Atheism: The Masquerading Folly
(This article was first published July 2008)
Christopher Hitchens. Richard Dawkins. Sam Harris. Daniel Dennet. Bill Maher. They are the warriors of the new atheism, having convinced far too many that their bleak outlook is the only position confirmed by solid intellect, with anything but it being blind childish faith. The reality is an absolute and foolish opposition to the pure reason that governs all pursuits (science included). Here are a few drops in the ocean of reasons to believe in God, an ocean that is wholly absent with regard to Zeus and other falsehoods to which they compare Him.
An atheist must believe that a man is merely natural, so if it can be demonstrated that a man is more than just a physical object, a collection of matter and energy, then God’s existence has been equally demonstrated. If a man has more that makes him up than the particles that comprise the physical world, then he has what Christians call a soul. If he has a soul, then what Christians call He who made this soul is God.
Observe the consistency in the order of creation; how all the way from the tiniest virus up to the smartest chimp there is a linear progression of these organisms’ capabilities. Add some complexity to its biological makeup, and the behavior of the creature enhances in stride. This everywhere perfect trend is entirely ruptured when we compare man to the greatest mere animal. This undeniable chasm can only be explained by the immaterial soul of man. Are there any instances in which one virus acts like a normal virus, mindlessly attaching to any compatible cell it bumps; but only a speck longer up the biological hierarchy forming complex colonies like some ants or bees? No. Since man’s situation is the only one we see the discrepancy, the next step is to ponder what is so special about man.
Humans have been advancing the great cause of science for thousands of years. In virtually every area imaginable; massive leaps in understanding have been made beginning from our instinctual knowledge to today’s scientific laws. But another question exists in which no progress at all has been made; how did the universe begin? The existence of the universe has often been used as an argument for God, with the atheist’s response usually citing it as just another question science has not yet answered, but one day will.
Can one logically conclude that mankind will ever (or even theoretically could ever) explain such a phenomena, given this infinite difference in our degree of understanding with regard to all other scientific questions? There is no reason to believe so. We must remain content knowing that such knowledge will never be ours, and this is not due to a technical detail; those have proven ineffectual against man’s ingenuity.
A Stephen Hawking or Carl Sagan may argue that we have made no progress in discovering why the particle X doesn’t move like we predict under force Y either. But to them I ask: how long have we been pondering this question? 4,000 years or less than 100? And have we really made no progress whatsoever? Are there not plenty of reasonable theories that could indeed work?
The existence of the universe is not a new question. We have always pondered how anything could come into existence, since this fact does not seem coherent. Philosophers and scientists alike have been doing their best for thousands of years. Not one inch of progress has been made. When Richard Dawkins claims “we’re working on it,” you should realize that he is conveniently ignoring the fact that the question, by definition, cannot be answered.
But, for a long time, most people have had an answer to the question of the universe: an uncreated God created it. An atheist may insist that one cannot claim God can exist by Himself any more than one can claim the universe can exist by itself. He will say that God being by nature uncreated is simply defining away the question.
This is not the case, as any believer must eventually proclaim “I don’t know how God can simply exist. I don’t know how He can be uncreated, and I could not possibly ever understand.” This response is perfectly acceptable with regard to God (the argument against Him by atheists that reference His inherent intangibility allow for it), but this is the one response that science, does not have the authority to give. Nothing that pertains to the physical could possibly be inherently unknowable. Though some areas remain to be discovered, there is no room for mystery in mechanics. Without God, “it is unknowable” is simultaneously the only possible response to the universe’s creation, and the only impossible response. This paradox then can only be solved by the introduction of a non-, or super- natural element, or in other words, God.
The only possible avenue left to escape the conclusion from this line of reasoning being “God exists,” is to say that the universe was not created; it simply always existed. One event was preceded by another, ad infinitum. While this violates the logical necessity for all physical things to have a cause, it also violates something less abstract: The Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law, referred to often as the most fundamental law of all science, guarantees a finite period of existence for the universe. It tells us that every single physical thing that can possibly happen increases a quantity called entropy. Entropy can be thought of as disorder or energy dissipation. As it is always inescapably increasing, it eventually leads to a complete heat death of the universe; a state where nothing else can ever happen since there is no more energy. Essentially an eternal void of darkness and nothingness. This same fact should also shatter any new age style hopes of an afterlife as an “energy form” or “life force.” (The incoherent blend of science and spirituality that creates such views, which causes only confusion without any understanding or true enlightenment, is often seen preached in one form or another by people, organizations, and publications like Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, A Course in Miracles, The Law of Attraction, The Secret, etc. They speak of things like quantum mechanics and particle vibrations to give the guise of science, but only instill extremely dangerous philosophies.)
Free will is a reflection of God’s ability to create the universe; to make and fill space and time. A choice is, for similar reasons as the universe’s existence, unable to be explained with science. It is something from nothing, the ultimate paradox. Freedom in this context means only “lawlessness.” A lack of a cause and effect relationship. Motion without mechanics. A completely unscientific process. It is inherently impossible from an atheistic mindset. All of us make a multitude of these truly free choices every day, yet it is the very existence of these that the atheist must argue against more than anything. Will you believe him when he tells you that your free will is an illusion (this is implicit in all atheism)? Does the best use of your intellect really guide you to the conclusion that your entire life is nothing but the meaningless fruition of an empty equation?
The Ideal Machine
This argument is not alone an attack on atheism; but the reaction that it should and likely will provoke in every human being, atheists included, is what supports the case for God. It is a similar dilemma that confronts Neo (Keauna Reeves) in “The Matrix” and reflects earlier philosophical questions asked in ancient Greece. Under atheism, all pleasure and happiness is nothing but a chemical reaction of some sort. This means that a machine could theoretically be developed that would keep you in a state of perfect happiness for your entire life. You would be suspended in a vat of gel, achieving nothing, but you would be achieving the true ultimate good in the eyes of the atheist, who can only gauge this by pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering. An atheist may insist that this machine would not be the same, that it couldn’t replicate the feelings that real achievement gives. But that is not what we are dealing with. We are dealing with a perfect machine; one that could indeed replicate any feeling (to the atheist all feelings are physical, so this is perfectly possible), and if any certain feeling somehow required a certain type of experience to cause; then this machine could convince you of the false reality of such an experience.
Do you hook up to this machine? The philosophy that has no God compels you to. I hope you would not hook up to it, but that behavior only has any merit whatsoever if reality has some purpose. Such purpose, a simply physical world cannot give.
There is one more response that an atheist could give; that hooking up to the machine would render one useless in helping others better their own pleasure to pain ratio. This type of altruism cannot be justified under atheism, and I will go further on that in the following section.
There are many intelligent atheists who travel the world on a mission to convert, and more still who put themselves and their own comfort on the line for the sake of their atheism. They boldly proclaim their reason for doing so as fulfilling the need to spread truth. Under theistic beliefs, selflessly spreading truth is indeed a noble undertaking; it helps souls reach their eternal home and brings peace in the meantime. But what does an atheist gain from doing so? To him, the pursuit of good is defined by whatever appears to be the most effective means of bettering the pleasure to pain ratio. Campaigning for a cause absolutely will not achieve this end. He may insist that it will; that once his views are accepted and their implications put to practice, his own life will reap the benefits of this superior view. But if evidence is of the utmost importance to the atheist, he will look at it and realize that this is not so. Those who really work for change never live in the aftermath of the change long enough to be compensated for the blood, sweat, and tears that it required. Martin Luther King died while still living in racism. Even Jesus died far before Christianity became common. C.S. Lewis, the enormously intelligent pre eminent Christian apologist of the twentieth century, died in old age under increasing modernism, after fighting it for almost all his adult life. The atheist’s views demand that he live a quietly hedonistic life, while outwardly conforming to the crowd almost no matter what.
The atheist may, though not using these words, compare his desires to those of an ant’s evolutionary pre-programmed selflessness, or herd instinct, for the colony; but does he really believe that his wit lies on the same level as the ant’s? Does he not have the power of will by virtue of reason and intellect to overcome such an irrational urge (for it is not truly self-interested), and instead pursue what the pretenses of his beliefs define as happiness? For as we can most definitively deem, the ant himself would be better off not fighting the colony’s enemy to the death; he does so for the sake of the colony. Considering only his own welfare, this ant should at least wander off and live a few more minutes of his life instead of facing a hostile insect that will certainly kill him, but the advance of whom he could slow by fighting to the death. Man may not claim “we reason this way because of evolution.” Quite the contrary, it is evolution that is this way because of our reason; it can theoretically explain instinctual urges, but not mindful decisions. Such decisions must be independently justified, for they are the very things that allow for consideration of the theory of evolution. An intellectually honest atheist would realize that his views say the colony doesn’t matter; only he does. This honest atheist must plan out his life as such:
Gain a skill that has a high probability of awarding consistent employment in a job as easy as possible, or move somewhere with large government welfare. Eat for pleasure and do not exercise to pain. Get a good health insurance plan so that if this causes a health problem, you can afford plenty of painkillers. Buy a great cable subscription and the latest videogames so you have a pleasurable and effortless way to spend your time. Have few or no children to avoid work that does not directly benefit you. Swallow up all the anti depressants you can find to silence your conscience if it starts punishing you for achieving nothing. This is what atheism in practice truly is, and it is tragically rampant. Those who champion atheism may not realize it is precisely that which has allowed so many to sink to this level; but they must realize that if they deviate significantly from such a lifestyle, they are preaching the existence of God with their actions. G.K. Chesterton summarized this perfectly when he said, in Orthodoxy, “to preach egoism is to practice altruism.”
Many atheists will strongly argue against pain and pleasure being the basis of their morality, but their beliefs remove the authority to do so. Either there is just our human perception, or there is more. If the former (which must be the view of the atheist, as saying there is more than that is nothing other than attesting to the existence of the supernatural); what meaning could any choice possibly carry except its capacity to make this perception (which is the only thing of importance to an atheist) positive or negative? No meaning. Boil down any atheist’s theory on morality and you will arrive at pleasure and pain, or positive perception and negative perception. But if more than our own perception exists, which is the believer’s wager, there is room for something other than mere pleasure in the construction of morality. Indeed if an eternally unchanging and perfect God created our very perception and the universe in which it resides, then and only then would it be logically sound to attribute inherent meaning to His commandments, which are implicit to His nature and would harmonize with His creation due to His perfection. Then and only then could a choice be guided by any ultimate goal other than pleasure.
The final retort of the atheist is that even if pain and pleasure is the only basis of his morality; he will still work to eliminate the belief in God of others, despite doing so not increasing his own pleasure most effectively, because this at least can work to increase the pleasure of the converts he wins. The problem with this is that his beliefs do not even justify altruism. The only pain he cannot escape is his own; the only pleasure he can pursue is that which is won for himself. The only perception he can even suppose exists is the one he experiences. Other humans cannot be anything to him except means for advancing his own pleasure; for their pleasure is inaccessible to him by any stretch of the imagination. It makes quite a bit of sense for the atheist to refrain from stealing his friend’s belongings (at least when he thinks he may get caught), but an entirely altruistic act like donating to charity and telling no one is unjustifiable, just as is spreading his version of truth solely for the sake of his audience. One who believes in God can see all humanity as His children, created with equal dignity and inherent meaning due to the inherent worth of their perfect Creator who thought their existence good, and therefore worth charity. One without such belief can only be certain of himself. You must be quietly careful of accepting, in your mind, the altruism claim of atheists. Ponder whether that is truly what they see as the foundation of their beliefs, or a transparent façade. Always refrain from judging, but do not feel compelled give equal credit to the one with love in his eyes and the one whose language is dripping with sarcasm and whose demeanor reeks of hatred and anger. I certainly have found the latter to be the case with more than a few missionary atheists, and fewer than most missionary theists.
The Impossible Uniqueness of Jesus
Long has the argument of the tri-dilemma of Jesus been used, and rightly so. It points out that only a few opinions of Jesus stand even a basic test of reason: that He was a liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God at whose feet we must kneel. Some attempt to wiggle out of those options by concocting some grand historical lie, and each year seems to present a different one. Do know that the history of Jesus as told by the Church is attested by multiple parties of the time, each with different stakes on the issue. One who denies the life of Jesus must also deny a significant portion of that era’s secular history. But let us say for the sake of argument that the resurrection of Jesus and His other miracles did not happen. Let us instead simply focus on the 3 years of proven teaching by Jesus, during which period He gave moral commands of unprecedented clarity, lived a completely selfless and spotless life, while also continually insisting that He was the Son of God, the Word made flesh, and the only path to heaven. Those who would give Him the credit of a “good teacher” while rejecting His claims to power are confronted with quite a task. Knowing that humans are all made of the same stuff, and tend towards similarity; a perfectly reasonable expectation would be to find similar people in history. Other moral teachers who dispensed of impeccable wisdom throughout a spotless life and had the courage to die for it, but also the whole time claiming divine status as the only truth. Such an inquiry will find none but Jesus Christ. Even if one insists upon closing his eyes to the mountains of evidence and denying Christ’s resurrection and miracles, he is still confronted with the question of why Jesus is so immeasurably unlike any other who has walked the Earth. Rational reflection on this question guides towards the conclusion that Jesus was unlike any other in behavior because He truly was, as He claimed, Divine.
A common logical fallacy contributing to a lack of belief in the resurrection is the notion that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Though extraordinary evidence does exist, this is notion is incorrect. All claims require reasonable evidence. If one conclusion is more evident and reasonable than the next, it should be believed despite one’s prejudiced (and itself unreasonable and unproven) claim that it is “extraordinary.” For a friend you know you can trust; it should require no additional proof for you to believe him when he tells you about a 50 car pileup he witnessed than when he tells you about how he was pulled over for speeding. A father’s plea “Jump! Just do it! I know I can catch you!” as his son stands on the edge of an unknown abyss should compel him just as readily as when this father gives the child a glass of milk to drink. It is natural to forget that if the father is unworthy of trust, he could have far more easily poisoned the milk. Deciding an ordinary issue based on minimal evidence is more likely to be detrimental if those who put forth the evidence are unworthy of trust than deciding an extraordinary issue based on reasonable evidence is; even though this risk is the very thing that the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” crowd are trying to do away with. Conversely, in a serial line of reasoning leading to the conviction of a man; each piece of this chain, no matter how seemingly ordinary, must be held up to the same scrutiny as if it was the sole convicting piece.
Faith For Effect
In conversation, a believer might point to the comfort and joy he finds in his faith. The atheist will usually claim that he will not live a lie for those ends, but as I described in the “Missionary Atheism” section, these are the only ends that he can rationally use to guide his decision making. This atheist cannot deem a lie wrong and unworthy of his pursuit if it is reasonable to believe that such a pursuit will better his pleasure to pain ratio; honesty is simply a means to this end that, if reasonably deemed an obstruction in one instance, must be abandoned. Though seeking condolence is by no means the best motivation to seek God (but is far better than not seeking God); atheists should realize that claiming “I cannot believe in God to make me happy because that would be living a lie” makes no sense by their very own philosophy, a philosophy that lacks any instrument to gauge reality except pleasure and pain.
Many ask why God could not have just made Himself more clear; one reason is that something directly and immediately obvious to the physical senses, testable and verifiable, cannot be loved deeply. How many people would die to spread Newton’s Laws? No sane man. What father would spoil his son with a constant shower of expensive toys aimed at winning the son’s affection by proving the father’s love? No sane father, for he would know that the love developed would be both shallow and fleeting, and the child would inevitably grow to despise the father. But fueled by the blood of the martyrs, Christianity managed to explode from very few adherents at the time of Christ’s death to many millions a few centuries later, and now claims followers from all the ends of the Earth, One-third of all people, unlike any other force in history. This happened because of love, for Christ said “By your love they shall know you.” Science is wonderful; but it allows for no true love. And truly there can be no love for an atheist, only neuron firings. No music, only noise. No beauty, only varying light wavelengths. Would you allow your eye to command your nose to deny an aroma? Neither then should you allow the tempests of your mind to insist the heart deny what it knows to be true; music, beauty, love…and the source of all these, God.
Act on this reason
God certainly exists. Let us take heed of this reality by doing our best to align ourselves with Him. This means an honest and open hearted attempt to find His truth, regardless of what demands it puts upon us, and what our previous, misguided opinions already dictate as “their” truth. Do not make the mistake of some by conjuring up your own personal religion. Describing God truly is the most difficult task humanity is faced with, and thinking that one can surmount such an obstacle alone, disregarding what has been found by the tradition of thousands of years of the greatest minds this World has ever seen, is the height of misplaced wishful thinking. You are far better off locking away your math textbook and attempting to define all of calculus, number theory, and linear algebra without help.
Do not delay. Nothing can be more important than conformity to God. No argument or circumstance can ever justify apathy or agnosticism in this realm. If you believe in God you likely believe in heaven, and given heaven’s existence, what is the purpose of this world? God does nothing superfluously, but if this world were for its own enjoyment, it would be precisely that. Know then that this world, this life, is not at all for its own sake. It is for determining our placement in the next. Make a thoughtful decision but also know that sitting on the fence only allows either yard’s dog to bite you. This is not something to ever be put on the back burner, no matter how busy you are. Each breath you now exhale is one step closer to your inevitable death. Some mock the use of fear as a motivator, but this is reality; let it sink in.
So find a Church. This is a difficult part of your spiritual life and you will be constantly under pressures to make the wrong choice. Avoid those who say you are your own personal savior; you are imperfect and your savior is not. Avoid the ideologies that gain followers by appealing to the desires of your flesh; your body will be temporarily appeased but your soul will cry out. Seek the faith given to us by the most righteous founder; it is this person more than anything that defines a religion. Seek a church that is not fickle in its doctrine and does not bend to meet the times; for right and wrong are of God and therefore perfect and above time, unaffected by the opinions of the mob. I will not hide that this advice guides you towards Catholicism, but still listen to what each side has to say, and dismiss nothing until testing it thoroughly; single out all selfish desires and seek out what gives your heart peace. While you are doing this, at least follow the rules common to most religions. Pray. Do not steal, cheat, lust, or concern yourself with possessions; even if you can find ways to justify these behaviors in your own mind. When you have found your religion, follow it in full, without essentially creating your own personal religion by dismissing those doctrines you dislike. Respect the authority of your Church; regard it as the soldier does the officer, not as the inmate does the jailer or as the commander does his advisors.
Seek and you will find.