Monday, August 3, 2015

Humanity: Knowing who we are is Knowing how to Live





It should be obvious that if we are to live the good and maximally beneficial life, we have to know who we are and what we need. Without this knowledge, we do not know how to take care of ourselves. It’s like maintaining anything. If we don’t understand our car, we will destroy it. We have to know that the gas goes in the gas tank, and the water goes into the radiator and not into the gas tank. We also need to know where to find the gas pedal and where to find the brakes.

Knowledge is necessary for the care of anything, even our clothing and the kitchen stove. This is uncontroversial! However, when it comes to understanding humanity and human nature, this understanding is often overlooked, as if there is no human nature at all.

Strangely, we do not forget that our cat, parakeet, and goldfish have their own nature and therefore require care in accordance with their nature. We do not throw our parakeet in the fish's bow; nor do we place our fish in a bird cage. Each creature has its own optimal environment.

However, we show even less attention to our human nature, assuming that our individual differences represent the totality of who we are.

We encounter one example of this disregard for human nature in the last place that we should expect it – in the study of clinical psychology. This study has been dominated by a preoccupation with the pathological, the human differences, not the commonalities.

Myopically, to determine what is pathological, clinical psych has adopted a medical model. According to this model, the pathological is what causes pain or symptomology like sores or swelling. However, when we apply this model to psychology, whatever causes long-term pain, discomfort, or interferes with personal fulfillment is considered pathological. Consequently, the optimal human state is to be pain-free, without unpleasant symptoms, and to be maximally fulfilled or happy. For most psychotherapists, the goal is to reduce unwanted symptomology. (Just look at how they advertise their services!)

However, there is much the matter with this analysis. Pain is also a good thing. It tells us when we have to remove our hand from a hot stove. Likewise, guilt tells us that we might be doing something wrong. To be without pain-receptors is to be a leper. To be without a conscience and guilt feelings is to be a sociopath. Pain is often necessary!

This raises the questions, “What is our common human nature? What is normalcy (if there is such a thing)? And how do we live in accordance with our human nature?” Failing to answer these questions makes it impossible to talk about pathology. Is it pathological to have a sensitive conscience? To not feel bad in the context of injustice? To be concerned about what others think of us? To live our lives for our family at the expense of our own fulfillment?

In comparison, medical issues are relatively simple. Sickness is something that interferes with our maximal physical functioning. But what does it mean to be mentally sick? In order to answer this question, we need to understand what it means to be mentally healthy – something psychology knows little about.

At a secular discussion group, one participant stated that our purpose is to “glorify humanity.” Central to this glorification is our freedom of thought to question everything without any limitations, moral or otherwise.

While I agree with many aspects of this assertion, I think that we need to further explore what it means to be “free.” Is freedom the absence of limitations or rules, as many are prone to believe today? Just try to play chess with complete freedom to move our pieces any way so want and at any time. Complete freedom represents chaos and a meaningless, unsatisfying game of chess.

Complete freedom can also represent supreme bondage. Take the goldfish in his very limiting fishbowl. He eyeballs the great world outside of his bowl and concludes, “I need to be free of the limitations of this bowl.” With a great effort, he jumps out of his bowl, flapping helplessly on the floor below. 

The goldfish had maximized his freedom within the limitations of water. Perhaps we too need to learn about our human limitations and to live in accordance with them. Perhaps, as with any other creature, we were created for a specific environment or set of lifestyles that maximize our freedom and well-being.

Let me suggest two sets of limitations within which we should live – what we believe/think and how we act.

WHAT WE BELIEVE/THINK

Thinking accurately is essential. Our thinking must be limited by the truth or wisdom. Our thought processes largely determine if we are going to navigate successfully through life. If we are not accessing and responding to accurate data, we will cash our car. As we drive, we need to know precisely where the other cars are. Anything less will produce catastrophe.

Does this insight also pertain to the gushier aspects of our lives? Definitely! If I think that my mailman is canvassing my house in order to find the right occasion to kill me, this will adversely affect my feelings towards him and my behavior.

More to the point, I used to think that others didn’t like me and was convinced that, in order for them to like me, I had to become a different person. Such a belief was not only inaccurate, it was also costly, alienating me from myself and from others.

Everyone has their areas of blindness. One dear friend believed that most women were terribly attracted to him, even those who told him “no!” His blindness in this area proved costly, including several arrests.

Blindness is always associated with crashes, costs, and even arrests. This means that maturity and growth must entail growth in understanding the truth – seeing reality as it is. This realization suggests that we are constrained by the truth of reality. While we are free to create our own reality, to can only be done at the price of a costly collision with reality.

This same principle applies to human nature. We might decide that we are free to recreate ourselves – and to a certain extent, we can do so – but there are human constraints to which we must adhere.

HOW WE BEHAVE MORALLY

In another way, we are constrained by our human nature. It seems apparent that our human nature is also a moral nature. If we live contrary to our moral nature, we will  crash. Of course, we can choose to live in conflict with our moral nature, but only at great cost to ourselves.

A friend had recently confided that, as a young man, he had become the “mascot” of some mafia-type guys. My friend now calls them “monsters.” They had everything – power, money, respect, women – but they were miserable. There was no joy in their lives. Why not? They were living in opposition to their moral nature. They knew better, but they rejected this knowledge.

Meanwhile, many studies have shown that the most satisfied people are those who live according to what they know within themselves. They know that being other-centered is right, and they live that way.

When I live selfishly, I feel most uncomfortable. However, when I center myself on the needs of others, I experience the greatest joy and peace.

What then does it mean to be free, and how do we maximize our freedom? When we live in accordance with the truth, whether external or internal! This means living in accordance with the limitations of our human nature.

CAN A PILL BE INVENTED THAT WILL ALLOW US TO LIVE FREE FROM OUR CONSTRAINING NATURE?

A pill will not enable us to circumvent reality, no more than an anti-anxiety drug will enable us to drive blindfolded.

Even more to the point, why would anyone want to circumvent reality? Only a superficial view of reality would cause us to ask such a question. Some believe that reality is nothing but change. In this case, human nature and moral reality is nothing to be reckoned with. Better to be a trend-setter!

However, if human nature is such by the design of a superior Intelligence who has created us with a moral nature to understand Him and to enter into a loving and eternal relationship with Him, our nature is to be cherished and not changed.

Yes, we are glorious, but how so? As we walk in sync with Reality – our Creator - first in belief and then in action!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Do Doctrines Divide?





Many in the Western church are choosing mystical experience over doctrinal truth. Why? Because they insist that doctrines divide us, while common mystical experience can bring us together. Mysticism is now touted as the means to directly experience God, making our “divisive” doctrines unnecessary. These experiences are achieved, not through believing the truth but through techniques available to all, irrespective of their religious orientations.  In this regard, sociologist Tony Campolo writes:

  • A theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of ecstatic union with God…I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism. (Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, 108)
According to Campolo, we can plug into God through mystical techniques and experiences. He claims that he has been able to achieve “intimacy with Christ” through “centering prayer” (113) – for him, the repetition of the name of Jesus. However, he suggests that Muslims – and probably others – may also be able to achieve this same “intimacy with Christ” through the use of similar mystical techniques. If this is so, then theology and doctrine are no longer important.

This raises the question, “What is an ‘ecstatic union with God?’” The Bible makes no mention of such a thing. This Biblical silence speaks loudly, especially since Scripture claims to provide everything that we need for a relationship with God:

  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
If mysticism is the means for world unity and peace, we should expect that Scripture would say something about this!

If anyone had experienced an “ecstatic union with God,” it was Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. However, instead of teaching His disciples about how to have an “ecstatic union with God,” He instructed them to not tell anyone about what they had seen (Matt. 17:11). If there ever had been a teachable moment to introduce mystical methods, it was then!

Moses also had a fantastic mountain-top experience, through which his countenance was transformed. However, instead of telling the Israelites about how they too could experience God, he related to them God’s words (Exodus 34:29-34). Rather than focusing upon having an experience, Moses placed the emphasis upon the Word of God.

Campolo fails to recognize that there is a prohibitive price to be paid for genuine experiences or revelations from God. God had taken Paul on a journey to heaven. However, lest he become proud about what he had learned and experienced, God chastened him severely (2 Cor, 12:1-10)!

However, it is important to realize that each one of these transformative experiences had been the product of God’s initiative and not human manipulations. In fact, the idea that we humans can coerce an “ecstatic union with God” is sheer arrogance.

At a low point in his ministry, Moses did request a divine revelation: “Show me your glory” (Exod. 33:18). However, God delivered in the form of doctrinal content rather than an ecstatic experience. He placed Moses in “the cleft of a rock,” while “His glory passed by” (33:22) and He honored him with His Self-disclosure (33:19).

But do we really encounter God through mystical techniques, and what assurance do we have that we aren’t really plugging into something malevolent? The mystic:

  • Richard Foster claims that practitioners must use caution. He admits that in contemplative prayer “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” and that sometimes it is not the realm of God even though it is “supernatural.” He admits there are spiritual beings and that a prayer of protection should be said beforehand – something to the effect of “All dark and evil spirits must now leave.” (Roger Oakland, 99)
Foster is presumptuous if he thinks that just a “prayer of protection” will suffice.  In view of these spiritual threats, he should be asking if he has taken the wrong path, an unbiblical one, one that has taken him outside of the parameter of God’s protective hand! In view of the fact that the Devil poses as an agent of the light (2 Cor. 11:14), what guarantee does Foster have that he hasn’t been deceived?

This leads us to the next question: “Can people of other religions employ mystical techniques to experience God?” For one thing, God is the last Person that the unredeemed wants to experience. Naturally speaking, we hate God (Rom. 8:8:6-7) and can’t stand His presence:

  • This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
Even the children of Israel couldn’t tolerate His presence:

  • When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:18-19)
The last thing they wanted was a more intimate encounter! Surprisingly, God was pleased that Israel had this fearful awareness and, therefore, wouldn’t try to pursue a mystical union with Him. Without the redemption of the cross, He too didn’t want to be in Israel’s presence. He explained that He might destroy them if He came into their presence:

  • I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” (Exodus 33:2- 3) 
Campolo suggests that the Muslims might also be experiencing God, apart from faith in Christ. However, if they were to experience God, they would be experiencing His wrath:

  • The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. (Romans 1:18)
It is only through faith in Jesus that we have been redeemed from the wrath of God: It is only through Him that we can enter boldly into His presence:

  • Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Mysticism would not be quite so offensive if it only claimed to influence our personal experience. However, it also claims to influence God! Campolo writes:

  • The constant repetition of his name clears my head of everything but the awareness of his presence. By driving back all other concerns, I am able to create what the ancient Celtic Christians called “the thin place.” The thin place is that spiritual condition wherein the separation between the self and God becomes so thin that God is able to break through and envelope the soul. (114)
Campolo claims that “constant repetition … to create…the thin place” out of a thick separation between he and God, enables his less-than-omnipotent god “to break through and envelope the soul.” In essence, Campolo has become the prime agent of reconciliation, since God, by Himself, is unable!

However, Scripture assures us that God already lives within us to such an extent that we can confidently say:

  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)
Mysticism preaches a different Christ, One who is not omnipotent and cannot break through to us without our mindless repetitions or other profane techniques. Jesus even warned us against this practice:

  • And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
Repetitions might make us feel connected, but they have nothing to do with our relationship with our Savior! Instead, God wants truth, not repetitions, in our inmost being (Psalm 51:6). This truth should entail contrition and repentance and not ecstatic union!

Perhaps most troubling of all, Campolo claims that, through his “centering prayer,” he is the one who has removed or thinned the separating barrier between him and God. However, God claims that this is a barrier that He has eliminated through the cross, renting the separating temple veil in two! Of course, this is not to deny that we do erect barriers through our sins. However, we address such barriers through confession and repentance and not mystical practices!

In general, the mystics teach a different Christ, a Christ who is not so much concerned about truth, faith, doctrine, righteousness, repentance, obedience, and holiness as He is about learning techniques – repetitions, centering prayer, imaginations, visualizations and practicing silence. These are practices that find absolutely no biblical support.

Nevertheless, experience is essential to the Christian life. However, we enjoy this experience through the blessings of learning about our Lord (2 Peter 1:2-3; 1 Cor. 3:18; Jer. 9:23-24).

Our experience/feelings reflect what we understand! Having experienced decades of depression and self-loathing prior to coming to Christ, these tendencies had been deeply imprinted upon my flesh. They were so deep that I even felt that God loathed me. It seemed that God had created humanity for His own sadistic entertainment – plenty of laughs. However, one evening, He made very real for me the cross, His own suffering and compassion (Hebrews 4:15; Isaiah 63:9). My tears of gratitude have not ceased flowing since!

Sometimes, Divisions are Unavoidable, even Necessary

In the church, we are to avoid divisions. The Apostle Paul pleaded for us to maintain our unity:

  • Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:2-6)
However, we can only preserve unity where there is already a basis or foundation – Jesus - for that unity. We cannot create bonds of brotherhood where there are none. Nor can a skilled midwife bring forth a baby where there is none already waiting in the womb. Instead, we are called to be separate:

  • Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
It is Christ’s unity that must be preserved and not a unity of our own invention. Instead, we must not compromise our relationship with our Savior with bonds that will lead us into compromise.

This doesn’t mean that we cannot love and befriend those who do not share Christ with us. We certainly must, but these bonds cannot be such that they will diminish our life with the Lord. We cannot be yoked together with unbelievers in a way that compromises our supreme marriage.

However, within the church, we must be scrupulous about anything that might harm the Body of Christ. “A little leaven [sin] leavens [spreads sin throughout] the whole loaf” (Gal. 5:9).

In the Book of Revelation, the Holy Spirit provided the churches with the results of His theological evaluation. The church at Ephesus was even commended for its intolerance and willingness to risk divisions:

  • I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. (Revelation 2:2-3)
Sometimes intolerance, division, and excommunication are commendable. There are other times when the churches were too tolerant, too concerned about achieving an unbiblical and superficial unity, that they were castigated by the Spirt. This was the case with the church at Pergamus:

  • Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! (Revelation 2:14-16)
Evidently, the church at Pergamus lacked an adequate understanding or appreciation of God’s truths and concerns – theology! This was also the case with the church at Thyatira:

  • Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. (Revelation 2:20-21)
Excommunication seems so archaic, intolerant, and unloving to modern ears. However, we are instructed to pursue this form of church discipline, not only for the benefit of the church, but also for the offender. Paul mentions two such offenders:

  • Timothy… fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20) 
For their own welfare, Hymenaeus and Alexander had to be taught to not blaspheme. To accomplish this, strong measures are sometimes needful to bring about repentance. Paul also advised excommunication for an unrepentant man having sex with his father’s wife:

  • When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)
Paul was not only concerned about the church but also the salvation of the unrepentant.

We Christians are often told that, “You shouldn’t judge.” However, when our critics judge us in this manner, they are also judging themselves. This should demonstrate that there is no way around judging and making divisions. They are a necessary part of life.

Mystical Experience and Peace

Can mystical experience unite the world and bring the peace that Campolo hopes for? I don’t see how! Already, we share many common experiences – fear, desire, family, children, friends, anxiety…  The list is almost endless. However, these haven’t brought peace. Why then expect that another common experience might bring peace?

My wife and I share many common experiences. However, we have to strive to maintain peace. How? With God’s theological truths! These instruct us how to please God and to love others:

  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
These truths take precedence over all over our feelings and experiences, as they should!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Can we Learn Anything from History?





Some believe that history doesn’t teach us any lessons. At a round table discussion with a group of secularists, I asked:

  • Do you think we can learn from the past? Can we apply the lessons of yesterday to today and to the future? Can they instruct us to build a better world?
Almost all proclaimed that this was a new day – a New Age – and, therefore, the lessons of the past no longer applied.

Their answer was shocking. I had worked for the New York City Department of Probation for 15 years. There was an underlying assumption that the past would tell us a lot about the future. Therefore, when we wrote a report to the court, we always included a copy of the Rap Sheet, which recorded the perp’s criminal history, assuming that the past said a lot about one’s present legal entanglements and his future.

However, progressives seem to be unwilling to regard these lessons. Why? Jason Morgan calls it “the pathology of pride”:

  • Most of today’s intellectuals are still lost in this present progressive tense, deaf to the subtle tones that ought to modulate their voices from behind. They dismiss all who came before them, rejecting whatever wisdom our ancestors might have won through hard trial and costly error. They want the future now, and will not let any notes of caution dissuade them from their project. (Salvo Mag., #33, 12)
This is most apparent in the area of human sexuality. Morgan writes:

  • Gender Studies departments assure us that there are no differences in sex, only in gender indoctrination. Our bodies seem to indicate otherwise, but dual sexuality is so last century. (13)
Do these departments provide any historical justifications for their bizarre proclamations? No! In fact, they overlook all of the historic lessons, which point to the contrary. These same departments had claimed that traditional values and family had enslaved wives, depriving them of sexual fulfillment. However, studies have shown the exact opposite thing:

  • Women without religious affiliation were the least likely to report always having an orgasm with their primary partner – only one in five … Protestant women who reported always having an orgasm [had] the highest [percentage], at nearly one-third. In general, having a religious affiliation was associated with higher rates of orgasm for women. (The Social Organization of Sexuality, 115; quoted by Salvo, Spring 2013, 35)
This is consistent with previous studies. A Redbook Magazine survey of 1970 found that:

  • The more religious a woman is, the more likely she is “to be orgasmic almost every time she engages in sex.” Conversely, irreligious women tended to be the least satisfied with the quality and quantity of their intercourse. (35)
Writing for USA Today, William R. Mattox:

  • Suggested that “church ladies tend to be free from the guilt associated with violating one’s own sexual standards” – a factor that a University of Connecticut study found to hinder sexual satisfaction among unmarried college students. 
Are the gender studies people creating a better society? The evidence would not suggest so. According to Brian Fitzpatrick, the most “definitive work on the rise and fall of civilizations, was published in 1934 by Oxford anthropologist J.D. Unwin”:

  • In Sex and Culture, Unwin studied 86 human civilizations ranging from tiny South Sea island principalities to mighty Rome. He found that a society’s destiny is linked inseparably to the limits it imposes on sexual expression and that those sexual constraints correlate directly to its theological sophistication and religious commitment.
  • Unwin noted that the most primitive societies had only rudimentary spiritual beliefs and virtually no restrictions on sexual expression, whereas societies with more sophisticated theologies placed greater restrictions on sexual expression and achieved greater social development.
  • In particular, cultures that adopt what Unwin dubbed “absolute monogamy” proved to be the most vigorous, economically productive, artistically creative, scientifically innovative, and geographically expansive societies on earth. Absolute monogamy is a very strict moral code. Under absolute monogamy, sex can occur only within one-man/ one-woman marriage. Premarital and extramarital sex are not tolerated and divorce is prohibited.
Even from our limited, contemporary perspective on human thriving, we can see how Unwin had been spot-on:

  • According to the Family Research Council… more than half (54 percent of American teens 15-17 years old do not live in a home with their married mother and father. The benefits to children of being raised by their married parents are significant, including higher educational attainments levels, better emotional health, and better self-esteem. Conversely, the risks to teens of not living with a father in the home are notable. Teenage boys are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, and girls are seven to eight times more likely to experience a teen pregnancy. (Salvo, 19)
Besides, if we regard the stats, the fallout from extramarital sex is horrendous. We can only close our eyes to history at great cost, even in terms of lives.

The French Revolution, which promised freedom, brought a Reign of Terror through their “enlightened” reason. However, the communists were unwilling to learn from this horrible experiment. Morgan writes:

  • Communism, which promised the ultimate in a rationally based society, found, much to their embarrassment, that in order to liberate humanity it was necessary to put tens of millions of its members into an early grave. A clearer view of history might have reminded man of his record of depravity and of the inadvisability of relying on his fallen nature to achieve perfection.
Morgan is not simply concerned about the disregard of history, but he claims that the “pathology of pride” is actively involved in tearing down or revising history to coincide with their narrative:

  • The problem, beyond bad scholarship, is that young people flock to these madhouses every year, told by cynical university bureaucrats that they need to learn contempt for their own tradition if they want to get a well-paying job. Professors are being paid to take battle-axes to the roots of Western civilization.
In such a repressive climate, even conservative professors are afraid to come to the defense of Western Civilization. Oddly, commendation for the Christian West is more likely to come from Muslims turned atheists. Pakistani former-Muslim, Ibn Warraq, has written:

  • The great ideas of the West—rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law and equality under the law, freedom of thought and expression, human rights, and liberal democracy—are superior to any others devised by humankind. It was the West that took steps to abolish slavery; the calls for abolition did not resonate even in Africa, where rival tribes sold black prisoners into slavery. The West has secured freedoms for women and racial and other minorities to an extent unimaginable 60 years ago. The West recognizes and defends the rights of the individual: we are free to think what we want, to read what we want, to practice our religion, to live lives of our choosing.
  • In short, the glory of the West, as philosopher Roger Scruton puts it, is that life here is an open book. Under Islam, the book is closed. In many non-Western countries, especially Islamic ones, citizens are not free to read what they wish. In Saudi Arabia, Muslims are not free to convert to Christianity, and Christians are not free to practice their faith—clear violations of Article 18 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • The edifice of modern science and scientific method is one of Western man’s greatest gifts to the world. The West has given us not only nearly every scientific discovery of the last 500 years—from electricity to computers—but also, thanks to its humanitarian impulses, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. The West provides the bulk of aid to beleaguered Darfur; Islamic countries are conspicuous by their lack of assistance.
  • Moreover, other parts of the world recognize Western superiority. When other societies such as South Korea and Japan have adopted Western political principles, their citizens have flourished. It is to the West, not to Saudi Arabia or Iran, that millions of refugees from theocratic or other totalitarian regimes flee, seeking tolerance and political freedom. Nor would any Western politician be able to get away with the anti-Semitic remarks that former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad made in 2003. Our excusing Mahathir’s diatribe indicates not only a double standard but also a tacit acknowledgment that we apply higher ethical standards to Western leaders.
  • Nor does the West need lectures on the superior virtue of societies in which women are kept in subjection under sharia, endure genital mutilation, are stoned to death for alleged adultery, and are married off against their will at the age of nine; societies that deny the rights of supposedly lower castes; societies that execute homosexuals and apostates. The West has no use for sanctimonious homilies from societies that cannot provide clean drinking water or sewage systems, that make no provisions for the handicapped, and that leave 40 to 50 percent of their citizens illiterate.
Another Muslim-turned-atheist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also speaks highly of the Christian West, in a way the Western scholars would not dare to:

  • The Christianity of love and tolerance remains one of the West’s most powerful antidotes to the Islam of hate and intolerance. Ex-Muslims find Jesus Christ to be a more attractive and humane figure than Muhammad, the founder of Islam. 
These are willing to listen to history, as any rational person would. A good farmer once told me:

  • If you want to grow corn, find the farmer who always has a good stand of corn, and ask him how he does it. 
His advice was unimpeachable. However, I had asked my secular associates a similar question - if we could learn anything from the principles that had made the USA wildly successful. They were even appalled at my question.