Monday, December 10, 2007
Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Shortcomings of Mere Intellectualism and Atheism
Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke at AAI 07. She is clearly one of the brightest and more eloquent speakers today among those who espouse living according to "reason rather than faith." At the same time, it's apparent that while her personal journey and experiences have resulted in her present thinking and positions with unique perspective, even with her bright intellectuallism and sharp mind along with her keen ability to communicate, her positions and expressions GO NO FURTHER THAN OTHERS (with less ability and charm) in providing the basis or foundation for setting reason over faith and living according to that framework. No matter how great the intellectualism, it cannot support and defend the very reason it seeks to stand upon!
Here are questions that remain with Ali's statements (the same questions that cannot be answered by others):
1. Ali states "Without divine intervention, man is able to do good for his neighbor." Question: What is good? Who determines it? What is the standard? If decided by "discussion that recognises individuals to choose their own destiny", what if the choice of some conflicts with the choice and beliefs of others? Who decides who is right, and on what basis is that choice made? How do you know that either is right? And if a common standard can be reached by man "exercising independent thought in a society that is structured by discussion"...does that not point to the fact that there is some absolute when it comes to good and evil, right and wrong, and if so, then where did that come from? The greatest questions remain: upon what authority and foundations will one look to and depend, and from whence do they arrive their authority? It's obvious that whether atheists and skeptics possess unique perspectives or come to their position through unique experiences, it doesn't change the fact that their worldview is without foundations, and hence not only open to attack but prone to fall.
2. Does freedom (all freedom) eliminate bondage? Is there not evidence that freedom to sin often leads people into bondage? If true on a physical level, how much moreso on the spiritual level. The truth is the law of the Lord leads to freedom, and though Ali's experience with a false religion resulted in bondage from religion, this does not mean that experience with true religion would result in the same. In fact, transition from one false religion to another can result in the same, though the factors and experiences may be different. This is not to deny that even impure forms and practices of Christianity cannot lead to bondage, but the Spirit and the kingdom that is from above leads to life, freedom, righteousness, and great reward.
3. Ali states "To live according to reason means to ...." Question: Whose's reason? Atheists often mean by this statement their own reason, but what makes their reason or beliefs (corporately or personally) any superior to anyone else's? What happens when atheists don't agree on matters, particularly those which conflict with the other's beliefs?
4. Ali states "The world of reason she encountered in her latter twenties has an infrastructure to govern human relationships which is derived not from divine power but from human rationale. Question: When it comes to abortion, what does human rationale suggest? Some say yes. Some say no. For some, it's the freedom of the individual (mother). For others, it's the killing of a child. How about homosexuality? For some, it's the natural expression of human love. For others, it's unnatural, perverted, and a behavior like others that should be penalized. What says human rationale? Why stop at this? What about the independent thoughts of Muslims? What makes Ali's thoughts superior to theirs? Whose to say that the large numbers of Muslims are not right and she is wrong, though she was called to be subject (Note - I'm not suggesting the former is right, but using it as illustration simply to make a point... for have not the Muslims expressed their "independent thought in a society that isis structured by discussion individuals have the right to chose their own destiny... they - having come to their own consensus of indepentent though after allowing you to choose will help you reach the destiny you have chosen - infidel or otherwise!) Additionally, does not a world of reason depend upon some foundation? How can one reason without a standard upon which to make judgments, an authority to look to for decisions, etc.? Perhaps one day Ali will discover that oppression and bondage is found not only in the system and power structure of the false religion to which she was exposed, but will be found in every structure and system (including Atheism - which has it's own laws, power structures, etc., though they may be arbitrary and even conflict one another) other than that divine government and law associated with the kingdom of Christ. (Psalm 89:14)
5. Ali states "Under secular law, we are able to grant freedom and independence without degeneration into violence and chaos." Question: What does secular law say about abortion? Does it allow abortion which some look to as one of the greatest forms of violence (the killing of the weakest) or does it outlaw abortion (by which it does violence to the independence of the mother), or does it leave it up to the individual (in which it still allows violence to be done in the opinion of some, and oppose create positions of dissonance for them as they struggle with what they witness versus what they believe?
Interesting Conclusion: It's noteworthy that Ali concluded by saying "Thank GOD I have the reason to choose." Try substituting "Thank MAN that I have the reason to choose"; Thank "the CHEMICALS IN MY HEAD that I have the reason to choose." "Thank SOCIETY that I have the reason to choose"... The list could go on. While Ali makes a satirical jab at God, the truth is, none of these substitutes provide ultimate grounds for providing for her ability to choose, ... and she has no other solution to put in it's place, for apart from God and his absolutes, her statement as well as her choice means nothing.