Atheists seem to get angry easily. They get angry because they think Christians look down on them as Bad, angry because Christians can’t put themselves in their position, angry because they are misunderstood and angry because we Christians don’t agree with them and, after all, atheism is so obvious.
To clear up some of this:
Christians do think atheists are, in a sense, Bad; that is because we think everyone, in a sense, is Bad. To put it into Christian terms, everyone has sinned and needs a Saviour to redeem them from their sins.
Many Christians do understand atheism; that is because some were atheists themselves at some point – I was – and because, since Christianity is attacked from all sides in our culture, Christians have been forced to inspect their basic assumptions and how their beliefs logically follow from them. From the occasional exchange with atheists on this blog, it appears that many atheists have not done the same.
Here are some of the basic assumptions that accompany atheism and some of the unavoidable consequences of those assumptions:
There are some variations in atheism. A negative atheism would claim an absence of belief in God and make it a default position: in the absence of good evidence for God’s existence, negative atheism is the logical choice – the burden of proof is on the theist. Others would argue that this is really agnosticism in disguise and that true atheism is positive atheism which asserts the statement “God does not exist”. I am inclined to the latter view.
Either variety of atheism has some unavoidable consequences:
There is no objective standard for morality. That is not to say that atheists cannot do “good” or be “moral”, using those words in the context of Judeo-Christian ethics; they can. It does mean, though that the “good” or “evil” that an atheist may believe exists has no objective realty: “good” and “evil” are subjective – no one person’s view of what is “good” has any more validity than any other person’s. Dostoevsky summed this with “if God does not exist everything is permitted”
Atheists are materialists: that is to say, they believe that the material universe is all that exists; without God there is no supernatural, nothing outside of the material exerts any influence on the universe. Christopher Hitchens seems to want to dodge this by contending that the numinous does exist, apparently as a by-product of the human mind – most atheists would not go along with this, though. As a result, the human mind is entirely subject to the material. This leads to the following problem for the atheist:
- If God does not exist, a person’s thoughts are the result of interactions in the material universe.
- Some people believe the following statement to be true, while others believe it to be untrue: God does not exist.
- The same material universe produces opposite conclusions on the truth of the statement in 2.
- If God does not exist, human thought processes are unreliable.
- If God does not exit, my belief that he does not exist is unreliable.
If human existence ceases at death, life has no lasting objective purpose or meaning. Atheists will protest that they do find purpose and meaning in life; Richard Dawkins goes to considerable length to expound on the beauty and the grandeur of the universe. Without God, though, such perceptions are subjective and, for an honest person, inadequate. Atheistic existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre were more direct: Sartre recognised that without God life has no purpose. His solution was to invent a purpose and pretend that it has significance – just to get through life. Sadly, modern atheists are doing much the same thing without the benefit of the introspection necessary to recognise why.
Atheists are evolutionary Darwinists but generally not social Darwinists, preferring instead to adopt the mores of the Judeo-Christian heritage that they despise. The problem for the atheist comes when confronted by a social Darwinist who might advocate, for example, the extermination of the old, infirm, disabled and deformed; an atheist has no convincing argument to offer on why this is a bad thing to do. Without God, values are subjective, one person’s view of what is right is as good as any other’s.
A popular contemporary conceit of atheism is that science has disposed of religion. John Lennox in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? argues eloquently that, far from burying God, science depends on the assumption that the universe has rational laws – rational laws that owe their existence to a rational Creator. Additionally, there is no reason to trust the rationality of the minds of scientists if they are products of a potentially irrational universe.
There; now I expect atheists reading this will become angry.