1000 Wells

Written on December 31st, 2006 by Shawn Anthony

When is enough death and killing enough? I am sad for our humanity today. The whole human race is seriously broken, as is painfully obvious. The execution of Saddam Hussein is no victory. It is no occasion for happiness or celebration. We should all cry, and profusely so. Killing will not usher in peace, it only results in more killing. The execution of Saddam Hussein is in fact a symptom of a huge theological problem of which we all play a sick part. I watched the uncut video of the hanging of Saddam Hussein (the video is living on my hardrive right now). It was awful. It is also one of the clearest windows through which one can peer deep into our human sin, brokenness and consequent and universal human condition. We are a sinful, broken people, all of us. The so-called Enlightenment has failed. The Enlightenment is dead! Western methodology and Science have their place, as does a man like Dawkins, but none of it speaks authentically about the human condition as displayed for the world to see in this video (which is only a small, small slice of a much, much larger broken reality). Human beings in the 1st century and 21st century are indistinguishable, save the difference created by our possession of fancy toys, technological gadgets and the now corrupt idea that we know so much that we no longer need God. So, we know that the earth is not flat - big deal! Our great and wonderful “knowledge” has not made one ounce of difference in the way we treat our neighbors and consequently ourselves. We still are broken in all the wrong places. God is still waiting for us to admit our broken condition, and our need for Him, and to repent and embrace His Word. Peace and the end to this cyclical destruction and violence will never be realized until we do so. I pray for forgiveness for us all.

8 Responses to “The Execution of Saddam Hussein”

  1. There’s nothing to add to that. I agree entirely. A sad day for humanity.

    James

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  4. I’m an atheist and the execution upset me as well. I have previously argued that the death penalty is vengeance, not justice. The fact that the executioners, wearing ski masks and looking more like the “evil-doers” Bush claims we’re fighting, taunted Saddam before his death only reinforces that.

    However, I find the second part of your comments odd; where you claim that the enlightenment is dead, with a reference to Dawkins and “the now corrupt idea that we know so much that we no longer need God”. The enlightenment is far from dead, though it is certainly clear where it is not very present (the middle east) and where it has weakened (the US). Do you think that any of the people in the execution room were atheists? Do you think that Sunnis and Shiites would for some reason behave better towards each other than the Protestants and Catholics did in Europe over the centuries?

    The enlightenment does not live on in those who believe in miracles and superstition; it finds a home in those who realize that there are no supernatural beings looking out for us or seeking to do us harm, that we are alone, living on what is basically a speck of dust in the middle of a void, that disease is not a punishment nor a curse, but the result of infection by even smaller creatures (bacteria and viruses), that when we die we rot and that’s that.

    What we need is not to grovel at the feet of an imaginary being who, depending on what the quotes attributed to him/her/them in whatever ‘holy’ book you read say, may instruct you to kill or otherwise harm your fellow man, but rather to have some sort of humanism (ubuntu, if you followed the same link I did :) to treat others with a level of respect and dignity in this life to make this world a better place for everyone.

    This is not to say that you can’t have your own beliefs, but rather, if you want peace in the world, don’t look to the supernatural to fix things for you.

    Limulus

  5. Hello, Limulus. Thank you for your thoughts.

    The Enlightenment doctrine that points us - humanity - back to ourselves for answers and solutions to problems which are born in and of ourselves is a failure. The secular humanist idea that we can somehow build a human utopia dedicated to an onward and upward ideal went out with the 1st World War. The issue inherent to human nature is not one with which any humanistic system is capable of authentically dealing. Humanism is built upon a presupposition re: the inherent goodness of humanity. I think universal history paints us all as beings who are indeed capable of some great things, but more likely to commit atrocity and violence.

    The advances of science are indeed invaluable, but they too have serious limits in the scope of the larger realities of human being and everyday existence. The problems I allude to in the post above are serious theological issues, no matter how one tries to spin it. God is in fact the answer to these problems. The comments directed to Dawkins is a result of the premeditated and strategic effort by him and his minions to erase the only solution we have for the on going situation we historically and presently find ourselves. His is no service to humanity, it is an misguided and ignorant attempt to undo us completely.

    Also, the “Holy Book,” as you call it, that I read does contain troubling passages that when authentically wrestled with and given to proper and holistic exegesis can be understood in their fullness. I have done this, trust me. However, to vainly summarize the entire Scripture with a line like you posted above (i.e., “What we need is not to grovel at the feet of an imaginary being who, depending on what the quotes attributed to him/her/them in whatever ‘holy’ book you read say, may instruct you to kill or otherwise harm your fellow man …”), or recklessly lump all religion together in typical secular and syncretistic fashion, is to completely misunderstand the Bible, Christianity and Discipleship and come off as ignorant, uninformed and reactionary. I would challenge you to broaden your lens and pick up a Bible and a good commentary set.

    In case you are wondering, I have picked up your humanist works and read them. I fully investigated humanism and found it seriously wanting given the larger reality we all experience. In fact, my membership in the American Humanist Association is still live. I simply believe God and salvation through his Son Jesus Christ is a much, much better way. It is in fact the only way, when embraced authentically and properly.

    That said, I appreciate your position and respect it. I simply do not think it is helpful, given our human reality and the universal history to which we all have access. So, yes, the Enlightenment doctrine and idea that humanity is its own answer and solution, and that we can build our own utopia, and that we can progress onward and upward forever, via the power of our own inherent goodness, is as dead as dead can be (Enlightenment science is beneficial, but seriously limited). So, if your only answer to all of that is the weak and antagonistic proof-texts you predictably point to in the Bible, then I think I’m on pretty solid and very rational ground.

    Thanks, Limulus. I wish you well.

    Shawn Anthony

  6. I finally found the time to get back to this post and make a reply. You are somewhat mistaken in your understanding of the enlightenment and of humanism. Consider from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism

    “Humanism features an optimistic attitude about the capacity of people, but it does not involve believing that human nature is purely good or that each and every person is capable of living up to the humanist ideals of rationality and morality. If anything, there is the recognition that living up to one’s potential is hard work and requires the help of others. The ultimate goal is human flourishing; making life better for all humans. Even among humanists who do believe in some sort of an afterlife, the focus is on doing good and living well in the here and now, and leaving the world better for those who come after, not on suffering through life to be rewarded afterward.”

    Regarding “holy books”, I was referring to more than just the Bible. The Muslims have the Koran, the Hindus have their own scriptures, etc. going back in time we see many ‘holy books’, which had in their time devout adherents, most of which are now long forgotten. Is it ‘reckless’ to “lump all religion together” when they all profess to have special knowledge of the universe obtained through some revelatory process that results in no two religions coming up with the same set of ‘truths’ to agree on?

    Of course, if you believe that your way is the only true way then that makes sense because every other religion is wrong. But that goes both ways and so you don’t end up convincing anybody else ;)

    I suppose explaining secular humanism boils down to trying to explain to you that to hold something to be true on faith is not the same as holding it on evidence; the world around us (not some spirit world) is what can be agreed on. To that end, problems on earth will never be solved by appeals to the supernatural.

    You claim that science is “seriously limited”; I counter that its one of the few things that actually, objectively, reproducibly lets us know what’s really going on around us; e.g. how ancient the world is (and how non-human our ancestors were), how the clouds and planets can move about without needing to invoke angels pushing them, etc. etc.

    I will give you a parting example of what I feel is the sort of anti-rationalism that religion brings:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/25/national/25rabies.html

    Jeanna Giese, 15-years old, was bitten by a rabid bat *in a church* and developed *full blown rabies* from which *no one* had ever survived. The doctors used experimental high tech procedures and managed to saved her life; the first time in history anyone had survived rabies without vaccination.

    Her father “said he was grateful to the doctors and their novel treatment, but added that prayer had made the crucial difference.”

    The article also notes that “rabies kills tens of thousands of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America” Do you suppose they died because their families were less pious or prayed wrong? Don’t you think its was awfully interesting that she got bit in a *church*?

    To claim that any sort of belief in the supernatural (God or otherwise) puts you on “very rational ground” seems to me to be inherently contradictory.

    Limulus

  7. I’m not sure why atheists feel the need to cite the very worst or most sensational instances and/or expressions of Christianity they can find … and then apply it to the whole of Christianity. Is this practice rational? Is it even remotely informed by the Western Scientific Method?

    Also, there is nothing wrong with attributing crucial difference - regardless of context - to prayer. What exactly is wrong with such an attribution anyway? How is the attribution “anti-rationalism?”

    Also, re: Humanism: My point concerning definition has to do with humanism’s inherent doctrine of an “onward and upward forever” trek by humanity, via humanity. In other words, humanism advances the idea that we can indeed build a hip utopia by the power and validity of our own will and goodness. I suppose it comes down to one’s actual definition of “utopia,” but I think it very rational to say this is historical and universal bunk. One would have to totally ignore all of history and all present events to hold onto the idea that humanity is capable of building a just utopia via its own will and goodness. Please. We are too broken to authentically accomplish such big tasks. Humanism has no answer - nor does it even address - this obvious historical and universal brokenness.

    Given the totality of our reality and human experience, and the total amount of reality and human experience that is relevantly addressed by Christianity, it is totally rational to be a Christian.

    Given the totality of our reality and human experience, and the total amount of reality and human experience that is relevantly addressed by Secular Humanism and Science alone, it is totally irrational to be a Secular Humanist.

    Science is beyond valuable, but it alone is not enough and never will be.

    … besides, all that Secularists count as beneficial can be addressed - and often is addressed - from an orthodox Christian perspective. So, I choose to join you and folk like you in the quest to better humanity, while at the same time embracing Christianity. I think it is irrational to premeditatedly deprive myself of all the human experience can and should be just because …

    I recently read a comment on another blog by a commenter named Paul Robinson concerning the secular atheist’s platform. It was refreshingly blatant, though I think there are good, solid answers for the Christian questions raised by his response (i.e., God is knowable through Christ). Anyway, his comment went like this (The following quoted comment was posted by Paul Robinson at another site of which I cannot recall):

    By the described nature of God, it is impossible to prove there is a God.

    It is also impossible, for the same reason, to prove there is no God.

    To believe in something without proof requires blind faith. Therefore both theism and atheism are ultimately about the gut instinct of the individual.

    Why this simple piece of logic seems to escape most atheists, I don’t understand.

    I get why atheists don’t feel the need for ritual, or why they resist organising themselves into a Church (although professional science is quickly becoming as bigoted on the subject as any church), I don’t understand how people who support logical reasoning can not understand that they also have blind faith if they believe in something unprovable.

    Is there a God? I haven’t the slightest idea, and neither does anybody else if they think about it for long enough. That’s the nature of the question. Anybody who calls it one way or the other is merely relying on gut instinct, with no evidence to support their position.

    Note, I am happy to accept that the organised religions are wrong about ritual, morality, idols, prophets, virtually everything they say. But that doesn’t prove there isn’t a God. Why atheists confuse the two, I have no idea.

    Descartes, inventor of the scientific method, stated that there must be a God “because it is obvious”. Modern scholars interpret this as him not wanting to be condemned as a heretic “despite his method”.

    Why can’t modern scholars accept that Descartes may have been intelligent enough to realise that the nature of God could not be proved one way or the other through his method and whilst his method may have raised questions about the Church’s validity, he was able to fall back onto blind faith when it came to belief in God?

    It is possible to believe in God and be a scientist, in the same way it is possible to not believe in God and be a scientist.

    Shawn Anthony

  8. :Is it ‘reckless’ to “lump all religion together” when they all profess to have special knowledge of the universe obtained through some revelatory process that results in no two religions coming up with the same set of ‘truths’ to agree on?

    This is typical of the simplistic “reasoning” of fundamentalist atheist “Humanists” who seek to discredit religion. In fact most of the core beliefs of the three major monotheistic religions and most if not all of the other theistic religions are very similar. There are far more similarities than differences. Most God believing people agree in terms of the fundamental qualities and attributes of God. They quibble over some details of belief such as whether or not Jesus was the “messiah” or the “Son of God” and a person in a “Trinity” etc. etc.

    :Of course, if you believe that your way is the only true way then that makes sense because every other religion is wrong. But that goes both ways and so you don’t end up convincing anybody else ;)

    Again, even if one religion was in fact the the “only true way” it would not mean that “every other religion is wrong”. It would only mean that the other religions are wrong on specific points of doctrine and belief. They all would be “right” about other core beliefs that they share. The incredibly simplistic, and often self-contradictory, “reasoning” of self-professed “rationalists” and “free thinkers” etc. leaves a lot to be desired. . . Indeed the Grand Ayatollah of atheism Richard Dawkins is not particularly “bright” even though some “rationalists” describe him as “brilliant” and he himself describes his evangelical militant atheist movement “Brights”.

    The Emerson Avenger

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