Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tom Leykis Doesn't Really Know All That Much About Religion

But then neither do a lot of religious people.

Tom Leykis is an Atheist.  He makes no pretense of being Agnostic or anything like that. He states that there is no God, not that there might not be a God. He does admit his Atheism is a belief, but he falsely claims he doesn't try to get people to adopt his belief system.

The first two hours of his Thursday, January 8 show was the topic "Religion: Stupid". It was inspired, it sounds like, by the Islamist terrorist attacks that just happened in France.

1) His lumping of all religions together is like someone lumping all audio content shows (radio, podcasts, etc.) together and saying something like "Stephanie Miller did something terrible, so all audio content shows are stupid!" If Leykis wants to debate whether philosophical naturalism or a belief that there is a supernatural existence makes more sense, that's one thing, or debating the benefit of religious community, or ritual, or whatever, fine. But to lump all "religions" (by which he seems to mean anything that isn't Atheism or Agnosticism), which are highly diverse in beliefs, practices, and historical behavior, and then demand that someone has to defend them all, is an invalid exercise. I'm not obligated to defend belief systems and practices that are often exactly opposite of mine.

2) He repeats the common falsehood that there has been more death and destruction in the name of religion than anything else. First of all, "religion" is too broad a term. See #1. I know he doesn't consider Atheism a religion and since Atheistic rulers have been the biggest mass murders in history, then no religion can be.

3) Like many religious people, his statements indicate that he thinks of prayer as some attempt to turn God into a cosmic bellhop. Since God doesn't answer all prayers the way the person doing the praying wants, praying is futile and there is no God, according to Leykis. However, the Biblical teaching on prayer is that it is for us to focus on God for our benefit. Prayer, ideally, involves adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. In praying, we humble ourselves before God, giving us a proper perspective of our place in the universe. We are not mere molecules, no different than a pebble, but nor are we King. He is. We confess our sins, admitting to ourselves what we've done wrong and what we've failed to do right. We give thanks for what God has done for us, which is, despite what Tom Leykis thinks, more than we could ever say. Finally, we pray for the needs of other and our needs, not because God will jump through hoops to cater to our whims, but because in doing so we might gain clarity on what, if anything, we can do differently, and admitting we need God is healthy for us. Focusing on God in this way does have positive effects on our brain, as studies have shown.

I recommend these links for further reading about prayer:

4) He also says that religious systems tell us to never question. When it comes to Christianity, this is demonstrably false. I've read this book. Tom hasn't, I'm sure. Also see here.

5) He says studies have shown that religious (again, see #1) people in general have less intelligence than atheists. I'm glad that you don't have to be smart to believe in God. Why should the less intelligent be left out of a relationship with Him? However, some of the smartest people who've ever lived or are alive now are Theists. Many famous scientists have been. Even smart people can be wrong, however. So the real question is not WHO believes it, but WHY they believe it.

6) "Many things in the Bible considered facts have been disproven." He didn't cite any examples. Nor did he cite any for his claim that "the Old and New Testament contradict each other."

7) "Why is Santa Claus any different than God?" There are serious philosophical arguments for the existence of God. However, if he really wants to know, which I doubt he does, he should check out the works of some of these people:

William Lane Craig
J.P. Moreland
Gary Habermas
Francis Beckwith
Greg Koukl
R.C. Sproul
William Dembski

Peter Kreeft

8) He also says the Resurrection story is just like Santa Claus. (See the people listed above for information about the Resurrection) Jesus preached and acted PUBLICLY. The writers of the New Testament appealed to historical events, that either happened or they didn't, but as the Apostle Paul said, if they didn't happen, the faith is in vain. They called on people to believe because of something that happened, something that was objectively true - not because of a feeling or dream or some private, subjective experience or something that they merely hoped was true. It actually takes conspiracy theories to try to explain away Jesus and what He did, because here you had a group of people who were willing to give up everything to spread the Gospel. They had every incentive to recant, to confess a ruse, but they were willing to die for the message. We see all of the time that some people are willing to die for what they BELIEVE to be true, but how can you get a group of people to die for what they know to be a lie? From what I've seen, the reasonable conclusion is that the first Christians were not lying. They turned that part of the world upside down, and it wasn't because of a bogus story.

9) Tom said Christianity is the same thing as Islam because Christians kill abortion doctors. Really? How many people claiming to be Christians have killed abortionists vs. how many people claiming to Muslims have killed people in the name of Islam? Give me the Biblical case or the preaching that explicitly encourages murdering abortionists and compare that to the Muslim scriptures and preaching by imams about jihad. Even Bill Maher says they're not the same.

10) "The Old Testament says you [current caller] should stone homosexuals." Also, "Do you eat pork?" You can find all sorts of laws in various state law books that were never enforced or no longer apply. When I'm living in modern day California, the laws of colonial Jamestown do not apply to me.

11) "More people have been killed in the name of Jesus than saved." See #2. Jesus has changed millions of lives. He changed the course of Western civilization for the better. You can say it is a placebo effect if you'd like, but that doesn't make your assertion right.

12) "Religion, by definition, is shoved down your throat." No, that's not part of the definition. Of course parents tend to raise their children with with their own convictions. Tom would do the same if he had children still alive (instead of torn apart in abortion clinics at his insistence) and being raised by him. Christian parents understand that, ultimately, their children will either stop running away from Christ or they won't. It's an individual matter and no Christian parents can force their child to actually be a Christian.

13) "Intelligent design is made up. If it is intelligent, it would be logical, and if it was logical, it could be explained, but you can't explain it." That requirement is made up. By "logical" I'm sure Tom means "no miracle was involved," but Tom has never explained why dismissing all possibility of the supernatural is any more logical than accepting that the supernatural exists. People can research intelligent design for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

14) "You've made up a fairy tale to explain your ignorance." I didn't write the Bible. I believe the Bible because I'm convinced that the Bible is Divine rather human in origin because the evidence for that is stronger than the conspiracy theories that try to make the case for it not being Divine in origin. I get it - Tom thinks the people who wrote the Bible made up a fairy tale. The thing is, not many people are willing to die for fairy tales they themselves made up. Has Tom bothered to read a serious work on the origins of the Bible? One not written with a strong bias against supernaturalism? I doubt it.

15) He actually asked  where Jesus' bones are. Finding them would actually back Atheism, not Christianity, so he was either playing a game or is ignorant about the very heart of Christian theology. Parading Jesus' corpse around would have ended Christianity before it could take root. The reality is, Jesus' bones are in His living, resurrected body.

16) He implied one religion is no "better" than any other religion. See #1. But I have to ask: what's the criteria? Who decides what is "better"? Tom? What makes him authoritative more than anyone else? I've dealt with this before when I wrote about a serious flaw in Leykis' logic. He talks as though there is a right or wrong that is above human laws. How is that possible without a Lawgiver, or an objective standard of right and wrong? On the subsequent Friday Wide Open Phones edition of the show he said that religious organizations have no moral authority because they've done immoral things, which again raised the question, what determines whether something is moral or immoral? Sounds to me like Leykis has his feet planted firmly in mid-air on that one.

His ultimate retort to any caller is "Prove it!", repeated over and over again, like the three year-old child who says "Why?" to everything you say. Most of the callers Tom gets on such topics are inept, but he'd never let any get around to a good philosophical argument anyway. He controls what makes it onto the program. When someone says "That's just your opinion", there are good things to say in response.

Yes a lot of of rotten people claim to be Christians. People are rotten. Christians are people. However, sincere followers of Christ are better than they'd otherwise be. True evil is done when someone violates God's law, not because of God's law. Sincere devotion to the true Jesus Christ has turned lives around. Career criminals have been reformed and much joy has resulted. Christianity transformed Western civilization, improved the quality of life around the world, influenced our Founding Fathers in writing the Constitution (last I checked, Tom was very happy with the Freedom of Speech), fought slavery, built universities, hospitals, and charities, and inspired some of our greatest works of art.

In addition to Tom's overriding (but unjustified, at least as far as any explanation of a basis) bias against supernaturalism, it is clear from all he's said that he doesn't want to have any moral accountability outside of the law. It's OK, Tom. Even though people claiming to be Christians make up the majority of people in this country, you can say whatever you want on your show (including mocking Christians), you don't have to give money to help operate a church and care for those in need, you don't have to pray, you don't have to attend services, and you can fornicate all you want. Because we are different than Muslim-dominated countries, because Christianity is different from Islam.

So what exactly is stupid about Christianity?

The theology?

The morality?

The organization and operation of churches?

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