As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Here is an interesting story from Times Online: “Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem – the crushing passivity of the people’s mindset”.

From the article:

“Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.”

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece

0 replies
  1. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    There is argument that missionaries have ultimately contributed to the violence in Africa by displacing the traditional respect for the elders. I think you’ll find if you think it through more deeply, a religious “solution” will only provide further props for the violence (religion is too easily used to self-justify actions).

    While the article makes the good point that (positive) motivation is useful, there are other ways of motivating people, than using mythology. With that in mind, it’s decidedly odd that the author only deals with one way of providing this and doesn’t even attempt to explore others.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    That was a good find and a good article Rob. Very interesting.

    Heraclides, I don’t think you really understand that its not a religious solution that is being provided, but a Christian solution. The distinction in your thought I’m sure seems spurious. Let me explain why it is not.

    Religion is a group of rules and regulations for better living, mostly for the purpose of attaining some version of heaven or enlightenment, and mostly mediated by someone one else, like a priest or witch-doctor. If so defined Christianity is not a religion. Christianity breaks the mould.

    Christianity is not rules and regulations for attaining heaven or God. It is the recognition that no amount of following the rules will ever do, and regulations just make it easier to disobey and fall further away from heaven and a holy God. Instead He provided a way of salvation by grace – freely given though wholly undeserved. Instead he gives mercy where judgement was in order.

    Christianity is better described as a personal relationship with a loving God, who saved us despite ourselves. As Matthew Parris points out, Christianity teaches “a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being…”

  3. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    I have to laugh when certain types of Christians try argue that they are not religious, then promptly present a religious reasoning for it. It’s as about as silly as it gets.

    You also entirely side-stepped the point I made. Fairly typical of your replies to me, it seems.

  4. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Heraclides,

    Your going to need better argumentation that this snarky reply. According to the definition of “religion” I gave, Christianity is not a religion. That definition I don’t think is controversial, but if your want to amend that definition for the purposes of discussion here than feel free, only state it so that everyone knows where your coming from.

    You’ll also have to back up your other aspersions, like that Christianity is a “mythology”.

    Finally, like you I don’t see the need in replying to everything you wrote. I’ll address what I see are the most important points that you bought up.

  5. Rob
    Rob says:

    Hi Heraclides,

    If you are an atheist, then tell us why YOU should even care about whether Africans live or die or catch AIDS or kill each other or [add your own here…].

    In my atheist days, I figured that we should just leave the Africans alone and let them perish in their fly-infested world. Why, I thought, should we care if they live or die?

    As a Christian, I now see that Africans are fellow humans made in God’s image. Thus I can say (and you certainly cannot) that they have intrinsic value. God places value on them because they are part of His special creation, rather than just highly evolved animals that are ultimately just atoms and molecules existing in complex order.

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Rob, You made an awful atheist! An applaud for your consistency, but what an appalling worldview to believe and live. I’m glad your not an atheist now. :-)

  7. Rob
    Rob says:

    Came across this piece on http://www.uncommondescent.com:

    The truly intelligent atheist, however, is miserable because he refuses to delude himself about the implications of his belief system. He understands that everything he cares about will either die, get lost, or be forgotten. Even if he does somehow leave to his children something that “appears” to be valuable, he realizes that it (and they) will return to dust. It will be as if they had never lived at all. Nothing will have any lasting value including any sense of purpose that he may try to create for himself. If life has no meaning, then there is no way to change that fact by pretending to invent one. To try is to play a fools game.

    Very well put!

  8. Simon
    Simon says:

    I really, really liked this article. Having been written by a non-theist I think it objectively explains quite well what Christianity is RIGHT about.

    I can’t find that article Rob, but I would agree that a completely consistent atheist would be miserable. Of course most atheists do not construct their metaphysic solely based on their atheism.

  9. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Cheap shots in reply, eh?

    Let me quickly deal with them.

    @2&3: Stuart’s initial reply says “Christianity is not a religion”. I’ve seen this particular redefinition of religion from threads here before. Christianity is a religion to everyone who uses the usually accepted definition of religion (usually along the lines of “belief and worship in a superhuman or supernatural controlling power, object or being). In his “defence” he gives a variation of that definition to me in reply. Hence my remarks.

    @4: I’m being honest. See above. From the way I am seeing it, it does strike me as silly. You just have to see how it plays out from where I stand instead of trying to make out that you have some “high moral ground”.

    And he did not reply to my points (see esp. the second paragraph I wrote), but latched on one word, ‘religious’, which in fact didn’t matter all the much in the overall message of what I wrote. With that in mind, re-read my second paragraph in particular.

    Even if Stuart is convinced about his own definition of “religion”, it’s not mine, and cannot logically “place” it into my words. My words are my own.

    @6: really what purpose does this serve?

    In my atheist days, I figured that we should just leave the Africans alone and let them perish in their fly-infested world. Why, I thought, should we care if they live or die?

    Maybe in your atheist days, in which case you sucked :-) You have no right to try foist this on me. Just because you may have believed says nothing about me. I happen to have travelled in other rather poor areas and have seen first-hand some of the impact of these things. You should at least try consider that religion (as in missionaries, etc.) have been an underlying part of the problem.

    @7:

    […], but what an appalling worldview to believe and live.

    Yes, his views, then. Not mine or others. And you have no right to try assert that they automatically apply to all other atheists. Its a simple straw-man argument at the best.

    @10: Full of straw-man arguments, too. I haven’t time to deal with each one in turn.

    Stopping here as I just realised that Bnonn (?) have censored a post I sent in pointing out that I wasn’t alone with the point I was making by letting readers see remarks from people who had some understanding of the issues.

  10. Rob
    Rob says:

    Hi Heraclides.

    You reply in the latter part of [12] is loaded with moral values…

    you sucked
    no right to foist…
    missionaries…problem
    no right to assert…

    If you are an atheist, then convince me that your claims lie upon some basis.

    I think the problem is that most atheists are so drenched in the culture that they just cannot see the implications of their worldview. They are basically blind to the implications of the system and are often to angry (see Richard Dawkins for example) or just plain shallow in their thinking to see the gaping problems.

    The fact is, atheism necessarily leads to loss of all ultimate meaning. We live — we die — the universe winds down into a cold heat death. THE END.

    Your basic problem Heraclides is the same as mine (pre-Christian) and the same as everyone else who rejects Jesus Christ’s truth statements — you suppress the truth about God because of the sin in your heart. Your most basic will and motives and thoughts are anti-Christ and God hating (Romans 1:18-32). Your remedy is simply to be converted — humble yourself and simply ask God to reveal Himself, and read (say) the gospel of John (John 1:1-11). Jesus promises that whoever seeks Him will find Him, if they seek Him with all their heart (See Matthew 6:7-8).

  11. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    It is a FACT that my opinions differ what what you tried to foist on me.

    You have no right to tell others what their opinions are. That is a completely straw-man approach. Trying to try turn it into some (pseudo)philosophical debate will not alter that.

    To foist obviously gross opinions on people is either trolling (hey, Bnonn, why don’t you give him some stick for this, you say this is why you hold up posts, isn’t it?), or incredibly arrogant or insensitive of you. Maybe you were like that as an atheist. And if it’s true, then I think you sucked. (You said so yourself.) But I don’t think like that. You have no right to try make out that I don’t “care about whether Africans live or die or catch AIDS or kill each other”.

    Framing others with (gross) views that they don’t hold in order to attack them is pretty low.

  12. Rob
    Rob says:

    Of course — and perhaps God is working on his heart right now. I prefer not to be too nit-picky about this. Take for example the way Paul addresses the Athenians in Acts 17:26-27.

  13. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    @15 & 16:

    Foisting your beliefs on others is straw-man, too.

    I notice you both are completely side-stepping the point made, too. You can’t tell other people what their opinions are.

  14. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Heraclides,

    The fact is, if you claim to be an atheist, or if you choose to go on believing that there is no God, you do not have any reason to believe that objective moral values exist, so your moral indignation is inconsistent with your worldview. Instead of crying “straw man,” why not attempt to show how on atheism, objective moral values, such as the ones you have displayed here, are grounded ontologically. Alternatively, back up your many other aspersions on missionary work and Christian truth claims with arguments. Try make them good arguments as well.

  15. Rob
    Rob says:

    Heraclides,

    As I said earlier of atheists in general:

    “They are basically blind to the implications of the system and are often too angry (see Richard Dawkins for example) or just plain shallow in their thinking to see the gaping problems.”

    This seems to be you my friend. I have no interest in attacking you, or erecting straw-men. But why can you not see the implications of the system you are defending? It is your system that “sucks”.

    Yet ironically you continue to argue for God’s existence by clinging to objective moral values, showing that you are indeed either made in His image (Genesis 1:27) or intellectually dishonest (or perhaps worse).

    Heraclides, you need to either justify the moral claims you have made above, or stop making them.

  16. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    @20:

    You are shifting to a later point. My original reply to you was to you telling me what my opinion was. That is what I am still replying to.

    None of your posts since have anything to do with the FACT that my opinions differ what what you tried to foist on me and the FACT that no-one can tell anyone else what their opinions are.

    I have no interest in attacking you, or erecting straw-men. You did both in your latest post ;-) Food for thought: I never wrote anything about “defending atheism”, but you keep trying to insert this into things. Why would you be doing that if not to set it up as a straw man position to attack?

    @19:

    Joining in the side-stepping too, eh? A very simple fact: you cannot tell anyone what their opinions are. Rob tried to say what my opinions are. He cannot do that. He also really should apologise for that matter.

    (re back up your many other aspersions on missionary work and Christian truth claims with arguments Apart from wildly overstating what I have done (“many other”, etc), which essentially amounts to framing my actions to suit yourself (it’s not accurate), I actually did post on this quite some time ago, but that post hasn’t appeared. I’m not going to re-do the work, especially as you and Rob have taken this far from the topic. I would point out to you that taking it the way you have will come across to others as showing that you aren’t really interested in Africa at all, but self-justifying your religion and “morality”, and an excuse to try attack atheism.)

  17. Simon
    Simon says:

    Yeah, why is it that so many atheists are angry?…..On second thoughts, though, there are a lot of angry religious conservatives out there…moral decline….end of the world etc.

    As a somewhat-atheist myself, I fully acknowledge that moral values are unfounded – or at least are so via atheism itself. But my position would be that Christianity is but one after-the-fact construct; one of many, that claim a base for objective moral values.

  18. Rob
    Rob says:

    Hi Heraclides,

    I am not about to apologize for attacking atheism. Christians are called to pull down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

    However, I am happy to apologize to you if I have wronged you. Could you restate your main point and set us back on course?

  19. Rob
    Rob says:

    Simon, I have a question 4 u.

    Given your confession of faith above, I would love to say:

    “…you are Simon, and upon your confession I would like to build my worldview…”

    Yet I find myself confused by you Simon.

    Given your worldview offers no hope of an afterlife, and no objective meaning in this life, why on earth do you waste your valuable time on this website? Perhaps you get your thrills from arguing with us? :-)

    When I was a young atheist, I was planning to live to die. I’ll quote from an earlier post here:

    http://talk.thinkingmatters.org.nz/2008/nihilism/

    Letter to Chaff in reply to Nihilism articles (Monday 15th Sept 2008)

    Here is a letter for u 2 publish, if you care :-)

    Re Nihilism…

    I skim read the nihilism material in the latest Chaff, only to realise why I don’t usually waste my time reading what my money is paying for. Moaning aside, prior to my converting to Christianity, I guess I was a nihilist — I planned to live-it-up until my body went down, then drive a beautiful fast car off a tall cliff to end my miserable existence.

    Needless to say, my life changed direction when I found God was not dead, and have since discovered the enormous explanatory power of a solid Christian worldview in light of the soooo-confusing world described in Nash’s Trash. Laugh if you prefer, but seriously, true Biblical Christianity provides a beautiful coherent worldview that makes sense of life, death, suffering and pleasure. It fully understands Solomon’s 3,000 year old philosophy that: “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless” is indeed true if the Biblical God is false. (Rob Ward, PhD Student, Physics.)

    So tell us Simon, why do you bother?

  20. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Simon,

    Re 22:
    I think its good you recognise that objective moral values are unfounded on atheism. But your position that Christianity (belief in God?) is but one after-the-fact construct to provide a basis for morality is surely irrelevant. So is your position. Any worldview will be an after-the-fact construct if you presuppose there is objective morality.

    The question is which worldview is true.

    (1) Do you admit then that Christianity does provide a coherent ontological basis to explain the existence of objective moral values?
    (2) Are there are any non-theistic worldviews that provide a coherent ontological basis to explain the existence of objective moral values?
    (3) If the answer to (2) is no, why not believe in God? There is a good proof there for God’s existence in the coherence of theism with objective moral values and duties, and written on the hearts of men.

  21. Simon
    Simon says:

    Rob,

    Just because there may be no afterlife (I commit to no position on this, it is like arguing over the exact size of Middle Earth) does not mean that life is pointless.

    Stuart,

    I agree that my moral values are after-the-fact justifications. The difference between us, I would say, is that I realise this.

    I agree that Christianity provides a good basis to explain objective moral values. But so do many other metapysics.
    I havn’t really thought about 2. Strictly speaking I think, yes. Buddhism for one…
    Why not believe in God? Because any falsifiable statement about God has been proven vaccuous. Any attempt to quantify (or qualify) Him is futile. There is much wisdom in the response “I am that I am”. Much Eastern wisdom; a pity the middle east had to take it a little too far…:)

  22. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    @22:

    In my case it’s because I’m not happy with someone trying to tell me that my opinion “must be” something I would never hold. No-one can do that to that to anyone. This has nothing to do with atheism itself, “belief” in whatever-you-choose (or not) or particular moral codes. It applies to everyone. You simply cannot impose some opinion on someone and tell them this “must be” what they believe. (Until the day neuroscience advances to including mind-reading and mind-altering technology, perhaps…)

    @23:

    The bit about atheism is irrelevant, as I tried to tell you in the post you are replying to (see also above).

    My original point (I presume you mean post 1) is still there, there is no need to for me to “restate it”. I can’t see the value in repeating it and in any event it’s not really for me to set the course of thread. Besides, the posts since, including yours, seem to indicate that you’d prefer to drift off the topic to other things or maybe you’re mixing your threads up or whatever.

    As a practical matter, I’m out of time to continue with this. I really only came back to put right the misrepresentation of my position by you claiming me to have an opinion I didn’t hold.

  23. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Heraclides,

    Are you saying your not an atheist? Or just that you dislike people saying consistent atheism implies nihilism and therefore you should be a nihilist?

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