Tag Archives: christianity

Me every day on the internet

11 Mar
Things I repeatedly find myself saying on the internet and social media:
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– That’s not true.
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– That missing person was found weeks ago.
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– That person was never missing in the first place.
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– That’s a very old hoax.
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– That hoax is older than your Mom.
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– That’s a new hoax.
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– Just kidding – it’s even older than the first one.
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– And your Mom.
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– No, Jesus didn’t say that.
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– And Christians don’t believe that.
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– Or do that.
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– Or that.
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– Not if they are serious about following Jesus, anyway.
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– Which is what actual Christianity is, y’know, about.
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– Yes, we do have evidence.
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– Again, that thing you reposted on Facebook is a hoax – check Snopes.
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– And Wikipedia.
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– And any reputable news source.
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– And real life.
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– The effect of that change in social mores has not been nearly so beneficial as you claim, on any number of metrics that are commonly accepted as indicators of health, security and wellbeing.
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– I know it’s only “one study”. It’s not the only one, and I’m telling you to keep an open mind.
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– You’ll get the “lots of studies” when I find time to write a book about it. Otherwise, the research is out there. Has it occurred to you that maybe the real science doesn’t sell newspapers?
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– Or that politicians don’t care about it?
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– Yes, man did land on the Moon.
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– No, we have not collaborated with aliens to build a secret base there.
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– The second shadow comes from sunlight reflected by Earth, not studio lighting.
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– No, not everything you read on Snopes is true.
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– Because not everybody on Snopes understands what they are talking about.
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– Or that opinion is not the same as logic, analysis or an impartial and thorough review of actual evidence.
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– Nibiru? No.
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– Because we would have seen it in all kinds of ways.
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– But not on your mobile phone.
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– Nor as a second sun mysteriously caught on a TV camera in one broadcast but also mysteriously invisible to billions of other people, millions of other cameras and the whole scientific community.
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– Could you take my word on this one? Or make a common-sense assessment?
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– Please?
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– Nor Planet X.
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– Nor chemtrails.
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– Guns. Kill. People.
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– Yes, there is a Planet 9.
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– But it doesn’t do the things you say Planet X does.
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– Which would make it not actually proof of your crackpot theory.
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– Well, the person who first published the Nibiru theory claimed to have been spoken to by aliens.
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– But who am I to judge?
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– No, Hitler and the Nazis weren’t Christians.
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– Pretty sure, actually.
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– And they didn’t get caught up in a secret plot to perpetuate the Third Reich through the 1960s space race.
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– The proposed changes in the legislation are not nearly so benign and neutral as this pressure group makes out.
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– It’s not homophobic to point that out.
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– Or transphobic.
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– Or bigoted.
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– It’s called freedom of speech.
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– And thought.
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– Yes, if it has a penis and testicles that produce sperm, it’s probably still a man.
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– It’s not homophobic to point that out.
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– Or transphobic.
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– Or bigoted.
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– It’s called scientific fact.
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– And thought.
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– Which was what we believed in before we decided feelings were the ultimate arbitrator of reality.
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– And after we did away with God.
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– Look, just let me know when Caitlyn Jenner starts menstruating.
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– Could you please actually read the Bible?
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– And try to understand that a New Testament can repeal sections of an Old Testament?
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– Or ask a Christian what they believe?
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– And how they come to that belief?
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– And how they live it out in practice?
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– Rather than telling them they believe and do what Richard Dawkins told you they believe and do?
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– Or that lobby group.
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– Or the National Secularist Foundation of Societies for Freedom From Religion And Anything That Questions Our Unquestioning Self-Regard.
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– *yawn*
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– Yes, I do eat prawns.
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– But not oysters.
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– You may have misunderstood the purpose of that commandment in the Old Testament.
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– And imposed a 21st-century, post-modern view of justice and democracy upon it.
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– Because an unmarried woman who had been raped couldn’t just go and claim social security in 1500 BC Sinai, that’s why.
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– Ditto that commandment.
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– And that commandment.
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– Seriously? Yes, that commandment too.
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– It’s not just an unfeeling clump of cells.
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– Three words: Abortion to term.
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– Liberal Christians don’t want to believe the Bible any more than you do. The clue’s in the name.
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– I know Rob Bell said it.
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– But Jesus didn’t.
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– If Jesus didn’t talk about that thing, maybe it was because it was already commonly understood in that era from 1,500 years of Jewish history and law.
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– Have you seen oysters? Seriously, no, thank you!
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– No, it’s not a Delusion.
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– And the translators do know what they are doing.
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– And the real history of the Crusades is not like that.
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– The evidence is there – you just have to investigate it honestly.
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– For yourself.
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– Because if Richard Dawkins is as blinkered, unresearched and biased as you are,* then it’s the blind leading the blind.
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– Well, there’s a chance that if you investigate these things for yourself you will achieve that thing that you’re always insisting I should do.
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– “What’s that?”
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– Learn something that will open your eyes.   :o)
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PS:
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– No, Jesus won’t turn you away for believing in Nibiru.
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– Salvation comes by faith in a God who has revealed Himself in numerous ways.
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– Not by passing a science test.
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Thank you for reading.
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*There is plenty of evidence that this is so.
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There’s nothing wrong with divine reward

28 Oct

Dear reader, you may think I’m being too picky or too sensitive to seeing criticism where there is none, but indulge me for a few minutes.

The picture below popped up on my Facebook feed today.

But is it true?

It bears the slogan: “Caring people help others, not because they expect a reward, but because it is natural to show kindness.” It is one of many “positive thoughts” hosted on this blog and Facebook group.

It seems like a lovely thought, on the face of it. What could be better than doing good things for other people without expecting anything in return, and to have that generosity bubble up out of one’s very nature?

But is that what this proverb is getting at?

I have noticed recently that there are increasing numbers of messages sent out over social media which affirm certain desirable and uplifting behaviours, yet which also seem to take a subtle dig at Christian faith and practice. Atheists have all the right views, in other words, and you don’t need any of that God stuff in order to be Mother Teresa.

Atheists claim, “We don’t need God to be good!” They argue that any good they do is far more altruistic than that of the Christian because the Christian’s giving is motivated by hope of reward (bad) or fear of damnation (worse).

But does divine reward undermine charity, or even common decency?

Might the idea of reward in fact produce greater, more enthusiastic generosity?

I see it this way, from experience:

1.) Knowing that God rewards me frees me to be generous.
The Bible says, “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9) It also adds that “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Knowing that God is able to provide for me releases me from worrying about how my needs will be met – and hence frees me to be generous. Does this work? I regularly give to support others whilst not having much money myself – even while in need, to the point of having bills to pay and not knowing how I will pay them. God always provides! It’s called living by faith: expecting God to provide for us as we provide for others, according to the promises of His Word such as those quoted above, which are based on the principle that in order to be receivers, we need to be givers first.

2.) Eternal reward frees me from making my life all about me.
There may be ardent atheists who are deeply altruistic, self-sacrificial and giving. More power to ’em. But atheism, with its emphasis on personal autonomy and fundamental philosophical commitment to the evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest, is not a system by which to produce generosity or compassion in those who are not already inclined to be generous or compassionate. How could it? Indeed, it might be argued that most of our financial crises (particularly those involving fat cat bankers) have been precipitated by an atheist-evolutionary worldview: selfish gain replacing the deeply biblical notions of stewardship and accountability. The idea that we can be good without God may seem persuasive at first, but if there is no God, what motive do we have for doing anything other than what feels good or seems convenient?

What about soldiers giving their lives for their buddies in combat? Heroic, yes; altruistic, certainly, but you’ll notice that soldiers are generally inculcated during their training with a strong code of ethics and commitment – something that atheism, the Great Negative, outstandingly lacks.

What is there that pulls us towards generosity, in the way that a planet’s gravity pulls a wayward asteroid towards itself, even from afar? What are we being drawn by, or aiming towards, if not God?

Knowing that my life is most significant when set in the context of eternal judgment and its consequences – in this case, reward contingent upon obedience – sets me free at a fundamental level. If this life is all there is, it only means as much as I make it mean to myself, by whatever means seem most attractive to me, and all of that will be swallowed up by nothingness soon enough. Forgive me if I’m not blown away by that as a cast-iron guarantee of any of us Doing The Right Thing For One Another.

If, however, this life is only a brief trailer for a reality that goes on forever on the other side of death, then I can afford to live this life radically, unbounded by self-centred materialism. This life is not all there is, dying with the most toys is not the highest ambition, and my eternal future is secure in Christ, so why hang onto whatever I can get my hands on during my short stay on Earth?

3.) Reward for kindness is kindness.
Forget for a moment (if you’re sympathetic to the atheist position, at least) the idea that God is mean, nasty, a killjoy and a tyrant who is out to get us. What if God wants to be kind to us because He is naturally kind? And the reason He wants us to be kind is because He wants to see more kindness in the world? And that the people He most wants to be kind to are the ones who demonstrate the most of His kind of kindness?

Think of it this way: suppose you and I both work for a multi-million pound (1.5 multi-million dollar) company run by an older man who has no family of his own, but has real family values. His values extend to the point that he treats customers as family, and his staff too. His idea of a good way to run the company is to invite the staff and employees who give the best customer service to stay at his huge ranch, where they enjoy delicious meals in the fresh air, swim in the lake, walk in the beautiful countryside, and sit with him around the fire.

One night at the campfire, he says, “You guys are my heroes. Because you share my values and demonstrate them unfailingly to my customers, you are the people who I want to inherit the company when I am gone.”

Where is the self-seeking in those employees’ treatment of their customers? There is none! They have simply been best at adopting and reflecting the boss’s desires. Essentially, they have made his nature their own, and in so doing, have reaped a reward. The boss wants to share the best that he has to offer with the people who identify most with him.

(That sounds a little like God to me…)

Does the principle of caring for no reward – which secularists have staked out as their own – work?
Who Really Cares is an enlightening book by Prof. Arthur C. Brooks. In it, he investigates, with the benefit of considerable independent research, whether religious or secular people and/or conservatives or liberals are the most charitable. The answers surprised even him: it is Christian religious conservatives who are most inclined to give by way of personal charity. Secular liberals are most likely to support government giving money to those in need, but (some of you may be way ahead of me here) this also leads to lower personal giving amongst secular liberals as they see it as the government’s responsibility to address inequality on their behalf rather than their responsibility to meet the needs of those less well-off.

“I gave at the ballot box,” in other words.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it? If it is the government’s responsibility to give to those in need, you and I don’t need to. And if the government doesn’t live up to its brief to feed the hungry, and instead embarks on making the rich richer, selling off the National Health Service to cronies in business and school meal services to companies that feed children nutrition-free rubbish, well at least we have the right liberal-secular values, right?

Pat yourself on the back; you deserve a Nobel Prize for Nice Thoughts.

If Christians are giving more (and not palming that responsibility off on Government), it must be because something in Christianity prompts them to do so. If secularists are giving less than Christians, it must be because something in secularism causes them to feel inclined to give less, or because there is something they have given up by rejecting Christianity that results in them giving less.

Could it be that the sure hope of eternal reward, backed by Almighty God and demonstrated in the sacrificial death and consequent reward-resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the ultimate motivation for compassion and charity? And that we can’t do without God after all, if we truly want to see more people caring?

Keep searching!

The weakness of atheist brainwashing

1 Mar

Are you being brainwashed?

That’s the question I want to ask you at the beginning of this article.

Atheists are quick to accuse Christianity of brainwashing and Christians of being brainwashed. And they aren’t merely suggesting that some Christian sects engage in brainwashing, or that some Christians have been subjected to undue influence through mental and emotional manipulation. If some secularists are to be believed, all organised religion involves brainwashing.

Is this true?

On the basis of over thirty years of experience of many dozens of different churches and many thousands of individual Christians, I very much doubt it.

But rather than make the case that Christians are not brainwashed, which others have surely done very well elsewhere, why don’t we ask ourselves whether there is perhaps a certain element of brainwashing to secularists’ arguments against Christianity?

How does the boot fit when it is on the other foot?

I found a great example this morning. This picture popped up in my Facebook feed:

But is it true?


But is it true?

The photo is a collage contrasting ornate, heavily gilded Catholic churches and cathedrals with a picture of a severely emaciated African boy who is clearly on the brink of death by starvation. Alongside it, the caption: “We simply cannot afford to feed this person”.

The message is clear: according to the creator of the collage, the Catholic church possesses vast wealth, on which it sits, twiddling its thumbs, whilst people in Africa starve to death. Apparently the Catholic church does not care about starving children and is not lifting a finger to help them.

Or does it? A quick visit to Wikipedia found this:

The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and medical services in the world. In 2010, the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers said that the Church manages 26% of health care facilities in the world, including hospitals, clinics, orphanages, pharmacies and centres for those with leprosy.

The Church is also actively engaged in international aid and development through organisations such as Catholic Relief Services, Caritas International, Aid to the Church in Need, refugee advocacy groups such as the Jesuit Refugee Service and community aid groups such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

Hardly the work of an organisation more interested in the gold on its spires than in feeding the starving, wouldn’t you say? In fact, here’s a picture of a girl getting water from a borehole that was made possible by British Catholic charity CAFOD (The CAtholic Aid FOunDation – geddit?):

Some secularists can't see this well.


Some objectors to Christian faith
can’t see this well.

If you look at news reporting of any major disaster in developing countries, you will soon find that churches and Christians, including the Catholic church, are quick to respond with lifesaving assistance. Very often it is Christian organisations that respond first to crisis situations and remain long after the TV cameras have moved on to other places, and after politicians have stopped making headline-grabbing promises.

While some may still claim that the Catholic church should still sell its remaining treasures and give the proceeds to the poor, it is not doing nothing, as the picture implies. I understand that some of the church’s critics are legitimately concerned with genuine instances of excess and waste on the part of a minority of Christian people. A great many Christians are concerned about that kind of greed too – indeed, it’s one of the sins from which Jesus came to deliver us.

Yet the reality of the church’s work in this world is a far cry from armchair “preaching” by haters. Do Catholics care? Does one’s faith make a difference to one’s compassion? How many hospitals or feeding stations are owned and operated in this world’s poorest countries by General Motors? General Electric? Time Warner? The communist party? The City of New York?

So what of brainwashing?

The image above was posted on a Facebook page entitled (please excuse the expletive; I’m only quoting) “Holy Shit“. The group’s URL includes the description “Free Thinkers”. At the time of writing, Holy Sh[you know the rest] has 22,000 followers, while the image itself had almost 200 likes and had been shared to people’s Facebook walls over 100 times within 13 hours of publication. Of course this is only one of thousands of such groups which exist to lambast the church for its failures – whether real or perceived.

It’s deeply ironic that such a baseless, blinkered, and frankly libellous accusation should be spoonfed to social media users in the name of free thought.

Nevertheless, that’s where much anti-Christian sentiment is at, at least for the man in the street (or the adolescent on the smartphone): Think of a negative about Christian faith or practice. Don’t ask yourself whether or not it is really true. Turn it into a generalisation. Repeat it wherever and whenever possible. Don’t apologise when contradicted by reality. For bonus points: Now tell yourself that it is Christians are brainwashed. Return to repeating the previous generalisation when the sting of being corrected has faded and you can cling to it comfortably once again.

Militant atheists and other secularists usually pride themselves on being the ones in possession of the facts. Science, evidence, rationality and truth are all supposed to be their forte.

However, when they repeat, with wearying regularity, accusations such as the one in the picture above – many of which can be quickly debunked with a few minutes’ googling – they are being neither scientific (since they do not investigate to see whether the hypothesis is true), nor basing their beliefs on evidence (almost by default, since they refuse to look at anything that might contradict their position), nor rational (since they are seeking to comfort their own distorted views rather than being objective), nor truthful (since they are repeating propositions that are demonstrably false, or at least making out that propositions that are only true in part are true in all cases).

They are, however, spreading untruths in order to foist their prejudices upon others.

And that, by anybody’s definition, is brainwashing.

No Holy Spirit makes Christianity hard to swallow

17 May

Yesterday I had the unfortunate experience of having to eat a gluten-free biscuit (“cookie”, for American readers). It started off okay, as it was sweet and crunchy, but by the time it came to swallow, it was sticking to my teeth like sawdust. I had to eat a handful of raisins just to dislodge the clumps of biscuit that were still sticking to my teeth.

Gluten in flour acts as a kind of lubricant in bread, cookies and cakes. It gives the baked dough a bouncier consistency, and this makes food more appealing to look at and to handle, as well as much more pleasant to chew and easier to swallow.

Of course, some people cannot eat gluten and have no choice but to eat gluten-free. My mother has had to eat a gluten-free diet for some 30 years. Her allergy to wheat gluten means that if she resumes eating gluten, it brings on an uncomfortable skin-rash. But, given the choice, she would go back to eating normal food, with the gluten left in, in a heartbeat.

It strikes me that the power of the Holy Spirit is a bit like gluten. Christian life is so much more bouncy, so much more enjoyable, when one is full of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is… joy…” (Galatians 5:22) Joy and the overflowing life given by the Spirit (John 7:38) not only make our own lives as followers of Christ into the abundant and rich experience Jesus said it would be (“I have come that you may have life in all its fullness” – see John 10:10). Being filled with the Spirit also makes us more palatable to the world. If Christianity is all “Do this; don’t do that,” it can seem dry, lifeless, as hard to swallow as sawdust or those dry crumbs of biscuit that stuck to my teeth. The Spirit-filled life is one of power to do the works of the kingdom of God (Acts 1:8); ability to overcome the traps set by the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16); release from the death-grip of the world (Romans 8:11-14). These are the things the world is crying out for; answers to its problems and keys to its prison cell.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit some twenty years ago immediately transformed my life as a Christian. I was almost 16 years old, and had been saved for six years, having grown up in a church that did not talk about the baptism or gifts of the Spirit. My faith had consistency: I knew I was saved, but it was a dry faith. One could get tired of trying to swallow it. When I got filled with the Spirit and began praying in tongues, all of that changed. His power not only brought me into a new dimension of relating to God; it brought a bounce and a liveliness that had been missing before. Passion was there, along with boldness, focus and a sense of being fully involved in God’s purposes. No longer did Christianity stick in my teeth: it became ever more a delight and, as I began leading people to faith in Jesus, it was clear that the Spirit in me was making the gospel appetising to other people too.

Sometimes we ask what is missing from our Christianity. Since I got filled with the Spirit, I no longer have to ask that question: I have found God’s gluten, the missing ingredient that was needed to provide the “bounce”. Yet some of us seem to be allergic to the answer: the mention of the Holy Spirit and gifts like tongues and prophecy brings us out in a rash. But when we take Jesus at His word and receive the Holy Spirit, not only do we find that there is no allergic reaction; the Spirit brings us life!

Find out here how to be filled with the Spirit today.

I’m still waiting to hear an atheist say something impressive

2 May

Hello, and welcome to my first proper blog post on Cookie Supermarket!

I frequently have discussions about faith with atheist friends, usually on Facebook. Many of them are passionate in their claim that there is no such thing as God, or indeed any god. A lot of them appear to put great faith in the pronouncements of prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, et al.

After a couple of years of going around in circles, patterns are emerging. And they don’t bode well for atheism.

    1. Atheism is not rational, analytical, logical and scientific, as its proponents claim. I have never heard so much circular logic as when atheism is boiled down to its essentials. “There is no God because there is no God,” or indeed, “Miracles cannot happen because miracles cannot happen,”  is a fair summation of the logic applied. Much of the logic is founded on a vested interest: there is said to be no God because the atheist cannot or will not bring themselves to believe in God. As one has said, “An atheist cannot find God for the same reason that a thief cannot find a policeman.”
    2. The “high priests” of atheism make arguments based on mockery and disbelief rather than careful consideration of the facts. Consider this gem by Christopher Hitchens – hailed by atheists as a “destruction of biblical miracle claims” – in which he argues that it is possible to consider something a miracle if you are ignorant of the facts, i.e. you see your friend, whom you thought had been executed yesterday, walking around in town and assume he has been raised from the dead. Clearly that is not a miracle if the friend did not die. Christians and atheists can agree on that. Hitchens gets his laugh from the audience, but completely neglects to consider what happens if your friend who was executed (he is, of course, making a jokey reference to Jesus Christ) actually did die and was then seen walking around a few days later. In short, his argument is based upon the a priori conclusion that resurrection is impossible. The actual facts of the Resurrection are not even considered. Hitchens’ argument would not stand up in a court of law.
    3. Scandalous use of red herrings. Hitchens goes on to say that many people were raised from the dead in Jesus’ day, and that this disproves Jesus’ divinity as any of these other people who were raised from the dead could make the same claim. Again, Hitchens fails to consider the facts. Of all those raised from the dead, Jesus alone spoke of being the Messiah, God, and the Son of God. He alone was the fulfilment of centuries of Old Testament prophecy. And of Him alone was it said that “[God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) Hitchens’ reference to the “others” who were raised from the dead is a red herring: it proves (or indeed disproves) nothing, because once again the atheist has not done justice to the facts.

Obviously there is more one could say on so great a subject. Atheists put a huge amount of faith in physics explaining ever more distant acts of cosmic upheaval as proof that God was not involved in creation – yet this only delays the invevitable question of where the original matter, energy or space-time fabric came from which permitted that upheaval to take place. The principle that nothing can come from nothing is basic science, yet it seems to be conveniently ignored by atheists.

There is also the issue that many militant atheists, including Hitchens and Dawkins, apparently cannot see anything good in faith or religion. They give no consideration to the lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ: that faith in Him has turned millions from despair, drugs and crime, or indeed that countless acts of selflessness and charity are done by Christians precisely because their faith has inspired them to love, to give, to put themselves through discomfort and deprivation in order to serve those less fortunate. The argument that our law and much of western civilisation (art, music, architecture, various freedoms, etc.) owe their very existence to biblical concepts cuts no ice with the atheist. All this could exist without theistic belief – or so they claim. Never mind that these good things, which we take for granted, were pioneered by men and women whose faith was a passionate fire that blazed within them so that they prevailed against the spirit of the day until history itself was set alight.

In short, atheism is an attitude of mind. It rejects a study of the facts in favour of convenient beliefs; it draws false conclusions based on shaky premises; it places faith in its mockery of concepts rather than real analysis. It sees no good in a faith which in reality inspires virtues which no godless belief system can hope to imitate. Atheism is not a belief in something, but a belief in nothing – one which by its very nature is vandalistic, destructive and impoverished.

You can be an atheist if you wish, but don’t kid yourself about rationality. And for pity’s sake, make up your own mind, rather than being taken in by someone else’s mockery.

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