I finally wrote up the rough draft of a post on atheism (by which I mean the active belief that there is no Ultimate Creator) that I promised months ago. Hopefully that will be out in a few days. Before I post that one, though, I wanted to lay a little groundwork with an aside on what people believe and how we tend to react to others who believe something different than us.
Here’s my thesis:
No matter what your spiritual or atheistic beliefs are, you believe something ludicrous and crazy.
Invariably, whenever a debate breaks out among people of differing beliefs, one side accuses the other of being “intellectually challenged” (to put it charitably) for believing or disbelieving what they do about God. This is especially prevalent whenever the debate breaks out in the comments of an Internet article. I do not advise ever reading any comments section on any webpage at any time. Ever. Except for this one. =)
Back to my point, though. Atheists accuse religious people (and for this article I’ll restrict it to Christians) of being crazy for believing in an invisible sky-fairy that nobody has ever seen and, when you look around, doesn’t even seem to give any credible evidence for his existence whatsoever except for some books written by a bunch of very fallible human men a few thousand years ago.
You know what atheists? You’re right. You’re absolutely right. Believing that there is an all-powerful deity out there that created all of reality simply by willing it to exist, and who loves humanity more deeply than a father loves his children IS pretty crazy. I mean, this dude (if he even exists) lets deranged teenagers walk into elementary schools and murder dozens of 5-year olds. He lets loving families get smashed into oblivion by a loser who got behind the wheel after drinking too much. He apparently prizes humanity above all else in creation, but placed them in a universe so vast that they proportionately occupy less space in it than a single atom of dust occupies in your own house, and perhaps even caused them to arise through a brutal process of natural selection, entailing survival of the strong and death for the weak.
That’s pretty crazy, I’ll admit.
But let’s turn that around. Christians accuse atheists of being crazy for believing that all of what we know came into existence on its own, with no creative force whatsoever causing it to be. Every majestic galaxy, every quantum particle, all the infinitely complex and interconnected processes that govern the universe just sort of poofed into being. Every ounce of love you’ve ever felt for your spouse, your child or your dog, every kindness that’s ever been done, every act of sacrifice, it’s all nothing more than chemicals in brains moving around and mixing with other chemicals, driven by completely non-sentient genes for the sole “purpose” of surviving to replicate themselves.
Atheists, you gotta admit: that’s pretty crazy.
Throw in any other spiritual belief, from pantheism to eastern reincarnationism to “we’re all just a computer simulation made for the entertainment of some super-evolved super-being.” No matter what it is you’re inclined to believe, it’s ludicrous and ridiculous. Can we all agree on that?
The job, then, of each of us is not to determine which belief system isn’t crazy, it’s to determine which one is the least crazy.
Look, there are lots of reasons to be an atheist. I don’t disagree with that for one second. Heck, I write a devoutly Christian blog and published a book expressly defending the accuracy of Christian belief and even I feel like being an atheist makes the most sense sometimes. When I look around at the universe, at how cold and lifeless and uncaring towards life it seems to be, and when I realize I’ve devoted my life to serving and worshiping a being that I’ve never physically seen with my eyes or heard with my ears…well, sometimes I doubt my own sanity.
When it all comes down to it, though, I ultimately find atheism to be far more unbelievable than a magic sky-fairy. The Christian worldview actually matches up incredibly well to reality (I’d argue that’s because it is reality, of course). For one example: Atheists often accuse “religion” of being responsible for untold suffering and atrocities throughout history. Well, there is truth to that, although in my opinion that view is greatly exaggerated, but they fail to grasp the key point that this is exactly what Christianity predicts. Christianity says that everyone who ever lived (save one) is selfish, greedy, lusty, and vengeful. Christianity says that humanity can and does take everything good that exists and twists it into cruelty and evil. Christianity says that people are so flawed in this way, so ruined, that we are utterly incapable of redeeming ourselves.
Doesn’t that look exactly like the world you live in?
Christianity also says that the way these things are now is not the way they’re supposed to be, and not the way they’ll always be. That one day humanity will be redeemed, all evil will be undone, and there really will be a Happily Ever After some day. Deep down we all know that’s true. We all know that love is good and hate is bad. We all have a primal need to see justice done and injustice rectified. We all want there to be some meaning, some point to it all. Every story ever told by mankind throughout our history is simply a variation on this theme. Where does this universal shared consciousness come from, if not from reality?
For me personally, though, the next few paragraphs are the deathblow to an atheist worldview.
You see, atheists often venerate the scientific method as the only reliable way to ascertain truth*. However, a critical key point they fail to grasp is this:
Atheism is completely refuted by the scientific method.
Sure, it’s true that we can’t devise an experiment to empirically test for God’s existence, but what we can empirically test for utterly repudiates the atheist belief that there is no creator.
Here’s why. We have never observed, ever, something coming into being from nothing. As long as humans have been capable of making observations, we have observed that everything has a cause. Always. Every time. After trillions upon trillions of quadrillions of experiences and observations over thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, nobody has ever once seen something pop into being spontaneously without a cause or creator behind it.
On the other hand, we have observed that same number of trillions and quadrillions of times things being created by other things. Stars beget stars, and life begets life. Technology arises from minds. Art arises from hearts. Every single thing or idea that has ever existed has been borne of something else. The scientific method, by which I mean the process of developing a hypothesis and then testing it to see how well it corresponds with reality, confirms this without fail.
Of course, stating this will always bring up the old objection that if God created everything, and everything is created, then what created God? I won’t go into detail here, but the important thing to note is that a Creator God, as understood by Christians and most theists, is by definition outside our mode of reality and is not subject to its laws, just as a computer programmer is not subject to the rules of the software she designs, or a painter is not subject to the style of art he paints in.
And really, that objection is just a smokescreen that hides superficial thought or preconceived biases. Ultimately the question still comes down to: did something create everything we see or did it all just pop into existence out of nothing, by nothing, and for nothing?
Believing that there is no Creator power goes against every single known fact and every single observed phenomenon throughout the entirety of human history and the sum total of all human knowledge. On the other hand, believing that there is a Creator out there, as hard as it may be sometimes, is fully and unconditionally supported by the same.
It’s the least ludicrous thing among all the ludicrous options.
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not its falsity.
* I should point out for the record that the scientific method is indeed one of the greatest ideas ever developed and it deserves its high place among human achievement, but from my observations atheists often take this way too far until it becomes something akin to worship.