Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Christian Analysis Of Atheism

If the Middle Ages are to stand in history books as the Age of Faith, it could be equally asserted that the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries will no doubt be remembered as the Era of Unbelief. Whereas unbelievers in the Middle Ages were careful in how they expressed their theological doubts for fear of befalling persecution, theists (be they Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox Jew) have today learned selectivity in how they go about expressing challenges to the prevailing lack of belief impacting fundamental cultural institutions such as government, academia, and the scientific establishment. And like the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, the atheistic establishment of today seeks to foster a worldview influencing all aspects of society and binds all individuals whether they wish to be or not. Such an assertion will become more obvious in the following analysis which identifies significant atheistic thinkers, clarifies why some chose to adhere to this particular belief system, and critiques this worldview and contrasts it with Christian monotheism.

As an intellectual tradition, atheism has captured the minds of some of history’s most formidable thinkers. Creation science apologist Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis has astutely pointed out that social issues and public policies rest upon a foundation of thought and belief. Keeping with this analogy, atheism proceeds from a theoretical base up through a practical program designed to influence various spheres of culture such as politics and education with prominent luminaries within the movement solidifying this mental edifice along the way.

As stated elsewhere within these introductory comments, atheism did not suddenly appear on the doorstep of the twentieth and twenty-first century fully formed demanding things like the removal of school prayer and the enshrinement of evolution as biological dogma. Rather like a weed strangling the other plants around it, today's culture of unbelief sprang from the soil in which it was planted. While atheism can trace its pedigree back throughout much of human history, a number of modern thinkers have ensured this system a place of prominence within the cultural consciousness.

One pivotal intellect laying a foundation for atheism was Ludwig Feuerbach. In "The Essence Of Christianity", Feuerbach set out to undermine the claims of the supernatural by providing religious belief with a naturalistic basis postulating that the idea of God is merely a mental projection of the goodness and nobility residing within man's own bosom (McGrath, 95). Once mankind realizes that there is no transcendent deity to rely on, Feuerbach argued, his sense of alienation could be overcome by reembracing the notions of perfectibility once reserved for God as an integral component of human nature (Lawhead, 399).

Attempting to solidify these claims regarding man's position atop a materialistic universe through a veneer of science was Charles Darwin. According to "The Cambridge Dictionary Of Philosophy", Darwin was among the first to popularize theories of materialistic gradualism or evolution with a naturalistic mechanism, namely the process of natural selection where adaptations are accumulated in surviving organisms and passed on to succeeding generations (177-179). According to Darwin in "The Origin Of Species", it is through the accumulation of these adaptations in response to varying environmental conditions that biologists find the diverse plethora of organisms that inhabit the earth today. Alister McGrath points out in "Intellectuals Don’t Need God & Other Modern Myths" that "The Origin Of Species" and its ensuing theory of evolution was not accepted as much for its scientific insight than for its justification of passionately believed ideological assumptions such as the free trade policies of the English Whig Party, various strands of socialism, and assorted theories regarding the perceived hierarchy of human races and ethnic groups (161).

Standing upon thinkers such as Feuerbach and Darwin who provided atheism with theoretical and allegedly scientific justifications were other formidable intellects pursuing the implications of a social order divorced from the influence of God. One such figure drawing upon the fonts of atheism for such a purpose was Karl Marx.

Marx served as a kind of intellectual middleman between the theoretically-inclined such as Feuerbach and Darwin and the later activists such as Lenin and Mao who would adapt Marx's own writings for the actual political arena. Borrowing from the materialism of Feuerbach, Marx believed that religion and the notion of God were devised by bourgeois elites in order to subjugate the proletarian masses. Borrowing from Darwin's theory of growth through conflict, Marx believed these religious notions would have to be swept away along side with most forms of private property in order to make a way for the pending socialist utopia. Marx's call for action and summary for analysis were sounded in "The Communist Manifesto"; his beliefs received further exposition through the massive "Das Kapital", much of which was compiled by Friedrich Engels after the death of his comrade.

Another prominent twentieth century thinker dedicated to the cause of atheism was Bertrand Russell. Though best remembered in academia as a foremost philosopher of mathematics, it could be argued that Russell's most widespread contribution remains as an influential proponent of applied atheism.
The core of Russell's objections to Christianity can be found in his "Why I Am Not A Christian", which seeks to justify his religious stance as well as highlight the ramifications of such beliefs as epitomized by Russell's sexual ethics sanctioning arrangements such as trial marriages and recreational promiscuity. Russell's views regarding family life were further elaborated upon in "Marriage & Morals", a publication whose radicalism contributed to costing Russell a professorship at the City College Of New York.

Russell's primary intellectual motivation was a burning contempt for God and His divine order for man. This conclusion can be drawn from Russell's social views, which were an eclectic mixture of totalitarian and anarchistic impulses.

On the one hand, Russell supported the establishment of a world government so intrusive it would decree who would be permitted to have children. Yet Russell participated in acts of outright civil disobedience in connection with the anti-nuclear movement, thinking that the modern state had grown too powerful and destructive for mankind's own good.

In most Christian investigations into atheism, it is common to highlight the affinity between contemporary sociopolitical leftism and religious atheism. However, the increasing popularity of intellectual iconoclast Ayn Rand proves that atheism can also serve as a temptation for those more prone to classify themselves as conservatives and libertarians as well.

Calling her philosophy Objectivism, Ayn Rand argued for the primacy of reason and the individual over all other human faculties and institutions, prompting some to characterize Star Trek's Mr. Spock as the embodiment of her worldview. However, in her quest to emancipate humanity from the dangers of totalitarianism, Rand went too far in elevating reason at the expense of faith and by characterizing the living God of the universe as just another dogma bent on enslaving the minds of men not all that unlike Marxist Communism.

Ayn Rand's thoughts find expression in a number of novels and polemical discourses. "Atlas Shrugged" is remembered as Ayn's signature work extolling the virtues of nonconformity and radical individualism in the guise of a novel about an architect bending to no standard but his own. In the novel "We The Living", Rand warns of the dangers posed by collectivism to the well-being of the individual. Rand's nonfiction works include "Philosophy: Who Needs It", "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", and "The Virtue Of Selfishness".

Of Ayn Rand, it says in "Christianity For The Tough Minded", "her attempt to formulate a philosophy of creative selfishness will make no great impact (227)." Yet her impact cannot be denied be denied as her portrait adorns the walls of the Cato Institute and key national leaders such as former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas count themselves among her admirers.

Looking at the matter from a certain perspective, the beauty and appeal of atheism can be found in its ability to adapt to the needs of those building systems of thought and seeking to justify individual behavioral practices. Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky realized that, if there is no God, anything is possible.

The diminished guilt available through atheism may serve as a greater incentive to those flocking under its banner than any of the answers the system might provide to the universal questions asked by thinking individuals. D. James Kenendy points out in "Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search Of Its Soul" that Bertrand Russell may have been an atheist as much to ease his conscience regarding his numerous affairs and seductions as out of a desire for alleged rational consistency (173). The idea of God posits the notion that the right to order the moral structure of reality resides in a power beyond the level of the finite individual's control.

And control is the one thing the individual atheist is loathe to relinquish. Though one can't fault her, Ayn Rand was fifty-eight years old before stepping aboard an airplane for fear of giving up control over her own destiny to the pilots and mechanics she claimed possessed a faulty "modern psycho-epistemology" (Branden, "The Passion Of Ayn Rand, 318).

Anarchist Segei Nechayev wrote in "Catechism Of A Revolutionist", "The revolutionist knows only one science, the science of destruction which does not stop at lying, robbery, betrayal and torture of friends, murder of his own family." How much easier it is to topple the tower of morality once its foundation of concrete theism has been removed.

A classic truism teaches that if wishes were horses beggars would ride, and another piece of cherished wisdom reveals wishing for something does not make it so. These same principles apply to the longing for a deity-free universe as expressed by the thinkers profiled throughout this exposition. For even though atheists have gone to considerable lengths to implement their systems, Communists going so far as to slaughter millions of innocent individuals, atheism fails to standup to closer scrutiny on a number of grounds.

Try as the atheist might to manipulate objective data to fit their hypothesis with some evolutionists going so far as to invoke the law in order to suppress perspectives conflicting with their origins account, the assumptions of atheism fail to square with the facts of nature and with the revelation of nature's God. At one time earlier in the modern era, it was quite common for the atheist to portray himself as the true friend and ally of science. However, as impartial observational science has probed deeper onto the macroscopic realm of cosmic space as well as the microscopic world of the subatomic particle, this relationship once prided by the atheist turned out not to be as solid as originally thought.

The scientific establishment and the philosophical elites once derided the so-called "theistic proofs" for the existence of God as the outdated wisdom of a less-enlightened era. It turns out, however, that these time-honored arguments may be as relevant as the latest academic journals.
The cosmological argument, perhaps the best known, states that all finite realities and structures have a cause. Therefore, ultimately there must be an uncaused cause complete in itself in order to get the proverbial billiard ball rolling; this the theist declared to be God.

Naturalistic cosmologists steeped in atheism such as Carl Sagan once tried to dance around the issue by saying that the cosmos is all there was, is, or ever will be. But it seems that the laws of physics don't exactly have a record of contributing to their local PBS station.

The Laws of Thermodynamics declare that, left to themselves, systems degrade to the maximum level of entropy; or in laymen's terms, things wear out. Employing this principle, one is forced to conclude that, if the universe is an infinitely-old closed system those like Sagan claim it to be, then the universe would have already wound down in eons past. Therefore, the universe must have had a beginning. And since something finite cannot come from nothing, the hypothesis of a divine creator provides the most plausible alternative.

It has been noted that the theistic proofs do not necessarily reveal the God of Judeo-Christian adoration but at best point the seeker in His direction. Likewise, the findings of science point the individual in the direction of a yet more definitive source of knowledge standing in opposition to the claims of atheism.

Scripture strikes the decisive blow against those daring to spit cognitively in the face of God. Psalms 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."
Until the scientist can replicate life on his own from nothing whatsoever, that verse settles the issue of whether the universe sings the praises of an omnipotent Creator or testifies to the cruel fact of an arbitrary universe devoid of plan or purpose. Some will no doubt continue to insist upon their own path of stubbornness despite what the very molecules they are breathing might be telling them.
Of those failing to be persuaded by the evidence, Psalms 14:1 says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Webster’s defines fool as “a person devoid of reason or intelligence.” Either the educated person assents to the reality of God or his so-called “education” is not worth the value of the parchment the big-shot degree is printed upon.

If the skeptic still refuses to abandon atheism in light of the objective evidence, one is left with no alternative but to drag out the rotten fruits produced by this faulty system in terms of ruined lived and fallen nations. For instead of establishing a set of moral values resting upon a foundation apart from divine revelation as originally postulated by the adherents of early atheistic modernism, one ends up with an ethical system based upon the absolutist relativism of postmodernism where almost anything goes except daring to set forth some kind of behavioral standard binding upon all.

According to Chuck Colson in "Against The Night: Living In The New Dark Ages", in the arena where relativism reigns supreme in opposition to the law of God, there is no legitimate ground in which one can exclude the arguments and proposals of Nazis, serial killers, and pedophiles (47). From today's headlines, the nation is coming to realize in the most brutal of ways that these ideas do not confine themselves to academic journals or newspaper opinion pages. And in the case of school shootings such as Columbine High, this radical antipathy towards God can in fact turn deadly.

If the lawlessness of atheism can wreak havoc upon individual lives, just imagine its affects magnified across entire societies. The major dictatorships of the twentieth century testify to this blood-soaked historical truth. Founded upon assorted atheistic ideologies, these totalitarian regimes promised secular heavens on earth but instead dragged their nations down to the very borders of hell.
Unfettered by eternal external standards, those holding the reins of power in such societies had nothing to hamper the implementation of their most extreme policy whims, not even the value of innocent human lives. For example, Mao Zedong of the People's Republic of China slaughtered five million of his own countrymen in pursuit of his Cultural Revolution and related kinds of Communist nonsense.While the United States has not yet eliminated that many (at least among those fortunate enough to escape the womb alive), the Orwellian day is here when good will be called evil and evil called good. Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett aptly noted on an appearance on "Meet The Press" that, had the Columbine killers greeted one another with "Hail the King of Kings" rather than their trademark "Heil Hitler", school officials would have intervened since an affirmation of theism --- especially of a Christian variety --- is the one thing an atheistic educational system cannot tolerate. School officials did not intervene and the rest is history, with organized unbelief claiming yet a few more in its unrelenting war upon God and humanity.

As public rhetoricians are fond of pointing out, mankind stands at a crossroads. The choice, however, goes to a level deeper than the choice between Democrats and Republicans that Americans must make on election day.

The decision to be made transcends the limited purposes of institutionalized politics to embrace fundamental issues of worldview and belief. The nature of this conflict can be discovered in a comparison and contrast between atheism and Christianity.

From the fundamental postulate regarding the nonexistence of God, atheism attempts to formulate a comprehensive framework upon which to hang its understanding of mankind and the universe. Without God to account for the cosmos in which they find themselves, atheists argue that the complexity of nature arose through a process of gradual evolution governed by the rules of chance.
This process of evolution, to the atheist, serves as the dynamic against which man strives to find and determine his role upon the earth. As such, everything is thus in a state of flux and nothing is fixed as man struggles to figure things out against the backdrop of a cold and purposeless void.

Not even fundamental issues such as individual rights, personal ethics, or social institutions can afford to remain fixed and stagnant. And if innocent human lives are ruined or destroyed, that may seem regrettable at this moment along the long evolutionary chain, but mankind will ultimately get things worked out and the piles of corpses littering history’s ditches will not seem so nauseous upon further enlightenment.

Of these ideas, Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Any history book objective enough to attest to the horrors of the twentieth century testifies to this startling truth.

Standing in contrast to the lonely pointlessness of atheism is Judeo-Christian theism recognizing God as the fundamental proposition of the universe. Like atheism, the Judeo-Christian tradition builds its system around its conceptual foundation as well. But since its basis is drastically different from that of atheism, the conclusions drawn by Christianity are considerably different.

Christianity holds that, since the universe was created from nothing through the Word of God, all creation is dependent upon Him at all times. Colossians 1:17 says, “ him all things consist.”
Since man is God’s creation, it is therefore God’s right to determine the standards by which man shall conduct his own affairs. And since God loves His creation, it follows that His standards are for the benefit of His children. These standards are communicated to mankind in a number of ways.
One such way is through individual conscience. Romans 2:14 says, “For when Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves.” While God has written the Law across the heart of man, man has suppressed this truth through sin.

God has overcome this development by making Himself known in the person of His Son Jesus Christ and through the direct propositional revelation of His Word and the Holy Bible of which II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” It is within this framework of Law and Grace that the balance between the individual and society is found as this system and the objective standards established by it protect the individual since it recognizes the worth and fallen character of each. That is why Psalms 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

Atheism remains one of the most serious intellectual challenges faced by the contemporary Christian. Despite its obvious scientific and sociological shortcomings, the powerful adherents of this system positioned in influential sectors of society such as government and academia have enshrined this worldview as the official dogma of civilization nearly as stifling as anything allegedly imposed by the medieval Catholic Church.

Yet despite considerable efforts to enforce this system as an orthodoxy that goes so far as to jail students daring to pray around a flagpole, like its sister system in the former Soviet Union, Western atheism is a decaying ideology. It is amid this decay often resulting in social and individual ruin that the Christian is able to proclaim the superiority of the theistic alternative and the God of its adoration.

by Frederick Meekins

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