How do you respond to a philosophy that seems to be based on the premise of
“the truth can’t possibly be found with those that disagree with me
“? Well, in May 2001, Dr. David Noebel, of Summit Ministries and co-author
of a new book with Tim LaHaye (of “Left Behind” fame), appeared on a local
Colorado Springs Christian radio program and gave all of the indications
that he utilizes just such reasoning.
Dr. Noebel provided an on-air analysis of freethought and he referenced
many of the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs’ articles that have appeared
in the Colorarda Springs Independent (hey, that means somebody actually reads
this stuff!). His conclusion was that freethinkers are anti-god, anti-Christian
malcontents, who are attempting to infiltrate our public school system and
undermine the authority of our traditional Judeo-Christian values. For good
measure, he also added that the term “freethinker” is nothing more
than a euphemism for an “atheistic-socialist.” Gee, Doc – does that
mean I should divest my stocks and private property, then lobby for the expulsion
of all the Republicans in our group?
If Dr. Noebel is going to create his own definitions of what a freethinker
is and what a freethinker stands for, then how can he possibly hope to accurately
comment on what a freethinker truly represents? It would be as if I defined
all Christian apologists as “anti-logic, anti-reason dogmatists, who want
to scare the beejeebers out of our kids with unsubstantiated stories of eternal
damnation and torment if they don’t conform.” Hmmm, actually that’s not
too far off … but you get the idea.
Dr. Noebel even asserted that freethinkers have their own religion, one
that worships the “god of naturalism and science.” Isn’t this just
playing games with semantics? Religion is defined as “an institutionalized
system of worship and faith offered to a Supreme Being or the supernatural.”
Naturalism and science, quite simply, are an accounting of the natural world
that is devoid of any explanations which appeal to the supernatural. The
good doctor has created a contradiction here that is purely of his own device!
What’s a freethinker to do?
While this is probably of little concern to those who are already sympathetic
to Dr. Noebel’s message, what I hope is not as acceptable is the radical interpretation
that he offers for the first amendment to our Constitution. Noebel announced
that “… no law respecting an establishment of religion …” doesn’t
mean that the government can’t “promote” religion! Thanks, Doc, I
always wondered what Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were REALLY trying
to say with that one! Surely, any reasonable person can see that the “separation
of church and state” is a governmental principle of neutrality that protects
the Christian with just as much vigor as it protects the infidel!
If Dr. Noebel is going to rearrange definitions and terms to fit his purpose,
then what can he hope to accomplish other than further distorting the beliefs
and philosophies of others? We all believe something, no doubt about it!
My impression from Dr. Noebel’s on-air discourse is that it really doesn’t
matter much what those “other” beliefs are – especially if they challenge
his own religious convictions. Perhaps this strict way of thinking serves
Dr. Noebel just fine, but for most of us it offers no help whatsoever in
discerning where the truth actually rests.