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2010 Global Atheist Convention

Atheism Last week I had a call from a newspaper reporter asking if I was worried that the 2010 Global Atheist Convention to be held in Melbourne was sold out. I said, "Of course not." People of faith have nothing to fear in doubt or skepticism. No need to picket or boycott events such as this (though some Christians are seeking to take action about it). I believe that dialogue and discussion can be helpful in all areas of belief.

One of the main speakers is Richard Dawkins, one of the world's most influential atheists. I have read his book The God Delusionand it only strengthened my faith. It is written in very emotional language and he makes sweeping generalisations about religion and faith that can't be validated. In no way did it shake my faith or give reasonable objections to the classic reasons for believing that there is a God (see my previous posts on this topic here).

Yes, a lot of damage has been done throughout history in the name of Christ - but never in the spirit of Christ. But let's not forget the incredible good that has also been done through people of faith in every sector society - education, health, arts and literature, family, business, welfare and government.

I think that Dawkins should model a little more of the tolerance he promotes, rather than being such a militant atheist trying to eradicate everyone else's belief.

P.S. Melanie Phillips has a good article in The Australian worth reading.

Comments

Great reflection Mark!

I agree, there's no reason to be scared or intimidated by people holding different worldviews! :)

Having been a former atheist (and having taught evolution), i too have read parts of Richard Dawkins new book and am reading Dr Jonathan Sarfati's new book (The Greatest Hoax on Earth?)a point by point rebuttal of Richards new book) in which John Sanford (a science professor at Cornell University) says Sarfati's book beats Dawkins book an all issues. I too agree with Mark, we have nothing to worry about when it comes to the facts (Dr Sarfati is a young earth creationist, as i am now too), except we need to be worried about the indocrination through the secular media and the secular education system.
God bless, Peter

If this is the "Global" Atheist Convention and it was a sellout with only 2,500 people I'm not really impressed...or worried!

It's agood thing they came- I understand it spurred Christian groups into action especially in the universities. Being a Ravi Zacharias fan- one should read and listen to the arguments debunking Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, Nietscze and the like who have pronounced God is dead

SJ

Christine, i think we do need to be worried for our kids faith (faith in God and not faith in Government or a particular philosophy of science(evolution)), and reaching out to others who have only heard, or are only hearing the story of billions of years and evolution (i only started not believing in evolution after watching the dvd "unlocking the Mystery of Life" (great dvd to show a science person)). I know the main message is salvation through Jesus, and not creationism, but if the story to others (being put out by others who want to take God out of the picture) is only a myth, why should people believe.
God bless Peter

I'm quite certain that at a conference like this, it won't be 100% filled with eager aethists ready to listen to Dawkins. Perhaps some Christians have signed up, because they'll like to understand what aethists think, or simply curious people who want to know what the fuss is all about.

Either way, I feel the same as Mark and there is absolutely nothing to worry about. =)

I hope that Christians don't take the bait and confuse the question of evolution with the question of God. Don't buy into that false dichotomy! I'm saddened that the Australian media has picked up on the Fielding/Dawkins debate; in my opinion it's a cringe-inducing sideshow of extreme opinions, leaving no room for more thoughtful, balanced interaction.

A very considerable amount of heavyweight Christian thinkers (McGrath, Polkinghorne, Collins, Conway-Morris, Alexander, Haught, Haldane, Swinburne, etc.) - even the Pope from what I'm aware - see no conflict with a God who has utilized the evolutionary process to bring about his ends. As Polkinghorne says, it's just as clever (argurably even cleverer) if the Creator decided to create a universe where creatures create themselves!

Better to focus on presenting the evidence for Christianity (historicity of Christ, religious experience, prophecy, etc.) and for intellectual theism in general (causality, fine-tuning and moral law) then get mired down in a debate which hinges on how we interpret a very complex passage in Genesis (which has been debated within Christianity by respectable theologians for centuries, and for which a variety of permissible interpretations exist)

I know this issue stirs a lot of passion within various parts of the Christian community, but we need to recognize that there's a lot more to apologetics than the small slice of the pie that Comfort and CMI tend to focus on.

It's scientism, not science, and evolutionism, not evolution, that are the real enemies here.

Blessings,
James

So James if God spoke the heavens into existence,which you accept, then why can't you and others accept that God spoke man into existence?
Which is the biblical orthodox view.

exactly, Matthew 19:4, "Haven't you read," He replied, "that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female", (and there are many more references Jesus gives to the old testament) so the reason i take the old testament (including Genesis) seriously is because Jesus did, now i love science, but i love God so much more, and i now always put the bible ahead of science (not an atheist any more), but its great the science of the last few decades (and before) strongly supports an earth of thousands not billions of years (see www.creation.com and search for evidence of a young earth with things like polystrate trees, genetic entropy, earth's magnetic field etc... etc...) p.s. my son when in grade 5 came back from school upset because he was told we come from monkeys and there is life on Mars; fortunately i was able to give an answer (as it says always have an answer for your faith)

Thanks for the feedback, Samuel & Peter,

Actually, I do believe that God spoke man into existence, in terms of His divine agency. As John Lennox reminds us; the question is not about God's "agency" but about the "mechanism" that He used. I see no necessary conflict between an evolutionary paradigm and passages in Genesis which tell us that God formed Adam 'from the dust of the earth' and that he desired the seas and the land to 'bring forth' creatures of wondrous variety. Also, the 'coupling' between the Genesis days 1-4, 2-5 and 3-6 (and the fact that the 7th day is not closed out) tells me that we're dealing with a very complex passage here that does not necessarily need to be read linearly or literally (as Augustine, Aquinas, Origen and Wesley all observed). But ultimately, whether it's creatio ex nihilo or creatio continua, it's still creation in my books! :)

My personal story is that I came from a background which was quite sympathetic to ID in the biological realm and I even flirted with YEC in my younger years. But it was reading deeply about genetics that changed my mind on this issue. (on this score I can heartily recommend Francis Collins' book 'The Language of God' or anything by John Polkinghorne or Denis Alexander for faith-affirming, God-focussed explorations of these issues)

As for the universe, I have always found big bang cosmology (let there be light!) and stellar evolution to be particularly persuasive (and I'm very familiar with the science on these matters).

I'd pleasantly disagree with the claim that the science of the last few decades supports a young earth; no reputable reputable scientific body (NASA, Royal Society, AAAS, NAS, CSIRO) would agree with that claim. There's simply too much evidence from geological strata, radiative isotope dating, frequency and distribution of impact events, dating of other bodies in our solar system based on crater distribution, etc. The Earth has been here for a long time; it takes an a priori commitment to a certain prescriptive view of Genesis to hold otherwise.

But this need not worry Christians; because it's not science versus the Bible: they are complementary accounts. We need both the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture to guide our way. Science tells us the 'how'; Scripture the 'why'.

Ironically, I havn't found the transition to this worldview threatening in any way; if anything it's enriched my understanding of God's creative processes.

Blessings,
James

thanks for your input James, i know where you are coming from, and a few years ago believed the earth was billions of years old (i am aware of the material you mentioned), have a read of (if you are interested) genetic entropy and the mystery of the genome by Dr John Sanford, refuting compromise by Dr Sarfati, starlight time and the new physics by Dr Hartnett, radioisotopes and the age of the earth by Vardiman/Snelling/Chafin and geological column by Reed/Oard all young earth creationists in different fields, the whole thing has also enriched my understanding of God's creative process too. i better stop hogging the comments. God bless

I am annoyed that I missed the athiests conference. Perhaps we should publicise it @CL next time so heaps of us can go. I'd love to ask questions of the speakers (if that was allowed).

Imagine if many of us went, they would think that their movement was growing LOL.

Thanks for the Australian link, insightful. My brother is a big fan of Dawkins and pesters me about my faith often, although I think its more in jest since we all grew up in the same traditional church-going home. But he does profess to be an atheist so I read a number of book reviews out of curiousity. I was surprised to find that even amongst his fellow atheists and similar academics, support for his views on religion, christianity in particular, is much less than expected. So I don't think there's ever a need to worry, every person in some way is seeking the truth for their life and plus, God is always in control :) Here is the review and an excerpt:

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2009/01/book-review-god-delusion-by-richard.html

"In most countries, major churches play a vital role for the social system, they take care of the sick and the poor, they offer advice and counseling, not to mention places to meet likeminded people. Dawkins does not comment on this beneficial sociological side at all which I find very disappointing"

At Peter - I think Dr Jonathan Sarfati's books are great, too, and recommend them to people who ask me where I'm coming from! And writers like Hartnett and Snelling are also fantastic. :) There's plenty of faith-boosting books out there for the Christian who is willing to look for them. And a lot of them are Aussie, too!

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