Challenge to Atheists

from an article titled:
"Challenge to the Not So Bright"
by Geoffrey Biddulph
Meridian Magazine
October 3, 2003

There's a new atheist publicity campaign going on. You may have read about it. Some of the aggressively godless have begun calling themselves "brights."

To quote Daniel C. Dennett, a professor of philosophy at Tufts University, writing in the New York Times in July, "a bright is a person with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view. We brights don't believe in ghosts or elves or the Easter Bunny - or God."

"Brights" say they have adopted a new name to imitate the success of the homosexual movement, which saw increased acceptance after homosexuals began calling themselves "gay." He believes a more positive name for atheists will gather more support for their movement.

It appears that the first place where "brights" need to make some progress is in the marketplace of ideas. Despite decades of activity by secularists, the United States remains a decidedly believing nation.

Yet atheists inevitably believe they are smarter, wiser and more sophisticated than we puerile believers. So, it's time for a challenge to the "brights": can they beat me, a relatively recent believer, in a debate?

Here's the challenge: I will posit three incontrovertible arguments against the atheist worldview.

So, here goes.

Argument Number One:
Be practical, even if you don't want to be religious.

Even the most virulent atheist knows somebody who has converted to a Judeo-Christian religion and has improved his or her life in some form.

In my case, I drank a bit too much alcohol before I became religious. Alcoholics Anonymous is literally filled with people who appear to need the support of their belief in a Creator to help them through the drying out process. They just can't make it on their own.

Many of these people have beaten their wives, husbands or children or lost their jobs and their friends because of their addictions. And if they conquer their addictions, their lives inevitably improve, and a large percentage of them need religion to do this.

Atheists will sneeringly say that these people are using religion as a "crutch." My response is that when your leg is broken it's not shameful to use a crutch.

So, if a person is homeless because of his addictions and is able to overcome these addictions because of religion, how can an atheist possibly be opposed to that? But yet, atheists will mock religious people as childish. Is it childish to support something that touches people's lives for the better?

Even some of the most sneering secularists will admit that churches do many good things - foreign aid for the poor in Africa, soup kitchens, free clothes to the indigent, church-run schools, etc., etc.

But the non-religious seem to forget these good deeds when it comes to discussing the values they believe a society should espouse.

There are many atheists in humanitarian organizations, as well, but atheists would do well to note that many self-centered people have become more focused on helping their fellow man after religious conversions.

Do atheists really believe society as a whole would be better without religious groups? Who, then, would be doing all the charitable acts that make our world a better place?

In a greater sense, the most abominable movements of the 20th century were all notably anti-religious movements.

Nazism, which killed tens of millions, was based on a Darwinist philosophy of a superior race, and was notably anti-religious. (For those who are caught up in the Catholic church's supposed collaboration with the Nazis, please note that Hitler famously declared that "we want no God but Germany!" and harassed all religious organizations, including the Catholic church). Communism, which resulted in tens of millions of deaths in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola and elsewhere, was officially an atheist ideology.

The sins of more religious societies such as Israel and the United States are notably minor in comparison.

In fact, anthropologists and historians have noticed that small societal groups that adopt secular and/or atheist ideologies inevitably degenerate into immorality and cause a decrease in personal freedom.

In comparison, groups that rely on true Judeo-Christian ideals inevitably become more moral and increase personal freedom.

Before I go on, let me address the argument that atheists will inevitably put forward: "What about the Crusades, the Inquisition, indulgences, the slaughter of the Indians," etc., etc., etc. There is no doubt that Christians and to a lesser degree Jews have carried out barbarities in the name of religion.

We Latter-day Saints believe that most of these cruelties were carried out by religions that did not include the fullness of the Gospel and therefore did not represent the true will of God.

But regardless of your viewpoint on history, the most important point is a comparison between the behavior of recent atheistic societies and societies that support the Judeo-Christian worldview. There is simply no comparison: atheistic societies are simply less moral, more oppressive and crueler than ones built on a Judeo-Christian paradigm.

As a last point, I would encourage our atheist friends to read "The Question of God," by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., which is a fascinating comparison of the lives and ideas of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis by a Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry.

Freud's ideas of the human psyche are aggressively atheistic. He sees belief in a higher power as childish and remained a confirmed atheist until his death.

C.S. Lewis spent his early adult years as an atheist and then converted to Christianity and became arguably the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century.

The author is intimately aware of details of the lives of Freud and Lewis.

Where Freud was pessimistic and depressed and often used cocaine to get through the day, Lewis became increasingly optimistic and upbeat as his beliefs strengthened through his life. His Christian beliefs famously helped him overcome the devastating death of his wife Joy.

Where Freud could not maintain healthy relationships with his family members and his friends, Lewis became more jovial, sociable and closer to his family and friends as his faith grew.

Where Freud was ambitious and sought fame in an attempt to find happiness, Lewis was content being with his friends and family and had little desire for fame.

Freud, like all atheists, was constantly filled with doubts. Despite insisting he was an atheist, his private letters constantly refer to God: "I passed my examinations with God's help"; "if God so wills"; "science seems to demand the existence of God"; "God's judgment" and "God's will" are phrases that Freud often used. Freud continued to be preoccupied with the Creator as he approached his death, and his last book, Moses and Monotheism, explored religion. He simply could not leave the issue of God's existence alone.

Dr. Nicholi, author of The Question of God, conducted a research project at Harvard University in which he interviewed undergraduates who had experienced what they called a "religious conversion." The author interviewed the students themselves and the people who knew them before and after their conversions.

The results, which were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that each subject described a "marked improvement in ego functioning . . . a radical change in life style with an abrupt halt in the use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes; improved impulse control, with adoption of a strict sexual code demanding chastity or marriage with fidelity; improved academic performance; enhanced self-image and greater access to inner feelings; an increased capacity for establishing 'close, satisfying relationships'; improved communication with parents . . . a lessening of 'existential despair;' and a decrease in preoccupation with . . . apprehension over death. (see The Question of God, p. 80)

The evidence is incontrovertible: while there are many instances of negative acts that have been carried out by people and societies in the name of religion, the reality is that people or societies that truly devote themselves to the Judeo-Christian worldview are more moral and happier than those who oppose religion.

And here's the clincher: in a Judeo-Christian society, you have the freedom to be an atheist. In an atheist society, you will inevitably lose the freedom to believe as you please. This has been proven again and again throughout history.

Why would atheists be opposed to a worldview that offers people comfort, helps them overcome addictions, promotes charity and increases personal and societal freedom?

Argument number two:
The issue of proof

When you sit down and think about it, atheism has a Sisyphean task: it must prove something that is impossible to prove. There is no way to prove that God does not exist.

First of all, it is entirely possible to have contact with God and not recognize it. But merely saying that one has never had contact with God is no argument at all. That is like saying China doesn't exist because you have never been there yourself.

Billions of people do say they have had personal contact with God and did recognize it. Without knowing the true nature of all the experience of all those people, how can their claims simply be dismissed?

I have had contact with God and am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my Creator lives and loves me. How can an atheist ever know whether my experience is true or not?

All he can really say is that he never knowingly had contact with his Creator.

If you bring this up to an atheist, he will inevitably say: well, good for you, but God has never contacted me. And yet he will continue being an atheist and claiming that God does not exist.

The reality here is that all atheists are really agnostics. While by their means they cannot know that God exists, they also cannot know that God does not exist just because they believe God has never contacted them.

As G.K. Chesterton once said: atheism is "the most daring of all dogmas," because it is the "assertion of a universal negative." As he explained, "for a man to say that there is no God in the universe is like saying that there are no insects in any of the stars." The reality is that they simply don't know.

Now, if you say this to an atheist, he is likely to bring up what he thinks is some brilliant counter-attack like, "well, how can you believe in the fairy tales in the Bible? I can't abide a belief system based on fairy tales."

This is like the high school freshman who says all mathematics are useless because he's having problems understanding the basics of algebra.

So, my atheist friends, are you ready to admit that you simply don't know whether or not there is a God and that your attempts to declare a universal negative are philosophical dead ends?

Argument number three:
Kant and the beauty of science

"Naturalists" base their worldview on what has been described as the "Fallacy of the Enlightenment." This fallacy is that the only things that are real are things that human reason and science can discover. Anything else falls into the realm of the supernatural and therefore should not be believed.

In his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant showed that it is a fallacy to limit reality to things that only human reason can know. How can our five senses, which are limited, capture all of reality? It is philosophically obvious that other realities exist beyond our perception to see, hear or feel them.

Kant's point is that reality is often different from our perception of reality.

Kant pointed out that this difference opens up room for a Creator.

I will take this a step further: the recent great discoveries of science are proof that other levels of reality exist beyond our ability to perceive them. If you had told people of Kant's day (the late 18th century) that there would soon be a box that received and processed moving pictures through waves in the air, they would have thought you ridiculous. Yet, we have discovered a new realm of reality: television, and pocket-sized live face time from around the world.

And we keep discovering more hidden layers of reality every day.

The atheist will say: this is simply science, which is a naturalistic enterprise. But this is exactly where his argument falls apart.

What if God is simply the universe's greatest scientist? What if God has mastered the powers and laws of the universe to the extent that He controls all of the layers of reality?

It would be relatively easy for this God, this super-scientist, to create the sun and the planets and our Earth. And of course this loving God would want to have the society of others whom He could train to become like Him. That's where we come in.

If we see God as a super-scientist who has the ability to change our reality when it suits His needs, it becomes much easier to believe that He gave Moses the power to part the Red Sea and Elijah the power to stop the rain.

Miracles, then, become simply the naturalistic manipulation of scientific principles by means that we don't completely understand.

An atheist's declaration that miracles can never exist is a bit like the 18th century scientist's surprise at modern telecommunications.

Miracles happen on a plane of scientific reality that we have simply not discovered yet.

But the beauty of God's plan is that every time a scientist makes another discovery, He is letting us know about these new layers of reality.

And the most amazing discovery of all is that as we draw closer to God, we can imagine learning many of the scientific principles that He used to create our reality. The potential is stunning.

(edited by David Van Alstyne)

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