premise that atheists are angrier than average. Naturally, their reasoning differs. Evangelical Christians sometimes assert that atheists secretly believe in God and fear he’s judging them; atheists retort that religion gives them plenty of things to be angry about. Either way, it’s difficult to examine Richard Dawkins’s Twitter feed (to pick the most unfairly obvious example) and fail to conclude that tetchiness and faithlessness go hand in hand. Here’s the thing, though: apparently they don’t. A study just published in theJournal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied (which I found via Hazlitt) describes what happened when researchers from universities in Pennsylvania and North Dakota set out to discover the truth behind the stereotype. First, they confirmed that it’s widely held. One method they used was an implicit association test, of the kind used to argue that many people are unconsciously racist because they take a split-second longer to associate positive words with black faces than white ones, and vice versa for negative words. Sure enough, atheism was associated with anger more readily than with calm. But when the researchers recruited more than a thousand students, determined their religious beliefs, then administered multiple tests to measure their disposition to anger, no correlation emerged. “We did not find any evidence to suggest that atheists – or those people believing in God to a lesser extent – are particularly angry individuals” they wrote, and concluded: “The idea of the angry atheist is a myth.” Assuming this is correct, why does the stereotype persist? Proponents of religion are undoubtedly guilty of demonizing those on the other side by pretending they’re angry when they’re not. The high-profile creationist Ken Ham, for example, is fond of using words like “angry” and “intolerant” to describe anyone who disagrees with him; yet if “tolerating” Ham’s argument that the world is 6,000 years old means entertaining it as a non-preposterous possibility, he’s going to conclude that an awful lot of people are intolerant. Read here...

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