back to Mainly for Non-Believers
Much atheism is not fervently held. It's more of a sneaking suspicion that just won't go away. It's like a walk in gentle rain. You're lost in thought and don't notice until you feel yourself shivering that you're soaked to the bone. Much atheism hasn't been thought through. It isn't about "arguments"—it's about disappointment, the sight of world pain, the personal frustration you feel that you can't do anything about the awful wrongs of the world. "If I ruled the world…" comes to mind. Things would be different if we had the power. For many it comes closer to home—their broken marriages and families, their crushing poverty while moral decadents live better than kings--such things drive them to distraction. And if God does exist, what good is he? He does nothing! He might as well not exist.
I don't have a lot of criticism for sensitive people who feel that way. They listen to our Christian "explanations" and go away unconvinced and sometimes rather sad that they can't agree. They aren't helped, of course, by pugnacious pride-filled Christians who should have been made gracious by God's gracious gift of truth in Jesus Christ. Bullied and jeered at they have reason to wonder if they're missing anything after all in not believing.
But non-believers are not all "made of the same stuff". Some came to atheism by their brilliance, don't you see. Regret their atheistic faith? Not a bit of it; the reverse is true, they glory in it. They aren't content to speak their faith but like some Christian types they can't keep from snarling and jeering. They gloat over their vision as if somehow they created it rather than being gifted with it. I don't care where they think they got it; I'm only certain that they didn't create it. And now, having this vision they mock the blind with half-truths, some truths and some wilful ignorance.
At Salk Institute Steven Weinberg spoke of biblical faith as a crazy old aunt who nurtured lies and tyrannised the human race. Richard Dawkins raves about the God-delusion and how he'll not miss the crazy old aunt for a moment when she's dead and gone. And whimpering Sam Harris reminds us of the likes of Tim la Haye and his Rapture-obsessed followers and consigns the entire biblical faith to "faith-based nihilism." (Nice turn of phrase that.) These are not rather sad, still-wrestling-with-the-issues people; not on your life. These are militants, convinced beyond debate! "These are your gods, O humanity, who will bring you up out of the land of religious bondage into the glorious new world." (Hmmm, there's something familiar about that affirmation.)
I won't trouble you with the history that shows that the foundations of modern science and medicine were laid by deeply religious men and women who often fought the religious establishment to bring truth to the world. Sam cares nothing of that and Weinberg consciously chooses to ignore it. Nevertheless, these are the men who will save us; but who will they save and what will they save them from?
What do they offer the teeming millions who were ravaged from birth to death by the cruel and powerful? Stalin who disowned his "crazy aunt" early in life, tortured and murdered millions and left an inestimable legacy of horror—he died quickly and almost painlessly from a brain haemorrhage. What do these new gods say of all the pillaged and plundered poor of ages past? "There's no justice for them. No righting of wrongs! Nazi commandants who robbed, tormented and boasted about it, die in old age, in their sleep, after a life of opulence. There'll be no righting of wrongs!"
If that were all, we could understand H. J Blackham's atheistic groan that the greatest objection to atheism is that it's too bad to be true. He said, "It's its pointlessness!"—that's the killer.
But that's not all. Not only will there be no justice and righting of all wrongs; there's been no moral wrong! The atrocities of Stalin and the Nazis were chemical reactions. It would have been better for the sufferers if these people hadn't done what they did—but you can't call it "immoral". [Bertrand Russell was one of the few (Stratonician) atheists with the guts to admit this. Sly Steven Weinberg says our "highest" thoughts and emotions are chemical; as if our worst were something different.] Sam Harris drones on about "genuine morality" and "right and wrong," ignoring the fact that he and his cohorts insist that morality and moral standards are chemical reactions that have no virtue or value. Thoughts, they teach us, are as mechanical as water freezing in cold temperatures. We might like some thoughts or hate some thoughts but if thoughts and feelings are chemical you can't call them good or bad, moral or immoral. You like ice-cream I like molesting children; Sam rejoices in skin grafts for little burned children and Stalin and Hitler rejoiced in burning little children. Reacting chemically we might declare some actions "illegal" but on Sam's chemically reactionary terms you can't call them "immoral". There really is no moral choice. Choice is not choice--it's chemical reaction, however complex.
Stalin has nothing to feel guilty about! Attaboy Sam. Good old Steven.
Any philosophy that logically requires us to stand in silence before Nazi and Soviet torture and genocide, unable to call it "immoral," is a bummer of a philosophy but it's what the bags of bio-chemicals like Carolyn Porco offered at Salk.
Jesus Christ said, "I will right all wrongs." And in keeping with his Holy Father's purposes, with the prophet he would say to all the innocent pillaged and tormented, "I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten."