James Haught and Secular Humanism

The largest newspaper in the state of West Virginia is the Charleston Gazette-Mail, published in the capitol city of Charleston, WV. I have read this newspaper (formerly The Charleston Gazette), along with its former sister publication, The Charleston Daily Mail, for many years. The two newspapers merged in 2015. The reporting in both papers has been sufficient, although some of the reports in the Gazette have a tradition of mingling opinion with what is suppose to be objective reporting. Speaking of opinion, when the two papers merged, the opinion pages were kept separate. This was for good reason I suppose. The Daily Mail has been traditionally center to slight right, politically speaking. The Gazette editorial page has always been a far-left liberal extremist page. I am not at all exaggerating here. You can search the Gazette editorial archives for yourself here.

As of this writing, Dawn Miller is the editorial page editor. For years, the chief editor at the paper has been James Haught. From what I understand, Haught still contributes to this day. It seems that I read somewhere that he works in an emeritus status.

james-haught
James Haught

Now I have read Mr. Haught’s writings and heard him speak from time to time over the years. For being a self-declared enlightened and rational individual, his thinking on some things are seriously flawed. I want to point out two such instances.

One instance came about when I attended a panel discussion at the University of Charleston. The discussion was centered around the thoughts of the panelists as it related to the motto of the United States, “In God We Trust.” There were six panelists. All of the panelists were monotheists except one, Mr. Haught. The discussion can be viewed here. The panelists discussed aspects of the national motto and its relevance. They discussed the so-called separation of church and state.

If you skip ahead to almost fifteen minutes into the panel discussion, you can hear one of Mr. Haught’s primary defenses against using the motto. He says, “Religion is extremely powerful and if you mix it with the power of government you’re going to have massacres and bloodshed….The Germans always had ‘Gott Mit Uns’ on their uniforms, on their money, and on their military equipment…World War One, World War Two. What’s the difference between ‘God With Us’ for the Germans and ‘In God We Trust’ for the Americans. It’s all just the same thing of using government to claim religion.”

It’s easy to see what Mr. Haught is doing here. Just as his editorials have reflected, Mr. Haught is saying that belief in God contributes to and causes massacres and bloodshed. His writings elsewhere suggest that the only remedy for this is to be an enlightened humanist such as himself.

Oxford University professor Alister McGrath, among a large host of others, has debunked the kind of thinking employed by Mr. Haught. In a book entitled, “Beyond Opinion” by Ravi Zacharias, McGrath argues persuasively that “all ideals–divine, transcendent, human or invented–are capable of being abused. Abuse of an ideal does not negate its validity.”

While Mr. Haught likes to point out the atrocities committed in the name of religion (as he does in the panel discussion), Mr. McGrath points out that abandonment of religion is clearly not the solution. In the book, Mr. McGrath says, “Atheism argued that it abolished violence and tyranny by getting rid of what ultimately caused it: faith in God. It was a credible claim in the nineteenth century precisely because atheism had not yet enjoyed the power and influence once exercised by religion. But all that has changed. Atheism’s innocence has now evaporated. In the twentieth century, atheism managed to grasp the power that had hitherto eluded it. But then atheism proved just as fallible, just as corrupt, and just as oppressive as any belief system that had gone before it. Stalin’s death squads were just as murderous as their religious antecedents. Those who dreamed of freedom in the new atheist paradise often found themselves counting trees in Siberia or confined to the Gulag–and they were the lucky ones.”

McGrath continues, “Some of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century were committed by regimes that espoused atheism.” We know that atheist regimes are responsible for upwards of 100 million deaths in the twentieth century. But people who are truly rational will conclude that religion nor atheism itself are responsible for such bloodshed. The real cause for these things is extremism. It may be religious extremism, atheistic extremism, or political extremism. One cannot simply take the abuse of something and call it the rule.

McGrath points out that when a society rejects God, it will invent transcendent alternatives to ground human values. During the French Revolution, this exact thing happened. The French purged God from their society and substituted Liberty as the moral authority. In fact, the pursuit of Liberty served as the justification for violence and extremism in France. For an example, French revolutionist Marie-Jeanne Roland dropped out of favor with the elitists and was brought to the guillotine to face execution on exaggerated charges. As she was about to die she declared, “Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name.” Again, the implication is clear. Extremism exists in all manner of thought and beliefs. All systems are capable of being abused. Asserting belief in God is the cause of massacres and bloodshed is misguided at best and deliberately misleading at worst.

Another instance where Mr. Haught’s thinking is flawed is his disbelief in anything supernatural. On his website he states, “Personally, I’ve waged a long crusade for rational, scientific thinking as an antidote for harmful supernaturalism.” He says that religion is a magical belief. He says there is no actual evidence for a deity! Say what? Apparently, while Mr. Haught is certainly well-read and intelligent, his breadth of knowledge is lacking on this last point. Alas, I do not have time to address that point right now. I want to focus on his disbelief in the supernatural.

We know through the empirical, scientific method that anything that begins to exist has a cause. We have absolutely zero evidence that anything can arise without a cause. The great skeptic, David Hume (one of Mr. Haught’s authorities, I’m sure) said that he “never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” Furthermore, we also know that nothing can cause itself. For something to cause itself it must exist before it exists in order to cause itself to exist, which is absurdity at the highest order. Moreover, modern science has proven once and for all that the universe actually did have a cause.

Now, the universe is made up of all natural things and the universe began to exist. So then, it only stands to reason that since everything that begins to exist must have a cause, and since the universe did begin to exist, and since the universe cannot create itself, the cause of the universe cannot be natural, for nature cannot create itself. The only other option we have to describe the cause of the universe is to say that something outside of nature, something that transcends nature, something super-natural MUST have created the universe. Do you see that? When one follows the logic to its meaningful conclusion, there is no longer any room to doubt the supernatural. It’s illogical to do so.

It is pure poppycock to claim that the supernatural does not exist. The very best scientific evidence we have makes belief in the supernatural a requirement, lest one should live a life of perpetual denial of the facts. I suppose that since the supernatural is undeniable one must choose how they choose to describe it. I cannot think of an adequate word to describe something outside of nature other than……God.

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Does Religion Cause Mass Murder? The Atheists Think So

Consider this quote by Alister McGrath:

“Atheism argued that it abolished violence and tyranny by getting rid of what ultimately caused it: faith in God.  It was a credible claim in the 19th century precisely because atheism had not yet enjoyed the power and influence once exercised by religion. But all that has changed. Atheism’s innocence has now evaporated. In the 20th century, atheism managed to grasp the power that had hitherto eluded it. But then atheism proved just as fallible, just as corrupt, and just as oppressive as any belief system that had gone before it. Stalin’s death squads seemed just as murderous as their religious antecedents. Those who dreamed of freedom in the new atheist paradise often found themselves counting trees in Siberia or confined to the Gulag—and they were the lucky ones.”[1]

One of the key aspects of the French Revolution was that in France, the church was seen as being on the side of government.  As a result of the church being interested in its own power and authority as opposed to being interested in the welfare of the people, atheism began to look sexy.  As McGrath points out, “For many in modern Europe, the conclusion was obvious:  religion is an oppressor; atheism is a liberator.[2]  Clearly though, as the 20th century proves beyond all doubt, atheism leads to an oppressive end.

Fast forward to our post 9/11 world and we see the publication of three books by authors who apparently don’t know history or ignore the atheistic bloodbaths of the 20th century.  In response to the 9/11 terrorism, atheistic evangelists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett published books labeling religion a threat to the well-being of mankind.

Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett. The “new” atheist evangelists.

Put very simply, they claim religion causes mass murder.  But, when one takes an objective view of the facts, we see suicide bombers are motivated by a much more complex set of circumstances.[3]  As it turns out, religion is neither a necessary nor sufficient reason for suicide bombers.  The common factor found in suicide bombers is the sense of total helplessness in the face of perceived oppression coupled with a lack of conventional military capacity.[4]

We need to forcefully squash these silly assertions made by today’s “new” atheists.  This kind of thinking leads me to believe that the new atheists do not have a firm grasp of the implications of their own worldview as it turned out in the 20th century.  Learn to recognize these facts and bring them up.  These attacks on Christianity by the new atheists need to be soundly and intelligently crushed.

[1] Quoting Alister McGrath in the book by Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) p. 29

[2] Zacharias, p. 25

[3] See more in the book by Diego Gambetta, Making Sense of Suicide Missions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

[4] Zacharias, p. 28