Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In the Name of Knowledge and Wisdom

HT: The Tigress - 'Cause She's Always Been Much Smarter Than Me!

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Jonas E. Alexis, a math teacher in Florida and the author of In the Name of Education.

His new book is In the Name of Knowledge and Wisdom: Why Atheists, Sceptics, Agnostics, and Intellectuals Deny Christianity.

FP: Jonas E. Alexis, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.

Alexis: Thanks again, Dr. Glazov. It’s always a pleasure.

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Alexis: One of the prevailing assumptions that is being propagated by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, to name just a few, is that atheism is based on reason and that religion, particularly Christianity, is based on faith. This is a false assumption. And one of the primary reasons why In the Name of Knowledge and Wisdom was written was to expose the false claims made by the new atheists.

FP: Why has atheism become so popular today?

Alexis: Atheism is so popular because many people—even those who claim to be atheists—do not seriously examine the worldviews and detrimental ideologies that post beneath the surface. The famed mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was an avowed atheist until he debated the philosopher Frederick Copleston. Once Copleston logically showed Russell that atheism is existentially and experientially untenable, Russell immediately changed his atheism into agnosticism. In the Name of Knowledge and Wisdom simply shows that the atheist position is irrational and unliveable.

FP: Tell us about some of the vital contradictions you have found in the atheist position.

Alexis: Let us start with Richard Dawkins, because he claims to follow logic and reason. In chapter two of The God Delusion, he writes, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Those are interesting words—coming from the pen of a person who believes that God does not exist, yet who is still marshalling ridiculous arguments against the very same God. However, in his book River out of Eden, which was written years before The God Delusion came out, Dawkins wrote, “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference….DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”

So, at bottom, according to Dawkins, there is no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good. How, then, can Dawkins judge the God of the Old Testament if there is no good and no evil? How can he honestly say that what God was doing was “evil”? By what standard is he judging Him? Moreover, could it be that the God of the Old Testament was just “dancing to His DNA”? And if He was, why would Dawkins lambaste Him?

Dawkins’s fundamental philosophy is telling him that there is no good and evil, yet experientially and intellectually he cannot live with it. There is a vital contradiction here. Moreover, Dawkins constantly invokes words like “unjust,” “racist,” and “evil” in his petty and elementary arguments. He never seems to think that he is implicitly saying that he does indeed believe that there is, at bottom, evil and good. In addition, whenever he invokes those types of words, he is simply referring to a moral law that simply says, “It would be immoral of God to be jealous and proud of it; unjust, unforgiving control-freak…”

Now, we all know that whenever there is a moral law, there must be, by definition, a moral lawgiver. Yet that’s what Dawkins is trying to disprove. He has yet to succeed. Dawkins is not the first one to come up with those child-like arguments. French writers during “The Age of Reason” made several attempts to wipe out the notion of God, all to no avail. These include D’Hobach, La Mettrie, Diderot, Voltaire, etc. Diderot for example declared, “I would sacrifice myself if I can annihilate the notion of God.” All those guys are in their grave, and the notion of God has yet to be wiped out.

Even renowned evolutionary biologists H. Allen Orr, David Sloan Wilson, and Massimo Pigliucci have called into question the power that Dawkins once had as an intellectual, since he has made elementary errors in The God Delusion. The atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse said this of Dawkins: “So long as his understanding of Christianity remains at the sophomoric level, Dawkins does not deserve full attention. It is all very well to sneer at Catholic beliefs about the Virgin Mary, but what reply does Dawkins have to the many theologians (like Jonathan Edwards) who have devoted huge amounts of effort to distinguishing between false beliefs and true ones? What reply does Dawkins have to the contemporary philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who argues that the belief that there are other minds and that others are not just unthinking robots requires a leap of faith akin to the Christian belief in the Deity? Edwards and Plantinga may be wrong, but Dawkins owes them some reply before he gives his cocky negative conclusions.”

What is even more disturbing is that Dawkins is like a bully who does not want to listen to logic, reason, and history. In his mind, there is no way that Darwinian or atheist principles influenced Nazi Germany. All he has to do is to pick up a history book by a reputable historian. Nazi historian Richard Weikart shows in his work From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Nazi Germany, that social Darwinism was one of the underlying ideologies that drove the Nazi regime into madness. These stubborn facts have been corroborated by science and intellectual historians like Robert Proctor, Ian Robert Dowgiggin, Richard A. Soloway, Daniel Gasman, etc. I have discussed this briefly in In the Name of Knowledge and Wisdom, but I will complete the entire argument in the last book of the trilogy, Education’s Dangerous Idea. So much for Dawkins’s atheism. But what about Sam Harris, the wimp?

Sam Harris writes that his job in his book Letter to a Christian Nation is “to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms.” Here’s something that readers may find to be funny. Dinesh D’Souza has been begging both Dawkins and Harris to publicly defend their atheist position in debates, with no avail.

As many readers can attest, D’Souza has debated Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer, Michael Shermer, Dan Barker, and other well-known atheists. He intellectually cut those guys to pieces. Harris and Dawkins are just afraid to meet D’Souza. D’Souza writes: “And my challenges to Dawkins to step into the arena have only met with pathetic rationalization: ‘Richard is simply too busy and smart to debate you Dinesh.’ Busy doing what besides being caught with his pants down by Ben Stein? And I guess he's smart because he doesn't want to risk further embarrassing himself and destroying his public reputation. Won't it be hilarious if the ‘party of faith’ is unafraid of opposing arguments while the ‘party of reason’ cannot withstand the arguments of its critics? This is what Henry James might describe as a most interesting turning of the screw.”

Later on D’Souza wrote, “If atheists are truly the party of reason, and believers like me are truly the party of ‘blind faith,’ how come reason keeps getting its butt kicked?” Here’s what D’Souza says of Harris: “Some atheists have emailed me asking me if I've accepted Sam Harris' offer to a written debate. A few months ago Harris proposed such a debate, and I agreed, but also proposed to Sam that we have an oral debate in the classic format. Written debates strike me as a bit wimpy, since both debaters can get advice and assistance from various experts. The advantage of a f ace-to-face encounter is that it compels each side to think on its feet and make its best case before a live audience. Having himself proposed the written debate, Harris hasn't responded to my counteroffer.” D’Souza, of course, never got a response from Harris. D’Souza finally wrote: “Is there any doubt why Sam Harris seems to have changed his mind about debating me, and why Richard Dawkins is still hiding under his desk? How come these ‘brights’ seem to have fled into the cover of darkness? Do any of the atheist organizations offer an annual Wimp award?”

FP: Can you talk a bit about the wish fulfillment idea?

Alexis: Modern atheists, as D’Souza writes, have fled under many covers of darkness. And one of those covers of darkness is the wish fulfillment idea. Roughly speaking, the wish fulfillment proposition states that human beings, in order to cope with the problems of life such as pain, suffering, and evil, invent things that will make them feel better.20Religion, therefore, is an invention of the mind. From this principle, it follows that God, Satan, angels, are simply fantasy. The German writer and atheist Ludwig Feuerbach followed this line of reasoning in his book The Essence of Christianity. And even long before Feuerbach, this idea also appeared in one form or another in the writing of British intellectual Thomas Hobbes, particularly his famous work Leviathan. Then Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and even Vladimir Lenin, followed suit. I will discuss this at length in the up-coming book, Education’s Dangerous Idea. But let us just think for a moment.

It is conceivable that people would invent heaven or God in order to face the difficulties of life, because heaven, for example, is portrayed as a place of no suffering and no pain. But why would a person invent depressing things like hell? Why would the Bible give such a grim picture of the place? Atheist Steven Pinker makes its clear that it makes no sense to invent things that threaten one’s survival. Doesn’t Hell’s description threaten one’s survival? Furthermore, why would a person invent things like, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”; “Thou shalt not steal”; “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”? To invoke wish fulfillment in order to explain Christianity away simply does not work! Let us throw it in the trashcan of history once and for all. Moreover, the wish fulfillment hypothesis is itself a wish fulfillment. Again, these issues will be discussed in more detail in Education’s Dangerous Idea: Why Christianity Offers the Best Explanations for Life and Why other Alternatives Fails. In the Name of Knowledge and Wisdom is just the tip of the iceberg.

FP: Why is nihilism so rampant in our pop culture today?Alexis: Nihilism is so rampant for various reasons. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche made the point that if God dead, then anything is permitted. Nietzsche, unlike our modern atheists, was willing to follow atheism to its “logical” conclusion. Nietzsche then replaced the Judeo-Christian God with the Greek god Dionysus. This topic is too vast and cannot be discussed in a thirty-second sound bite. It will be fully discussed in our next book. But what is courageous about Nietzsche is that he was not dancing around and playing semantic games like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. According to Nietzsche’s philosophy, moral values do not exist without God—and he was right. T hat does not mean that an atheist cannot be moral. But an atheist cannot defend his moral principle against another! He cannot logically say Hitler was wrong or George Mueller was right. In a nutshell, nihilism is so rampant because the nihilistic culture has no moral framework or principle upon which a person should base his or her life.

FP: What danger is there to a society embracing the concept that God is dead -- as the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proposed in the nineteenth century?

Alexis: G. K. Chesterton made the point that “the first affect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.” Among the “anything” that people begin to believe is the idea that all “truth” is relative. This, by the way, is a self-defeating position. If all truth is relative, then the statement that “a ll truth is relative” is either a relative statement in itself, or it is an absolute claim. It cannot be both. If it is a relative claim, then why not include other statements such as “all truth is not relative”? Moreover, it does not take a student of philosophy to show that the claim is absolutely ridiculous. If the statement is relative, we can easily dismiss it on the basis of uncertainty because the person making the claim is not even sure that the claim is right or wrong.

If it is not relative, then the person making the claiming is positing a “truth” claim—an absolute claim. So, when Jesus for example says that He is the only way to come to the Father, He was not making an irrational claim! Now, an atheist can dismiss the claim or reject it, but he will do so not on the basis of logic and reason. This again is an interesting discussion that needs further development, and we will do so in our next work. Time has failed to talk about the ideologies that are found throughout Daniel Dennett’s books. I think I am in agreement with mathematician, biologist and philosopher David Berlinski when he said in an interview: “We lose something in the literary and intellectual culture. You get a guy like Daniel Dennett, whose greatest intelle ctual achievement was growing that stupid beard of his, masquerading as a scientific expert on Darwinian theory, staring at the camera, and no one is dousing him with a bucket of water. It’s incredible.”

FP: Can you talk a bit about your own spiritual journey?

Alexis: I was raised in a large family (seven children) and my parents became devout Christians around 1972. They gave up almost everything they had to raise us right, but we as children never understood what Christianity was all about. My uncle was a chemistry teacher who gave up on Christianity right after his sister died, and some of us picked up some of his worldviews quickly. He then began to be very discontent with the teachings of Christianity, and on many occasions he would use his intellectual gift to attack some churches. He was a very loving and caring man—a moral man. But he was somewhat dissatisfied, in my estimation, with some churches. Yet my mom was very serious about the Christian life, though she was not an intellectual.

Around the age of thirteen, I remember I was doing some reading in the living room and I overheard a conversation between my uncle and a Christian that revolved around Christianity. He basically cut that Christian to pieces intellectually—and I myself felt sorry for that poor guy. I stopped my reading and left the living room with a rage. I then concluded, “If this Christian stuff cannot withstand an intellectual and experiential examination, why should a person bet his life on it? Why should a person live a life that is basically a lie?”

To make a long story short, until I was around fifteen, my life was plagued with doubts, confusion, and questions, but those deep-seated questions remained secret and never revealed them openly, and I wrestled with them most of my teens—until I found Jesus Christ and fell in love with Christianity. Ever since He came to my life, I stopped looking for the answers to my deep-seated questions because He provided responses to them all. But other questions that I had never thought of before came up very quickly. To set the record straight, I went on a quest to find out whether Christianity can take the challenge posed by skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and intellectuals.

Then, in a relatively short time, I began to do extensive research to find the answers to my questions: why atheists, skeptics, and intellectuals mistrust or hate Christianity. I was studying mathematics with a minor in philosophy, so Bertrand Russell was a good place to start. The renowned historian Paul Johnson said that Russell was “the anti-God” intellectual in the last century. Russell, by all accounts, was a renowned mathematician and logician, so I thought his book, Why I Am Not a Christian, was based on rigorous rules of logic and consistency. However, I was quite disappointed and was embarrassed that Russell was making elementary errors in his reasoning. I thought, “He’s got to be kidding. Has he been smoking?” (He loved the pipe.)
Russell’s faulty premises and conclusions were so obvious that a person needn’t be a mathematician to see that they are categorically false. I have examined many of them in In the Name of Education and In the Name of Knowledge and Wisdom. Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian was one of my wake-up calls, and I thought, “How can such a trenchant mathematician fail to follow his own logical rule when it comes to examine Christianity? Is there something going on here?”

Then I began to study the history of other atheist writers and existentialist philosophers such as Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Ernst Haeckel, Margaret Mead, Madelyn O’Hair, Percy Bysshe Shelley, David Hume, Voltaire, D’Holbach, Diderot, Aldous Huxley, T. H. Huxley, Julian Huxley, Oscar Wilde, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, and all the way up to our modern atheists. All of them did not reject and attack Christianity because the evidence was lacking; many of them rejected it because, as Aldous Huxley and Shelley and Russell put it and as many others would agree, Christianity interferes with their sexual mores.

For Richard Lewontin of Harvard, he just cannot accept “a Divine foot at the door.” Many of those people died slowly, miserably, and pathetically. That includes Russell, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Madelyn O’Hair, Wilde, Nietzsche, Rand, D’Holbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sartre, Rousseau, etc. It was then that Paul’s bold declaration in the first chapter of the book of Romans began to make sense to me beyond any shadow of a doubt. As Paul implies, when honest atheists and skeptics look at the evidence objectively, they will be convinced that their own atheist worldview is bankrupt: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Paul goes on to say that one of the reasons why many reject this “eternal power and Godhead” is because of sexual immorality.

Now, why should anyone bet his life on the words of Jesus Christ? There are various reasons, and time will fail to discuss them all here (Education’s Dangerous Idea will describe many of them). One of the most compelling reasons is that Christianity emphatically declares that there is a life after death. Every single person, according to Christianity, will spend his eternity either with the Creator or separated from the Creator—for ever. That is a bold declaration.

From an intellectual standpoint, let us suppose, as the famed mathematician and inventor Blaise Pascal argued, that Christianity is wrong and that there is no such thing as life after death. Christians will not lose anything if they later found out that this whole business was a hoax. But what if the atheists and skeptics are wrong? What if there is an ultimate judgment? What if Christ’s words are true? What if Hebrews 10:31 is true, which says that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”? Some skeptics would say, “What about other religions? Don’t they provide other alternatives? Should not a person consider them?” I will set the record straight in the last book of the trilogy.

In a nutshell, I put my trust in Jesus Christ because He intellectually, existentially, experientially, logically, and eternally offers the best explanations for life’s deepest questions—questions of origin, morality, meaning, and destiny. No other system offers such compelling and satisfying answers—not even the atheist system. In fact, those who have followed the atheist system to the end have come up with bitter disappointments.

Jean Paul Sartre, on his deathbed, admitted that his atheism abandoned him and seemed to have foreseen that he would be in deep trouble after life. Similarly, the renowned British atheist Thomas Hobbes, known for his work such as Leviathan, made the following statement on his deathbed, “I am about to take my last voyage—a great leap in the dark.” Friedrich Nietzsche was perhaps the loneliest and the most miserable philosopher who ever lived. We will document this in our next book. Schopenhauer was another miserable guy. As the intellectual historian, mathematician, and sceptic Alston Chase confessed, “A life without God is hard to live.”

While Christians put their trust in the words of Jesus, the average atheist will put his trust in the proposition that there is no life after death, for which he has no substantial evidence. Think about this for a moment. The evidence for and against the proposition that there is life after death is unavailable from a scientific standpoint. No honest atheist and scientist can affirm or deny it based on the scientific data. So, we have to look at the historical life and death of Jesus Christ to test His words because this is an important question and it has too many repercussions if it turns out to be true.

Many honest skeptics and former atheists have done just that. That includes Simon Greenleaf, who founded Harvard’s school of law, the famed skeptic William Ramsay, former atheist Lee Strobel, etc. Antony Flew just shifted his atheist worldview into some form of deism over last few years. Let us conclude with the words of Jesus Himself who accepts every challenge proposed by honest sceptic: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I think the evidence is very clear, and all of us should go to whichever direction it is pointed.

FP: Jonas E. Alexis, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Alexis: Thank you so much, Dr. Glazov. It was a pleasure.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at

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