An Open Letter to Pastor David Robertson

david-robertson

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manicstreetpreacher challenges the author of The Dawkins Letters to duke it out at the lectern.

http://www.stpeters-dundee.org.uk/

Listen to Robertson debate The Atheist Blogger, Adrian Hayter, on Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable?

21 March 2009, “Challenging Atheist Myths”, Part 1

28 March 2009 “Challenging Atheist Myths”, Part 2

Dear Pastor Robertson

If you feel that religion is the only path to a tolerant and rational society, why don’t you go and live in Iran or Saudi Arabia?  Or you should borrow Doc Brown’s DeLorean and take a trip back to Spain in the 1400s?

I’m not saying that life in 21st century Britain is perfect, but I know which I would choose.

You say you like to debate atheists frequently.  We should get lock swords on the podium sometime.  I’m sure it would be a blast.

To get a flavour, listen to my Unbelievable debates against Andy Bannister on the historicity and morality of the Bible and the role of religion in global conflict against Meic Pearse.   The latter should put paid to your assertion that atheist was responsible for Hitler’s Germany and the idea that the Church was in no way culpable for its atrocities.

Also check out my blog:

https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

manicstreetpreacher

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4 Responses to “An Open Letter to Pastor David Robertson”

  1. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I’m so mad after hearing the second Robertson show, I’ve just sent off this screed to DJ Justin!!!!

    Dear Justin

    I have just finished listening to the two shows featuring David Robertson and I cannot believe the fabrications and distortions that pervaded all of his arguments. Here are just a few, together with my corrections:

    1. Christians practised slavery for centuries under the belief that God had ordered them to do so in the Bible. If Robertson wants to argue that Christians were imperative in the abolition of slavery, I say it was about time they did something, having supported it for so long. William Wilburforce was actually playing a very clever game in using the very book against those who were advocating the practice. However, Wilburforce’s status as a man of faith meant he took more credit than he deserved in what was a largely secular movement. The Anti-Slavery Society in America was founded by the great deist secular thinker, Thomas Paine. Atheist Benjamin Franklin was also a tireless campaigner against the practice.

    The Old Testament contains the warrant for God’s chosen people not to leave one child of the Amalekites alive in their quest for the Promised Land. The blood-drenched passages of Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua are to this very day solemnly debated by rabbis in the upper quarters of the Israeli army pondering whether these texts now apply to the Palestinians today and they ought to be given similar treatment.

    2. If Robertson is such an admirer or Christopher Hitchens, he really should have cottoned on to the Hitch’s arguments in respect of the bogus assertion that atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes of the 20th century.

    The fascist movement of the 1930s was essentially the political activities of the Catholic Right Wing. Hitler (who never formally renounced his membership of the Catholic Church) may have had the full support of the scientists and the academics, but he also had equal support from both Catholic and Protestant Churches. Concordats were signed with every major fascist power, including Nazi Germany in 1933, which guaranteed the Vatican’s total withdrawal from politics and thereby suppressing an important source of opposition. Prayers were said for Hitler on his birthday by order of the Holy See every year from 1939 when Pius XII came to power right up until the bitter end. The pontiff never fully spoke out against the treatment of the Jews, even though it was going on practically under the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. Not a single Nazi leader (who were mainly Catholics) or any members of the Waffen SS (again, around 25% were Catholics) were excommunicated from crimes against humanity.

    Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are frequently cited by apologists as shining examples of Christian opposition to Hitler. Just as frequently omitted is the fact that Niemoller and Bonhoeffer actually had to leave the established Church and set up their own break-away congregation, the Confessional Church, in order to mount an opposition to Nazism.

    If the churches mounted an effective opposition to fascism, then surely there ought to have been no problem in choosing at least one churchman for beautification and eventual canonisation? Alas, no. The papacy took until the 1980s to find a candidate for sainthood in the context of The Final Solution and even then it could only identify a priest who – after a long record of political anti-Semitism in Poland – had apparently acted nobly in Auschwitz. An earlier nominee – a simple Austrian called Franz Jagerstatter – was unfortunately unqualified. He had indeed refused to join Hitler’s army on the grounds that his religious teachings enjoined him to love his neighbour as himself, but whilst in prison facing execution, he was visited by his confessors who told him that he ought to be obeying the law.

    3. Eugenics does not have its roots in secularism. It is an ancient idea that can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks that the weak must be done away with. As many eugenicists have been religious as atheists. Dog breeding has more to answer for than Darwinism when it comes to eugenics. Darwinism is a description of the observable effects of biological process, not a moral code. Even if Hitler had been inspired by Darwin (which he wasn’t) to call Darwinism immoral because it leads to eugenics would be like calling Einstein’s splitting the atom immoral because it lead to nuclear warfare.

    For the record, Darwin himself was a passionate abolitionist who deplored eugenics and stated that such a pursuit could only ever have a contingent effect on the appearance of the human species. Hitler’s programme of exterminating certain factions of society was based on prior social, political, racial and religious prejudices, including that very Christian prejudice, anti-Semitism. He engaged in a gross abuse and perversion of the scientific method in order to achieve his aims.

    If Robertson listens to my debate with Meic Pearse, I argue that the Catholic Church co-operated with the fascist and Nazi regimes in Europe to the full during the midnight of the 20th century. There is a wide literature (not all of it from secularists, there are a couple of Catholic historians who are appalled the behaviour of Vatican, not least John Cornwell, author of “flea” response to The God Delusion, Darwin’s Angel) on the disgraceful behaviour of Pius XII in sponsoring this totalitarianism and genocide.

    4. Robertson may bleat on about how human rights cannot be grounded in secularism, but he presented absolutely no arguments in favour of how religion in general and Christianity in particular provides any firmer basis. Christians have been involved in genocide, ethic cleansing, racism and suppression of women in the name of their religion as much as Hitler and Stalin in the name of their totalitarian dogmas. He should look to the secular atheistic countries of Scandinavia today if he wants a true picture of how a non-religious society operates. They have very low levels of religious belief and correspondingly low levels of violent crime, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. They opposed the war in Iraq, but have still taken in the largest number of refugees fleeing the war-torn country. Nothing so positive can be said for the pious nation of the USA

    5. Finally, it was Steven Weinberg the Nobel Prize winning physicist, not the philosopher Daniel Dennett, who said that “with or without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things, that takes religion.”

    People like Hitler, Stalin and Jeffrey Dahmer were bad men who would have committed their atrocities regardless of whether they were snake-handling Congregationalists or godless Marxists. The question is not whether believers or non-believers do bad things, it whether belief or non-belief directly causes otherwise rational people to do bad things. There is plenty of evidence in respect of the former, but not a shred of evidence for the latter.

    I am fascinated by Robertson’s view that “we are all messed up”. Who created us like that in the first place? Who has created us sick and has commanded us to be well? Even if Robertson’s arguments that lack of theistic belief leads to Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, he still has a much bigger circle to square with his faith in an all loving God: who made them that way? Who stood by and did nothing whilst six million Jews went to the gas chambers? Sorry, that’s our “free will”, which God was “kind” enough to give to us, taken to its logical conclusion.

    Nevertheless, I bet whenever a child falls out of a window and is saved by the soft roof of a passing car people like Robertson raise their hands skyward and praise heaven for its divine mercy. What does he have to say when there are ditches full of dead children?

    As for his contention that religious indoctrination of children does not equate to child abuse, Paula Kirby’s brilliant article “Fleabytes” which reviews four of the Christian responses to The God Delusion, including The Dawkins Letters hits the nail on the head:

    Robertson writes, “You accuse me of being worse than a paedophile because I happily teach young children that God loves them, that they are important and have a purpose and a place in this world.” Sounds harmless enough put like that, doesn’t it? But of course, Robertson has revealed earlier what he really believes and what he really teaches these young innocents: that they are polluted; that they contain with themselves the seeds of the worst evil that humans are capable of; that they deserve to die for their sinfulness and worse — to be tortured for ever after their death. That this is the fate that will befall them unless they accept biblical teachings of God’s love for them hook, line and sinker. Rounding this little party piece off with the assurance that “God loves you” doesn’t even begin to offset the psychological damage caused by what has gone before. So yes, David: I would certainly say that puts you firmly in the category of child abuser, and that children deserve to be protected from having their minds polluted — now there’s an example of the correct use of the word — with such foul and evil insanity.

    I have written an open letter to Robertson, which I have emailed to him at St Peters in Dundee, posted on the Unbelievable web forum and published on my blog:

    https://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/an-open-letter-to-pastor-david-robertson/

    I have challenged him to a debate, preferably in a live venue, but one of your shows will do(!) to set the record straight. Can’t wait for his response, but if Steven Carr’s posting on the forum is anything to go by, I very much doubt there will be one.

    Hope this email finds you well and you enjoyed Easter. Whilst I reject the immoral religious implications of vicarious redemption by a human blood sacrifice thousands of years before I was born, the Easter eggs and chocolates are always welcome!!!!

    Best regards

    manic

    P.S. Feel free to forward this the good pastor if you have his email address!!!!

  2. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Thoughts on Show 1:

    The Bible does say that the Jews are evil:

    The children of the kingdom [the Jews] shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    – Matthew 8:12

    Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

    – Matthew 27:25

    The Catholic Church only repudiated the doctrine of deicide against the Jewish people for Christ’s death in 1965.

    Christianity is so implicitly anti-Semitic that I can relate to it to in a very personal way. When I was about 11 or 12, well before discovering Dawkins and Hitchens, I remember reading about the Holocaust in my school history text book. There was a paragraph at the bottom of the page explaining that the Jews were an obvious target for sectarian hatred since they had been seen in Europe for centuries as “the Christ killers”. Whilst the religious teaching I received was not blatantly anti-Semitic or racist, I had figured out the answer well before I had read as far as that paragraph. It was so obvious to me after hearing for years in scripture class and morning assembly how “the Jews rejected Christ’s message”, “the Jews demanded his execution over that of a known rebel and a traitor”, “the Jews are still waiting for their Messiah to arrive; they’ve missed the boat.” Why wouldn’t the Jews be a target of such scapegoating?

  3. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Robertson posted the following reply on the Premier Forum:

    Ed,

    Just a brief reply. You will forgive me that I cannot go into detail on your various accusations and rants. I am sitting with a desk full of paper, 771 e-mails, a book to write, two sermons to prepare and numerous requests from people who are really seeking help. So responding to someone who thinks that Hitler was a practising Catholic, or that I am advocating Saudi style Islam is not high on my list of priorities. But just to keep you happy and in the hope that God will grant you repentance unto life, I will add the following:

    1) Christianity and the Jews – Is it too simple to point out that Jesus was a Jew, that all the apostles were and that the Gospel is ‘to the Jew first’?

    2) “Christians practiced slavery because they believed God ordered them to in the Bible’? Please provide evidence for this (big hint – evidence does not mean ‘things wot I read in my atheist websites’ – but rather primary sourced material in which Christians state that they practice slavery because God orders me to). I suspect that you will not be able to, because even if there was such ‘evidence’ it would be the work of a tiny minority. I have read most of the mainstream Christian theologians from Tertullian to Barth – the early Church Fathers through the Dark Ages, the Reformation into the 20th century and not one of them takes your position.

    3) Did Franklin not own slaves?

    4) Hitler was inspired by Darwin. I’m afraid that I have read all of Hitlers works and studied him for my University degree – there is no doubt that he was a social Darwinianist. Your re-writing of Darwin is cute but nonsense – the full title of his book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. He clearly believed in ‘favoured races’. Early Darwinianists such as Huxley and Wells believed in the superiority of the White Race. Whereas biblical Christians believe that all human beings are made in the image of God.

    5) Love the argument about Scandinavia! The old ones are the best. Liberal British atheists often cite Scandinavia as an atheist paradise. Having just returned from Sweden I am amused. All the Scandinavian countries have Christian foundations. Norway, and Finland have substantial churches – as do Sweden and Denmark. The irony is that the liberty, and social democratic ideals of Scandanavia are firmly rooted in Christianity – as these societies move further from their Christian roots, soon they will lose the Christian fruits, and become like all the other atheistic totalitarian regimes.

    6) Of course we are all messed up. The empirical evidence for that is overwhelming. Did God create us that way? No. He created us ‘good’. But he allowed us the freedom to choose and to go bad.

    Always happy to debate…but unless you want a massacre you had better get your facts right! Take care. Know the Truth and the Truth will set you free…

    David

  4. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    My reply to Robertson:

    If Jesus returned to Earth today, the one thing he would most definitely not be is a Christian.

    – Mark Twain

    David – mine to yours below

    I am sitting with a desk full of paper, 771 e-mails,

    770 of them from irate Premier listeners correcting your Lying For Jesus?

    a book to write,

    I hope Paula Kirby tears that one to shreds on RD.net as well.

    1) Christianity and the Jews – Is it too simple to point out that Jesus was a Jew, that all the apostles were and that the Gospel is ‘to the Jew first’?

    You haven’t even bothered to counter the cold hard fact that the church only repudiated the doctrine of deicide against the Jews in 1965, or my own personal experience of mild indoctrination against the Jews resulting from a Christian upbringing.

    2) “Christians practiced slavery because they believed God ordered them to in the Bible’? Please provide evidence for this (big hint – evidence does not mean ‘things wot I read in my atheist websites’ – but rather primary sourced material in which Christians state that they practice slavery because God orders me to).

    The slave-holders of the Southern States of the US were on the winning side of the theological argument in the run-up to the American Civil War. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy expressly stated in Congress that God had order humanity to practise slavery in both Old and New Testaments. Whilst a few Popes through history condemned slavery (and all credit to them) the Church only officially repudiated the doctrine in 1888 when it had been outlawed by Western European countries. Voilà.

    BTW, ad-homs against my bibliography is a really pathetic apologist’s tactic, WeeFlea and one that I’m not going for any more. You’re only making yourself look bad by attacking the person and not the argument.

    I suspect that you will not be able to, because even if there was such ‘evidence’ it would be the work of a tiny minority. I have read most of the mainstream Christian theologians from Tertullian to Barth – the early Church Fathers through the Dark Ages, the Reformation into the 20th century and not one of them takes your position.

    Well, I’m afraid theology and organised religion are two entirely different things with little relevance to one another. What do Karl Rahner and Jurgen Moltmann have to say about the pope going to Africa and saying “AIDS may be bad, but condoms may be worse”?

    3) Did Franklin not own slaves?

    Nope, that was Thomas Jefferson, still one of the greatest secularists of all time, but nobody’s perfect. He had no religious faith of his own, but still admired Jesus as a great moral teacher and actually wrote his own version of the New Testament called The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus Christ, which was the result of taking a pair of scissors to the NT, removing anything that no thinking person could bring himself to believe. My copy arrived today from Amazon; looks like a very slender, convenient read.

    Franklin (as in the guy who discovered that lightening was electricity using a kite and a key) was an abolitionist.

    4) Hitler was inspired by Darwin. I’m afraid that I have read all of Hitlers works and studied him for my University degree – there is no doubt that he was a social Darwinianist.

    Well, bully for both us! I own and have read a copy of Mein Kampf as well, tedious piece of tripe that it is. It references Darwin and Nietzsche not at all, but God and Jesus rather a lot. Whatever Hitler’s private religious views were (and we have no way of being sure) he certainly ascribed to Napoleon’s view that religion was useful stuff for manipulating the poor and uneducated. He repeatedly said that he was finishing off the work of Christ by wiping the Jews of the face of the earth.

    One thing’s for sure, the Vatican couldn’t offer him enough support and I notice you haven’t said a word in defence of the (in)actions of Eugenio Pacelli…

    Your re-writing of Darwin is cute but nonsense – the full title of his book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. He clearly believed in ‘favoured races’. Early Darwinianists [sic] such as Huxley and Wells believed in the superiority of the White Race.

    Your arguments are a glaring example of the naturalistic fallacy: the argument that how things are implies how they ought to be. But “is” does not imply “ought.” Evolution only tells how things are; it does not say how they should be.

    “Social Darwinism” is an utter distortion and has nothing to do with Darwin’s theory of natural selection. It is a label now applied to eugenics. “Survival of the fittest” is the most misunderstood terms in science, thanks to people like you. Natural selection actually favours human co-operation and altruism, not raping and killing.

    The source of Social Darwinism was not Darwin at all but one Herbert Spencer and the tradition of Protestant non-conformism going back to Hobbes via Malthus. Spencer’s ideas of evolution were Lamarckian. The only real connection between Darwinism and Social Darwinism is the name. Evolutionary theory shows us that the long-term survival of a species is strongly linked with its genetic variability.

    All Social Darwinist programs advocate minimizing genetic variability, thus reducing chances of long-term survival in the event of environmental change. An understanding of evolution should then rebuke any attempt at Social Darwinism if the long-term survival of humanity is treated as a goal. Eugenics and Social Darwinian accounts are more often tied to the rise of the science of genetics than to evolutionary theory.

    Whereas biblical Christians believe that all human beings are made in the image of God.

    Hold on whilst I wipe a tear from my eye. Right, now let’s see how that plays out in practice. What about:

    The Amalekites, the Canaanites, the Hittites and the Midianites?

    The Muslim women and children who were burnt alive by the Crusaders who took Jerusalem?

    The Jews who were victims of the Vatican-ordered pogroms?

    The Northern Ireland Catholics and Protestant who were the victims of sectarian violence from being members of the “wrong” confession?

    The Bosnian Muslims who fell at the hands of Orthodox Christian Milosevic and Karadzic?

    The Tutsi who were slaughtered by the Hutu in Rwanda?

    The victims of Joseph Koney’s “Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda?

    Weren’t they all God’s creations as well?

    5) [L]iberty and social democratic ideals of Scandanavia are firmly rooted in Christianity – as these societies move further from their Christian roots, soon they will lose the Christian fruits, and become like all the other atheistic totalitarian regimes.

    So what? The Muslims invented algebra, although we never say “Islamic Algebra”. The Christians invented physics, although we don’t say ”Christian Physics”. So will it be with “Christian Morals”.

    I know people who have been to Scandinavia as well. Those churches are deserted.

    6) Of course we are all messed up. The empirical evidence for that is overwhelming. Did God create us that way? No. He created us ‘good’. But he allowed us the freedom to choose and to go bad.

    Why should God still take the credit for small mercies such as a baby falling out of a window and being saved by a stack of cardboard boxes, when there are ditches full of dead babies and no-one did a thing?

    Why should God take credit for every right action that we do, but remain blameless for all the evil and suffering in the world? Why should the latter be due to our “free will” and break poor old God’s heart? Re-read Isaiah 45:7; God admits he is to blame for it all.

    Who planted that tree in the Garden of Eden in the first place? Who created the devil/ serpent that tempted Eve? Embrace the true age of the Earth and Darwinian Evolution and you’ll realise that death, disease and suffering were all just part of the natural order for millions of years before man came on the scene, and you’ll have a load of your mind. But then again, I can never underestimate the solipsism of the theistic mind. “We have to be responsible for it all somehow!”

    Always happy to debate…but unless you want a massacre you had better get your facts right!

    Funny, I was having similar thoughts about your arguments. Suppose there’s only one way to settle matters then?

    Know the Truth and the Truth will set you free…

    Mark Twain also wrote, “There are upwards of a thousand lies in the Bible.” I think he was generously conservative.

    MSP

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