2007-06-30

CELEBRATING IN-DEPENDENCE DAY

A SERMON FOR YEAR C, 5th Pentecost, Proper-8
Copyright © 2007 Nathan L. Bostian

Scriptures: Galatians 5:1,13-25; Luke 9:51-62

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, our Rock and Redeemer. Amen+

What was your favorite holiday as a kid? Which holiday did you enjoy the most, regardless of whether or not you got presents?

For me the answer is simple: The Fourth of July. Independence Day. Perhaps it is because in the town I grew up in, it was the one day of the year when it was legally sanctioned to BLOW THINGS UP.

As a kid, I had this ritual leading up to Independence Day. I would build models of tanks, and jeeps, and even balsa wood airplanes for weeks before the fourth of July. I would collect armies of little green army men. And the week before, I would prepare the battlefield by building fortresses, and digging trenches, in our front lawn.

Then the day would come. I had positioned my soldiers. I had attached bottle rockets to my balsa wood planes. The tanks and jeeps were filled with miniature explosives. I had a lighter in one hand, and fists full of fireworks in the other.

It was time. Operation Independence Day was a go!

For hours the battle would rage: Pieces of plastic flying everywhere. Balsa wood planes exploding in midair. The smell of burning plastic filled the nostrils. Scorched earth covered the lawn.

It was a good day, even though everyone lost except me.

And, as fun as that was, I still love Independence Day because I identify with its core message. It is the day when a small group of backwoods rebels took on the mightiest nation in the world, and won… It is a "manly", courageous holiday that celebrates both the costs and the blessings of victory.

From that victory we have gained prosperity. Indeed, we are undeniably the wealthiest, most blessed nation in the history of the world. From that victory we have gained freedom. Freedom to do anything and be anyone we want to be, without any class system to stop us.

Patriotism, Prosperity, and Freedom. These are good gifts. And Independence Day gives us an opportunity to thank the Giver of them all. He gives us good things so we can grow in His Love, and share that Love with others.

But however good these blessings may be, our readings today serve as a powerful reminder that they can be used wrongly.

They CAN become curses. They can be MADE into idols.

Even the best blessing, if abused, can slowly kill our souls. You see, an idol is usually not a bad thing in itself. Idols are good things that are used wrongly. And we have a habit of taking what is good, and allowing it to choke out of our lives what it best.

Goods were given by God as tools to help us grow in His Love. But, too often, we make our goods our goal, and use God as the tool to get them. God becomes the errand boy who, with prayer and supplication, makes sure we are healthy, wealthy, and comfortable.

But, when we let our goods to become our gods, then God becomes no good to us. We gain the world, yet forfeit our own souls.

If we look at the Gospel passage through the lens of the idolatry, it all makes sense. But, if we do not understand our human tendency to turn our goods into gods, then Jesus just sounds cruel.

I mean, we have Jesus telling one guy he will be homeless, another that he can't attend his father's funeral, and yet another that he can't even say goodbye to his family. Where is the "sweet and gentle" Jesus that puts little children on His knee? How can we reconcile this wild-eyed fanatic, with the preacher of Love and peace?

It is simple. Jesus is the Great Physician. And a physician that has a comforting bedside manner, who always assures us that everything will be OK, is the same surgeon that is a wild-eyed fanatic about getting every last bit of cancer out of our body.

This passage performs radical surgery on three good things- Patriotism, Prosperity, and Freedom- that can grow into cancerous idols.

First we see patriotism at its worst. Jesus had "set his face" on going to Jerusalem from Galilee. He was on a mission, which would culminate in his death and resurrection, and open the door to salvation for all people… even salvation for the Samaritans.

Now, as we know from the parable of the Good Samaritan [2], there was an extreme patriotic hatred between so-called pious Jews and so-called godless Samaritans. They had different racial stock, different religious traditions, an intense disagreement over the Scriptures, and saw each other as traitors to their national identity.

If you were going from Galilee to Jerusalem, the most direct route was through Samaria. Yet, most Jews would take the long way around out of spite. But not Jesus. Jesus' path of salvation may have started with the Jews, but it branched out to include all people- even those who were deemed "a national threat" to Jewish interests.

You would think that this would make the Samaritans glad. They would receive him with joy as their Messiah and Savior, right? Wrong.

They shut him out. They shut out the King of Glory, the Savior of Mankind. His ethnicity and political affiliation was offensive to them. He might heal the sick and raise the dead, but he wasn't "like folks around here". He was a danged ol' fer-in-err [foreigner].

And it was not only the Samaritans who shut Jesus out as a political threat. His own people tried to silence him by crucifixion for the same reason. Neither the Jews nor the Samaritans "got it", so they rejected Jesus instead.

And even His own disciples didn't "get it". They thought Jesus' agenda of radical Love could be accomplished by "power politics". In this case, it was calling down the power of God, to destroy those they disagreed with. So, Jesus had to yell at them too. No one got Jesus.

This makes us question to what degree our politics- our vision of a good America- keeps us from "getting Jesus". Do we shut out Jesus because, if we really followed him, He might change our affiliations and our goals for society? If we really served Christ, who might we have to listen to, that we ignore right now?

This is a question for the Right and the Left, and everyone in the middle. Because it is King Jesus that judges all our kings, His Kingdom that judges our politics, and it is His agenda of radical Love that judges our agendas and asks: "Is THIS an idol?"

But this passage not only questions Patriotism, but Prosperity as well. This is quite obvious when Jesus tells the man that following Him means He probably be worse off than even the foxes and the birds.

The point is that following Jesus is not a "get rich quick scheme". The point of following Jesus- no matter what the TV preachers may say- is not to be healthy, wealthy, and comfortable. The point is to learn how to live radical, self-sacrificial, unconditional Love. To grow into Christ's image. To possess the "fruit of the Spirit".

For some, this may mean that God entrusts you with a great deal of financial blessings, so that you in turn can bless the world. For others, it means that God calls you to live a life of radical dependence on God's provision.

Either way, Jesus makes it clear that He is not a meal ticket. He is the goal, not the means. And prosperity is the means to bless others, not the goal. When we confuse this, we allow a cancerous idolatry to squeeze the life out of our souls.

In a less obvious way, this is also what is behind Jesus not allowing the man to bury his father. You see, in the ancient world after a male buried his father, he was given his inheritance.

What the man is saying here is not "Let me bury my father, because I miss him so much". He is saying "I want to serve you Jesus, but only after I get all my financial ducks in a row. Let me get my inheritance, pay off all my credit cards, and set up my 401K. And after I am completely financially secure and do not really have to depend on you, THEN I will follow you".

And we all know what happens when we tell God "Yes, I will serve you, but the time is not right. Let me get a few things in order first".

Those few things turn into hundreds of things. Weeks turn into months. Responsibilities and requirements mount up. Pretty soon, a half a lifetime has passed, and we have not followed Christ.

Christ's word to that is "NO. I come first. Right here, right now, with whatever you have, or do not have, serve me. I will worry about the future, because I made it. But you… you worry about me."

And along with raising questions about Patriotism and Prosperity, Christ calls into question what true Freedom is. In our culture, we tend to think of freedom as being free "FROM": Free from slavery. Free from kings and dictators. Free from anyone telling us what we have to do!

But this is not Christ's concept of freedom. Or rather, it is only half of Christ's concept of freedom, and half the truth is a whole heresy.

Christian freedom is not only freedom "from", but it is freedom "to". We are free from oppression, from sin, and from death. But, if "freedom from" is not combined with "freedom to", it becomes a soul killing idolatry. It puts us- not God- in the center of our universe.

By His death and resurrection, Christ frees us FROM bondage so that we are free TO love like He does. It is "for freedom Christ has set us free". Before Christ frees us, we cannot serve Him. We are held in bondage to selfishness, sin, and idolatry.

But, after Christ frees us, we can finally love like He does. We do not have to be held in bondage to our past, our addictions, or our pet sins. We are free TO live in love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, humility, and self control.

But, as Paul says, this freedom is accomplished by total dependence on Christ's Spirit living in us, and giving us the strength and wisdom to live in that freedom. Paul calls this dependence "walking in the Spirit", "living by the Spirit", and "keeping in step with the Spirit".

And this is what is behind Jesus saying that following Him means having "nowhere to lay our head". We have no way to live in Christ's freedom, except by laying our head on Him, and constantly relying on Him to give us the power to love like He does.

This concept of true freedom, by depending on Christ alone, is also what is behind Jesus telling the last would-be disciple that he could not go back and say goodbye to his family.

You see, going home to say goodbye also meant going home to get approval. And Jesus knew what that man would face at home. Blank stares. Rolling eyes. A million and one really good reasons why now is a bad time to follow Christ.

When family functions as God intended, it is a beautiful gift. A good family is an incredible source of wisdom, nurture, and encouragement. But, when family goes wrong, it can be an incredible source of excuses, guilt, and discouragement.

We all know someone who has spent years in guilt, trying desperately to live up to the expectations of a family member who is never satisfied. We all know someone who's dreams were slowly crushed to death by the disapproval and discouragement of a loved one.

We all know someone who spent a lifetime hearing "better safe than sorry", only to wake up one day and find out they were sorry because they always played it safe. They never risked anything. They chose approval over the destiny God called them to.

And for this man, Jesus words were not cruel harassment, but loving surgery, as Jesus gave him the cure for his idolatry. He says to that man what he says to us all:

"Don't live for approval. Don't look back. Follow me. You can't plow a straight furrow if you are always looking behind you, and you aren’t ready for my Kingdom if I am not your true King. Follow me."

This Fourth of July, we celebrate Independence Day, because Jesus has freed us from the powers of darkness. But, we also celebrate IN-dependence, because we can only live in freedom by being in-dependence on Christ at all times.

This Wednesday, as we celebrate our independence and all of our national blessings, may we always live IN-dependence on Him who blesses us. May the King of the Universe guide us to true patriotism, may Christ our Liberator guide us into true freedom, and may He give us the prosperity that comes from the Fruit of His Spirit. Amen+

2007-06-24

A Short Lexicon of Probabilistic Epistemology


This article is about epistemology: the study of how we know what we know. The main thesis here is that we do NOT come to know things by becoming absolutely certain of them, so that we do not need faith to believe them. I do not believe- due to the noetic effects of our own finitude and the corrosion of sin- that we can have absolute certainty. Such certainty only applies to God's own knowledge. Instead, we can only have degrees of certainty… Or, put better, degrees of probability that any explanation [A, B, or C] actually conforms to a given Reality [X].

2007-06-11

To Matt on the Problem of Petitionary Prayer

My buddy Matt Tapie recently wrote a blog that deals with faith in God and the problem of petitionary prayer (i.e. Prayers that ask God to DO something to help us). The central problem is always this: Why does God help some and not others? A few major solutions have arisen to deal with this problem:

Are all "miracles" just coincidences, completely explainable by scientific cause and effect? In this case, God is like a scientist who made this huge science fair project we call "creation", and then sits back passively to watch it run. This, by the way, is called Deism, and it leads directly to Atheism, because if God is nowhere involved in Creation, then there is no need of using God as a causal or explanatory factor at all.

Or, is God bound by the processes of the Universe to evolve along with it, growing and changing as the Universe grows and changes, like a soul that grows with a body? In this case, God cannot do anything other than what is already happening, because what is happening- good and bad- is God's personal evolution. God is doing the best God can. This is called process Theism, or panentheism, and because it leads to a view in which God never intervenes in Cration to express His personality, it usually leads to pantheism. Pantheism is the view that "God" is really the impersonal life force of the universe, source of good and evil, and unknowable to any personal being (like us).

So, all of the major solutions seem to deny key features of the Biblical revelation of God we find epitomized in Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate. This God is personal, does "intervene" on some occasions, does do "miracles" (but infrequently), and does seem to be moved by petitionary prayers. But, why is God not moved by EVERY petitionary prayer (if, indeed, he loves everyone)? Here is what I wrote to Matt:

Have you ever read CS Lewis' book "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer"? It has some truly brilliant parts in it about intercessory prayer.

I think my problem with intercessory prayer is solved primarily by the fact that God is a Person, not merely a principal. He can act as he wills, in random freedom. This is not to say that He is capricious. I believe he always acts out of His own Nature as Triune Love.

But HOW that Love is manifested in our lives and in our world is diverse. I assume that in any choice that God makes (or any of us make, for that matter), someone is benefitted more, and some less, by the consequences of that choice. If there are a hundred people, and if God acts in any one of their lives, the consequences of that action will result in some level of benefit for 20 of them, some level of detriment for 20 of them, and no effect on the rest, how will God act?

God could enter into History in a radical way, and destroy all contingencies which cause adverse effects (including destroying all sin and those who will not relinquish sin). But this would be the end of the world and the end of History. All human striving and accomplishment would end, and we would forever come face to face with what we have become.

But, I assume that God has chosen that the costs associated with the end of History are not yet worth the benefits, so He has not chosen to enter into history in a complete and comprehensive way. He has chosen to limit his divine causality in such a way that positive and negative consequences are actualized by his activity in the world.

Take, for instance, the Incarnation. That bit of Divine action in space and time created the means for our salvation and deification. But at what cost? It led to the crucifixion of God's only Son. And that led to His resurrection. And that led to the growth- and ultimate persecution- of the Christian movement. And this, over time has led to billions being saved and millions being martyred.

I believe that God thought the positive consequences outweighed the negative, but it is important to note that not even such a great "miracle" as the Incarnation of God was not without serious, and lasting, negative consequences.

This same thing could be said for God's calling and election of Israel as His People before Christ. God's intervention caused endless grief for the patriarchs. It caused the loss of all the first born in Egypt. It caused the death of a whole generation of grumblers in the desert. It caused genocide for the Canaanites. It has caused endless wars and pogroms and holocausts and exiles for the Jewish people through the ages.

Is it all worth it? Yes. It means the ultimate redemption of the world through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ. But this divine intervention is not without serious cost.

And what about the blind and the lame who are miraculously healed by Christ (in the Bible) and by His Spirit (in the continuing history of the Church)? Are such "miraculuous interventions" without cost? Think of Lazarus who, once raised, had to die again. Think of the lepers who had togo back home, back to work, back to society, and deal with the heartache associated with that. Think of the paralytic who has to learn how to work and integrate into society. And think of anyone who has 20 years added to their lives through a divine healing. They have to deal with the death of family, the betrayal of friends, and the brokenness that comes with just living in this world.

In the long run, isn’t it hard to calculate if a "miracle" gives more than it takes?

Or, to take a final example. Who would have thought seven years ago that it would be a BAD idea to get rid of an oppressive dictator who was jailing, torturing, and killing dozens of people every year in his country? Who would have thought that it was a bad idea to invade and "liberate" people? Who would have thought that people might be "better off" with an oppressive government?

And yet, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the consequences were not as we thought. We do not know what the long term effects will be. But, we do know that secret police raids that killed or tortured dozens every month, have turned into sectarian violence that kills hundreds every month. And we have learned that there are some things a country has to do for itself, or else it does not "own" the change it creates. Swooping in with US military might may not, after all, be such a wise idea if democracy and freedom is to be spread in a genuine way.

There are many times when a person (or even a country) cannot "liberate" someone else. It only causes a mixed bag of resentment and dependence toward the liberator. Instead, the would-be liberator must give power to the oppressed to free themselves, and if they do not use that power, they go on being oppressed.

All of this goes for God as for men. Does God "intervene" and do amazing things in the world? Yes. But all of these interventions have positive and negative consequences, and you can bet that there is a Divine calculus that goes into making such decisions, which is unfathomable to us who can only hold "seven units" of information in our minds at any one time.

God's normal method of intervention, is to give us the spiritual power [i.e. grace] we need to liberate ourselves and others, because if he swooped in and causally did it for us, we would be immature and spoiled. God knows when it is better to do it for us (by miracle) and when it is better, in the long run, to help us do it for ourselves (as is the norm).

And then there is the problem that we often do not realize that allowing us to undergo temporary pain is often needed for long-term health. For instance, one day after my daughter turned two I had to take her down to get shots. She hated them, and she was very angry at me, for taking her to get them. It will be years before she realizes that they were necessary for her health in the long run.

The same is true for us. We do not realize why we must go through pain. But we will. And even physical death is an incomparably small price to pay to save us from a dead soul due to pride and selfishness. I am convinced God allows many to be taken away from this life so they do not grow into monsters or sub-humans.

All of this taken together, I think I am starting to grasp why God does not always intervene or heal in the way I expect Him to. I think our prayer and petition is related to how God acts, but in a systemic, and not a linear way. It is not as if my request [A] causes response [B]. Rather, in the timelessness of eternity, God hears my request [A], and does Divine Calculus with factors [B] through [Y], and then chooses in freedom to act in method [Z].

I also think that we must understand another thing from Scripture: All of the passages that speak in terms of "ask and it will be given you", are all written in second person plural. It is not an individualistic "you" who asks God, without discerning the will of God. It is a communal "y'all" who petitions God, after discussing and discerning together what should be asked. As Westerners, we tend to think of spirituality and petitionary prayer as the work of an individual, rather than as the work of Christ's Body, the Community of God.

In the final equation, God's answer to prayer isn't actually like an equation at all. It is more like a marriage. And while your spouse often acts in ways you might expect, you can never quite pin them down as if they were a machine. The same is true of God, in a cosmic, sinless, perfectly loving way.

2007-06-09

Does Atheism Cause Child Abuse?

[An essay on the logical implications of one's worldview on morality]

I recently had a discussion with a young atheist who could not believe in God because of all the pain and suffering in the world. In particular he pointed out child abuse and the death of innocents as a key stumbling block. I pointed out that without God, he had no basis to call such things "evil", since there is no evil in a materialist framework, only personal values and opinions. He had no clear answer to this, other than to say that he did value moral goodness, and he did believe that children are necessary even in an atheist worldview for the "continuation of the species". I simply retorted that he had no basis for such values from within his worldview, and he had to "back door" such values into his system from Christianity. Then we moved on with the discussion…

Today, I ran across an article about Richard Dawkins commenting on how he thought that religion was "child abuse" (especially telling children that they may die and go to hell). Of course, this is all begging the question of whether or not there is a hell. If there is a hell, isn't it child abuse NOT to warn people about it? And, if hell (or heaven, for that matter) is a trans-dimensional reality outside of our universe, as most theistic religions claim, wouldn't empirical science be powerless to discover it, since the only tools empiricism has are those which deal with this material universe? But, I digress…

In pondering the moral flaws of materialist atheism, and thinking about the issue of child abuse, a thought occurred to me: Atheism is completely compatable with child abuse. In fact, it is the perfect philosophy to validate the abuse of those weaker than ourselves. This is not to say that atheists are child abusers in a greater percentage than other religious adherents. This is because they back-door Christian moral assumptions into their system without giving an adequate basis for such morality. Another way to say this is to say that, as people made in God's image, they cannot help reflecting God's goodness in some ways, even though they deny his reality.

But, when taken as a logical system, atheism is the perfect system to validate the abuse of children (even if very few push it to its logical extreme). Most, if not all atheists, ground their moral concepts ultimately in the "good" of the individual person. What counts as "good" is ultimately utilitarian (i.e. actions are only good which act as instruments to produce personal pleasure or satisfaction, along with health and the extension of life). Furthermore, what counts as "evil" or "bad" are those things that harm personal pleasure and health, and go against our "instinct of self-preservation".

Now, children, of all creatures, are most unable to defend themselves from abuse, or put forward sufficient force to harm or destroy an attacker. Thus, they have no power to retaliate and harm this "instinct of self-preservation" put forward by atheists. The use and abuse of a child (or a disabled person, or someone significantly weaker than yourself) carries no inherent consequence which would harm someone. There may be imposed consequences from society, but these aren't necessary in a "perfect atheist world". We will discuss this more later, but it is sufficient to notice that in a framework without God and absolute justice, a child may be used for personal pleasure without causing self-harm. This is different from actions that inherently cause self harm, no matter how much immediate pleasure they bring about (doing heroin comes to mind).

Thus, if an atheist gains pleasure from the use and abuse of children, there should be no moral objection for it from their moral perspective. In fact, there should only be approval, since it is morally good (in the atheist framework) to do what pleases oneself and extends health and vitality.

There is no negative consequence inherent IN the act of child abuse (as there is, in say, doing drugs, or attacking someone who can retaliate). By the sheer nature of doing such acts of violence against other powerful, intelligent beings, personal existence and well-being probably will be harmed. But there is no such inherent consequence for abusing someone so much less powerful than yourself. In fact, the only consequence for such an action is indirect and external to the act, in the form of police action (i.e. punishing child-abusers as criminals). But, the presuppositions that lead society to punish child abuse cannot be drawn from a materialist utilitarian moral philosophy.

The only reason why a society should outlaw child abuse is if there is a clear moral reason for having children and raising them well. This is because part of raising MY child well will be to stop others (and myself) from abusing her. So, if it is logical to value raising children well, it is logical to create a society which protects children. And thus, not only is MY child protected, but all children are protected. Yet, the idea that we should become parents, and we should raise children well (and thus not abuse them), cannot derive from an atheist moral philosophy.

In fact, it is contrary to it, because the bearing of children is frequently harmful to personal health (possibly negating one's own existence). And the raising of children is painful on many occasions (and can result in the spending of personal resources to raise the child which could better be used for personal pleasure or extension of life). Thus, there is no good moral reason for having children and raising them well, and many reasons not to (in a coherent atheist framework). And because there is no moral reason to raise kids well, there is no reason to protect them (in fact, there may be a better reason to eliminate them if it will free up more resources for my pleasure and health!). Therefore there is no reason to stop child abuse.

Furthermore, the idea that any weak beings (i.e. children, the disabled, and anyone weaker than we are) are actually persons, and actually have some instrinsic value apart from what we can use them for, and actually deserve to be protected, cannot be gained from an atheist moral philosophy. This is for several reasons:

1. Most atheists tell some tired version of the idea that we should care about the "protection of our species", and thus we have children to extend the race. But, this is just ludicrous and self-contrdictory from an atheist perspective. For one thing, we simply will cease to exist at death and have no reason to care if there is anything else after we die. We may be inbed with a "species survival instinct" in our genes or in our sub-conscious, but this species survival instinct actually hinders our personal well-being. It causes us to have and raise kids, which is problematic and contradictory to our own good (as I noted above). It also causes us to sacrifice our well-being, and even our lives, to help others. As far as personal pleasure and health go, we should eradicate and destroy this instinct because it causes us to do things that are against our best interest. Only the weak- in an atheist framework- can be guided by the idea of "species survival".

The human race will die out. The universe will die out. All people become moot at their personal death, and all things are rendered ultimately moot by the death of the universe. They are all "sound and fury signifying nothing" if the atheist is right about the world. A truly honest materialist can only logically care for one thing: Their own pleasure and health. The coherent atheist realizes that there is no "us", only "me", and "you" only exist as a means to benefit my well-being, and "you" are completely worthless when you cease to benefit me.

I know atheists who DO care about others, but they do so irrationally, and against the clear ramifications of the worldview they espouse. They care for the Earth, for their children, and for moral goodness, but they do not have a reason "why" (other than the clearly faulty idea that they should extend the existence of the human race).

But, any argument that it is morally good to preserve "us" (our race, our civilization, our world) cannot be based on a materialistic universe. It has to be brought in back-door from a Theistic moral source that says that the world and the people in it are inherently valuable because they were created so by a Creator.

2. But, since we are talking about honest, consistent atheism, where there is no "us", and only "me", we have to say that anything which gets in the way of pleasure and health should be stopped. Now, the stopping of some of these things- even in an atheist system- is problematic to pleasure and health. For instance, trying to kill people who try to hinder you from fulfilling your desires could likely result in your own death or injury, even if there was no police force to stop you (due to the "law of the jungle").

So, instead of killing them, you pursue a relational calculus, using negotiation and deception and compromise, to get us much as you can from them, while giving as little as you can of yourself. But, this only applies to dealing with other persons who are at least as powerful and as intelligent as you are. What if they are considerably weaker and they stand in your way? What if their non-existence would ultimately further your own pleasure and health? It would be "morally good" to get rid of them to attain your own bliss. Furthermore, it would be irrational, even morally evil (in the atheistic framework) NOT to do so (because to leave them alive would drain precious resources which could benefit you).

3. Finally, in such an atheistic framework, anything that causes pleasure and health should be pursued. If, for whatever reason, what pleases you most is sexual gratification from children then (in a coherent atheist position) it should be done. If what pleases you most is causing physical pain to the disabled, then you should do so. If you can grow children to be organ donors to further your life, you should do so. In fact, to NOT do any of these things- assuming it is what "turns you on"- would be immoral and evil in a coherent atheist framework.

4. And, if we are going to create a society that will maximize our personal "good", by furthering our own pleasure and health- without reference to any fictions of "preserving the race" or any other kind of irrational altruism- then we should abolish legal systems that are based on immoral values (i.e. laws which preserve the rights of the weak, and hinder the pursuit of personal pleasure and health). This is because, unless you make all of the laws to benefit yourself by controlling others, it is best to abolish all laws and systems of social control which stop you from using others to get what you want. The more you abolish, the freer you are to pursue your own "good".

Now, this kind of society scares the hell out of most people, atheists included, but it is perfectly logically consistent with the ramifications of atheist morality. The only reason to favor social controls which stop the powerful from abusing the weak is because you fear that you are one of the weak ones who should have their pleasure and health protected. So, you give up some of your immediate power and pleasure to the "state" to protect you, and ensure your pleasure and health in the long run.

But, this is the weakling position. And while it may be a perfectly logical moral position for the weak person in an atheist worldview, for the strong person, it is not acceptable. If they possess the power to dominate others and use them for their own ends, they should abolish all social structures and strictures which stop them from actualizing and maximizing their own pleasure and health. In a coherent atheist framework, the best society is the one in which the most powerful have the most complete dominance over those who pleasure them. The only sin is to be too weak to pursue whatever you want.

Thus, the coherent atheist who rationally cares about his own self-interest will work for a "good" society that does not stop the strong from using the weak. The coherent atheist will work for the repeal of social systems that allow the weak to live and leech off of the well-being of the strong. The coherent atheist will applaud child abuse as an entirely proper use of one's own power to gain personal gratification. Finally, the coherent atheist cannot help but applaud a society in which all weaklings- children, slaves, women, the handicapped- are used simply as means to personal benefit, or eliminated altogether when they cease to be a benefit.

Now, I give hearty congratulations to incoherent atheists everywhere who do not live like this. It shows a sign that their souls have not yet become a wasteland and a haunt of demons. But, the logical implications of atheism lead naturally, intrinsically, and compulsively to a moral system where the strong uses and abuses the weak for their own self-interest.

Which is real child abuse? Is it teaching a child that God has made them in His image, that all people are loved and valued as God's own children, and that we should unconditionally love and protect every person, especially the weak? Or, is it teaching them that the only person they can really care for is themselves, and the only reason they have to live is pursue pleasure and power to keep on existing? Which will most logically bring about a world that we want to bear and raise children in?

So, does atheism cause child abuse? Logically, yes. Practically, no. But, if we want a world where love really rules, and everyone is cared for, we will need to adopt the moral teaching of Christ, regardless of whether we acknowledge His Reality. May all Christians live lives consistent with what they say they believe, and may all atheists live lives inconsistent with that they say they believe. Amen.
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.