We haven’t looked at the Christian Apologetics Ministries for a while, so let’s swing by and see what’s up. Scroll past the advertisements and marketing material, and sure enough, we find Mr. Horvath up to his old tricks again.
Over the last decade, I have noticed an increasing number of atheists arguing about the evils of religion and usually citing examples from Islam. Does that even begin to make sense? The whole notion of ‘religion’ is ridiculous on its face because of the many absurdities and abuses we find in Islam?
Now, by itself that’s not an unfair objection. Christianity deserves to be ridiculed because of the many absurdities and abuses we find in Christianity, and not just because of those found in Islam. Few things in life can match the delicious irony of a trinitarian calling someone else’s beliefs “absurd,” for instance. But notice: in accusing “atheists” of painting with too broad a brush, Mr. Horvath himself is guilty of painting atheists with his own broad brush–and it’s not a flattering color, either.
You can easily find atheists continuing this rant of late in regards to the Christian reaction to Pullman’s Golden Compass. It really torques them off that some Christians have called for a boycott for the series. Oh, those evil, evil Christians. Don’t they know that good and decent people are obligated to buy the products perpetuating things they don’t agree with? Such intolerance! Such evil! See, religion bad!
Mr. Horvath’s brush is not only broad, but a bit exaggerated, wouldn’t you say? I really doubt that he’s found any atheists at all who are claiming that anyone has any obligation to buy products they don’t like, for whatever reason. The reality of the situation, however, doesn’t incriminate atheists enough for Mr. Horvath, so he has to “tweak” the details just a bit before applying that load of paint to atheism in general. He wants non-Christians to make fine distinctions based on theological differences, but he himself shows no awareness or concern over the fact that atheism is not a monolithic religion.
Nor, for that matter, does he give Muslims the same considerations he demands for Christianity–most Muslims (in developed countries at least) condemn Al Qaeda in much the same way, and for much the same reason, as Christians condemn Eric Rudolph and other anti-abortion murderers. But you won’t hear Mr. Horvath complaining about how unfair it is to blame Islam as a whole just because of the actions of some of its adherents.
Back to atheists, though.
One of the clearest examples of this argument was in fact found in Dawkins’s Delusion. He talks about religious fanatics flying into the WTC towers on 9-11 and the calls for beheadings and, if I recall correctly, the fatwa on Rushdie. I agree, all bad. But he shows how Christianity is not immune to such abuses by showing… how a school board in Dover brought in a text book that de-emphasized evolution and focused on intelligent design. OOOOOOH the travesty! The agony! The HORROR of RELIGION! Elected officials did their job in a way that some people didn’t agree with! Why not un-elect them, if you don’t agree with them?
Why, that is exactly what happened. Was that enough for our tolerant atheists and Darwinists? Heaven’s no! A lawsuit, please! These damned evil Christians who were properly elected and then voted out- and went out peacefully without threats of jihad- proof positive of the dangers of religion! So, let’s slap a lawsuit on them, too, Freedom from Religion style, that’s the way tolerant unreligious people handle it. Much better.
Those who are less factually-challenged than Mr. Horvath may recall that the lawsuit was filed long before the elections, and that the grounds for the suit were still valid even after the creationist board members were voted out. The board’s actions were very clearly illegal, and their defense was very clearly based on lying to the court, as was conclusively documented during the court proceedings. Should it raise any red flags that Christians think their faith gives them the privilege and duty of breaking the law and lying under oath? I think it should. Whenever the rule of law is given second place to personal religious convictions, society no longer has any grounds for restraining any sort of criminal conduct. It might be God’s will, you see.
Naturally, when you start digging into the question, the old standbys begin to emerge. Let’s not forget the Crusades or the Inquisition, for example. Yes, let’s not forget the evils of the past perpetuated while most of Europe’s population was illiterate and couldn’t read the Scriptures for themselves to see if what the leadership was saying was true. But we have evidence in modern times, too. Look at Eric Rudolph. And not just Rudolph… there is also… uh Rudolph… (give us a minute and we’ll think of another example…) [like, say, James Kopp, for instance.–ed] oh yea, and those damn Christians trying to pass constitutional amendments and boycotting things they don’t like. Yea, that’s the SAME THING as flying into buildings, blowing oneself up in coffee shops, beheading infidels, and trying to hang, and if not flog, and if not flog, imprison a woman for 15 days when her student names a teddy bear after Mohammed.
Nice try, Mr. Horvath. Yes, “old stand-bys” like the Crusades and the Inquisition (and witch-burnings, and pogroms) are all true, but they don’t count because only the leaders were literate. Apparently Mr. Horvath has not read what church leaders were saying at the time, and thinks that they were lying to the people about what the Bible says. The same Bible that, by the way, records God as ordering the complete and utter genocide of the Amalekites, with special punishments for anyone who let even the animals survive, in I Samuel 15. Not to mention Jesus and the apostles specifically ordaining the leadership offices to which God allegedly entrusted the care and discipleship of the Church.
The problem is not that atheists are trying to say (as Mr. Horvath would have us believe) that boycotts and constitutional amendments are the same thing as beheading people and flying planes into buildings. The problem is that the reason people do things like that is because they sincerely believe that they have to put obedience to God above all else, even above such things as obeying the law and respecting human rights–and God does not show up in the real world to tell us what it is that we ought to be obeying!
This is a problem that is common to both Christianity and Islam, Mr. Horvath’s protests notwithstanding. God does not show up in the real world. People who see themselves as “obeying God” are really only obeying their own subjective impressions of what they think God wants, based on their own subjective interpretation of whatever Scripture they accept as God’s Word, and as influenced by the speculations and opinions of their peers, and by their own subjective feelings. The Crusaders did it. The Inquisitors did it. The witch-burners did it. The abortionist murderers did it. David Koresh did it. Al Qaeda does it. George Bush does it.
It’s a legitimate criticism: there really is no limit to what might be done by someone whose behavior is driven by demands so lacking in objective basis. God does not show up in the real world to tell us what His will is, and therefore every believer has no option but to follow whatever version of “God’s will” seems right in his own eyes. Putting “God’s will” above the law is a very, very bad idea.