Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Fools Those Atheists Be!

Read Lord! What Fools Those Atheists Be! in Report Magazine. (Report Magazine is published in Edmonton, Texas Alberta. It bills itself as "Western Canada's Conservative Voice.") The author of the offensive article is Pastor Shafer Parker, a Texas native who is now with the Hawkwood Baptist Church in Calgary.

Before you read the article, answer the poll question in the left-hand sidebar: "Do you believe that there is a 'God'"? So far, the answer "Absolutely!" is leading over "Absolutely Not!" but it's early days.

Heathen Mike of Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant has dissected most of the article at: Shafer Parker, Answered. You should read what Mike has to say. I'm sure you'll be convinced that it's not the atheists who are the fools.

Most of Pastor Parker's rant is against the bus ads promoting atheism. I want to address one particular point in Parker's article. He says ...
The Christian West's centuries-old tradition of free expression and open debate is unique in that nothing like it exists anywhere else on earth. No such tradition exists in any society dominated by a single non-Christian faith, including the atheistical Communist-materialist nations of China, North Korea and the former Soviet Union. It is not an accident that these ads have deliberately set out to offend the majority Christian theists living in London, Madrid and Washington, D.C. They would not have been allowed in Beijing, New Delhi or Riyadh.
Parker believes that Christianity is associated with free expression and open debate. He claims that no other religion has a similar tradition. This would have been news to the people of Cordova in the Moorish Kingdom from 800-1200 AD. It would also have been news to most Catholics throughout history and to most Protestant sects (e.g. Puritans). They aren't exactly noted for tolerating free expression and open debate. (Were the ancient Greeks Christians?)

But let's put history aside. It's obviously not one of Parker's strong points. Let's just look at Christian nations in the last century or so. Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain come to mind. So does Czarist Russia. I'm sure there are plenty of other Christian nations where free expression and open debate were not common—I'm thinking of several nations in Central and South America. I don't think he's making a valid point. I don't think the concept of free expression is in any way a product of Christianity.

What about modern states? Israel, Japan. and India seem to be non-Christian states that have a certain degree of free expression and open debate. Parker says that the atheist signs would not be allowed on buses in New Delhi. I suspect he's wrong about that. In any case, he ignores the fact that the atheist signs will never be allowed in some of the most Christian parts of America. Isn't that strange?


  1. Calling atheists fools has a very old history so this pastor probably feels justified. Psalms 14:1-3 "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God". So much for reasoned argument.

  2. Blah, blah, blah...atheists are bad, you can't be good without being a Christian, yada, yada, yada.

    What is the evidence that god exists? That's the only question that matters. These articles that skirt around the core question are really starting to piss me off.

    Christians have done bad things (see Hitler, Adolf) and atheists have done bad things (see Stalin, Josef). But I think you'll find that whenever people have done truly bad things, there always exists either religious faith or a cult of personality at the core. Dogma is what we rail against; and religion just happens to be one of the more popular dogmas.

    As Sam Harris has wisely put it, the gulags and the gas chambers were not the result of too much rational thinking.

  3. The story is told that a friend of C.S. Lewis once read aloud the following epitaph from an old tombstone: "Here lies an atheist, all dressed up and nowhere to go."The propensity of Christians for bearing false witness is well-known.

  4. Freethinkers are supposed to be atheists, who by definition are certain there is no God. Unless, that is, they're not so certain.He botches two definitions in one sentence.

  5. It would never occur to Hitchens to write, as London Times columnist Matthew Parris did this past December: "Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."I'm sure Hitchens would not write that, because he knows better. He knows about church-based resistance to condom use to curtail the spread of AIDS. He knows about Fundamentalist Christian churches threatening paleontology in East Africa. He knows about the involvement of Christian pastors in witch-hunting. He knows about the Lord's Resistance Army's military crusade for theocracy, which caused much suffering and enlisted child soldiers.

  6. Always a fun one to throw back at Psalms 14:1 is Matthew 5:22:

    But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

  7. Thanks for the mention! Parker botched so much it was difficult to slog through it all.

  8. Re Mike

    Although Hitler presented himself as a Christian in public speeches and in his writings, there is testimony from some of his cronies that, in private conversations, he ridiculed Christianity in particular and religious belief in general. Thus, it is hard to know what his true opinions were.

  9. Yes, various Christian Churches have much to account for .... but do not let that blind you to the good they have done ... they DID fly in the face of the greed of the Portuguese in (what was to become) Brazil and created an area where Europeans could not go (it is even yet an ecological reserve).

    The impetus for Democracy in Haiti was very much a church matter (despite fulminations from Rome). Catholic Overseas Social Services does terrific work in African and Asia.

    just because people are encumbered with a spiritual belief does not mean they are not good people and do good works.

  10. SLC,

    Hitler's anti-semitism was rooted in ancient Christian hatred of Jews; the blood libel, deicide, and all that. Irrespective of Hitler's personal religious faith ('Gott mit uns'), Nazism was of Christian origins.

    Nevertheless, it matters little. The core of Nazism (and Stalinism, for that matter) was a dogmatic cult of personality. Lack of critical thinking is always a bad thing, and idol worship, no matter who that idol may be, is right up there too.

  11. Croghan27 wrote: "just because people are encumbered with a spiritual belief does not mean they are not good people and do good works."

    Absolutely 100% true.

    But let us also not forget that all the good things that come of religion (and there are many) can be had without presuming anything on insufficient evidence.

    Religion gives bad reasons for doing good things, when good reasons exist.

  12. Uh-oh - those nasty atheists have taken a big lead in that article poll. The score is now 83 to 12.

  13. You should tell PZ Myers about this poll.

    It's always fun to see what happens when he posts it on his blog.