Tag Archives: secularism

The New Social System: Keeping Parents Out

18 Mar

Not content with dismantling the NHS and drastically reducing benefits for the disabled in this week’s budget, the British Government this week unveiled plans to scrap the requirement for parents to sit on school boards of governors. As the Christian Institute also reports, parents would still have the opportunity to sit on school boards, but it would no longer be mandatory in the case of academy schools (which could soon mean all schools).

This ought to come as disturbing news to anybody who doesn’t view education as merely a convenient form of free childcare. Parents should have a voice in the running of their children’s schools; removing the requirement for parents to sit on school boards will inevitably lead to a weakening of the role of parents, and could see many schools – sorry, academies – phasing out the involvement of parent-governors altogether.

After all, what incentive is there for corporate education providers to involve parents if they can promote people who will deliver value for shareholders instead? How might one place limits on ideologically motivated educators if the board of governors does not represent a diversity of viewpoints?

The news is all the more disturbing as it marks another step in the land-grab by Government for access to children in the British Isles. Scotland’s controversial Named Person scheme faces strong opposition, yet continues to be pushed by those who want to see the state become both monitor and arbiter of how children should be raised. It is clear that some in Scotland think that they know better than parents.

Meanwhile, “education” on sex and transgender issues is being pushed on younger and younger children, in spite of the scientific evidence that this is unnecessary and even harmful. Parents’ concerns are routinely brushed aside as schools make decisions that run counter to common sense in order to privilege a minority, with the result that, for example, boys who claim to be transgender may demand to be allowed to use girls’ toilets and changing facilities, regardless of the effect on the girls who have a right to privacy and respect as well.

There is an ever-increasing push to keep parents out of their children’s upbringing, and to insert the involvement of the state in their place. This will fall particularly hard on Christian parents who quite rightly want to participate actively in the life and direction of their children’s schools. Some secular, liberal parents may be more at ease with what children are being taught about sex, abortion, homosexuality and transgender issues, while others may not feel as passionately and hence are less likely to seek election to school boards.

I cannot pretend to know whether the British Government knows what it is doing in these matters, or whether it is simply following blindly the logic of the marketplace and/or kowtowing to its wealthy donors who have vested interests.

What is sure is that marginalising parents from school boards is another step towards increasing state control in family life and the development of our young people, and this will have consequences for freedom of thought and religion.

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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Alice’s Baby (Part 1) – a law graduate examines abortion

23 Feb

Where does abortion lead us morally and legally? I’m a law graduate, so by nature I like to examine the legal aspect of trends in society. I’ll save all the explanations for the follow-up article, in which I attempt to answer the questions posed by this post, but for now, here’s a legal problem of the kind you’ll find in degree-level tutorials at university law schools across the world, particularly on courses such as Medicine, Law and Ethics.

Introducing Alice: A Theoretical Case Study

Alice is a woman who has become pregnant and has subsequently decided to terminate the pregnancy. Her abortion is booked for Wednesday, the last day on which it is legally permissible for her to have the termination procedure. On the Monday morning directly preceding her abortion date, Alice is involved in a car accident and is rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The doctors are able to save Alice’s life. To achieve this, they have to remove her baby from the womb by means of an emergency Caesarean section.

On Tuesday, Alice wakes from her coma to be told that her baby has been placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is doing as well as any premature baby, with very good prospects for a healthy future.

That night, Alice decides that she still does not want to be a mother and, in spite of her pain and the risk to her health, is able to leave her bed and slip into the unit where her baby is in an incubator.

She kills her child by means of smothering and then goes back to bed. On Wednesday morning, a nurse comes to tell her that her child has died in the night.

Questions for discussion

1.) Has Alice committed murder or infanticide? Has she taken a human life?

2.) If Alice has committed murder or infanticide, what implications does this have for abortion?

3.) If Alice has not committed murder, or we would like to say that she has not, what implications does this have for the value of human life?

I hope that’s all pretty clear and straightforward. I’ll see you on the other side in Alice’s Baby, Part 2.

Don’t worry, Church – secularism has your back!

22 Dec

Does the church really need society to be secular to ensure religious freedom?

A commentator on this blog post helped to crystallise a few thoughts which have been circulating in my addled brain recently on the subject of secularism’s claim to be interested in religious freedom.

What the lady said was: “…the purpose of a secular society… is not to restrict, destroy or ban your right to believe, but to protect it. And not just for you, or for other Christians, but for everyone.” She’s by no means unique in this view; it has been on my mind for a while just how the secular lobby seems to see itself as the referee in matters of religious rights, apparently ensuring that all the believers from different religions play safely in an arena run by non-believers for the benefit of all.

How cute, I thought as I read her comments. And how naive.

It’s cute, because I’m delighted that the church, after struggling for 2,000 years to make headway in the world, finally has a bunch of unbelievers who are willing to look out for it.

I hope my sarcasm is shining through.

And it’s naive, because anyone who thinks that the agenda of the secular lobby is to protect, ensure, or otherwise facilitate the exercise of religion, is living in cloud-cuckoo land.

The truth of the matter is that not only has the church been quite able to take care of its own freedoms, thank you very much, but it has also been unique in its tolerance of other religions.

Okay, so strongly Christian local councils in western democracies may not be rushing to grant planning permission for new mosques, but look on the flip side: Christians in Muslim lands are routinely arrested and imprisoned for their faith, with some facing the death penalty.

As a religion of state, Christianity grants unparalleled freedoms to those of other religions, while other national religions (with the honourable exception of Judaism – could there be a connection?) are openly and obviously hostile to anything that smacks of apostasy or competition. In countries where religions other than Christianity dominate, life can be anything but safe for those who possess a Bible or who assemble to worship God in the person of Jesus Christ. And it is often unsafe for followers of other religions not sanctioned by the state as well.

Christian missionary organisation Open Doors has a watchlist of countries in which Christians are persecuted for their faith. Most of the Islamic Middle East is on it, along with North Africa, China and parts of Asia.

In the vast majority of Christian lands, however, anybody of another religion has the right to worship Allah, Buddha or Krishna (or the deities of a myriad of other religions) without fearing a knock on the door, imprisonment or deprivation of normal human rights. If there is a Christian nation whose government imprisons non-Christians for being non-Christian, I’m hard pressed to think of it.

So why does secularism offer itself as the guarantor of religious freedom and so glibly imply that Christianity is not up to the job? It is breathtakingly arrogant on the part of secular people – the kind of breathtaking arrogance of which secularists normally accuse Christians when they state that Jesus is the only way to God – to suggest that they are best placed to have religious people’s interests at heart. I’m pretty sure my Muslim, Hindu and other religious counterparts would agree on this point. “Thanks for the offer of help, but really, no thanks,” I imagine them saying.

Why can’t religions be their own advocates, without secularists meddling? While it’s true that secularists and Christians are standing together to preserve freedom of speech in the face of parliamentary bills that could criminalise street preachers, coming together in that fashion to protect a right from which so many movements can benefit is a bit different from asserting that the church can only thrive if secularism is there to protect it. Most religions seem to be perfectly at home with arguing their own case. Since no actual oppression of other religions by Christianity is taking place, why get involved? Obstacles to the building of mosques don’t really count – it is hardly persecution, and if Christian faith is to be both recognised as a good thing and if its tenets are to be properly observed (one of which happens to be exclusivity as regards what is divine), it does not seem right to pour resources into promoting other religions. They have the right to make their own way, free from persecution.

What secularists really believe, of course, is that religion is of no significance. With that established, it naturally makes sense that no religious person should be allowed to advocate for religious freedom, lest they foul it up for everyone by, y’know, actually taking their beliefs seriously.

And why should we let secularists impose any form of control on religion, even in the name of religious freedom? A quick feel of the pulse locates the secularist in one of two views. In one view, all religion is dangerous and should be eradicated. This is the view of Richard Dawkins and a great many others. The other view has religions back-to-front: when you hear a secularist (and indeed some “spiritual” or superficially religious people) saying “Islam is a religion of peace” and then blaming Christianity for the Crusades and virtually every other war or tribal conflict since, you know that (a.) that person hasn’t bothered to study either, and (b.) they intend to use this obfuscation to undermine Christian belief and practice, since that is the real target of their obvious misrepresentations.

Neither of these views offers much comfort for the religious people whom the secularists purport to serve. At least the National Secular Society and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are honest about their goals, but the “we’re here to ensure freedom for all” brand of secularism is disingenuous.

If Dawkins-style hostile atheism is a frontal assault on Christian belief, the supposedly supportive version of secularism is an attempt to render Christianity ineffective by making it as bland as possible – with the help of a smiley, faux-concerned appeal to our desire for religious survival.

As the Proverbs put it, “Whoever flatters his neighbour is spreading a net for his feet.” (Prov. 29:5)

So let us not be impressed by the claims of secularists to represent religious freedom. The very name “secular” indicates quite clearly how many figs they actually give for God, Jesus, the Bible, or the values Christians should be standing for. And let us, as this blogger argues, stand up for Christianity in the public space.

Because atheists and secularists sure as hell aren’t going to do it for us.

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?

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