Monday, September 27, 2010

Proselytizers look at the non-religious proselytizers

Charles Taze Russel was a minister and Biblical commentator who found, like many Christian sects, that he had discovered the true essence of Christianity and that everyone else was wrong.  His voluminous writings led to the creation of the Watch Tower Society, which later became the Jehovah's Witnesses.   Among their beliefs, the one that usually caught the observer's eye was that the End Times would come early in the 20th Century, but when the end did not come this aspect of the religion receded.  Although, for a while, the world headquarters of the new age was to have been here in San Diego.  The part of the religion that an observer would be most familiar with today is the door-to-door missionary work that is required of members.  Like Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses are on the streets, knocking on doors, spreading the faith, and giving away away reams of Watchtower and Awake! magazines. 

The November 2010 issue of Awake! deals with the new atheists.  As the introduction states:
A new group of atheists has arisen in society.  Called the new atheists, they are not content to keep their views to themselves.
On the whole, the issue retains some fairness and applies a gentle push toward their own religion.  The first article repeats the canard that Antony Flew, the pre-eminent atheist before the rise of the new atheists, found religion in his final years.  Actually, he allowed the possibility of Deism (a Divine Clockmaker who designed the universe and set it in motion) while rejecting the other supernatural parts of religion.  The article then continues to use the argument that since science can not presently give a confirmed explanation for the universe, religion is a viable alternative.  The next article has a somewhat fair acknowledgment that while the godless Communists committed heinous acts, the history of religious nations in the area of human rights is checkered at best.  Although those religions were not true:
At this point, a distinction must be made between true worship—that is, worship that is acceptable in God’s eyes—and false worship.  True worship would help people to
fight against base inclinations.
Still applying the soft sell, the article concludes with a few Biblical references and the idea that all morality comes from above, and neither the so-called believer or the atheist can dodge the True Will.  It is left to the next article to deliver the goods.  The article is an interview with a Czech biologist who found that the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses made so much sense that he was forced to abandon his atheism.  The rest of the magazine has some interesting articles on a wide range of topics and is probably effective as a recruitment tool.  What proselytizers are selling is not miracles (although some are),  they are selling psychological benefits such as a sense of community and rules to guide your life.  The logical arguments only have to be passably good in order to support the lifestyle framework.  Can humanism provide this framework without the supernatural underpinnings?

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