TAWDE: Sven and the Art of Refrigerator Maintenance (Ch 6)

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies!

This chapter is, perhaps, the most powerful chapter of the book, IMO. If you stop to be reflective for just a bit, the words written in this section will cause a lot of things to come up. It’s neat that this chapter’s discussion happens to fall 2 days before Christmas, which is always a great time to stop and reflect on this year’s journey and in life overall.

Andy takes on the Atheist slogan, “Religion poisons everything” and points out that, while religion may be a commonality amongst wrongdoers, it may not be the RIGHT thing in common. Some atheists take this claim further by declaring that the world would be better off without any sort of religion. However, taking a quick glance through history we see that this is nonsense; consider the former Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and even today’s North Korea (not mentioned in the book).

He goes on to number off a whole host potential substitutes for the noun in the phrase “____ poisons everything.” To mention a few: politics, science, business, power, sex, money, etc. Each of these things has brought good into the world, but they have also created evil.

What, then, poisons everything? Humans. At least, they have the potential to poison it all just as much as they can bring about great good in the world. He cites the doctrine of Original Sin, and if Christianity is true, it would make sense of much of what we see in this world; however, atheism does not enjoy this same luxury.

The reason I think this is the most powerful chapter in the book is that it deals with us as persons. The Kalam argument is wonderful, the argument from fine-tuning is great, and the argument from the existence of the soul is justifiable, yet each of these arguments makes us, as humans, just a thought experiment. They are valid but impersonal. By contrast, when dealing with morality are forced to look ourselves in the mirror and evaluate our experience daily. We have to ask: What is right? What is wrong? Why is there so much evil in the world? How can we bring goodness to our lives and those around us? Or, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn so beautifully put it, “The line between good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties, either, but right through the middle of every human heart and through all human hearts.” (page 110-111) This is something we have to deal with every day.

Questions for reflection and discussion:

  1. How can you use the question “What is right and wrong, and why is it important?” in your discussions with non-Christians?
  2. Stop and think through the condition of your heart. What’s coming up, the good, the bad, and the ugly? (Feel free to not post answers here, but PLEASE stop and reflect and journal your answers somewhere).
  3. What do you feel like the Holy Spirit is saying to you and through this chapter? If you’re unsure, take a few minutes to be calm and pray, “God, what are you saying and what’s the next step you want me to take?”
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it is good to really stop and reflect on questions 2 and 3; and just think about it, rather than write about it.

I do agree that the moral question is the most personal; because we have to make moral decisions each day. The question “How do you tell right from wrong?” cuts right to the heart of the matter, especially for someone that says they don’t believe in God.

Actually one thing pointed out I had not considered pointed out in the quote below: If atheism is true; then religion is purely a human invention; and there is no god to lay the blame before. The argument undermines the ground it’s standing on does it not?

You are, like me, part of that marvellously diverse and complex tribe, the human race, and collective responsibility catches us all up, no matter how fast we try to outrun it. “I didn’t exploit the poor!” Well, no, but you have enjoyed cheap food, clothing, and gadgetry made possible by unconscionably low wages. “I haven’t polluted the environment!” Again, maybe not personally, but tell me with a straight face that your lifestyle hasn’t contributed to its pillaging. “I’m an atheist, so don’t blame me for the evils of religion!” Well, nice to see you here, Professor Dawkins, but I’m afraid things aren’t that simple: if atheism is true, then religion is a wholly human invention and there’s no god at whose door we can lay the blame. Religion simply shows, on your view of the world, just how utterly irrational humans can be: in which case, could you perchance explain precisely why we should trust you and the rest of the New Atheist Illuminati to run the world on enlightened secular principles?

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p. 113). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

great post; I really have to think about what you’ve said; the Kalam, fine-tuning arguments are great; but turn us into a thought experiment. Is what you are saying that these arguments answer is the intellectual questions we have. Good, but not as hard hitting as the moral law giver argument; because actually every day we live out exactly what we believe and make these decisions all the time. Interesting to think about…

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Thanks, @matthew.western. What I’m saying is that the Kalam and similar arguments are wonderful and definitely point us to God. But, the problem is they tend to be useful for the science-minded thinker only. I mean, average person isn’t regularly thinking about the origins of the universe. However, all persons make moral judgement every day. So while the moral argument (and like discussions) may not be as airtight as others, it tends to be more effective because it’s much more relate-able. At least, that been my experience; what about you?

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Yes I think you are onto something. We don’t normally have conversations that could lead to origins category - probably if you tried to do this all the time people would just think you a little strange; but we talk all day long about right and wrong in every area of life.

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Hello. Hope you all had a great Christmas and Happy New Year to you. It has been a busy couple of weeks, hence just getting around to commenting now.
I agree, the moral argument is less abstract and does ask people to consider their own behaviours and actions. In my experience though, if you ask people if they think they are good or bad people, the majority default to ‘I’m a good person.’ In fact, that used to be my view of myself. I was filled with self-loathing and low self-esteem, but I considered myself a good person deep down. It was actually the Disney movie ‘Into the Woods’ that helped me understand my view of self better.
In one scene Little Red Riding Hood meets the wolf (Johnny Depp) and is tricked by him to stray from the path. Later she is rescued from the wolf and explains to her rescuer, “He seemed nice, but I guess nice is not the same as good!”
Looking at myself, I thought I was a ‘nice’ person and equated nice with good. I suspect that many people make the same mistake.
I do have a question regarding the argument in this chapter and a link back to chapter 1 - Moustaches are evil. I fully agree with Andy’s arguments here, but he seems to be saying that Dawkins in wrong in defending atheism using a slightly ‘similar’ argument. Dawkins is basically saying atheism is not the cause of evil and we are saying neither is religion. But Andy seems to be saying in chapter 1 that atheism cannot be entirely free from blame for Stalin and Pol Pot’s mass murdering regimes. Does this not go both ways? Am I just missing the point? Would be interested to know what you understand Andy to be saying.
I’ll try and respond to the next chapter shortly.

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so if I understand correctly, in chapter 1 are you saying the argument is basically look at the size of the evil caused:
Dawkins says atheism is not the cause of evil. We say; look at the size of what Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler did.
We say religion is not the cause of evil. Dawkins says look at Crusades / Spanish Inquisition.

I’m reminded of a Lennox quote “Those that take up arms in the name of Jesus are not actually obeying the teaching of Jesus” - therefore one could ask the question of the individuals in power during the Crusades / Spanish Inquisition: are they actually following Christ in their actions, or are they just proving the point in Chapter 6 whereby the human heart lusts after power, money, sex etc.

I watched Ravi Zacharius on the Eric Metaxis show last night ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LfmEVJ1d_k), and I remember a point he made in passing : basically Dawkins complains about the evil character of God, but then says there is no evil, we are just dancing to our DNA. He’s undermined his own argument because evil does not exist; and all he’s really proved that from an atheistic point of view humans are irrational as they have invented religion.

39:07: (from the youtube transcript) …when a person like Richard Dawkins raising all these questions about the horrible things of the God of the Old Testament, but then ends up saying ultimately we know, I don’t believe there’s any such thing as evil we were all dancing to our DNA; so the God he takes down he takes down on the notion of evil but then when he comes to defend his own view says the no such thing is evil we’re all dancing to our DNA so obviously didn’t want God to dance to his DNA just wanted us to dance to our DNA

I wonder if @Andy_Bannister is free to answer your question better, Keith? :slight_smile:

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@keith_moore, that’s a great question and I’m really glad you brought it up!

In Ch 1 @andy_bannister primarily introduces the overview of the book – cheap soundbites make bad arguments and don’t provide a foundation for atheism to stand upon. He takes one of Dawkins’ tweets and uses it for an illustration, “Stalin, Hitler and Saddam Hussein were evil, murdering dictators. All had moustaches. Therefore moustaches are evil.” (pg 20). Dawkins is saying, ‘they might have been atheists, but their atheism wasn’t the cause of their horrible actions.’ Andy asks, ‘is that really the case?’ Well, no. When we examine the writings of these men, we find that they claim atheism gave them the justification to do what they did, and if atheism is taken to its logical ends, we see that they are correct. By contrast, most religions, and Christianity in particular, teach the exact opposite. When Christians (or other religious persons) perform evil actions, they are behaving contrary to the teachings of Jesus. So, I think the overall thought here is that we should look closer at the belief system and claims of the individuals rather than making quick judgments. @andy_bannister, please correct me if I’m wrong.

You also mentioned asking people the question, “Do you consider yourself a good or bad person?” If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to do a quick role play so we can learn to better engage our non-Christian friends (at least I hope).

There are two questions, I think, every person needs to become very good at asking to have more fruitful conversations 1) What do you mean by that? 2) Why do you think that? The first question is designed to get content and a clearer picture of why he or she objections to Jesus/God/Christianity/etc. In your example, you say that when you ask if a person thinks he or she is a good person, the typical answer is, ‘I’m a good person.’ This is where you ask, “What do you mean by that?” You could get a host of different responses and each answer will need to be addressed individually – you don’t want to give a good answer to the wrong question. Wait for them to answer, “What do you mean by good person?” You’ll get a better idea of what he or she means by ‘good person’ and you’ll be able to respond appropriately.

But before we give our answer, we also need to ask, “Why do you think that?” Here we’re asking for the reasons behind the objection; did they read a study, was there an experience from the past, are they just repeating a slogan, etc. The answer the person gives will determine your entry point into the conversation. Consider the reasons behind the objection, “I can’t believe in a God who would forgive rapists and child molesters.” If they respond with, “because those are really bad people who don’t deserve to be forgiven” you’ll end up with a much different conversation than if they respond, “because I was molested as a child.” Knowing why they hold to an objection is extremely important and allows us to, as Ravi says, “Answer the questioner, not just the question.”

So back your example, “I’m a good person” “What do you mean by good person?” If I was a betting man, I’d say the most likely answer to this question is something along the lines of, “compared to most people, I’m good. I haven’t killed anyone, I don’t run a drug cartel or a prostitution ring, so I’m a good person.” Again, there are multiple ways to direct this conversation, but asking question #2 will help determine the best course. So let’s ask it, and a better way to ask the question in this situation might be, “Why do you think there are good people and bad people?” I don’t know the exact words that will be used in the response but I’m going to guess that they will make an appeal to a moral law (perhaps unknowingly).

Since you’ve listened rather than jumping in with an answer thus far, you’ve learned how to respond effectively to this person because he or she has told you exactly where they are spiritually/mentally/emotionally/etc. regarding this issue. In our example, this person needs to realize that a moral law is only possible with the existence of God (could use Ravi’s evil assumes good, good & evil assume a moral law, a moral law assumes a moral lawgiver) and that only God is good (several RZIM speakers’ teaching on the Rich Young Ruler parable). Taking the conversation this direction will take us closer to the ultimate goal of seeing him or her follow Jesus.

If you’re still reading this post, thanks for letting me ramble a bit. I hope this helps when you get into difficult conversations about God :blush:

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