Itâs the week after Easter and I still donât want to let go of Jesus. Jesus is the man. You can see how inspiring his life and death is when you watch Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus of Nazareth and even The Last Temptation of Christ. If you can help it, though, better avoid Mel Gibsonâs version, which is The Passion of the Christ. Gibsonâs fascistic take on the gospels is sadistic (the amount of blood and gore is almost a pornography of pain), anti-Semitic (the Jews are explicitly blamed for killing Jesus) and even anti-women (Satan is portrayed as a woman, doh.).
Jesus Christ is literally a part of my household. Pretty soon, two of the three artworks in our house will be images of Jesus. One is a sculpture of Jesus Christ, titled Benevolence,Â a gift from artist Joey Velasco:
Joey, who passed away from a heart attack in 2010, was truly an inspired artist and an inspiring person. He became a famous painter when he made his own Last Supper by portraying Jesus Christ having a meal with children from the poverty-stricken area of Payatas in Quezon City.
Hapag ng Pag-asa was celebrated as a masterpiece that combined religious art and socially-conscious art. It also helped bring aid and assistance to the Payatas children and their families.
Joey painted Jesus Christ figures until his death at the young age of 43. He truly lived his art and his faith, which for him were one and the same.
The other Jesus painting in our house, which I have already purchased but have yet to pick up from the gallery, is Gethsemane by Joseph Voltaire âVoltâ Contreras, a painter who is also a journalist by profession.
My kids also go to a Christian school, so Jesus Christ is a regular part of their lessons. I am aware, however, that the rest of the world is not so enamored with Jesus Christ. We are currently living in a post-Christian era, as a civilization.
Our post-Christian era may be said to have begun with Galileo Galilei. Galileo was an astronomer, physicist and mathematician in the 17th century before he was crowned as both the âKing of Night Visionâ and âKing of Insightâ by the Indigo Girls (see clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h79Tw7SbuhA). Galileoâs discoveries, as the Church authorities feared, were able to demonstrate that Holy Scripture was not an infallible guide to understanding all reality, as the Church had been claiming for centuries.
To be fair, Galileo said that his discoveries did not contradict Holy Scripture. He explained that the psalmists, who said that the sun moved around the Earth, were making a poetic description, not stating a scientific fact. In response, the Church sicced the Roman Inquisition on Galileoâyeah, the same guys authorized to burn witches and heretics alive.
Unsurprisingly, Galileo was convicted of heresy, and only escaped getting burned when he recanted his earlier discoveries about the solar system. This proved that Galileo was really smart, certainly much smarter than Joan of Arc, who was toast after the Inquisition was through with her.
The post-Christian society we live in is spreading ideas about Jesus that would have the Roman Inquisitionâif it still had the secular power and legal authority–preparing their stakes and flamethrowers (as befits the modern age). Yes, the Roman Inquisition still exists. The Church has not abolished it. It now simply goes under the friendlier, more harmless-sounding name âThe Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,â sort of like a pit bull dressed as a French poodle. This should be fair warning to Richard Dawkins, should he suddenly smell something burning at breakfast.
More than 300 years after Galileoâs house arrest and death, we see how his discoveries have made modern science what it is today, and proved that if you want to launch space shuttles, satellites, and spacecraft to the Moon, Mars and beyond, you should not base your calculations on what the Church and the Bible say about the planets and the stars. For that, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein have hailed Galileo as the Father of Modern Science.
And yet, despite advances in scientific knowledge, many aspects of our lives remain mysterious. For example, why the heck is Jackson Browne even in the Indigo Girls performance that we saw earlier? Another mystery, of course, is Jesus Christ, the guy who first taught us about âsuper niceness.â
Celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins resorts to cheating when arguing about Jesus Christ and the phenomenon of super niceness. In Dawkinsâ essay, âAtheists for Jesusâ, he points to a very curious fact in our encounters with some of our fellow humans. Why are some people super nice? Not nice like a politician or a movie star. These super nice people are genuinely selfless, always putting the welfare of others before their own. Such super niceness, as Dawkins correctly points out, does not make sense in a world of Darwinian evolution. It goes against survival of the fittest.
Dawkins writes, âDarwinians can come up with explanations for human niceness: generalisations of the well-established models of kin selection and reciprocal altruism, the stocks-in-trade of the ‘selfish gene’ theory, which sets out to explain how altruism and cooperation among individual animals can stem from self-interest at the genetic level. But the sort of super niceness I am talking about in humans goes too far. It is a misfiring, even a perversion of the Darwinian take on niceness.â
He goes on to point out that from an evolutionary point of view, human super niceness is dumb. âHuman super niceness is a perversion of Darwinism because, in a wild population, it would be removed by natural selection,â he said.
In other words, in a universe where only evolution is responsible for the existence and variety of organisms, super nice humans would soon be extinct. Super niceness is a trait that impairs the ability of super nice humans to survive in a savage world. So why would humans even evolve this self-destructive trait?
For writer C.S. Lewis (who was an atheist for most of his life before his Christian conversion), super nicenessâalong with beauty, art, kindness, mercy, compassion, etc.âcomes from God himself. Super niceness, the sort that turns the other cheek and loves enemies, is something literally not of this world but a result of the grace of God.
We all know that Nature is savage and brutal, favoring only the strong and destroying the weakâfacts that are observable and verifiable in Philippine politics, an arena where nature and evolution are freely operating. So where does super niceness come from?
Dawkins says that super niceness also comes from evolution itselfâpresumably because evolution is âblindâ and is irrational. Evolution can change the rules as it goes along, because its rules are not rules at all. Dawkins says that human super niceness is a âsingularity,â a strange anomaly in the evolutionary process that is fascinating, yet an anomaly that we ought to encourage. See how heâs cheating in his argument?
The weirdest thing is, even Dawkins seems to want to have Jesus on his side. Dawkins writes that, âI think a reborn Jesus would wear the T-shirt [the one that says, âAtheists for Jesusâ]. It has become a commonplace that, were he to return today, he would be appalled at what is being done in his name, by Christians ranging from the Catholic Church to the fundamentalist Religious Right.â
Does Dawkins think heâs being cheeky and humorous? The passage looks rather silly. We really should just read Christopher Hitchens instead, who is the more gifted atheist both in his writing and his humor.
Dawkins wants to convince us that super niceness is a good trait. And yet, he also says itâs a trait that makes no sense. Itâs a trait that, given the natural course of things, will eventually be eliminated from our gene pool.
Dawkins wants to encourage super niceness. How? Perhaps by walking up to Idi Amin and telling him, in the most super nice sort of way, âHey. Be nice. Letâs all get along.â Martin and Gracia Burnham, while they were hostages of the Abu Sayyaf (who act on their basest, natural impulses instead of Islamic teaching), learned the hard way that when natureâs savagery meets the niceness of Christians, nature frequently wins.
Dawkins arrives at an idea similar to that of Lewis, only Dawkins replaces âGodâ with âevolution.â Now that is cheating. If youâre a Christian and someone encourages you to read Dawkinsâ book, âThe God Delusionâ (a bestseller and currently out of stock in Philippine bookstores), by all means read it. Just remember that Dawkins is a biologist, not a philosopher. His field of expertise does not qualify him to make philosophical and religious conclusions, so read him with lots of salt.
Furthermore, Dawkins is a bad writer. Certainly not as good as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who were all literary greats and Christians, as well.
To a Christian who still keeps faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Dawkinsâ arguments ought not to hold much importance. A belief in Jesus Christ, as stated in the Apostlesâ Creed, cannot be supported as scientific nor historical fact, as yet. It will always be a matter of faith.
However, if an atheist says that it is unreasonable to have faith in God and Jesus Christ (as spiritual savior), then that is wrong. Theism and a belief in Jesus Christ are reasonable: one simply has to realize that respected philosophersâlike Keith Ward, for exampleâpresent rather convincing arguments for them (Check out his website at www.keithward.org.uk). Donât let atheists tell you any different.