June 2008


Father Thomas Williams, Dean of Theology at Regina Apostolorum University at Rome, recently wrote a book titled “Greater Than You Think: A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God“.  In the book, Williams attempts to debunk the arguments made by the recent cadre of atheists who are making the best sellers lists.  Listening to him on Bill Bennett this morning, he talked about why he wrote the book.  Apparently, he ran across too many people who didn’t know how to respond to books such as “The God Delusion” and “God is Not Great”.  Following are some excerpts from an interview he did with Zenit.org:

Q: What spurred you to write this book?

Father Williams: As you are undoubtedly aware, the last several years have seen a surge in neo-atheist literature, with books such as Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell,” Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith,” Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion,” and Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”

Several of these books have become bestsellers. The problem is, most people only hear one side of the story. They become indoctrinated with the atheistic arguments without ever hearing a reasoned response.

Many people have been confused by these books. Others worry about friends who have read them, or simply would like good answers to the charges atheisms brings against God, religion, and Christianity in particular. I wrote this book to furnish clear, concise replies to the atheists’ charges.

The book lays out — and responds to — the chief claims of the neo-atheists in five categories: (1) the case against God and religion, (2) the case against religion’s benefits for society, (3) the case against religion’s compatibility with science and reason, (4) the case against Christianity, and (5) the case for atheism’s superiority.

The interviewer goes on to ask for examples of why Williams claims that the “neo-atheists rely on myth rather than rational argument”:

Father Williams: Just to name a few, atheists claim that religion is inimical to science, and that the Christian Church in particular sought to stamp out scientific research. They charge that “religion kills” and has been responsible for most of our wars and social ills. They say that religious belief requires the renunciation of reason and the embrace of willful blindness. They assert that religion does not contribute to moral improvement, and that it makes people sour and sad, rather than joyful.

Along with charges such as these, they also add a few absurd, and sometimes dangerous ideas about religion. For instance, Dawkins and Hitchens claim that religious education is a form of child abuse, thus undermining the seriousness of real physical and psychological child abuse.

They sow distrust in believers by asserting that they are trying to hasten the end of the world. Thus Hitchens quotes Marx with evident admiration, where the latter expresses his view that “the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness” (“God Is Not Great”).

Sam Harris goes so far as to proclaim that religious belief must be forcibly stamped out, and states: “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them” (“The End of Faith”).

On Bennett’s show this morning, when responding to questions about war being caused by religion, Williams listed off every major war in American history…the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Iraq…none were fought over religion.  Obviously, there are wars that were, but Williams argues that even the ones that are purported to be have underlying economic or political issues.

I have not read “Greater Than You Think”, but I plan to.  Has anyone read it?

Well…..I’m sorry I’ve been gone for so long, and chances are I won’t be putting up any of my own thoughts for while (who knows, that might be a good thing), so I thought I’d post a prayer written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his time in a concentration camp (where he eventually was murdered). If you have never heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, then my best suggestion for you is to look him up, my explanation of his character and reputation would be shallow.

Who Am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, penned in 1944…..murdered on April 9, 1945

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

In a recent article titled “Inspired by Starbucks” in the Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Alter writes:

On a recent Sunday, worshippers gathered in a multiplex theater next to a Starbucks, McDonald’s and T.G.I. Friday’s. The lights dimmed and the Rev. Troy Gramling, a goateed man dressed in jeans, T-shirt and blazer, filled the screen. “God knows your secret, and he loves you anyway,” he said. “Isn’t that cool?” A few people answered, “Amen,” as if Mr. Gramling was there preaching, instead of 2,650 miles away in Cooper City, Fla.

While missionaries have long carried their message overseas, a new generation of churches is spreading a strain of evangelical Christianity with worship services as slickly packaged as any U.S. franchise. Rather than seeking converts to a mainstream denomination, these independent churches are forming global organizations anchored by a single leader. Many far-flung congregants watch their pastor via satellite or DVD each week; the services abroad are designed to replicate Sundays at the home church.

Mr. Gramling’s Flamingo Road Church, which has a weekly attendance of 8,000, is based in Broward County, Fla., where he records his sermons on DVD for screenings here, as well as at three branches in South Florida. Each church uses the same distinctive music, banners and logo — a white cube bisected by a black curving road. Mr. Gramling says he tried to copy the success of Starbucks by assembling a creative team to hone “the look, the feel, the branding idea, of what Flamingo Road is.” Like Starbucks, Mr. Gramling is thinking big. His goal is 50 churches world-wide, 100,000 members and a $150 million-a-year budget.

 

Do you think the goal ever gets in the way of the message?

I am headed to Walt Disney World with the family this week. My visit has absolutely nothing to do with this:

The SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) ruled today that a Louisiana law allowing the imposition of the death penalty for child rapists is unconstitutional.

I am kind of rubbing two sticks together here to see if I can make some fire on this blog.

Let’s put aside the issue of whether the United States Constitution restricts the ability of States to apply the death penalty for anything but a crime involving a murder. I think the answer to that question is clearly no and that Justice Kennedy is once again high on crack. But, let’s put that aside.

Instead, let us consider whether we, as Christians, should support the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for crimes, whether it is the rape of a child or murder. Is there a moral imperative against capital punishment? What does the Bible say about Capital Punishment? Does it matter what the Bible says about Capital Punishment?

Powerline picks up on Obama’s new presidential seal. What\'s next?

This guy is way too cool for his own good.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a front page piece on Planned Parenthood’s efforts to rebrand. It is enough to make your skin crawl.

Some excerpts . . .

Two elegant new health centers have been built, and at least five more are on the way; the largest, in Houston, will be 75,000 square feet. They feature touches such as muted lighting, hardwood floors and airy waiting rooms in colors selected by marketing experts — as well as walls designed to withstand a car’s impact should an antiabortion protest turn violent.

. . .

Planned Parenthood has also opened more than two dozen quick-service “express centers,” many in suburban shopping malls. Some sell jewelry, candles, books and T-shirts, along with contraception. “It is indeed a new look…a new branding, if you will,” said Leslie Durgin, a senior vice president at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

. . .

. . . Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, reported a record $1 billion in annual revenue in its most recent financial report — about a third of that coming from federal and state grants to care for low-income women. The nonprofit ended the year with a surplus of $115 million, or about 11% of its revenue, and net assets of $952 million.

. . .

“It is high time we follow the population,” said Sarah Stoesz, who heads Planned Parenthood operations in three Midwest states. She recently opened three express centers in wealthy Minnesota suburbs, “in shopping centers and malls, places where women are already doing their grocery shopping, picking up their Starbucks, living their daily lives,” Ms. Stoesz said.

The mall sites promise walk-in convenience and “clothes-on” care, with services limited to birth-control counseling and tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Most patients are in and out in less than half an hour.

“I like to think of it as the LensCrafters of family planning,” Steve Trombley, the top executive in Illinois, said as he toured an express center a few doors down from a hair salon and a Japanese restaurant in the well-to-do suburb of Schaumburg, Ill.

. . .

In Oregon, clinics are updating to a “contemporary, fun and lively look” with a new color palette that includes pink, orange and teal, said Mr. Greenberg, the regional executive. In Texas, a dingy downtown Austin clinic got a $40,000 upgrade that struck patient Hannah Powell, a 21-year-old college student, as long overdue. “It wasn’t necessarily that you hesitated to go there, but you could definitely tell they needed help,” she said. “Now it looks a lot cleaner and safer.”

In Massachusetts, Dianne Luby, the affiliate’s president, also talks up a new “green” clinic, to be built with recycled and eco-friendly material.

. . .

Most people associate Planned Parenthood with abortion, Ms. Luby said, so “we’re trying to reposition ourselves as caring about their health, about prevention, about a sustainable planet.” Or, as she later put it: “So much more mainstream.”

Mainstream? Exactly the point. So, now we are going to get abortion mills with a “contemporary, fun, lively, look.” Remember when Bill Clinton used to talk about wanting abortion to be safe, legal, and rare. Does this look like a business plan meant to reduce abortions?

Your tax dollars at work.

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