Tuesday, December 16, 2008


In the Australian state of Victoria, it was announced that instruction in atheism will be run alongside the usual religious instruction, or 'school Scripture'. One letter writer to the national press promptly applauded it as a good idea and made the usual comments about all the harm done by organized religion. They referred to the Crusades of the Middle Ages, and other cliched examples.
Another writer replied that just as much or more harm had been done by attempts to run society on atheist lines. They referred to Communist societies, such as what was called "The Peoples Republic Of China"; and the Soviet Union. The blood shed by those regimes in attempting to subdue their populations is at least as horrific as any thing that can be attributed to 'organized religion'. Of course it is worth pointing out that just because a person or faction call themselves Christian does not make them so. "By their deeds you will know them" needs to be kept in mind. But if someone believes that a human community is better run by an atheist philosophy, could they please explain why the attempts to do so ended up in such appalling disaster?
Karl Marx called spiritual faith 'the opiate of the masses'. He admitted, tacitly, that hope of something beyond this earthly life caused people to endure suffering. It was his view that instead those people should struggle to change them. He needed to be told that Christian reformers have been involved in humanitarian reforms and campaigning for centuries. And his idea, of running a society on the idea that 'there is no God' led to the monstrosity that we remember by the deeds of Stalin, the writings of Solzhenytzen, the millions of deaths in prison camps or at the hands of the secret police. More recently the deeds of Mao Tse-tung have been held up to the light, and found to be less ideal than his supporters claimed. China too suffered under a dictatorship in which a mere human tried to take the place of God, and get people to put their faith in humans and their notions.
The alchemists of times past believed that you could turn some elements into others. They spent hundreds of hours trying to turn lead or iron into gold. We now believe that to be impossible. They might as well have tried fishing in a bucket of water. You could try that for centuries and not catch a thing. If this seems like an odd change of subject, here is what I'm trying to say: human beings cannot be made into anything resembling God. They do not have the wisdom, the incorruptible nature and the power. Yet an atheist society tries to put mere human beings in that place, the role of God, as the entire source of authority and guidance in running the world. It really is a form of alchemy - trying to turn something into something else that it never can be. And the results are pure horror.
The course in atheism mentioned above will apparently try to teach people this: there is no evidence for the existence of God. It would be one incredible irony if that backfired! People who had never thought about it before might look at the world and see very good evidence for the existence of God, in the things not made by humans; and good evidence for human sin in the harm done by human beings. But that remains to be seen. The issue is that from one generation to the next the same mistakes get made, and the same bitter outcomes arise.
In the distant past, humans became carried away with their own greatness, built the Tower of Babel and suddenly found themselves all divided. That was only the first attempt by homosapiens to make themselves the greatest thing in the Universe. And it was not the biggest disaster of the lot, either.
If the chief end of Humanity is 'to worship God and enjoy Him always', the most idiotic mistake possible is to try leaving God out of it and enjoy our own achievements. Even if someone does not believe that quote above from the Westminster Confession, can anyone show that human beings have managed to run anything without corruption or blunders when they leave it all to themselves?
God will be known in the same way that gravity causes things to fall downwards. It is inevitable. So here's praying that the bad idea above will be turned against its designers.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Closer to home

To get his idea for "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde", Robert Louis Stephenson didn't have to delve too far into the fantastic. He only needed to see what happens when some people have too much to drink. I'm not a complete teetotaller, no way would I suggest complete prohibition (look what happened when it WAS tried) but it's easy to see why some people are. If you want to see someone change their behaviour, quite scarily sometimes, watch what happens when someone can't handle drink.Come to that, it's probably just as well I never became too fond of it myself.
Back in the single partying days, I recall thinking there were about four things you could count on seeing at a party where the drink was flowing. There was the 'sad' drunk, who became maudlin or depressed and started crying all over the place, or threatening to end it all, and other people had to run around restraining and consoling them. (Could have been a bit of attention-seeking?). Then there was the 'sick' drunk who threw up in an inappropriate place, so someone has to clean it up. Then there was the 'silly' drunk, who tried playing chicken with cars on a busy road or proving they could jump from the top floor of a building. And lastly was the 'aggressive' drunk who wanted to fight everybody in sight. I once had to help subdue a guy, normally as quiet as a mouse, who pulled out a knife and swore he was going to carve someone up. Fun!
You've heard all the theories, about whether people just say what they really think when they're drunk or whether the alcohol distorts their mind. I don't know what the truth is, but this I do know: it can seriously scare you seeing the way some people carry on just because they've taken in something which is quite legal to sell. So I'm not suggesting banning it altogether, but it's easy to see why some people do! Lives get lost, either by stupid behaviour or aggression loosed when someone has had a few.
I blogged on this subject once a few months ago. The alcohol manufacturing industries must seriously hate the thought of a Christian revival. It would reduce their business to a fraction of its present rate, and cut into the amount of work for casualty surgeons, nurses, tow-truck drivers, ambulance paramedics, lawyers, police, glaziers replacing broken windows, auto-repair businesses... costly little habit, that drinking!
It is boring to become a self-righteous moralist, telling other people how to live. And I need to mind my own manners, not comment on everyone else's behaviour. But I had to say: if you want to see a real-life Jekyll/Hyde transformation, you only have to be around when some people start drinking.
It tells you something if people have to soak away their senses to cope with life, too. There must be something missing. God help us to see what it is.