This is part two of an examination of some Bus and Subway Ads that are running here, at least in the Washington DC area. The have been placed by the American Humanist Association. Yesterday we consider five of their ads and, if you missed yesterday’s post you can read it here: http://blog.adw.org/2010/12/wheres-the-human-in-humanism-humanist-ads-violate-their-own-humanist-standards/
Today we consider two of their video versions of the ads. These brief, 30 second videos follow the same format: “Some people believe…..What humanists think.” These videos have the same flaw as the poster versions in that they quote Scripture in a crude and inauthentic manner with no regard for context, genre, history or reference to any other Scripture texts that balance, explain or distinguish the quote in question. Further there is no inquiry into how the Christian or Jewish community have understood such texts in the past, or now, or how the thought quoted from an early period of the Old Testament my have undergone development and in some cases have been abrogated by later Scriptures.
I do not demand humanists believe everything I do (though I surely invite them). But what I do ask is that their scholarship be respectful and thorough.The humanists of the past centuries were more thoughtful and serious scholars than this current generation, at lest those who produced these ads. Christianity, and especially Catholicism, has a long, serious and vigorous intellectual tradition which these humanists would do well to explore. In these ads they are largely attacking a straw man, for when they say “Some believe” almost no one does in fact hold what they are quoting in the un-nuanced, absolute sense in which they claim. Scriptural interpretation is a careful discipline, especially in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. If these “humanists” really want to be true to their humanist leanings, they ought to talk to real human beings such as us and find out what we really think.
Here then are the two videos, each followed by my commentary and then a final ad which I doubt will ever be publicly posted, and you’ll see why.
The Text they quote is from 1 Samuel 15:3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” A text like this refers to the Ancient practice known as the “Ban” in Scripture. The Ban meant that everything and everyone in a given city or area was to be killed, no one was to be left alive. Every animal was to be killed as well and, all the material wealth would belong wholly to God by being given over to the use of the Temple. There are several places in the Old Testament where God is quoted as issuing the ban. We have discussed verses like this quite thoroughly on this blog here: http://blog.adw.org/2010/01/did-god-command-genocide/. This is an excerpt from the conclusion to that blog article:
In the end, it would all we can say about these passages is that they exist and put a kind of a tall fence around them. I personally think God did in fact order the Ban for the reasons stated….But the command was only for a brief time in a very particular circumstance for a very particular reason. Sometimes the best we can do with Scripture is to accept the history it records. Scripture is a collection of books that ultimately build upon each other and progress toward a better goal. In an early and brutal time God commanded tough solutions. Once his Law established deeper roots in a brutal world, God could insist that indiscriminate killing was no longer to be permitted. Later books and surely the New Testament would never support such a “solution” as the Ban.
Who Believes this? Now in the video and the printed version of the Ad, the humanists say of the Ban that this is “What Some believe.” But no one does believe this. In quoting the Jewish Old Testament and then saying that “some believe” they indicate that we should be able to find numbers of Christians and Jews who hold this sort of notion. But no one does. I am unware of any Jewish or Christian denomination or leader who would hold a belief that genocide is to be approved under any circumstances. There are some spiritual applications sometimes made of texts like these. For example, that we must wholly conquer by the power of grace, every demon which afflicts us, and every attachement to the world. But genocide is not an option. The most recent genocides have been carried out, not by Christians, but by non-believers such as Hilter and Stalin. Perhaps as many as 100 million people were killed due to such secular philosophies as German Fascism and Communism in the 20th century. Other more recent genocides have happened in parts of Africa due to tribal strife (e.g. Rwanda) and to some extent by Muslims against Christians (eg. in Sudan, Darfur, inter al).
So where are these Genocidal Jews and Christians? Surely the humanists who claim to think rationally and based on evidence can give extensive data on recent genocidal pogroms sponsored by Jews and Christians? Perhaps too, they can find teaching is the Catechism of the Catholic Church encouraging and approving the Ban? Remember now, these humanists sponsors of the Ad claim to be the “thinkers” and to base what they think on evidence and reason. So, surely we shall see the evidence of “ban theology” rampant today in Christian and Jewish denominations, seminaries, seminars, and training centers. Surely too the build up of means and weapons by Christians and Jews will be found in abundance by these evidence-savvy humanists, as we “believer” types prepare to carry out a ban on some poor and unsuspecting secular university?
Well, OK you get the point. It is really absurd to trot out the genocide accusation in these times.
The video quotes Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. To which Richard Dawkins replies: There’s all the difference in the world between a belief that one is prepared to defend by quoting evidence and logic and a belief that is supported by nothing more than tradition, authority, or revelation.
Well, there’s a little progress herein that, at least Mr. Dawkins is prepared to admit that what he thinks is a belief and not simply pure rational thought as some of the premises of this humanist ad campaign set forth. Apparently Mr. Dawkins didn’t get the memo from the Humanist sponsors of the ad that “we think….theybelieve.” Mr. D seems to be Ok admitting that he has beliefs.
But then comes all the superiority stuff as he suggests that his beliefs (and those of the humanists) are based evidence and logic whereas it would seem the rest of us poor clowns are only able to defend our beliefs based “nothing more than tradition, authority, or revelation. Really….? Nothing more? Now of course part of the problem for Mr D is that he thinks he and material science alone get to determine what is meant by evidence. So for example if I were to cite the evidence that my life is being changed by my realtionship to God, so that I was more chaste, more loving, more generous to the poor etc., that would not be evidence. Or, if I were to look out upon the marvel of creation and perceive the (rather obvious) fact of design, order, and purpose and conclude there was evidence of intelligent design, he would just wave his hand dismissively. The only evidence that counts is what he says counts.
I will admit that material science has limitsin what it can affirm or deny but there is more to knowing that physical evidence. To me there is plenty of evidence for my faith. I do see design and purpose in the things around me. I see order and natural law. I ponder things like the complexification and diversity of things in a world where the second law of thermodynamics suggests that things would do just the opposite, and fall back to their more basic components, without an outside energy to gather them into an intelligible and organized system, remarkably complex and yet symphonically unified. I marvel that things exist at all and consider that non-existence cannot produce existence. Hence there must be someone or something that exists which is not contigent and on whom the rest of contingent beings stand secure. I ponder the concept of infinitude and wonder how I could have a concept of the infinite in a world that is finite. I see evidence of one who is infinite here because a finite world cannot give what it does not have. Further, the atheist/materialist/secular humanist account of creation just doesn’t seem evident to me. It is humorously described in the graphic at the top of this post, and the humor is a bit simplistic of their view to be sure. I admit that, unlike these humanist ads. But the bottom line is that I just don’t see any evidence that everything could have come ultimately from nothing. Yet I am asked to “believe” this without evidence by the very ones who claim that they think only based on evidence.
Mr. Dawkins is free to pooh-pooh all this but it hardly seems fair of him to state without any distinction that my belief in God is based on nothing more than tradition, authority, or revelation. I mentioned none of these things in my brief litany of what I consider evidence. I could list more. It is a true fact that Scripture, tradition and authority help me to frame my thoughts. But he is no different. He too is heir to a tradition and authority (be it the scientific method, famous scientists, philosophers et al). And though he may not have sacred writings, he does have writings, books, articles etc. that have influenced and framed his beliefs.
Mr D seems unaware of history as well when he suggests that his interlocutors base their faith on “nothing more” than tradition, authority and revelation. Christianity, especially Catholicism, has a smart and long intellectual tradition. In fact much of the modern intellectual framework has emerged from a deep Catholic reverence for philosophy and learning. Consider the great scholastic period and the emergence of the modern university system that took place largely under Catholic patronage. An excellent parochial school system has also prepared countless students for higher learning. Things like the scientific method and the beginnings of unlocking the genetic code began in such settings. Modern medicine too, owes a lot to the Catholic practice of founding hospitals and fostering care for the sick. To suggest that somehow belief in God is anti-intellectual ignores a substantial amount of evidence to the contrary at least insofar as Catholicism goes.
Summary – The humanist ad campaign that trumpets it’s respect for evidential thought, in fact, demonstrates a lot a unfounded belief instead. There is in this campaign no real fact checking on their part, no authentic presentation of true Christian or Jewish doctrine, no real respect for the humans they strive to ridicule. Differ with me if you must but do not caricature my faith by presenting snips of it that are out of context, out-dated or just plain wrong. There is no “evidence” to me that these “humanists” talked to any real believing humans of the Christian or Jewish Faith, in the preparation of their campaign. Not very humanist of them.
A final puzzlement on my part. These humanist did produce two ad against the Muslims. They are on their website and quote the Q’ran and then rebutts. Here are the Ads:
Let me ask you a question. Do you think these ads will ever appear on a bus or subway like the anti Christian and Jewish ones did? I am actually surprised to see them even on the humanist website. Let’s see if these humanists will post them more publicly. Let me know if any of you see them on a bus or a subway.
In this video Fr. Robert Barron does a wonderful job of explaining and debunking the error of “Scientism” which insists that the only legitimate way of knowing things is through material science. Such an error underlies much of the Atheist/humanist thinking.