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Mast Appendix 1: Sequence of correspondence to the South China Morning Post March-May 2007

Readers of Mast might be interested in the following and extensive correspondence on the subject of God, atheism and religion, in which Mast played a key role, that appeared in the South China Morning Post and the Sunday Morning Post during March, April and May 2007. The immediate catalyst was an article, Sins of the believers, by Gwynne Dyer, published on 23 March, but the larger context is the current debate on religion generated by the rise of religious fundamentalism on the one hand and the publication of such books as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins on the other. The initial article and entire sequence of letters are reproduced below, followed by some observations and comments.

Articles and correspondence


Sins of the believers

Note: the following article and letters, while not strictly contiguous with the above stream of correspondence, nevertheless, coming as they did immediately afterwards on a related issue, are included both for the readers interest and the publishing of a further letter from Mast.

Observations and commentary

Whilst these letters are self-explanatory, readers may find the following observations and comments helpful. All in all, this sequence of correspondence represents a significant exposure of the issues raised in what is one of the prominent quality daily newspapers of the world. The South China Morning Post has a circulation of around 100,000 and tends to be read by the more so-called elitist sections of society, not just in Hong Kong but in China and many other Asian countries as well. As an English church historian, I have not come across many streams of correspondence on religious issues on this scale in the secular press (33 letters in the main sequence, 35 including the final two on a separate though related issue). In fact I know of just one in Britain that was more extensive (comprising 44 letters) and that took place in 1899 over the issue of a day of humiliation and prayer on account of the Boer War. No doubt I will soon be informed of many others in due course. What this shows, however, is something of the interest and openness that exists in Hong Kong to spiritual matters. Compared to the UK, where resistance to the Christian gospel is hard, cynicism and unbelief are rife, and in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism secularism (and anything else but Christianity so it seems) is actively encouraged, Hong Kong is a refreshingly overt spiritual society. There is a negative side to this, of course, in that idolatry and demon worship abounds openly and is in your face, but there is nonetheless an acceptance of spiritual realities here that makes it easier for evangelists and missioners to communicate spiritual truths. Having said that, the participants in this debate appear to have come primarily from among the ex-pat community within whom unbelief and atheism are likely to be as common as in any other western society. And the current atheism cum Dawson God Delusion debate is primarily a western phenomenon affecting what are now termed post Christian societies. This alone should alert anyone to the fact that there is much more to this debate than meets the eye. Now Mast does not subscribe uncritically to the many political or economic conspiracy theories that abound. Such is the chaos of world that I do not believe it is possible for any single human being or group to dictate the course of history to the degree necessary for these theories to be wholly true (although it is very likely that various groups might strive for such control or believe themselves to have it). But it is a different matter altogether with regard to a spiritual conspiracy directed by agencies from beyond our physical realm. Quite clearly, Satan is working to an agenda, and to the extent that God mysteriously yields to his devises for his own purposes, evidence of this agenda is visible in the world around us, and not least in this particular debate. Several things are worth pointing out in this regard. Firstly, it can be no coincidence that The God Delusion is just one of several books that have appeared promoting atheism in recent times and that articles like Dyers are

now appearing in profusion. This might, of course, only be a reaction to contemporary fundamentalisms just as it is also true that books and interests do come and go in waves, but atheisms resurgence, or more specifically the rubbishing of monotheism (you will notice that so-called self-enlightenment in any form remains untouched) at the same time as globalization is on the rise can only make one suspicious. If the devil is truly behind the current agenda, as I believe he is, then it is in his interest for people to (1) remain in ignorance about his existence, because (2) they might discern his schemes if they werent and (3) such ignorance and the void of no God that atheism promotes leaves him free to convert the world to the worship of himself, either though materialist or pagan idolatries or descending one day as the great deliverer from those troubles that inevitably spring forth when God is denied. The west is especially targeted in this regard because it is western culture and values that are sweeping the world and that inform the globalization process. Secondly, it is possible to see something most definitely spiritual manifesting in the three responses to the first letter. When I wrote Religion bashing (26 March) in response to Dyers article, although that article does not mention it and neither does my letter refer to it, undermining Dawsons book and others like it was very much on my mind. And something spiritual recognized the attack, for each of the three responses went out of their way to recommend Dawsons book specifically. What I had set out to undo came back at me three times as strong, and because of this I began to doubt the wisdom of my writing in the first place. What this commonality reveals, however, unless all three writers belong to a local atheists club and acted in collusion, is that each was animated by the same spirit and that this spirit and collective action betrays a very real demonic entity animating the current atheism. Thirdly, the demonic nature of this sprit is also palpable in the hostility that pervades many of the overtly anti-Christian letters, against a more gentle (though sometimes and necessarily direct) spirit that can be discerned in those more Christian. From the beginning I made it my policy, for example, never to respond to personal attacks in my own letters, nor to engage in personal attacks against anyone else, seeking only to speak out against untruth as it arose and promoting in turn the truth of God as I understand it according to the scriptures. Despite any initial misgivings, some satisfaction must be expressed at the overall progress of the debate. The argument that appears to have elicited the strongest reaction was that exposing atheism as a religion in Science a study of creation (16 April). This was particularly significant because not only did this reveal the atheist position for what it is, but it was also a point in the debate that appears to have been won. For too long its been all too easy for atheism to flag up to the uninformed the clich of religion being the cause of war in the world and the apparent undermining of the biblical creation account by the evidence of science, and so discredit Christianity in their eyes. But what is never offered in return is a single scrap of evidence to back up atheisms own assertion that there is no God, and of course none will ever be found. It doesnt exist and atheism couldnt appropriate it even it if it did, and so in reality the position of the atheist is as dependent upon faith ultimately as any religion, if not more so. For while the Christian position is also one of faith, over and

against atheism Christianity has the distinct advantage of having recourse to additional evidence in the form of the divine revelation of scripture and a physical universe that appears to operate in conformity with it as if it were true. There are, for example, very reasonable grounds indeed for discerning the operation of God in the workings of the world that he has made. Not least in this regard may be cited Gods evident judgment of idolatry in Hong Kong as manifested, for instance, in the ongoing deterioration of the famous Wishing Tree and the saga of the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. It was of further significance, therefore, that a letter highlighting both these scenarios (Unfaithful civilizations doomed to fall) was published on 29 April, especially given that at the time this was a prophetic letter written in faith, that God in turn then appears to have honoured with a demonstration of his power. If the letter was initially ridiculed, as can be discerned from some of the responses, it subsequently gained in credibility when on 11 June a cabin fell off the cable car that resulted in its humiliating closure until 31 December 2007. I am reliably informed that after the accident this particular letter was discussed on RTHK, one of the premier radio stations of Hong Kong. (A fuller report of the cable car incident and the divine inception of this particular letter, together with the latest news, may be found in the third issues of The Mast and Newsletter). It is a belief and principle of Mast that it is the duty of all Christians to counter deception and falsehood in our society and fight for the proclamation of what is true whenever the opportunity arises. How else will darkened eyes begin to see and closed up ears begin to hear the hidden and secret things of God? When Christians engage in this kind of work, while it is sometimes difficult to gauge or even know of its ultimate worth and effectiveness, they can nevertheless be assured that in ways mysterious God will use and bless such efforts to his purposes. Certainly in the case of this particular sequence of correspondence it seems evident that God not only opened doors and made a way for it to occur in the first place, but that through it there seems every reason to believe he was able to jolt a few hearts and minds and give them pause for contemplation on the issues raised and their implication. The Editor