Monthly Archives: December 2014

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Woody Allen’s 2015 Film September 26, 2014 · by William Miller

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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Woody Allen’s 2015 Film

In keeping with his decades old habit of a film a year, there will be a 2015 Film written and directed by Woody Allen. With production finished and Allen back at his regular Monday night jazz residency at the Carlyle, we figured it was time to wrap up everything we know about the upcoming film.

2015 film

What is it about?

Nothing has been officially confirmed, but we know from various comments the tone of the film and some of the characters.

The best we can determine is this is a serious drama with a murder at the centre. Set in a small town college, it stars a philosophy professor at a crisis in his life. In his life is a student and a relationship develops.

Who is in it?

There are two main stars – Joaquín Phoenix and Emma Stone, the latter in her second Allen film in a row.

Two other cast members have been officially announced – Jamie Blackley and Parker Posey. We don’t know the roles, however Blackley appears to be a fellow student.

IMDB lists additional cast of Ethan Phillips, Meredith Hagner, Tamara Hickney, Susan Parfour andGary Wilmes.

Woody Allen himself is not set to appear onscreen.

Where was it made?

The film was shot in many locations around Rhode Island. The towns of Newport and Providence provided the bulk of the locations. Beavertail National Park and Cranston was also used.

Salve Regina University and Brown University were major locations used, although it looks like it will be the one fictional Braylin College in the film.

With the many locations, we assume the film is actually set in one town and we don’t know if it will be a fictional town in the film.

Who made it?

Woody Allen has, of course, written and directed. Daring Khondji returns as cinematographer. None of the other crew has been confirmed.

Letty Aronson is back as a producer, as will Ronald L Chez.

It seems most likely the film will be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics in the US.

When is it out?

It’s a good bet that the film will be released in July 2015. It will keep with the successful schedule of Allen’s last few films.

It will roll out around the world in the months to follow.

When will we know more?

It is usual for Allen to keep his films under wraps til just weeks before release. There are exceptions –Magic In the Moonlight‘s title, some pics and a synopsis was released in October. The exception is if the film is selected as part of a film festival early next year.

The title will need to be locked in before the year is out, so hopefully we will have a name sooner rather than later.

You can read all our 2015 Film news stories.

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix visit park for Woody Allen film The movie is a murder mystery set on a college campus.

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Plot Revealed for Woody Allen’s Latest Film Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone No distributor has picked up the untitled project yet BY MIKE SHUTTNOV 5 2014 AT 2:00 PM

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Review and Pictures and Video Clips of Woody Allen’s movie “MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT” Part 15

_________________________ Review and Pictures and Video Clips of Woody Allen’s movie “MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT” Part 15 Magic in the Moonlight Theatrical Review [Sony Pictures Classics; 2014] Director: Woody Allen Runtime: 97 minutes Written by Nick Newman, July 18, 2014 at 10:00 am Share7 Tweet24 0 Reddit0 Tumblr0 Email0 Magic in the Moonlight’s pending release […]

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Woody Allen’s recent films have done very well!!!

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Woody Allen’s recent films have done very well!!! Below Allen discusses them.

12 Questions for Woody Allen

Woody Allen: American Master

The reluctant auteur opens up

Woody Allen CREDIT: Emily Assiran/New York Observer

Would it kill you to know that Woody Allen is just like us? He’s got two teenage girls who listen to pop music on their iPhones. He’s always worried that something bad will happen to them. He exercises every morning but struggles to keep his weight up. (Okay. He’s not totally like us.)

He’s also 78 years old, has won four Academy Awards, has directed actors to six more wins (18 nominations), and has never missed a year releasing a film since 1977. This past weekend came No. 44, a comedy called Magic in the Moonlight. Whether it’s a hit or not doesn’t matter to him particularly, because it’s done, and there’s nothing he can do about it. He’s busy finishing No. 45 and thinking about No. 46. But so far, so good: in 17 theaters, Magictook in a very healthy $426,000.

His frequent collaborator, Marshall Brickman, co-author of such classic Allen films as Annie Hall and Manhattan Murder Mystery, tells me: “He secretes movies like honey. It’s an astonishing record. I don’t think anyone’s come close to it.”

Mr. Allen’s had some problems, but we all know about them. That’s not what this is about. Mr. Allen’s had a life since 1992, when he left Mia Farrow and subsequently married her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. It’s been 22 years. There must be something else to talk about.

There is: he’s still thinking about life and death, the end of the world, and why we’re all here. All the years with Ms. Farrow, Mr. Allen lived alone on the East Side of Central Park. He wasn’t domiciled until he married Soon-Yi and they started a family. When I meet him at his shambling, low-profile production office off of Fifth Avenue, it’s one of the first things to come up: are the big questions easier now?

“No, it only becomes more tragic,” Mr. Allen says. He’s dressed like, well, Woody Allen, compactly and neat in a button down shirt and chinos. His feathery gray hair is always a jolt because the Mr. Allen you have in your mind is Alvy Singer. But he’s really, pleasantly, the same as ever. He explains: “Because when you have more loved ones, that becomes their fate. I think these poor kids, they become aware of their mortality. When they become aware of it, it’s life changing and traumatic. I feel sorry for them, but the cold hard facts don’t change.”

How about his own vulnerability? “I worry not only about me. But that something bad won’t happen to three other people. That my wife won’t get run over, that my kids won’t die in a plane crash. I used to worry about just me and maybe one other person!”

The children are Bechet, who’s 15, and Manzie, 14. They’re adopted. Each is named for a famous jazz musician. When I met them this past spring at the opening of Mr. Allens’s Bullets Over Broadway premiere, they were incredibly normal teenage girls.  Does he like having two teenage girls in the house? “No! They’re a lot of work. When they hit the teenage years they become more difficult. They’re great before then, charming. But they hit the teenage years and they become like Bonnie Parker.”

Web_Woody_Allen_Philip_Burke

The girls and Soon-Yi have been with him most of the summer in Providence, Rhode Island, where Mr. Allen has been shooting his next film, a drama. As usual, there’s no title. But the key players are his new “it” girl, Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix and Parker Posey.

He’s clearly enamored of Mr. Phoenix: “He’s full of emotion and agony. If he says, ‘Pass the salt,’ it’s like the scene where Oedipus puts his eyes out.”

For years Mr. Allen worked with a close circle of actors who rotated through his movies, from Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts to Ms. Farrow, Julie Kavner, Caroline Aaron and Alan Alda. But then he started to branch out.

“I’ve been very lucky. I was thinking about this because [Elaine] Stritch died.” The Broadway legend and quintessential brassy New York broad starred in his 1987 drama, September. The two of them used to poke fun at each other: “We were at rehearsal shooting. She would come out in just her body stocking. People would say, ‘Go back inside!’ I would say, ‘No one wants to see you that way because we’re going to eat in a few minutes!’” Rim shot.  “Every time I saw her we used to kid each other.

“It reminded me that I’ve worked with all these great actresses—Meryl Streep and Maureen Stapleton and Judy Davis and Penelope Cruz and Diane Keaton and Geraldine Page, Gena Rowlands, and Gemma Jones, she was fantastic, now Eileen Atkins. I’ve worked with all the great women—Marion Cotillard.”

Among the men, one offbeat choice that worked was Owen Wilson, who played the lead in Midnight in Paris, Mr. Allen’s most successful movie ever. “He was completely wrong for it when I wrote it. I wrote the character as a New York Eastern intellectual. And we’re thinking who can do this? There’s no one available, no one right. Someone said what about Owen Wilson? I said, I always loved him, but he’s a surfer in Honolulu. He’s not an Eastern intellectual. And [casting director] Juliet Taylor said, rewrite it and send it to him.’”

I interrupt him at this point. “Wait a minute! Juliet can tell you to rewrite a script?” Ms. Taylor has been casting director on 39 of Mr. Allen’s projects in a row starting with Annie Hall and including his TV adaptation of Don’t Drink the Water and his segment of New York Stories.

He laughs. “She can suggest it. She can’t order me to do it. Yes, I’m very close with Juliet. I always run my scripts by her and she’s always giving me feedback.”

What if Mr. Wilson had turned it down?

“Then I would have a version rewritten for no reason. But to rewrite it wasn’t so hard. I just had to rewrite it as a Hollywood scriptwriter, a big success but it meant nothing to him, who went to Paris and regretted that he hadn’t stayed there.”

Woody Allen CREDIT: Emily Assiran/New York Observer

Midnight in Paris kicked off a succession of hits that no one, including Mr. Allen, would have expected at this point in his long career. To Rome with Love followed and did very well. Then Blue Jasmine, a drama that captured the zeitgeist of a society confused about money, possessions, wealth and sanity. Cate Blanchett won the Oscar for Best Actress. Mr. Allen says: “I thought when I was writing it if I could get Cate Blanchett I would be very lucky. There aren’t a lot of actresses who can go that deep. She can.”

Did he give her a lot of direction? “I gave her some direction. But to say you direct Cate Blanchett, she’s one of the great actresses in the world. She and Meryl Streep. There’s two or three, and she’s one of them. I thought it was like when I hired Anthony Hopkins. That I could just phone it in.”

His method of directing—or lack thereof—is always an issue. Both Colin Firth and Ms. Stone claim they were very much directed in Magic in the Moonlight. When I tell Mr. Allen that, he almost blushes. “Then I was tricking him! You’ve seen Colin like this. I have nothing really to direct with Colin. He is that elegant, handsome Englishman.

“He’s a very, very skillful actor. You can see it in The King’s Speech. Here he’s a charming leading man. There he’s the mumbling, stuttering king. He’s great in both of them. And she’s”—he indicates Ms. Stone—“a natural movie star. She’s a movie star. She’s beautiful,” he says, “in an interesting way.”

That brings us to Magic in the Moonlight. It’s set in 1928, when psychics were all the rage. Great magicians like Houdini were deployed to debunk them. That’s the character Mr. Firth plays. Emma Stone is the psychic. Eileen Atkins plays Mr. Firth’s aunt, and almost steals the movie in a scene where she persuades Mr. Firth that he’s in love with Ms. Stone. Magic turns up a lot in Woody Allen movies, starting with Kenneth Mars in Shadows and Fog. Mr. Allen played a magician in the under-appreciated Scoop with Scarlett Johansson. As a child, Mr. Allen was an amateur magician.

“I bought tricks and did them. I was interested in sleight of hand. I always read a lot about magic. I would do the tricks, put the cigarette in my mother’s silk handkerchief. It wouldn’t work. The guys who do it are constantly practicing. David Blaine, Ricky Jay. David Blaine told me he and a friend went to the card factory and had special decks of cards made with the perfect weight and thinness.”

Alas, despite magic being a big part of his films, Mr. Allen is realistic. “There’s no magic, unfortunately … And there are no psychics.”

Woody Allen CREDIT: Emily Assiran/New York Observer

As a stand-up comic in the mid-1960s, Mr. Allen could never have foretold that this would be his fate. But he always loved jazz, even then, playing the clarinet. Nowadays he does it with his band on Mondays at the Café Carlyle. There are big differences. Back then, Mr. Allen tells me, he carried at least 20 jazz LPs with him on the road as he made his way from Chicago to San Francisco to Detroit.

“I’d carry a lot of albums with me for variation. They were always New Orleans jazz, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet … When I got to a town, I’d buy a record player. When I was done, I’d leave it in St. Louis, or wherever … it was too heavy to carry a record player from town to town.”

Now, he actually carries an iPhone loaded with music. “My assistant programmed into the music thing 120 jazz tunes into it. Now when I go out of town, I put the earphones on and it’s great.”

The iPhone is only for music and/or making and taking calls. He doesn’t email or surf the web. Ms. Stone, he says, recently showed him how to text. “I’m so untechnical. I don’t have a word processor. I still have my typewriter, the Olympia portable.” When I mention clips of him on YouTube, he shrugs. He’s never seen it. His daughters, however, are appropriately tech savvy. He says, sounding like every other parent, “They’re on their phones obsessively. And their mother catches them at 12:30 at night. It drives her crazy.” What do they listen to? “Something called One Direction,” he pauses, thinking, “and Katy Perry, and Rihanna.” Does he ever listen? “They have earphones. It’s their music, their generation.”

He rarely wanders out of his comfort zone. And when he does, it’s not always successful. He was ambivalent about turning Bullets Over Broadway into a live stage show. Now it’s closing on August 24 after a disappointing 156 performances. “I thought, it will open, I’ll make money in my sleep!” Is there such a thing? “No, not for me … I’ll never understand why some shows have huge audiences.”

Mr. Allen says he’s always had trouble drawing a live audience. “Even when I was a comic, I’d be on the Johnny Carson show, I’d take over the Johnny Carson show, I’d host it and promote and promote. The next week I’d go to Vegas, and they’d start moving around the potted plants to make the room look smaller. And they’d move them in so it didn’t look so empty. I’ve never been a draw in my life, in any medium … my record album came out when Newhart, Shelley Berman, Cosby, Mort Sahl, Nichols and May [all had hits]. And I was a hot comic at the time. Very disappointing.”

The audience thing is not completely true. There was a time when the opening of a Woody Allen film was an event in New York. Fans lined up around the block to see the auteur’s films at the Coronet, Baronet and Beekman theaters in the late ’70s through the mid-’80s. It was a phenomenon.

“I was aware that in those theaters I did very well. Sometimes, my movies were only playing in those theaters. Then they went to Queens, Staten Island and did okay. By the time they got to Yuma and Tulsa, they weren’t doing so well.”

Woody Allen CREDIT: Emily Assiran/New York Observer

It was Mr. Allens’s halcyon era in New York—playing the clarinet at Michael’s Pub, eating at Elaine’s. “She was a loyal friend,” he says of the late restaurateur Elaine Kaufman. “There was a period when I had dinner there every single night for 10 years. I was loyal to her. I used her place for several movies. I used Elaine’s in Celebrity, Manhattan, always Elaine’s. And that was a home for a while.” When Kaufman celebrated her restaurant’s 45th year in 2008, Mr. Allen, wife Soon-Yi and daughter Bechet arrived on the button at 8 p.m. and stayed for hours, much to Kaufman’s delight.

Three years later, Kaufman and her eatery would be gone. And when Midnight in Paris screened in Cannes, people went wild. At the dinner in the Palais des Festivals following its official showing, I asked Mr. Allen if he’d known this would happen. I can still remember him saying, very meekly, “No, it was just an idea on a piece of paper …” He was shocked. There’s simply no way to calculate or manufacture a hit.

“It’s a complete surprise,” he says, if a film takes off. “And I live with it for a year. Right now I’m shooting a picture with Emma and Joaquin Phoenix. I see them every day, we shoot and reshoot, it’s agonizing work, we edit and do the music and the mix, you don’t know … I don’t know if people are going to say, ‘Are you kidding? This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.’”

When Midnight broke records, “I was pleasantly surprised. People were coming in abundance. All over the world. I didn’t think anyone would come to Blue Jasmine. I thought that kind of picture would not be popular. A serious picture is an uphill fight. Just like a serious play is a brutal fight on Broadway.”

He has not worked alone on the 44 films. Besides Ms. Taylor, his closest associates have been the cinematographers: Carlo Di Palma, Gordon Willis, Sven Nykvist—all now deceased—and more recently Darius Khondji. It hasn’t always been easy getting everyone on the same page.

Woody Allen CREDIT: Emily Assiran/New York Observer

Mr. Allen recalls: “Gordon Willis”—who shot seven of his films (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Zelig) as well as The Godfather trilogy—“worked very differently than I liked to work. But it was not that comfortable. I accommodated him. He was very detailed and meticulous. He’s very professional. He wanted to rehearse so he knew [what was going to happen].

“Carlo was a happy-go-lucky guy. Carlo was like me, he didn’t know what we were going to shoot until we got there. He was an artist, with a vision. But he didn’t know what he was doing. For Everyone Says I Love You, Carlo had lit everything on the other side of the Seine from Notre Dame—he used every light in Paris. Then you get Sven Nykvist, he’s fast, with no lights, and it’s beautiful. Carlo makes it beautiful with all the lights in Paris. Darius was such a dedicated artist for MIP he researched the filaments and street lights. I said, ‘It looks marginally different.’”

He worries that as a filmmaker, he hasn’t influenced anyone. Unlike Martin Scorsese, for example, Mr. Allen says he rarely reads about young directors getting their inspiration from him. Only one: Nora Ephron, who wrote When Harry Met Sally. “She said, ‘You always say no one’s influenced by you but what about me?’ But she’s the only one. And that movie probably did better than Annie Hall.” It’s ironic to him, too. “Annie Hall I think was the lowest earning Oscar winning.” Up til then it was.

As much as Annie Hall makes other people’s best of lists, it barely makes Mr. Allens’s list. When I ask him to name his favorites of his films, his first answer is: Purple Rose of Cairo. He says he likes about 12 of the 45 films, and continues: “Husbands and Wives, Midnight in Paris, Match Point, Zelig,” come out immediately. That’s five. Now what? He adds “Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Blue Jasmine, Broadway Danny Rose.” We’ve got eight. “Annie Hall?” I ask. “Yeahhhh.” Then he remembers the ones he wants: “Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bullets Over Broadway.” He makes no mention of popular favorites like Manhattan or Crimes and Misdemeanors or Hannah and Her Sisters.

Even though he is regularly nominated for Oscars, and he’s directed many actors to Oscars, Mr. Allen is a not member of the Academy and doesn’t vote a ballot. He’s only attended the Oscars once, in 2002, after 9/11, to promote New York. “I’m not a person who believes in awards. I don’t think it’s a right thing to give awards. I think they could say ‘These are our favorite films.’ Crash is better than Brokeback Mountain?”

Was it, I ask?

He replies: “I don’t know. I didn’t see them.”

He claims never to have watched a DVD screener. The only time he’s seen new movies has been from a print, in his small screening room. He did see Wolf of Wall Street. Argo is a vague memory. How about the Coen brothers? They’re sort of like young Woody Allens gone askew—quirky, Jewish, transplanted New Yorkers. Mr. Allen tells me he didn’t see Inside Llewyn Davis, which vaguely covered a time and place he knew—Greenwich Village, 1960. But he adds quickly, “I thought Fargo should have won the Academy Award and not The English Patient.”

Earlier this year, in an effort to derail Ms. Blanchett’s Oscar campaign, a couple of anonymous complaints turned up in the tabloids about Mr. Allen not using black actors. He’s horrified when I bring up the subject. We talk about the new generation of wonderful black actors like Viola Davis and wonder if they’ll ever be cast in a Woody Allen film. He doesn’t hesitate to respond: “Not unless I write a story that requires it. You don’t hire people based on race. You hire people based on who is correct for the part. The implication is that I’m deliberately not hiring black actors, which is stupid. I cast only what’s right for the part. Race, friendship means nothing to me except who is right for the part.”

Woody Allen CREDIT: Emily Assiran/New York ObserverI ask him why, by the way, Chris Rock appeared in Robert Weide’s PBS documentary about him last year? Are they friends?  “He loved my work. When I got married to Soon-Yi he bought me a wedding present,” Mr. Allen reports, surprised and grateful. “When I ran into him in Rome, we took him out for dinner.” He adds: “I’m friendly with Spike Lee. We don’t socialize, but I don’t socialize with anyone.” There’s a punchline: “I don’t have white friends either.”

He does have heroes, however. Mr. Allen is still obsessed with Bob Hope, for example. “I just finished reading this wonderful biography of Bob Hope, by Richard Zoglin. For me it’s a feast. Full of funny lines, quotes you can hear Hope saying them. I would love to make a Bob Hope movie, even an homage to Hope called Hope Springs Eternal, but I fear no one would see it. I’m always defending him to people.”

Modern comics don’t interest him much. He draws a blank when I ask about Jerry Seinfeld. “What I’ve seen of Seinfeld and Louie C.K. I’ve liked,” he says, but TV eludes him other than news and Knicks games. He says he can’t keep up with The New Yorker—“it comes so fast.” But when I mention Paul Rudnick and Andy Borowitz, that he knows. “I find those guys funny definitely.”

What’s a typical Woody Allen day like? He writes not long after he gets up. He uses a treadmill for exercise. “Exercise trumps diet,” he says. He can brag. “Someone just found my driver’s license from when I shot Take the Money and Run in San Francisco.” That’s 45 years ago. “I’m the same weight. I try and gain weight. I switched from wine to beer 10 or 15 years ago. I heard beer is a fattening drink. I have a couple of beers every day.”

Traditional New York food? He doesn’t like bagels! And deli? “I haven’t had a hot dog in at least 15 years. I’ve had a corned beef sandwich once every 25 years.”

His one vice?

“Chocolate malteds—I make them so brilliantly. It’ll kill you, though. You have to put in quite a bit of malt. More than you think. More is more than the traditional amount. If I make it for you, you will die. I make it with half and half, a certain amount of ice cream—vanilla ice cream—chocolate syrup—but you know, they kill you. I used to have two, three a day with impunity.” And his one health issue? “I had glaucoma in my right eye,” he says. What was it like, I asked this very funny man, a man whose work, whose life, has shaped New York sensibilities for more than four decades, to have had your cataracts fixed recently. “It’s like you moved out of Sweden.”

Roger Friedman has covered the entertainment industry for over 25 years and is the founder of Showbiz411.com.

Read more at http://observer.com/2014/07/woody-allen-american-master/#ixzz3Mp7vFZ88
Follow us: @newyorkobserver on Twitter | newyorkobserver on Facebook

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Plot Revealed for Woody Allen’s Latest Film Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone No distributor has picked up the untitled project yet BY MIKE SHUTTNOV 5 2014 AT 2:00 PM

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Review and Pictures and Video Clips of Woody Allen’s movie “MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT” Part 16

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Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix on the set of Woody Allen’s new movie!!!!

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Plot Revealed for Woody Allen’s Latest Film Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone No distributor has picked up the untitled project yet BY MIKE SHUTTNOV 5 2014 AT 2:00 PM

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WOODY WEDNESDAY Review and Pictures and Video Clips of Woody Allen’s movie “MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT” Part 15

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FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 32 Steven Weinberg and Woody Allen and “The Meaningless of All Things” (Feature on photographer Martin Karplus )

The Atheism Tapes – Steven Weinberg [2/6] Published on Sep 25, 2012 Jonathan Miller in conversation with American physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg ___________________________ I have posted many times in the past about Steven Weinberg on my blog and I have always found his works very engaging. It is true that he is a […]

Frank Turek answers Eddie Tabash’s question: “My mother was a survivor of the holocaust. She lived a terrible life. And she was offered the gospel and she rejected it. Is she in Hell right now?”

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I touched on this same subject with a signer of Humanist Manifesto 1, 2, and 3 and I posted that earlier. 

Frank Turek vs David Silverman – The Reality Debate

Moderator: If God is all-powerful why does he not remove evil, if he is not all-powerful why call him God?

Mr. Turek: He is all-powerful and he hasn’t removed evil yet, but he will. Actually he won’t remove it, he’ll quarantine it. That’s exactly what Hell is. In Hell you’ll have free will. You know I get the question all the time “Will God send me to Hell because I don’t believe in Jesus?” The answer is “No, you don’t go to Hell because you don’t believe in Jesus, you go to Hell because you’ve sinned.” It would be like saying you died because you didn’t go to the doctor. No, you didn’t die because you didn’t go to the doctor. You died because you had a disease. Now if you had gone to the doctor perhaps you could have prevented death, just like if you go to the Great Physician you can prevent eternal death. And so the point here is is that people go to Hell because they’ve chosen to sin and they have not chosen the pardon. But God will not force you into Heaven against your will. If you don’t want God now you will not want him in eternity. So people who go to Hell, which is separation from God, go there justly. If God exists and if there is an afterlife, there are only two possibly places. You’re either going to be with God or without God in the afterlife. In fact, I… just give me two minutes here because this happened in a debate I had with Eddie Tabash–who by the way is a good guy objectively.

Mr. Silverman: I’ll tell him you said that.

Mr. Turek: He said this to me, during our debate. He said “My mother was a survivor of the holocaust. She lived a terrible life. And she was offered the gospel and she rejected it. Is she in Hell right now?” Whoa. I said, “Eddie, I don’t know where your mother is now. I don’t know if she had a death bed conversion, but if she didn’t accept Christ then God is too loving to force her into his presence against her will.” And this is the question I asked the audience that night: Ladies, have you ever had a man pursue you who you didn’t want to date? Ladies, have you ever had that happen? Some of you are going “yeah and he’s sitting right next to me right now. He won’t leave me alone!” Well suppose he continues to pursue, continues to pursue, and you finally get to the point where you say, “I like you, but only as a friend.” Every man has heard this. Ladies why don’t you just stick the knife in and turn it. Well, suppose he continues to pursue, continues to pursue, and he finally says, “Look, I’m going to force you to love me.” Can he do that? No, love by definition must be freely given. If he truly loved you, what would he do? He would leave you alone. And that’s exactly…

Mr. Silverman: Well if God really loves you he’ll send you to Hell because you don’t believe the right way, you don’t think the right way.

Mr. Turek: Let me just finish the thought. That’s what God does. He sends us “cards,” “letters,” and “flowers”–he sends some kind of crazy Christian from New Jersey to talk to you and he says…

Mr. Silverman: Why doesn’t God remove evil from society was the question?

Mr. Turek: Hold on, I’m not quite done yet.

Moderator: He [Mr. Turek] said he [God] will [remove evil from society].

Mr. Silverman: He will?

Mr. Turek: Yes he will.

Moderator: Eventually he will, that’s what he said.

Mr. Silverman: Eventually?

Mr. Turek: Yes.

Mr. Silverman: That’s your answer?

Mr. Turek: Yes, of course.

Mr. Silverman: It will happen sooner or later. Why is he waiting?

Mr. Turek: Because he is redeeming people as we go.

Mr. Silverman: Why does he need to do that?

Mr. Turek: Because there are people out there that need to be redeemed, including you. He’s waiting, he’s patient.

____________

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‘Cosmos’ vs. ‘Master Designer’ BY JOHN STONESTREET, CHRISTIAN POST GUEST COLUMNIST March 18, 2014|1:11 pm

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‘Cosmos’ vs. ‘Master Designer’

BY JOHN STONESTREET, CHRISTIAN POST GUEST COLUMNIST
March 18, 2014|1:11 pm

“The cosmos is all that is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be.” Those opening words from Carl Sagan’s 1980s TV series, “The Cosmos” are a succinct statement of what’s become the driving philosophy behind much of modern science and science education: materialism.

The debate over Darwinian evolution, as heated as that gets, is only one part of a larger worldview conflict-one fought between those who look at the natural world and say, “This is designed,” and those who look at it and conclude, “This happened by itself.”

The Bible makes it clear which side we Christians are on. The psalmist tells us “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19). The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1 that the creation reveals even the power and moral nature of God, leaving everyone who’s ever looked up at the sky on a starry night “without excuse.”

The cosmos, Scripture tells us, isn’t all that is. In fact, it shouts to everyone who has ears to listen that Someone greater and eternal exists. But the question is, Do we have ears to hear it?

There’s a scene in C. S. Lewis’ “The Magician’s Nephew,” from “The Chronicles of Narnia” series, when after singing the world into existence, the Lion Aslan tries to speak with Uncle Andrew, the magician who first brings those from our world into Narnia.

“He has made himself unable to hear my voice,” says Aslan. “If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that may do you good!”

Well, our Creator still speaks through the cosmos, and the sons of Adam keep defending themselves against His voice.

A new remake of Sagan’s series debuted on Fox earlier this month, and its host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is making no bones where his allegiance lies in this battle of worldviews.

The first episode features the story of Giordano Bruno, a 16th century Dominican friar who was burned at the stake, according to Tyson for speculating the earth revolved around the sun. Now, I’m not for burning heretics at the stake, but the fact is that he was executed for preaching anti-trinitarian universalism and other heresies.

In the latest episode, Tyson goes further, leveling direct shots at Intelligent Design and praising the power of “mindless evolution.” The eye-which Darwin himself called one of the greatest problems for his theory-is no problem at all, according to Tyson. He claims natural selection could build it, step-by-step, despite staggering evidence to the contrary.

But here’s what really strikes me about the new “Cosmos” series: It’s beautiful. And despite the show’s trying to explain that beauty away as a product of “mindless evolution,” the Creator’s voice still breaks through. That’s why DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick felt compelled to write, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”

I don’t envy Tyson and other materialists that task, especially after my interview with Steve Greisen. He’s the producer of a new beautifully made documentary that will help you hear not only God’s voice in nature, but the entire symphony.

The film is called “The Master Designer: The Song,” and it explores the biology and lives of six animals-and how they uniquely reveal foresight and intelligent design.

The two insects alone will blow you away. For example, did you know that bees communicate through smells and give each other GPS coordinates by dancing?-or that crickets told the ancient Chinese when to plant, when to harvest and when cold weather was coming? And wait until you hear the cricket’s song slowed down. Wow!

This entire film reminded me not just how overwhelming the evidence for design is, but that the only right response to it is worship. Uncle Andrew can keep “Cosmos.”

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship

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THE INVISIBLE VS. THE CONSTANT GARDENER: PARABLES FOR AND AGAINST ATHEISM

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THE INVISIBLE VS. THE CONSTANT GARDENER: PARABLES FOR AND AGAINST ATHEISM

British philosopher of religion Antony Flew (1923-2010), writing as an atheist in 1955, expanded upon a parable designed to show that there is no difference between (God as) an “invisible gardener” and there being “no gardener at all.”

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds.

One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.”

The other disagrees, “There is no gardener.”

So they pitch their tents and set a watch.

No gardener is ever seen.

“But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.”

So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Well’s The

Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.)

But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry.

Yet still the Believer is not convinced. “But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.”

At last the Skeptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?”

John Frame counters with a parable of his own:

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle.

A man was there, pulling weeds, applying fertilizer, trimming branches. The man turned to the explorers and introduced himself as the royal gardener. One explorer shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries.

The other ignored the gardener and turned away: “There can be no gardener in this part of the jungle,” he said; “this must be some trick.”

They pitch camp. Every day the gardener arrives, tends the plot. Soon the plot is bursting with perfectly arranged blooms.

“He’s only doing it because we’re here—to fool us into thinking this is a royal garden.”

The gardener takes them to a royal palace, introduces the explorers to a score of officials who verify the gardener’s status.

Then the skeptic tries a last resort: “Our senses are deceiving us. There is no gardener, no blooms, no palace, no officials. It’s still a hoax!”

Finally the believer despairs: “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does this mirage, as you call it, differ from a real gardener?”

—John M. Frame, “God and Biblical Language: Transcendence and Immanence,” God’s Inerrant Word, ed. J. W. Montgomery (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1974), p. 171.

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“When Science Points To God” by Dinesh D’Souza | Nov 24, 2008

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Recommend this article

Contemporary atheism marches behind the banner of science. It is perhaps no surprise that several leading atheists—from biologist Richard Dawkins to cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker to physicist Victor Stenger—are also leading scientists. The central argument of these scientific atheists is that modern science has refuted traditional religious conceptions of a divine creator.

But of late atheism seems to be losing its scientific confidence. One sign of this is the public advertisements that are appearing in billboards from London to Washington DC. Dawkins helped pay for a London campaign to put signs on city buses saying, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Humanist groups in America have launched a similar campaign in the nation’s capital. “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.” And in Colorado atheists are sporting billboards apparently inspired by John Lennon: “Imagine…no religion.”

What is striking about these slogans is the philosophy behind them. There is no claim here that God fails to satisfy some criterion of scientific validation. We hear nothing about how evolution has undermined the traditional “argument from design.” There’s not even a whisper about how science is based on reason while Christianity is based on faith.

Instead, we are given the simple assertion that there is probably no God, followed by the counsel to go ahead and enjoy life. In other words, let’s not let God and his commandments spoil all the fun. “Be good for goodness sake” is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. The question remains: what is the source of these standards of goodness that seem to be shared by religious and non-religious people alike? Finally John Lennon knew how to compose a tune but he could hardly be considered a reliable authority on fundamental questions. His “imagine there’s no heaven” sounds visionary but is, from an intellectual point of view, a complete nullity.

If you want to know why atheists seem to have given up the scientific card, the current issue of Discover magazine provides part of the answer. The magazine has an interesting story by Tim Folger which is titled “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator.” The article begins by noting “an extraordinary fact about the universe: its basic properties are uncannily suited for life.” As physicist Andrei Linde puts it, “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.”

Too many “coincidences,” however, imply a plot. Folger’s article shows that if the numerical values of the universe, from the speed of light to the strength of gravity, were even slightly different, there would be no universe and no life. Recently scientists have discovered that most of the matter and energy in the universe is made up of so-called “dark” matter and “dark” energy. It turns out that the quantity of dark energy seems precisely calibrated to make possible not only our universe but observers like us who can comprehend that universe.

Even Steven Weinberg, the Nobel laureate in physics and an outspoken atheist, remarks that “this is fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.” And physicist Freeman Dyson draws the appropriate conclusion from the scientific evidence to date: “The universe in some sense knew we were coming.”

Folger then admits that this line of reasoning makes a number of scientists very uncomfortable. “Physicists don’t like coincidences.” “They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea.”

There are two hurdles here, one historical and the other methodological. The historical hurdle is that science has for three centuries been showing that man does not occupy a privileged position in the cosmos, and now it seems like he does. The methodological hurdle is what physicist Stephen Hawking once called “the problem of Genesis.” Science is the search for natural explanations for natural phenomena, and what could be more embarrassing than the finding that a supernatural intelligence transcending all natural laws is behind it all?

Consequently many physicists are exploring an alternative possibility: multiple universes. This is summed up as follows: “Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse.” Folger says that “short of invoking a benevolent creator” this is the best that modern science can do. For contemporary physicists, he writes, this “may well be the only viable nonreligious explanation” for our fine-tuned universe.

The appeal of multiple universes—perhaps even an infinity of universes—is that when there are billions and billions of possibilities, then even very unlikely outcomes are going to be realized somewhere. Consequently if there was an infinite number of universes, something like our universe is certain to appear at some point. What at first glance seems like incredible coincidence can be explained as the result of a mathematical inevitability.

The only difficulty, as Folger makes clear, is that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of any universes other than our own. Moreover, there may never be such evidence. That’s because if there are other universes, they will operate according to different laws of physics than the ones in our universe, and consequently they are permanently and inescapably inaccessible to us. The article in Discover concludes on a somber note. While some physicists are hoping the multiverse will produce empirical predictions that can be tested, “for many physicists, however, the multiverse remains a desperate measure ruled out by the impossibility of confirmation.”

No wonder atheists are sporting billboards asking us to “imagine…no religion.” When science, far from disproving God, seems to be pointing with ever-greater precision toward transcendence, imagination and wishful thinking seem all that is left for the atheists to count on.

 

____________________

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The Folly of Denying God by Hank Hanegraaff

_____________

Hank Hanegraaff

Beyond a doubt, the most significant question to ever penetrate the human mind is that of the existence of God. More consequences for humanity hinge on the denial or affirmation of God’s existence than any other issue.

Countless numbers of Christian families have sent their children off to schools across America only to see them return as strangers robbed of their faith in God and of the basis for morality and ethics.

Many of these children have attempted to fill the vacuum in their lives through aberrant sex, drugs, and alcohol. Others have sought to fill this void with material success, which can never satisfy the spiritual needs of one created in the image of God.

“Is there really a God?” Though there are a variety of possible responses to this question, there are three traditional responses that predominate in Western society: (1) God does not exist — atheism; (2) we cannot know whether God exists — agnosticism; and (3) a personal God does exist — theism. This article will demonstrate how, in witnessing to an atheist, one can move from atheism to agnosticism, from agnosticism to theism, and from the concept of an impersonal God to the personal God of Scripture.

To begin, atheism involves a logical fallacy known as a universal negative. Simply stated, a person would have to be omniscient and omnipresent to be able to say “there is no God” from his own pool of knowledge. Only someone capable of being in all places at the same time — with a perfect knowledge of all that is in the universe — can make such a statement based on the facts. In other words, a person would have to be God to say there is no God. Hence, the assertion is logically indefensible.

By using arguments like this, you will often find that an atheist quickly converts to agnosticism and is thus making progress rapidly in the right direction.

This leads us to the second possible response: agnosticism. In dealing with an open-minded agnostic, an approach I have found effective is to point out that the universe is an effect which requires a sufficient cause, and the only sufficient cause is God. As Scripture says, “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1).

It is helpful to clarify that there are only four possible explanations for how the universe came to be. The first is that the universe is an illusion. This ultimately reduces to solipsism — the theory that “self” is the only reality, that “I alone exist.” This view is unacceptable in an age of scientific enlightenment. (Even a full-blown solipsist looks both ways before crossing the street.)

The second possibility is that the universe is eternal. This possibility flies in the face of the second law of thermodynamics, which says that everything in the universe is running inexorably downhill from order to disorder, from complexity to chaos. If the universe was eternally old, it would have died a heat-loss death an eternity ago.

The third “possibility” is that the universe emerged from nothing. Little needs to be said about the absurdity of this option. Reason tells us that out of nothing comes nothing. This position militates against the first law of thermodynamics, which says that energy can be neither created nor destroyed; it can only change forms. To say an effect can exist without a cause, one must deny the basis for all scientific investigation and rational thought.

The fourth (and only tenable) possibility is that the universe was created by God. Clearly, theism — the belief in a personal God who is the Creator and Ruler of the universe — is the only viable option on the question of God’s existence. Once this is established, it can be pointed out that only a personal God can account for human personality, thought, and morality. Furthermore, this personal God has manifested Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who demonstrated His deity through the undeniable fact of the Resurrection. Additionally, God has provided His written Word which can be shown to be divine rather than human in origin.

Although we cannot talk atheists and agnostics into the Kingdom of God, God can use our answers to open their hearts to receive the gospel. Scripture therefore exhorts us to “always be prepared to give to every man an answer” (1 Pet. 3:15).

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“Religion for Atheists: A Nonbelievers Guide to the Uses of Religion” Alain de Botton reviewed by Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy Denver Seminary

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Religion for Atheists: A Nonbelievers Guide to the Uses of Religion

  • Alain de Botton
  • Jan 24, 2013
  • Series: Volume 16 – 2013

Alain de Botton Religion for Atheists: A Nonbelievers Guide to the Uses of Religion. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012. Hardback. $26.95. 320 pages. ISBN-10: 0307379108; ISBN-13: 978-0307379108.

ReligionforAtheistsCultural critic and popular atheistic philosopher, Alain de Botton, has a new angle on religion. Instead of denouncing religion as having no objective value (the modus operandi of “the new atheists”), de Botton scavenges for atheist blessings among the institutions, practices, and history of the (philosophically benighted) believers. No, there is no God. That, he thinks, is settled—although he gives no arguments to that effect. But why be so hostile to man’s religiosity—his sense of wonder, mystery, fellow-feeling, and the sacred? After all, a lot of religious things are pretty interesting and even inspiring (although there is no Spirit behind any of it). And even though the cognoscenti have outgrown any religious metaphysics (“God is dead,” as Nietzsche pontificated), there may be cultural and psychological gems mixed into the metaphysical manure of empty concepts such as God, angels, providence, prayer, prophets, miracles, saints, salvation, and final judgment.

This ambitious (or quixotic) endeavor has exposed de Botton some savage criticism from fellow God-bashers. Although he didn’t live long enough to excoriate Religion for Atheists, it is certain that Christopher Hitchens, the author of the vitriolic God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, would have denounced it as sentimental, unreasonable, and finally absurd. The entire new atheist movement distinguishes itself precisely by not tolerating religion (and particularly Christianity, which is routinely treated with enormous scorn) and for wanting to exorcise all things religious from culture. Instead of saying that religion is false, but we have to put up with superstition in a free society, the New Atheists claim that religion is the source of all manner of evil. It must be expunged from any rational society. No pats on the head for religion; rather, bring the hammer.

But de Botton who has several popular books under his belt, including Proust Can Change Your Life, attempts to articulate a kinder, gentler atheism. He even proposes a religious atheism. This is not new. The founder of sociology, August Comte (1798–1857), proposed an atheist “religion of humanity” in the nineteenth century, and de Botton draws some secular inspiration from his fatuous and failed endeavor. Moreover, The Secular Humanist Manifesto I, (1933), spoke of secular humanism as a religious endeavor—sans God, however. In The Secular Humanist Manifesto, II(1973), any positive reference to religion was fumigated. In the famous Torcaso vs. Watkins Supreme Court decision of 1963, “Secular Humanism,” was declared to be a “religion.” Sadly, this ruling was never applied to mandatory state education, which is dominated by this secular humanism in every subject and which will not even allow scientific evidence to be brought against aspects of Darwinism. (On this, see Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto [Crossway, 1981].)

There is no need to describe much of de Bottons project (as witty as some of it may be; he is British, after all), since it rests on an abject absurdity—or more than one, as we will see. On this, I side with the new atheists (“take no prisoners”), and with their grand and eloquent precursor, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Consider this soliloquy from “The Madman” parable in The Gay Science (“gay” is taken in the older sense).

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Atheism, or philosophical materialism, bequeaths to us a “world without windows” (Peter Berger), a closed system of cause and effect (Francis Schaeffer), which is all reducible to brute natural laws, matter and energy, chance, and a heck of a lot of (meaningless) time. Death is the end of the individual and of the entire cosmos eventually. That is the implacable narrative of naturalism, like it or not.

We cannot “comfort ourselves” by appropriating from religion what only religion can provide: divine revelation, a supernatural kingdom and worldview, providential history, real redemption from a source outside ourselves, and the life everlasting, either in the New Creation or in hell.

One may put the argument against de Bottons’s daft idea formally:

  1. X (religious meaning) requires Y (the truth of religion) for its existence.
  2. Y does not exist.
  3. Therefore: X does not exist.

Or it can be put thus:

  1. If and only if Y, then X.
  2. Not X.
  3. Therefore: not Y.

Or:

  1. If there is no religious truth, there is no religious meaning.
  2. There is no religious truth, since atheism is true.
  3. Therefore, there is no religious meaning.

Or, to put it yet another way for hardheaded atheists who wants to steal from religion what atheism itself can never provide:

  1. The truth of religion is a necessary condition for religious meaning.
  2. Religion is factually false (atheism).
  3. Therefore, there is no religious meaning.
  4. Therefore, all is meaningless (nihilism), whatever pseudo-religious games we play.

(This argument restates the first one given, but with a different form.)

I need not go on with this logical theme, lest I suffer the charge of pedantry. But another absurdity needs a tongue-lashing. While de Botton’s illicit existential booty largely comes from Christianity, he samples and mixes in bits from other religions as well. Thus, Buddhism can teach us about tranquility through meditation, and so on. But the problem mentioned above, with respect to Christianity, arises here as well. One cannot find Buddhist meaning without Buddhist truth. If “The Four Noble Truths” are not true, why meditate? But that is not all. Buddhism and Christianity affirm different and antithetical worldviews at their very core. They both cannot be true, since they disagree on minor things like the existence of the soul, the afterlife, and the ultimate reality (God or Nirvana). So, the absurdities multiply for de Botton who obliviously marches from chapter to chapter cherry- picking likeable aspects of false religions—whose meaning depends on their mutually-exclusive truths. Oh, my! How bad can it get? One must invoke the Apostle here:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:21-22).

In looting from the biblical ideal of fellowship, de Bottom imagines an “Agape Restaurant, a secular descendent of the Eucharist and of the tradition of Christian communal dining” (45). But later in the chapter, he invokes the debauched tradition of “the feast of fools,” in which normal social relations are skewed to let off the steam built up through good behavior. This means a lot of debauchery.  Of course, there is nothing like a “feast of fools” in the Bible, but no matter. For de Botton the “feast of fools” turns into a sexual orgy, which is pornographically depicted on page 67. Stunned, I ripped it out and disposed of it immediately after briefly seeing it. So, in the irresponsibly eclectic and illogical mind of Alain de Botton one can equally draw from the practice of Holy Communion and from the unholy pagan bacchanalia, the likes of which the Apostle Paul explicitly condemns.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

But mixing communion with “acts of the flesh” for his atheist religion is quite convenient for de Botton and entirely unjustified by any consistent set of godless principles.

Not only is de Botton’s program for religious atheism absurd on several levels, it also testifies to the paucity of atheism qua atheism to deliver any objective or lasting human meaning based on transcendent truths. As astronomer Carl Sagan asserted without argument in Cosmos in 1980: “The universe is all that is, was, or ever will be.” As such atheism fails a necessary test for the truthfulness of a worldview. This is how I articulated it in Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity, 2011) when discussing the rational tests for a worldview.

Criterion 5a: For a worldview to be a likely candidate for truth, its essential propositions must be existentially viable.

Criterion 5b: If a worldview leads habitually to philosophical hypocrisy, it is rationally disqualified, since this indicates that it does not correspond to reality.

Atheism is not existentially viable (or livable), since we are meaning-seeking beings supposedly lost in a meaningless world. As Francis Schaeffer said in The God Who is There, this would be like a fish developing lungs in a world without an oxygen atmosphere. It is beyond pointless. This reality leads atheists such as de Botton to commit philosophical hypocrisy by vainly trying to purloin ideas from antithetical religious worldviews to give some meaning to an ultimately meaningless world. It melts down to these two logically incompatible propositions:

  1. There is no objective meaning in the world, because there is no God to bestow it.
  2. Religion, while false, gives us objective meaning.

But obviously, if (1) is true, then (2) must be false. One must engage in vicious mystification to try to think otherwise. A logically consistent set of two propositions for the atheist is as follows:

  1. There is no objective meaning in the world, because there is no God to bestow it.
  2. Therefore: all religious practices based on the idea of God’s existence lose their meaning and should be shunned, since God does not exist.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), perhaps the leading philosophical atheist of the twentieth century, put it unforgettably in his often anthologized essay, “A Free Man’s Worship.”

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

Russell, who drank the cup of atheism to the dregs, realized his godless fate. The “worship” of which he speaks later in the essay is simply the refusal to engage in the worship of power. It has nothing to do with de Bottom’s hopeless program of ontologically empty activities.

However, the Christian can offer a “religion for atheists” — Christianity itself. But that, of course, requires the abandonment of atheism, the embrace of theism and the Incarnation, and the end of pretending otherwise. Only then, will religious meaning become a reality for the thirsty soul. As Jesus put it at the beginning of his world-changing ministry, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
Denver Seminary
January 2013

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Consciousness and the Existence of God by J.P. Moreland

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Books that J.P. has authored, edited, or contributed articles.
Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument
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Consciousness and the Existence of God
by J.P. Moreland

  • Title: Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument
  • Publish Date: 11/22/2009
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  • Publisher: Routlege
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Description:

Consciousness and the Existence of God is a useful, single volume that reflects a synthesis of my perspective on the “argument from consciousness.” Some of my earlier publications reflect work on this argument (e.g., in my 1987 intermediate text, Scaling the Secular City), and additional works either summarize it even more tightly (e.g., my chapter in the 2009 Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology) or develops it in further ways (e.g., my 2009 book, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei)

Two trends in philosophy and theology provide the rationale for this book. First, there has been an explosion of literature in philosophy of religion, philosophical theology, classic theology and religious studies. An important part of this explosion is a renewed vigor and excellence in discussions of the arguments for and against the existence of God. In the last three decades, philosophers trained in analytic philosophy have applied their craft to these discussions with the result that there is now a rich dialog taking place.  Second, there is an interesting dialectic occurring in philosophy of mind. A large number, perhaps the majority, of philosophical naturalists (e.g., David Papineau, Frank Jackson, the Churchlands) hold that naturalism does not sit well with irreducible sui generis mental properties/events and advocate a (cottage industry of) strong form(s) of physicalism. However, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the various versions of strong physicalism, and more and more are breaking ranks by venturing into emergent property dualism (e.g., the evolution of Jaegwon Kim’s thought in the last ten years), at least for phenomenal consciousness.

Curiously, these two trends—the explosion in philosophy of religion and the growing importance of clarifying the relationship between naturalism and the resurgence of emergent property dualism—are taking place largely in a sort of bibliographical isolation from each other; scholars are not interacting with these trends as they could. However, Consciousness and the Existence of God seeks to remedy this isolation. At the time of publication, to my knowledge, it was the only book-length attempt written from a theistic perspective to examine the issue of whether or not sui generis consciousness provides a significant defeater for naturalism and substantial evidence for theism. I believe that this book has the potential to open new territory of consideration, especially as more philosophers realize the relationship between finite consciousness and broader worldview considerations, including the interface between the two trends mentioned above. I hope to introduce philosophers of religion to issues in philosophy of mind with which they often do not address and to introduce philosophers of mind, especially naturalists, with the way topics in philosophy of religion inform their area of reflection. In that regard, some of this project might be an endeavor in “metaphilosophy”; trying to make sense of broader philosophical factors and consequences across different fields and areas.

The book’s central claim is that the existence of finite, irreducible consciousness (or its regular, lawlike correlation with physical states) provides evidence (with a strength I characterize) for the existence of God. I call this the Argument from Consciousness (hereafter, AC). I provide some argumentation for irreducible consciousness, but the focus of the book is the conditional “If irreducible consciousness exists (or is regularly correlated with physical states), then this provides evidence (to a degree specified in chapter two) for God’s existence.”

In chapter one, I show how naturalist epistemic considerations along with a naturalist etiological account of how things have come-to-be provide constraints on a naturalist ontology. The constraints, along with other considerations, imply that positive naturalism (a form of naturalism that claims superiority over alternative worldviews due to its explanatory power) should be strong naturalism (all particulars, properties, relations and laws are physical). Weak naturalism accepts various forms of emergent entities that I classify. The upshot of chapter one is that the inner logic of naturalism places a severe burden of proof on those naturalists who would embrace (certain kinds of) emergent properties. In chapter two I present three versions of AC, assess the strength of the evidence it supplies for theism, and clarify and defend its major premises. I conclude that the presence of AC as a rival to naturalism places an additional burden of proof on those who opt for weak naturalism.

In chapters three through seven, I analyze and criticize the top representative of rival approaches to explaining the origin of consciousness. Chapters three through five focus on naturalist approaches:  John Searle and contingent correlation (chapter three), Timothy O’Connor and emergent necessitation (chapter four), Colin McGinn and mysterian “naturalism” (chapter five). In chapters six and seven, I consider views that I claim are not plausibly taken to be versions of (positive) naturalism:  David Skrbina and panpsychism (chapter six) and Philip Clayton and pluralistic emergentist monism (chapter seven). I conclude that these approaches fail for various reasons and, in light of the considerations in chapters one and two, AC stands as the most plausible view currently available.

In light of this fact, a naturalist has an additional reason for opting for strong naturalism. Accordingly, he or she may claim that while possible, scientific evidence has made substance or emergent property dualism untenable. While it is not my main purpose to defend property dualism, I do lay out evidence for it in chapter one. Part of that evidence consists in providing some new insights into the Knowledge Argument and into issues surrounding intentionality that favor (at least) property dualism. In chapter eight, I argue that science provides virtually no evidence at all for strong physicalism and, in fact, the central issues at the core of the mind/body problem are philosophical and not scientific. Given that science does not justify physicalism and given that most physicalists claim that science is the main justification for the view, it is important to ask why physicalism is so popular among contemporary philosophers of mind. In chapter nine, I argue that the fear of God—what McGinn calls “the cosmic authority problem”—is the main reason for physicalism’s popularity. I turn this claim into an argument against physicalism and show that it is the relationship between dualism (substance or property) and theism, especially as formulated in AC, which accounts for physicalism’s hegemony.

As a result of the work by serious philosophical theists and Christian theists writing in consciousness studies, I would like to see non-theists be more explicit about how the problem of consciousness’s origin and existence motivates their physicalism, and I would like to see more interaction with the argument from consciousness.  I would also like to see theists develop the argument more fully and employ it more in their work.

I dedicated Consciousness and the Existence of God to my colleague and dear friend, William Lane Craig, because of his love for God, his fidelity to truth and his dedication to the defense of the knowledge of God for all peoples.

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Few contemporary Christians, however, have given more thoughtful and philosophical backing to a kind of pragmatic test for truth than has Francis Schaeffer. In a chapter called, “How do we know it is true?” Schaeffer outlines his test for truth as follows: “The theory must be non-contradictory and must give an answer to the phenomenon in question,” and, second, “we must be able to live consistently with our theory ” (emphasis added). Schaeffer admits that a non-Christian view such as materialism may  fit the second “for man simply cannot live as though he were a machine.” The Christian view of the universe, however, “can be lived with, both in life and in scholarly pursuits.” And “it should be added in conclusion that the Christian, after he is a Christian, has years of experimental evidence to add to all the above reasons.” Thus crucial to the falsity of the non-Christian view is its unlivability and experiential verification.

Schaeffer illustrates his point by what he thinks of as a kind of broad experiential teleological argument. He notes that no one can really live a chance philosophy of pure materialism. Schaeffer references Jackson but ultimately exhausted his method, and died at an early age. The American musician John Cage, who flipped coins to determine notes, took up hunting mushrooms as a hobby. He confessed, “I became aware that if I approached mushrooms in the spirit of my chance operations, I would die shortly. So I decided that I would not approach them in this way!” Pollock is dead because he tried in vain to live his chance philosophy. Cage lived on because he was inconsistent with his random view of the universe. Both approved that dysteleology (anti-design) is unvilvable. Therefore, to live consistently, one must believe that this universe is a designed and personal one (i.e., atheistic one). Of course, Schaeffer gives much more elaboration and sophistication to his position, but the broad pragmatic emphasis is there nonetheless. Only the Christian view is consistent and livable, and all non-Christian views are in the final analysis unlivable. Experience confirms this to be true (page 110 of CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS by Norman Geisler). 

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