Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Bucket Full of Sand, and the Lost Sheep

Not long ago, my family and I took a trip down to the Gulf Coast by Alabama for a week long vacation and family getaway.  The drive from our hometown to the southern most tip of Alabama was no less than 1,000 miles.  This equated to a one-way trip of close to 15 hours in the car (more like 18 hours if you factor in stopping for lunch and dinner).  Despite the odds of my wife and I ending up in a mental institution from attempting this trip with three young children, we decided to knock out the drive in one day.  We day tripped from dusk to dawn, and finally made it to our hotel by midnight.

There were some strange things that happened along the way.  We look back now and laugh, but at the time it really wasn't too amusing.  For instance, someone had called and cancelled our reservation in Alabama earlier that same morning (and it wasn't us!).  We had a flat tire needing repair about halfway through the trip as well.  We stayed in a hotel room that emanated second-hand smoke from the carpet to the ceiling - all the while with "no smoking" cards placed everywhere in the room.  These things make me smile as I am sitting here writing about them.  This is the price we pay for getting away to some place new.  Each vacation is its own mini adventure.  Chevy Chase would have been proud (you may remember the National Lampoon's Vacation movie he made famous).  

Overall we couldn't complain, of course.  In a country that has yet to fully recover from the housing market crash in 2008, our family of five took a comfortable vacation to a white sand beach with an amazing view of the ocean.  God's beauty is amazing at times: we were packing up to leave the beach for the hotel one evening and I snapped a picture of the sunset over the water.  A surreal mixture of peace and satisfaction came over me.  Life was good.  In fact, we are still shaking beach sand out of our family car to this day (a week and a half later).

Not every day was full of bliss however.  One day in particular comes to mind, while we were busy splashing in the waves and having a good time, my wife happened to look up and notice that our youngest son was nowhere to be found.  We had rented some blue beach chairs with an umbrella so we could be comfortable while relaxing in the hot sun, and a moment earlier he had been playing in the sand with a small toy shovel and a plastic bucket right next to them.  He was gone in the blink of an eye.  It was a holiday weekend and the 32 mile long beach was lined with thousands of people.  I am reminded of the scene from the remarkable Steven Spielberg film 'Minority Report', where Tom Cruise's character takes his young son to the public pool.  After practicing how long he could hold his breath under water, Cruise surfaces to find that his son is gone.  In the film, Cruise never finds his son again.  I can't help drawing parallels to this experience with that scene.  It was terrifying to watch on a movie screen, and it was terrifying to experience it firsthand.  It really was like a scene from a movie.  

Jesus tells three versions of a parable that are interrelated in the Gospel accounts of the Bible that I think we can use to help illustrate this feeling.  The one I will focus on here is the parable of the lost sheep that appears in Matthew chapter 18, verse 12: "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13“If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14“So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish."  

In terms of exegesis, there are different ways to unpack this Scripture.  But I think the main thrust of the parable is obvious in this context.  If God so loved the world that He sacrificed His one and only Son, then why wouldn't he take the extra trouble to go and retrieve someone who had wandered from the Faith and restore him or her?  Why wouldn't He take any amount of trouble necessary to save you and I from a Christ-less existence?  Why shouldn't we take trouble (as representatives of the Gospel message ourselves) to chase after the sheep?

Of course, while we were frantically looking for my son at the beach, I could muster none of this clarity of thought.  My main concern was fighting back the feeling of dread that was beginning to set in as three minutes went by ... then five minutes ... then ten minutes without seeing him anywhere.  My wife began to shed tears, and people around us were starting to take notice.  If you have ever witnessed a scene like this, even if it involved people whom you have never met, you may note that it is impossible to ignore.  Eventually, during my second or third trip back and forth around the beach, two strangers sitting behind us called out to me, "hey!"  I turned, and heading my way was my youngest son, plastic bucket in tow.  I thanked the couple who had said something to me in order to call my attention to him, and apologized for the verbal punishment that my son was about to receive.

What if those people hadn't taken the extra time to get involved?  After all, we were strangers 1,000 miles from home.  What if the Shepard in Jesus' parable hadn't taken the time to temporarily leave the 99 other sheep and go after the stray?  What if you and I never take the time to tell anyone about the saving grace of God?  Given the circumstances, shouldn't we feel the same level of urgency that I felt on the beach that day while frantically looking for my son?  After all, the spiritual stakes are just as high.  I think we need to go after the sheep.  

Truth be told, I don't think that God typically requires us to share the Gospel message with complete strangers.  More often than not, I have a feeling it need only occur after relationships have been established and life experiences shared.  Less open air preaching to the man on the street, and more asking our friends if they want to come to church on Sunday.  Because if Jesus is at the center of our lives, then talking about Him bubbles up from the overflow in our hearts.  But our hearts are often scared to overflow I think.  What will people think if we tell them about Christ?  What will they whisper about us when we leave?

The image of finding my son again, holding that plastic bucket will be with me forever.  When he is 30 years old I imagine I will still remember that day.  Tears coming down his face, bleached blond hair from swimming all day, holding that bucket full of sand.  I hope he will tell me that he was grateful my wife and I came looking for him, that we didn't give up ... that we couldn't give up.  I hope some day after I am gone, God may pull me aside and show me other lives that were touched because I was bold enough to share His message with others, because I didn't give up.  I hope the same for you.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Some Lenten Humor ...

Atheism, the Universe, and Really Good Pizza

Last night our church kicked off a ten week series of classes called the Alpha Course.  This course is a chance for people from any background and religious view to check out what Christianity is, and to get a closer look at what the church does.  No question is off limits.  We had a full house last night; about 60 people showed up.  The first part of the class always consists of a dinner, and this time we decided to cater in pizza from one of the local restaurants here in town.  Imagine if you will, two conference room tables full of the most delightful pizza.  Pepperoni, sausage, cheese, Canadian bacon ... you get the idea.  I have often commented that this place makes the best pizza I have ever tasted.  In fact, you would have to argue diligently in order for me to change my mind.  Last night was as if someone sliced off a piece of heaven and brought it down to our church in the form of a multiple topping symphony.  

After the dinner, we listened to a talk that addressed three common objections to the Christian faith: supposedly some think it is boring, untrue, and irrelevant.  You may be able to think of other objections, but these three were taken from recent surveys conducted by various polling organizations who asked carefully phrased questions. When finished with the talk, we broke into several small groups.  There are 9 people in my group, including myself.  That means we have 9 separate insights, 9 different opinions, and 9 distinct ways of interpreting the world around us.  The discussion was lively, and I can expect only good things to come in the future.  

 The week prior to the Alpha course kick off I watched a debate between veteran Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and renowned physicist and atheist Sean Carroll.  The topic of the debate was 'God and Cosmology'.  The two men discussed whether or not current cosmological theory supports the concept of a monotheistic god.  No one here was attempting to assert that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, or trying to argue whether or not creationism should be taught in schools.  There was simply an examination of the evidence around us.

Carroll's main point seemed to be that we can get around the need for positing a belief in god by claiming that the Universe had no real beginning, and that since space and time have always been eternal - there is no reason to think that it was "brought into being" by anything or anyone.  He goes on to state that since the term theism itself is not very well defined (in other words you can ask anyone what it means and you will get a different answer), you cannot use it as an alternative explanation to an eternal Universe.  

This is an interesting claim, and we may in fact come to a place where the 9 of us address these ideas over some of that superb pizza.  But for now, let's speculate about these two positions right here on this blog.  Take the idea that the Universe has always been, and always will be.  Current evidence about the cosmos seems to point to a very different conclusion.  We can observe that matter in the universe is moving away from itself because this force leaves a particular signature that scientists can record and analyze.  This "expanding universe" seems to require an explosion from which everything began, and almost no one today refutes that there was some type of Big Bang or singularity that started everything.  That science cannot take us back far enough to know what exactly happened (or for that matter what may have existed) prior to this amazing event, I will not argue.  Some say it was simply another universe.  Others hold to a view that there must have been many universes, and ours is just one of them (this is called the world ensemble theory).  There is no evidence for either one of these theories by the way, and they work only in so far as to say we cannot scientifically disprove them either.  

Carroll also had a second point, namely that because theism (or the general belief in some type of god) was so ill-defined that you could not use it as any sort of alternative viewpoint.  This was somewhat shocking to me, since I think it is adequate to offer the totality of the Bible itself as a master document from which we may "define" theism.  Depending on the style or translation, most Bibles range anywhere between 900 - 2,000 pages.  It is a collection of 66 books by over 40 authors which spans some 1,500+ years.  The one thing you cannot say is that God (or in this case theism) is poorly defined.  You may say that you think it is untrue, inconsistent, incoherent, etc... but you cannot say there isn't enough information available!

So what are we to do with these two notions?  We have a universe that apparently did begin to exist at a certain point in time, and a God that has been written about and defined for us throughout the ages.  Can these two concepts go hand in hand?  I do think they are contiguous, but I will get to that in a minute.  What really struck me about Carroll's belief system was that it seemed he was ascribing certain eternal and mystical qualities to something that really isn't eternal.  In other words, the Universe and the study of the cosmos had become (I think) his God.  He wanted space to be everlasting, eternal, all encompassing, and larger than life.  These are all terms that have been used to describe God.  We may shift the attributes of the creator onto what has been created, but I don't think we can hide our desire to be awestruck by something that is larger than ourselves.  Carroll still has it, so do I.  That he and I place our awe in two different things is obvious, but I can't help wishing he could see the forest for the trees.  The Universe is enormous and it is often beautiful.  Why?  It certainly didn't have to be.  It also didn't have to be set up in such a way that allows human beings to be able to explore it and witness it's beauty.  Some have postulated that we are in an almost perfect location within the Milky Way galaxy from which to view the cosmos.  The apostle Paul says in the book of Romans that the evidence for God is apparent to all men by simply observing the created world around us.  It would appear this argument holds true for the heavens as well.  

I hope that people come to the Alpha course with these types of questions over the next couple weeks.  I hope that some who would never consider setting foot inside a church will also show up.  I believe it is very possible to reconcile the two solutions regarding Sean Carroll's claims (that we long for something eternal and meaningful, and that we have a God that is well defined).  His first point asks the question in a very basic and relevant way: why is anything here at all?  The second question infers this answer: because God put it there.  At most, I hope that people can walk away from church with more answers than they had when they arrived.  After all, if they don't show up, then what would we do with all of that leftover pizza?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Serendipity and a Stray Cat

Not long ago, my family and I welcomed a stray cat into our home.  It was a week or so before Christmas and I think the cat must have known it, perhaps he played upon our sympathies.  My daughter named him Leo.  From the time he appeared on our front porch to the time that my daughter and I drove to the store and purchased a cat box and mouse toy was approximately one hour.  I don't care what anyone says, Leo is our "Christmas cat."  

Leo is also ornery.  He is an older cat, the vet tells us maybe between 8 to 10 years old; my wife refers to him as a Grandpa Cat.  He likes his naps, during which time he has made it clear we must keep our distance (kind of like me).  He has a non-stop appetite, and enjoys a wide variety of people food.  He also loves to snuggle when someone picks him up - he will actually perch on your shoulder if you let him.  I often wonder about Leo's previous life.  Where he came from ... what kind of life he led prior to arriving at our doorstep.  Will he be a good fit for our family?  Only time will tell.  As I write this he has assumed the Garfield posture on the couch in our front room and he is engaged in his fourth nap of the day.  I may be a little jealous.

You see, our family went through what we privately call a "Grief-a-thon" not long ago.  One cold weekend in October we lost our longtime pet cat (who had also been a stray) to lung cancer.  She was close to 12 or 13 years old ... no one is really sure.  She was the sweetest animal I have ever known.  No boundaries, no aggression - just love.  We had to make the decision to put her down at the vet's office.  Two days later we lost our 14-year-old dog to an enlarged heart and emphysema.  She had been with my wife and I since we moved into our first apartment, straight through until we moved into our current home.  I referred to her as our Dog-ter (i.e.: a pun on daughter).  This was a second blow akin to what Mike Tyson must have felt when he faced Lennox Lewis for his last serious heavyweight boxing match.  We had to tell our kids that within two days we lost all of their pets.  To make matters worse, this was all sandwiched in between my wife's birthday.  You start to get the point.

Maybe a week later, we received news that my wife's grandfather was in failing health at the hospice and had days to live.  His name was Harold, and I liked him quite a bit.  He was strong and direct, and loved all of his grandchildren immensely.  Those fleeting few days went quickly, and he passed away.  There was a funeral shortly thereafter and he was laid to rest among an audience of those who loved him and truly grieved his absence.  It was, in no small part, a Grief-a-thon.  

As our family moved forward during the coming days, healing was at work.  In fact, I'm not so much blogging here as I am journaling.  I often think of God when I remember these events.  You see, we were grief-stricken but never dejected.  There was still laughter and smiles and hugs in our household.  God's joy and goodness still filled the center of our hearts.  We are fortunate to have His promise from the book of Hebrews, chapter 13, "Never will I forsake you, never will I leave you."  This is no small promise.  In fact, the faithful who walk with God on a daily basis have experienced this truth firsthand.  They have also lost cats and dogs and parents and grandparents, but they still have Joy.  Joy is something different and unique, it doesn't depend on temporal happiness or good fortune.  It's based on a relationship with Jesus; something transcendent and bigger than bad circumstances.  And at times like this I am grateful for serendipity, or as some call it ... happy accidents.  Funny how these turns of chance always seem to show up at the right time.  Someone once told me that bad news happens in 3's.  The 4th occurrence then, is hopefully some type of good news.

The fact that Leo came to us during Christmas, after an extremely difficult season in our lives could be simply an act of chance, and part of me is okay with that.  The truth is that Leo needs us as much as my grieving kids needed him.  He was hungry, thirsty, cold, and had some health problems.  We took him in and overwhelmed him with love.  He never knew what hit him!

Some time after Christmas had passed and Santa had come and gone, I found an old picture on my cell phone of a portrait my daughter had painted in art class over a year ago.  This was well before Leo ever set foot on our porch.  Her painting was the spitting image of Leo, right down to the unique black and white markings on his nose ... she even nailed his longer than usual front teeth.  When I showed it to her she remembered the art class and she was just as stunned as I was.  Serendipity.  Random chance.  God's joy.  Pick the term you like best.  In effect, what had happened is that one of my children had sketched a picture of a cat that would show up at our home a year later.  The symbolism here was hard to ignore.  

Ultimately this story doesn't "prove" anything regarding the reality of God working in our lives ... or does it?  I couldn't take this event in front of a panel of skeptics and sway them with hard evidence, finger prints, and a smoking gun.  It is sufficient, however, to note that the arrival of Leo the Christmas Cat coincided with the spirit of Christmas itself.  Also sufficient to note is that our new visitor just may have helped three grieving children and two slightly heart-broken grown-ups at just the right time.  Nonetheless, no matter which camp you fall into (chance or a gift) in our family we know that God is good.  Despite the losses we all experience as we travel down the road of life - often to destinations we would rather not go - in my heart I will always have the by-product of Faith which is joy.  I will have this gift hopefully no matter what circumstances occur, and no matter what destination I arrive at.

My greatest hope for everyone I know and love is that they might have this type of joy also.  It defies cynicism and covers over just about any negativity.  Joy through faith allows us to forgive people who may not have earned forgiveness.  It allows grieving people to become over-comers and survivors.  This, I think, is what God had intended for mankind all along.  We can take comfort in a famous verse from the book of Revelation, "He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  I look forward to this day very much.  Not because I have earned it in any way, but simply because it is what God wants for me.  I will accept serendipity as a down payment on that future hope of things to come.  God desires us to have peace, and not just that, but also the type of faith and joy that can come only from Him.  

I was fortunate enough to be able to do some speaking at Harold's funeral.  It was a sad event, but his family was all together and there was still laughing and camaraderie to be felt.  In planning his eulogy I had neglected to mention that on occasion during family holidays, Harold had asked for us all to bow our heads and say a few words regarding his wife that had proceeded him in death.  If I had the chance to say a few words to anyone reading this post, it would be these: we have all lost friends and relatives whom we love.  It will be okay.  We will all lose those we care about in the future.  God is still here.  When it comes our own time to leave, ask Him to take us and accept us.  He gave us Jesus as a gift, a serendipitous down payment - and it is okay to accept it.  God's love for the human being is something that has nothing to do with random chance, and everything to do with Him wanting us as much as we need Him.  In this regard, I wish everyone their own stray cat experience.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hello God? Please Leave a Message at the Tone

Okay, so I have now finished two books by author Kyle Idleman.  I should probably break down and buy his t-shirt at this point.  His latest offering Gods at War seeks to show the reader that the world we live in is inundated with "false idols" and false gods, all attempting to take the #1 place in our hearts (and in so doing, pushing God out).  He makes some effective arguments for this truth in the book.  Idolatry in the modern sense, has little or nothing to do with worshipping Greek gods or offering human sacrifices. In fact Idleman suggests that these days, simple things like entertainment and work can actually squeeze God out of our lives. God must now "fight" for the top spot on our list of achievements.  No longer is He the trophy on our top shelf, but rather one of many (and in some cases, not there at all).  

But why are we all so busy?  Why do we sign up our children for so many activities?  Why do some of our hobbies take up just as much time as we spend at church (if not more)? Relax, this is not going to be a blog post making you feel guilty about not tithing enough to the church or giving enough of our time to volunteering at the local food pantry.  Instead, I want to examine what it might look like to run away from something as good and righteous as a God who loves us.  I have a feeling it starts small: habits we pick up from our parents or coping strategies we have devised throughout our lives.  Little twists and turns of the soul that say "it's okay everyone, I can do this myself... no need for help."  And certainly no need for God's help.  After enough running, I think it is safe to say that God can easily move from something awe inspiring, to more like a big brother in the background - and then finally to a mere paper entity.    

The confusing thing is that most of these false idols (as Idleman puts it) are in essence good things.  Working hard, making money, volunteering our time, becoming high achievers, etc.  So how do we make the switch between earning money and worshipping money?  How do parents go from desiring the best for their children, to desiring their children to be the best at everything all the time?  There is a disconnect somewhere along the way.  I am reminded of the pageant moms on the hit T.V. show 'Toddlers and Tiaras.'  It is difficult to say what they are worshipping on that show, but it definitely isn't God!

There is an interesting excerpt halfway through the book where Idleman writes, "How many times have we been so distracted that we've missed a divine moment?  How many things does God long to say to us, but he keeps getting our voicemail because we're too busy to pick up?"  I imagine it in a metaphorical sense, such as God calling first my home phone and then my cell phone.  Maybe even stopping by the house eventually, only to find me traveling for work or running here and there like some silly automaton.  Sorry Lord, just leave a message ... I'm doing stuff.  Stuff.  And like most people, I really do adore some of the stuff I'm doing!  Hobbies are fun, work can be satisfying, and watching my kids or friends succeed at sports are all good things.  I promise I'll get back to God if He just leaves me a message.  After all, can't He see I'm busy?

It's of equal interest to me how the author relates almost each chapter to something that can be good of it's own accord, but once moved to the center of someone's world - everything turns to chaos.  What if none of us are actually busy, and we are just distracted?  Is it possible to be spiritually distracted?  Examples in the book include people who seek comfort through food, people who look to sex for fulfillment, and even folks who hold good health as the highest priority in their lives.  Idleman says the symptoms are often similar: whatever we idolize will eventually isolate us, unless that something is God.  But it usually isn't God that we worship, it's typically our stuff.  

Matters get worse when we try to self-diagnose our situation.  We are used to going to the medical doctor and telling the nurse what our physical symptoms are.  We may get medication for pain or to help us sleep at night, but the cause of the illness sometimes runs deeper.  "But Doctor, why can't I sleep at night?"  We want to treat the symptoms caused by false worship instead of looking further upstream to find out why we have those symptoms in the first place.  Maybe alcoholism is ruining someone's life, and the answer is to stop drinking.  But why is that person drinking too much in the first place? 

And worse yet, we have symptoms stemming from other symptoms.  Many people will never read Kyle Idleman's book because they don't have time.  And if we do read it, will we even be clear-headed enough to self-diagnose?  I suspect that often the answer is 'No.'  And so it occurs to me that there is really no place to hide.  At some point, as the false idol of our misdirected worship begins to isolate us and demand more and more of our time, we will switch gears and search for a new idol.  The cycle continues.  If we are lucky, God will have pity on us and take away our first love in order to show us our own soul.  He may change our financial situation on purpose or alter our health in order to force us to look further upstream.  Most of us would rather not look upstream.  We are content pursuing symptom treatment.

As I write this I am smiling, because I think it may be easy for someone reading this to feel guilty (or as Christians call it, "convicted") when considering their own proverbial closet full of idols.  I smile because I felt that way as well.  The reason I am still smiling is because when I put the book down, I remembered that as a follower of Christ I am literally soaked in grace.  For every nuance I may screw up, God can restore me.  We are not in charge, God is.  We don't have to be perfect, because God is.  And for the Christian, Jesus has taken on our imperfection such that we will come out the other end victorious.  It's just that we need to answer our voicemail a little more often.  Or at least leave the door unlocked in case He decides to stop by.  


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Over 16,000 Pageviews!

We celebrate today, as A Logical Faith website has reached over 16,000 pageviews!  I am so grateful to all of you who follow this blog faithfully - please come back and visit again.  For those of you who are new ... Welcome!

We look forward to 16,000 more views in the weeks and months to come.


Just the Facts, Ma'am!

There was a recent debate and discussion series held in Brisbane, Australia between Dr. William Craig and Professor Lawrence Krauss.  Those of you who read this blog regularly may recognize Dr. Craig from some of my past posts.  He is a philosopher and Christian apologist.  His opponent for this event was Prof. Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist - and also a staunch atheist.  Both men are highly acclaimed as academicians, and both are usually fairly entertaining to watch.  The question of the evening was: 'Has Science Buried God?'  

I am not certain why I still find myself drawn to these dialogues.  Most of the time they seem to devolve into two people from opposite ends of the continuum trying ardently to change each other's mind.  In other words, what begins with the historical and empirical facts can often end up in a stalemate of opposing worldviews.  What I noticed about this particular dialogue between Craig and Krauss was that "the facts" themselves played very little part in the evening's event.  Let me explain.  Some of you reading this may remember a television show from the 1950's called Dragnet.  It starred Jack Webb as police Sgt. Joe Friday, a tough no nonsense street cop who was famous for using the phrase "just the facts, Ma'am" while interrogating some of his female witnesses.  Sgt. Friday was incessant about getting to the bottom of the matter and finding out who actually committed the crime, and how they did it.  He was unwavering and incorruptible.  In fact, he almost reminds me of the honest and hardworking character Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'  Both characters represented an attempt to portray uncompromising truth and honesty.  Both - in their own rites - were fictional American icons.

I thought of Joe Friday often while listening to the debate in Brisbane.  I felt like repeating his catchphrase many times.  Most of Krauss' points seemed to hinge on emotional arguments that stem from an apparent disconnect between human suffering and a loving God, and roughly one third of his presentation seemed to be an attempt to impugn Craig's personal character.  Craig,  in turn, was forced to spend much of the talk defending his character, as well as the character of God himself.  Nothing much was said about Science burying God.  In fact,  it was more or less an exercise in the justification of good and evil.  Morality seemed to take center stage in this debate, not string theory or the cosmological constant.  Krauss even had with him a small electronic buzzer with which he would make noises during Craig's presentation whenever he felt misinformation was being presented.  It was very, very strange.  

I suppose my point is this: I have perceived a recent shift within the atheist movement that appears to be much more concerned about validating morality, than about disproving God.  I believe Krauss is a fair representation of this latest strategy.  We are past "just the facts" now as they pertain to science or history, and well on our way to searching for meaning through morality and the human condition itself.   In many ways this is refreshing, but in some ways we are back to square one.  Krauss (and many like him) seem to be saying, "okay I'm ready to address moral principals now, just don't tell me that God has anything to do with those principles."  In other words, I know the difference between right and wrong ... I just can't explain how I know something is truly "right" yet (apart from personal preferences and personal experience).  No one would ever admit this, but there it is.  And if you point this out, be prepared for an emotional backlash!   It is akin to telling someone who just purchased a brand new car that the dealership neglected to inform them that there wasn't an engine under the hood.  The car may move, but only if it goes downhill - and you have to have someone behind it pushing the entire time.  

Why does this bother me?  Why would it have bothered Sgt. Friday?  I think it means that certain groups have migrated into the realm of staying an unbeliever at all costs, and then moving forward in an attempt to justify their current way of life without the God that they so despise.  Now remember that the argument here isn't that people who don't believe in God cannot be moral or good - we know they can.  This has never been the real issue.  As Craig points out in Brisbane, the true problem is that we cannot uphold an objective morality as existing apart from some type of Deity or supernatural force.  Let's face it: good and evil didn't evolve through natural selection or a series of biological accidents over millions of years.  These concepts are more than just choosing to live a certain way or a particularly charitable lifestyle.   The meaning of 'good' goes beyond the physical action of being good.  It has a higher calling.  Jesus knew this, which is why he often pointed out that giving to the poor and offering your time and energy wasn't enough if your heart wasn't in the right place.  

I suspect many who attended that discussion in Brisbane went home thinking much the same way they did when they first arrived.  In fact, I'm not so sure that this dialogue would have changed many hearts at all.  Oh well, at least they weren't hurling fists at each other.  It would have been interesting to replace Krauss' little buzzer with a pre-recording of Sgt. Friday's voice.  How many times would that machine have uttered his catchphrase that evening I wonder?  "Excuse me sir, can we get back to the facts at some point?"  But do factoids and poll numbers really matter that much when we discuss how someone ought or ought not to live?  It's up to you to decide.   

If we have truly entered the realm of discussing what is just and moral with the New Athiests, I am okay with that.  But remember, even it it were possible to successfully define the terms moral and immoral without invoking a God - a moral person could still act in an immoral fashion from time to time.  The problem then becomes what is it behind these terms that are over and above the action of doing good itself?    And I think this is often where both sides throw up their hands and give up.  Because if we have made up our minds already that we cannot be bothered with God, then we are forced to look for deeper meaning in our lives from sources other than the one from whom all meaning comes.   We will forever be unhappy and dissatisfied.  People like Sgt. Friday who call us out regarding these issues, will do nothing except annoy us greatly.  I have a feeling this is why Krauss brought the buzzer in the first place.