Why I Can’t Be An Atheist Part 4: Some Philosophical Considerations
By: Robert E. Meyer
Many of the critiques I have received so far, have focused on debunking analogies I have used, more so than refuting specific points against atheism. If you are an accomplishing logician, you can probably find logical fallacies in virtually any polemic. It is simple to explain why this is the case. Whenever two things are compared which are not identical, or at least not substantially similar, someone opposing your perspective who wants to maintain the antithesis between the two views, will critique the analogy by only citing the dissimilarities. The individual making the argument, on the other hand, is emphasizing the commonalities.
Now I will focus on some philosophical elements of this topic.
Why should someone be an atheist? Some, who want to take the intellectual high ground, will say they are forced into that conclusion because religious beliefs are inherently irrational. But are they really? They are only irrational if one must try to prove them using the presuppositions held by the atheist. If you get aboard another travelerâ€™s tour bus, you will go to his destination. The quintessential question in examining either atheism or theism as a system of thought, would be in determining whose presuppositions are justified.
For me, atheism has a logical problem of philosophical cogency. The atheist worldview has an epistemology that wonâ€™t comport with its metaphysical narrative. If the universe is actually nothing but matter in motion, Francis Crick is right when he says that abstractions would be mere neurological sensations caused by the reactions of nerve endings and chemicals in the brain. The concepts of morality, meaning, self-awareness, personal identity, logic, justice, etc. would also be the result of specific stimulations of nerve endings and eruptions of brain chemicals.
If this is the stark reality, then atheists must borrow from the theistic worldview to account for the existence of anything non-material by nature. In denying the Creator, the atheist ought to throw out everything that is contingent on a theistic worldview. In effect, by using abstract concepts, they have thrown out the baby, kept the bath water, and now try to explain why the bath water is meaningful.
Whenever the atheist tries to insert teleology, or something parallel to it, back into his worldview, as if it belongs there, I think of my friend at the Kentucky Derby. His rider is thrown of the mount at the starting gate, but his horse dutifully runs around the track, and bolts down the home stretch, appearing to win by a nose. My friend dances with glee, boasting that the replay will show his horse won the photo finish. Then I wonder if he has had too many Mint Juleps, since he didnâ€™t realize a horse without a jockey is automatically disqualified.
I find atheism dissatisfactory and inadequate because it cannot deal with the outworking four concepts in a way that I find humanly essential. On the issues of origin, meaning, morality and destiny, I can find no copasetic conclusions with atheism.
What can the atheist offer us about the origin of the universe or our own origin? He is likely to conclude that matter is eternal, or that the universe doesnâ€™t need an explanation. How might that be functionally different then saying that the universe just popped into existence? The existence of something rather than nothing shouldnâ€™t be thought irrelevant. Many atheists are also evolutionists. If humanityâ€™s ancestor crawled out of an ocean of primordial soup on an insignificant speck of dust within a vast universe, and is not created in the image of God, why should our contemporary existence be esteemed greater than our beginning?
How does the atheist build a moral code on a materialist reality? â€œHumeâ€™s Gap,â€ also known as the â€œnaturalistic fallacy,â€ claims that it is impossible to reason from what is, to what ought to be. We canâ€™t proscribe morality from merely describing what the case is. Simply because people behave in certain ways, doesnâ€™t mean they should behave that way. That is why no theory of natural law, in and of itself, can stand as system of morality.
Is our death the final realityâ€”the end of our relationship with a friend or loved one? Many atheists believe that a hope of a heavenly life after death is an emotional crutch. But this is a double-edged sword. It would also be a hopeful advantage for the atheist if there were no sweet hereafter, since he knows that if the Christian perspective is correct, he would not partake of it. Disbelieving in life after death can also serve as an emotional crutch.
Once I was debating with someone who told me that they werenâ€™t impressed with Pascalâ€™s Wager. I am sure this individual was sincere in his claim. The problem is that, even so, he canâ€™t escape its implications. If I find my lifeâ€™s fulfillment through a Christian worldview, and am no worse off in death than the unbeliever otherwise, why would I become an atheist?
In that stream of thought, I often hear the argument that theists are weak-minded, and need false hopes to comfort them through the harsh realities of life. But let’s look at it from another perspective. People don’t seek God so diligently when everything is going well. Could it be that our struggles in life, our moments of brokenness, and our reactions to human tragedy, are all really innate designs of the Creator to insure that his creation continues to seek him? The normal yearning for truth, the bitterness of injustice, the quest to understand the hidden mysteries of life, the manifold sorrows, may be the natural cries from the heart of people seeking their God. Those viewing such searching as a crutch against bravely facing the despair of ultimate meaninglessness, could be the ones in denial and guilty of suppressing their natural proclivities.
Some atheists will say that Christians try to obey God, to either get eternal rewards or to avoid eternal damnation. This is an oversimplification, if not an entirely false impression. Christian theology already asserts that Jesus Christ has taken care of the issue of final judgment for those who believe. Christians obey God, because, according to the scriptures, that is how we show our love for Him.
Along these same lines, the reasoning goes further, asserting that the non-believer may be even more commendable than the believer, since the non-believer behaves morally without the impetus of either a reward or punishment for his actions. The problem of course, is how one derives a specific system of morality from a paradigm of materialism in the first place.
Do some atheists have a motive for their belief or lack of belief? Why do many react as though they are religious and dogmatic in their positions? Two quotes I find interesting are posted below. Iâ€™ll let you come to your own conclusions.
NYU professor Thomas Nagel in his 1997 book The Last Word, â€œ…I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally, hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
The novelist Aldous Huxley, in his treatise, Ends and Means, says the following: “For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”
Other than the fact that I will be accused for taking these two men out of context, what do I expect from this piece? No doubt it will end up on some atheistsâ€™ blogs. There it will be dissected and analyzed in such a fashion that the piece is distorted and misconstrued so that even I would agree with the critique, provided that most of the mischaracterizations were actually true. Then the multiple disciples of this erudite atheist guru will all offer their profuse adulations for their mentor while castigating and belittling the superstitious and ignorant writer under discussion.