Archive for March, 2011

Review of “Why Jesus” by Nicky Gumbel

“Why Jesus?” is a 20 page pamphlet designed as a short introduction to Christianity. Read more…

Are science and faith compatible?

I was recently sent an article by a friend of a friend which claims that science and faith are compatible. I disagree, and below are my reasons with a critique of the article. Read more…

Why Jesus? A five year-old’s reaction.

I’ve started reading a lovely tome by Nicky Gumble, leant to us by a friend of ours, called “Why Jesus?”. It’s a little pamphlet book that I find at times just amusing, at times baffling, and at times downright sinister, but I’m going to do a full review later. Anyway, on page two, after the prologue, the book starts with this rather juicy assertion (quoting from memory so I may not have the text exactly right):

“Human beings were created to be in a loving relationship with God.”

Now, I could start criticising this rationally, pulling it apart from the bottom up, perhaps mentionning evolution just a bit, and getting around the assumption of God might just take some space. But I prefer to tell you the reaction of my five year old daughter Lara. I read her the quote and asked her what she thought about it. And she just started laughing: she thought it was hilarious. Honestly, that was perhaps the funniest thing she had heard all day.

Moon at perigee, and crater Tycho, and swallows by night?

I had a wonderful experience outside last night. Read more…

Revelation TV interview with Richard Dawkins

This is now up on Youtube again, and I do recommend a look. If you don’t have an hour, go straight to 26 minutes when the real fun starts: the first 26 minutes can be summarized as:

Dawkins: “This is how the eye evolved”.

Interviewer: “I am a young earth creationist”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfe4IUB9NTk

BBC thought for the day on the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

Have a read of the below and pay special attention to the last paragraph.

Revd Dr David Wilkinson

The devastation and fear experienced by the people of Japan are characterized by its Prime Minister as “the most severe crisis since World War II”. Often history is illuminating in dealing with the present and the future.

For example, in 1755 an earthquake hit the city of Lisbon. This was followed by a tsunami with an enormous mass of water surging up the River Tagus. Estimates put the death toll into tens of thousands. This was a key moment for European thought, especially in the relationship of the natural world to both human beings and to God. This disaster occurred on All Saints; Day and destroyed almost all of the 40-odd churches and 90 convents in this city.

Trying to come to terms with this led to a varied quality of sermons and revisions of philosophy. Some church leaders saw it as God’s judgment on sin. Voltaire used the earthquake to attack the belief that this is the best of all possible worlds. He saw the world as capricious and cruel, and not under the supervision of a benevolent God. Immanuel Kant attempted to explain the earthquake through natural causes, leading to the beginnings of seismology, and more broadly the flowering of the Enlightenment which saw human beings as alone in combating the effects of nature. Science was stimulated by the need to master the chaotic whether in illness or predicting and avoiding the devastating effects of nature. In contrast, Rousseau argued that the earthquake showed the evils of ‘progress’. If human beings were not living unnaturally in compressed cities then there would have been less suffering.

In response to the Japanese earthquake and tsunamis, perhaps history cautions us not to rush to hasty and easy conclusions. I hear many echoes of Lisbon in recent voices – from the view that nuclear reactors are contrary to nature and Fukushima is reaping the consequences, through to the belief that science should defend us through seismology or tsunami defences. Yet underneath, is the search for a coherent long-term narrative, which understands the natural world and science as both good and risky.

As a Christian I find such a narrative in the conviction that this world is the creation of a good God, who risks giving freedom to human beings and the natural world. Today the people of Japan will take inspiration from their own history of rebuilding a nation in the face of devastation. For those who are inspired by a God who walks the pages of human history in Jesus to demonstrate the prioritize compassionate action towards all those in need, the challenge to stand with them is clear.

Let me just paraphrase that last paragraph so you realize the enormity of what this guy is saying: “I am a Christian and therefore I believe that the being that did this is a good God.” I’d hazard a guess that this chap feels rather uneasy saying these things, and it’s an example of how religion makes good people say stupid things. Here’s a suggestion: throw away the assumption of God, the earthquake and tsumani will suddenly make perfect sense: the universe genuinely doesn’t care about humans. You are just left with your compassion for those affected, no uneasy mystery, and no requirement to imagine that the earthquake and tsunami are in some sense good.

Holy shit!

Listening to this person chatting to Richard Dawkins (link below), I get a wierd combination of antipathy and fascination and deep deep worry for the future of mankind. The interviewer seems like a lovely man, but he is caught in a belief trap. The power of his belief to trump reality is really worrying. People like this are coming to a village near you thanks to your local alpha course, supported by your local anglican church. Richard’s face is absolutely priceless, and he shows such amazing patience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDmlMTG7QBQ

Update: If you missed it, I’m sorry to say that Revelation TV have removed this interview from YouTube. I suspect they were worried that it would do them serious harm. It was an absolute corker! Comments on it are available at:

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/600782-update-rd-on-revelation-tv#page1