Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    Atheism Is Not Good

    Attempts to raise oneself to some sort of a higher moral ground is futile, unless there is an objective moral ground to begin with. Christopher Hitchens is the latest to make this attempt, following the methods of fellow atheist Sam Harris. His attempt is equally fallacious. While the majority of his article deals with the false religions of Islam and Mormonism, the most basic presupposition of his article is that all religions fall into the same category, except, of course, his own idol of naturalism.

    ......
    In reality, there are really no new arguments to be gleaned from the article. Hitchens beings his rant with four “irreducible objections” to religious faith, which we will examine in due time. However, Mt. Hitchens begins with the age-old atheistic practice of attempting to anoint himself as the sole champion of “science and reason”. He writes, “Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith.” I would like to know just what his “belief” is if it is not a belief. Such nonsense is a vain attempt to place his own beliefs on higher ground than others despite the fact that ALL worldviews are based on faith in something. A person who promotes logic must first place faith in the laws of logic. As I pointed out in a post last year, atheists cannot even validate the very logic and reason that they constantly put their faith in. In a naturalistic worldview, reason is nothing more than “the meaningless flux of the atoms” created by human neurons. What biochemical reaction, in the history of the universe, could ever produce that kind of infallible “reason” which atheists constantly appeal to? In a purely natural world, reason itself is unreasonable, and logic illogical. Nonetheless, Hitchens insists that his worldview is the only one that has respect for science and reason, and anyone who disagrees with him “contradicts science or outrages reason.”

    In any case, does atheism always “distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason”, as Hitchens claims? What about the issue of origins? Does not abiogenesis both contradict science and outrage reason? We are constantly fed a boatload of theories that atheists have to explain the origins of life. These views, such as the possible prebiotic soup on early earth or the possible transfer of life from another planet, are currently at scientific dead ends. Life, in even it’s most basic form, is far to complex to have simply put itself together. The mathematical differences alone between the organic and inorganic worlds put naturalistic assumptions concerning the origins of life in the realm of the ridiculous. Granted, I don’t know which theory of life’s origins Mr. Hitchens would subscribe to, as he never tells us. Whatever it is, though, we can be certain that it will require a lot of “faith”. (By the way, don’t expect any apologies from those who have long been promoting “Lucy” as a human ancestor, as another evolutionary link bites the dust.)

    Hitchens claims that he doesn’t think himself arrogant, yet not only does he claim himself and his fellow atheists to be the sole keepers of science and reason, but also of “free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake”. Now one may think it unfair to label Mr. Hitchens in this manner, and suggest that he has never made this claim, but it is hard to read it any other way. The underlying self-righteousness inherent in atheists who hold themselves up as champions of such virtues as science, reason, and free thought also presume that religious folks reject the same. Nonetheless, as we have seen above with science and reason, atheists are anything but free-thinkers. The world of the atheist simply cannot allow anything to exist outside of atoms and molecules. Their “thinking” is hemmed in by their prison of naturalism, and they won’t even consider the possibility of anything supernatural. In a universe full of mysteries, many of which cannot yet be explained with scientific naturalism, Mr. Hitchens has written off anything that would violate his faith in naturalism.

    In regards to openmindedness, we see the same result. Having neatly compartmentalized all religions (except his own) in the same category as human sacrificing Aztecs, Hitchens effectively closes his mind to all of them. In regard to this subject, I must ask since when has “openmindedness” become such a virtue? The trouble with having a mind that is always open is that people will insist on trying to fill it with nonsense and push the good stuff out. There are times when having an open mind is totally unacceptable. If I had a doctor who suggested that the proper treatment for hemorrhoids was to have a triple bypass surgery on my heart, I would be seeking a second opinion. One may accuse me of being “closed minded”. After all, who is to say that this surgery won’t work? In many areas of both life and philosophy, being “closed minded” is the virtue.

    Hitchens proceeds to defend his atheistic beliefs by comparing the morals of his faith to his religious counterparts. “We do not believe in heaven or hell, yet no statistic will ever find that without these blandishments and threats we commit more crimes of greed or violence than the faithful”. Of course, even if gathering such statistics were possible, Hitchens would be faced with the task of defining “the faithful” (never mind the fact that he cannot logically arrive at any objective moral standard to begin with). Thus, he can boast of his good works, and even claim superiority over the faithful in that arena, suggesting that “if a proper statistical inquiry could ever be made, I am sure the evidence would be the other way [in favor of atheists being morally superior]”. Of course, he isn’t being arrogant. After all, he told us so.

    Hitchens’s assessment of religion in general is dishonest at best. Aside from the ridiculous suggestion that Nazis were Lutherans (they were, for the most part, socialistic atheists, but we certainly don’t want that blight on the morality of atheism), he equates belief in the true God of Scripture with “Aztecs [having to] tear open a human chest cavity every day just to make sure that the sun would rise”. Now once again, it may be tempting for another atheist to rush to Hitchens’s defense and suggest that he was doing no such thing. How could an atheist attribute such a crime to the God of Scripture if he doesn’t even believe in God? Therefore, that couldn’t be his point. To which I would reply, “What was his point”? If he would like for Christians to join him in condemning human sacrifice, he has my vote. If he is making a moral judgment against religion in general, then let him first establish a moral standard outside of God, and then show us how God (or his “inventors”) should be subject to that standard. It might be worthwhile at this point to examine the human rights record of atheism within the past century, but we’ll hold off on that temptation for the moment. It would quickly become apparent that atheists have no ground to gain in these types of straw men attacks.

    By citing this and other religious histories that are irrelevant to the Christian faith, he then, with no evidence whatsoever, boldly proclaims that “Religion is manmade” (assuming, of course, all of them). He offers a weak defense of this assertion by throwing out the idea that “the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did”. Thus, he finds a way to conclude from this that all religions are false, except, of course, his own.

    After his bold (but not arrogant) attack on religion, Hitchens graciously suggests that “I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could. Very generous of me, you may say. But will the religious grant me the same indulgence?” As far as I can tell, no one is forcing Mr. Hitchens to become “religious”. The underlying flaw in this request, however, is the idea that there can be neutrality. In other words, it’s alright with Hitchens if people are religious, as long as they keep religion in one corner of society and don’t let it cross over into anything else. Let the atheists have our schools, courtrooms, civil governments, and a monopoly on the public sector, and they won’t object to religion one bit. How generous of them! (At least he doesn’t want to outlaw parents teaching children religion, like Richard Dawkins does). With that in mind, let’s examine the four “irreducible objections” to religious faith.

    1.) It wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos.
    Here is a dirty little secret. Up until the turn of the century (and even more recently), the belief among atheists was that the universe was infinite. In the words of Carl Sagan, The cosmos is “all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be”. The idea that the universe could have a beginning (or an end) was so objectionable to Albert Einstein that he invented (out of thin air) a value for his cosmological constant that would allow for his relativity equations to support an eternal universe. It was only recently that the COBE showed us, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the universe had a beginning. This discovery in 1992 led atheist astronomer John Maddox to conclude that COBE’s discoveries were “philosophically unacceptable”. Even Stephen Hawking could not resist concluding that the COBE data “smacks of Divine intervention”. Anthony Kenny of Oxford University sums up their quandary nicely when he says: “a proponent of the big bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the universe came from nothing and by nothing.” We have already discussed the origins of man, and I would be interested in knowing Hitchens’s views on both before he criticizes our views on either. By not giving us his views, he frees himself to make assertions about the religious view of origins without having his own view scrutinized with “science and reason”. So much for the idea that Hitchen’s statement that he “distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason”.

    2.) Because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism.
    Atheism, by its mere definition, is the “maximum of solipsism”. It is the atheist who will not allow anything to exist outside what his five senses combine with mathematical equations can validate. And it is the non-Christian who is caught up in slavery. They may be blind to this slavery, but it is a slavery that they cannot escape (nor want to escape) from. For the believer, the Son has set us free, and we are free indeed.

    3.) It is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression.
    Here is where the rubber meets the road. Atheists have no problem with religion, as long as they don’t ever have to answer to a higher power for their own beliefs and actions. Most atheists want to find some sort of objective moral standard, and even consistently appeal to one, but will search in vain to find it in their natural world. In the world of atheistic morals, society is the sole determiner of ethics, and thus they want to garner control of society. Anything sexual in today’s neo-Freudian society is deemed as permissable, but woe be to those who preach the gospel. That is the atheist’s unpardonable sin. While the atheist will chastise the Christian for “imposing” our moral beliefs on society, they are just as guilty. The difference is, we have a basis for morality, whereas they seek to impose their own conceited human opinions. (See my post "Of Apes and Men" for more information in this area).

    What kind of world could we envision if we remove “dangerous sexual repression”? Would that include rape? Incest? Child relations with minors of any age? Bestiality? (Yes, there are groups out there pushing to allow all of these things.) Even if one could find a virtue in that (good luck), what would be next? How about removing “dangerous violence repression” or “dangerous greed repression”? We, then, could truly live like the glorified hairless apes that atheists say we are.

    4.) It is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.
    This, coming from the same author who already told us that atheists “do not believe in heaven or hell” and “are reconciled to living only once”. The idea that there will be a final judgment for the sins of mankind is objectionable to these “moralists”. Anyone who hates God and loves death and think that they can avoid drinking the cup of the fullness of God’s wrath is the ultimate wishful thinker. For there is no thought more comforting to a reprobate sinner than that which tells him that his sins will die with him in the grave.

    This apologetic has been a unique one for me, as I have consented to argue from Hitchens’s perspective, without a single appeal to Scripture. Such an examination will not be complete, however, with a call to repent and believe on Christ. This call goes out to all, including Chris Hitchens. His mercies are tender and sweet, yet unknown to those who love death. Why will you hate your own soul? Will your hand be strong on the day of God’s wrath? To whom will you appeal? Run to Christ, that He may be your Rock and your Refuge.
    ......

    5 comments:

    August said...

    By labelling his objections as "irreducible", Hitchens seems to want to avoid having to account for the underlying principles. Irreducibility, in a philosophical sense, means that there can be no explanation at the lower levels because of novel properties of the whole that preclude prediction and explanation.

    But quite simply, his objections are in fact reducible. For them to be irreducible, they would need to be axiomatically and neccessarily true, within the context of both Christianity and atheism. As we already see from PL's post, that is most assuredly not the case. Christianity is irreducible, something that must have passed Hitchens by when he formulated his objections which attempt to reduce Christianity, but his atheistic objections are far from irreducible.

    Here are my observations:
    1. He asserts that religion misrepresents origins. But that objection can most certainly be reduced, even within his own paradigm. For example, does he hold to the oscillating universe, multiverse or simply eternal universe? How does he reconcile any of those with the current majority held scientific theory of the big bang, which happens to agree with the Biblical rendering?

    2. His second objection is vague and mostly unsubstantiated. Either he knows very little about the foundations of the reformed Christian faith, or his objection is simply not applicable. The only "solipsism" that reformed Christians hold to is that of God. Without God, there can be no self, there can be no verification of the self without His testimony. Furthermore, Hitchens does not provide anything to the contrary within his own (non)belief structure. If he holds to any non-solipsistic position, I would love to see him justify his own epistimology. From his writings I reach the conclusion that he holds to some extreme self-servile, self-solipsist worldview, but then again, which atheist doesn't?

    3. His third "irreducible" objection is patently absurd. I would like to understand how something like Christianity is both the cause and result of "dangerous sexual repression"? How can anything be both the cause and effect of the same object? Let's see...sexual repression caused religion which caused sexual repression? Sounds kinda circular to me. The same thing cannot be both cause and effect. And it still begs the question too, if sexual repression caused religion, then where did sexual repression come from in the first place? How does the undesirability of people to sleep around or with their pets lead to Jesus dying on the cross for sin, including that of sexual misconduct? It is a stretch, to say the least.

    4. The last objection, that of "wish-thinking", must be reducible if he means that it is underwritten by the previous three. If it is irreducible, then why does he go to a book length substantiation of why his wish-thinking, that of the materialist, is more valid than that of the Christian. If it was merely irreducibly true, then it would not need any arguments, it would be self-evident. And it still just posits his wish-thinking against that of the theist, without him providing any motivation for why the logical faculties of the materialist is more valid than that of the Christian.

    This was yet another cheap attempt by a foul-mouthed pop-culturalist to try and justify his own self-serving philosophies. Hitchens fails miserably in trying to put forward any new or novel objections to Christianity. The efforts by him, Harris and Dawkins amount to nothing more than ad-hominem attacks on faith, while they wallow in their own shallow and unsubstantiated self-righteousness.

    To call Hitchens' objections either effective or irreducible would demonstrate extreme ignorance, and give credibility to what amounts to kindergarten arguments...name-calling and blind assertion.

    Swordbearer said...

    Sharp minds and apologetics!

    I think you're right in that not just the highmindedness of atheists must be addressed and the false grounds and claims upon which it stands shown to be what it really is, but "especially" the highmindededness and false claims of superior logic and evidence needs to be exposed and expelled.

    These posts do that simply and convincingly.

    JD Longmire said...

    Hey, PL - just saw a reference to this article here - in the comment section.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Interesting. He quotes a few questions from my article, and then answers "no", without any attempt to explain he answer. I guess they really do think Hitchen's objections are "irreducible". With that, they can close the case and all go home.

    August said...

    Huh. They addressed nothing. But it is typical of the current intellectually challenged crop of atheists. One comment was quite funny...on the one hand they are arguing for the proper irreducibly foundations of atheism, while in the next sentence they state that atheism is merely a lack of belief, or more specifically, a lack of belief in the probability of a god existing.

    Of course the second statement is an effort to remove the burden of proof from them, based on a misunderstanding of the unprovability of negatives, but it most assuredly does not concur with their assertion of irreducible truth, unless they wish to argue for 100% lack of probability of a god existing, and shouldering the burden of proof by their own standard.

    I love when they slam the door on their own fingers.