This is not an academic question with a simple answer to point to the birth of atheism in the 17th century and its spread during the early part of the 19th century. It is a question which goes much deeper and asks “why and when do we decide that there is no God for us?”
Someone recently commented on the kind of debates we mostly have today when we talk about religion. One of the major things that came up is that people who refuse to accept the possibility of existence of God do so in order to avoid any sense of being responsible to someone else. From a psychological point of view he said “it’s like trying to grow up, when a child looks forward to becoming his/her own person”. I Think this was meant to represent a sense of emancipation kind of freedom from oppression under which they did not want to stay. This says more about our upbringing and far less about any meaningful understanding or relationship one is supposed to have with any higher being.
2 Tim 3:16 Every scripture23 is inspired by God24 and useful for teaching, for reproof,25 for correction, and for training in righteousness, 3:17 that the person dedicated to God26 may be capable27 and equipped for every good work.
How do we discern or decide what is right? Philosophy of thought has, according to some, completely disappeared. People often look to others to guide them and if one is to escape this and come to his own views, how is he/she to go about their way in order to find that inner happiness of knowing that their mind was not made up for them by somebody else. According to Christians, Jesus came to provide us with this option, his word, the Bible, is that independent tutor who can teach us, under whose light we can make up our own mind.
Honesty or dishonesty – Fear-mongering or open debate: This light is necessary otherwise how can anyone make sense of anything in the darkness? There are therefore many reasons to attack these pillars of the Christian faith in order to stay at the same elevated position of not being obliged to own anyone or anything. But can we truly say that we are totally independent, or self-sufficient? I think it was Marx who said that “Humans are social animals” therefore we are co-dependent on one another. I know of no one who happily exists in his/her solitude and can claim that they can do things their own way.
We often have much greater expectations of God than anybody else but frequently we refuse to give him even the slightest possibility of granting him the same rights that we would offer to anyone else. (So we judge him more harshly but we give him absolutely no rights, the very thing we so boldly demand) Isn’t our humanity limited by time and space to gather and process information and isn’t our knowledge often lacking in its entirety but is what we do know enough to see us through to the point where we can say with great certainty that we know and understand all the answers to all the basic questions we ask as humans such as Why are we here? Who are we? Where are we going? These are not simply philosophical questions that are irrelevant to us. Indeed they make us what we are. Our view of ourselves, the directions we take and the desires we cultivate are nothing short of being honest searching and our attempt to answer the question of life and to find meaningful reasons for our existence.
According to the Bible our life span is not intended to be limited to the 80 years (average life span) we spend on earth. We have all heard of John 3:16 3:16 For this is the way36 God loved the world: He gave his one and only37 Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish38 but have eternal life.39 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,40 but that the world should be saved through him.
Emperor’s new clothes: God appears to have generous desires that are aimed at saving, protecting, bettering and enhancing our lives rather than taking away, destroying or profiteering from our involvement with Him. Indeed, there seems to be no apparent benefit to God by us being adopted or accepted by Him. So why is he so patient, understanding and welcoming and always seems to display his loving kindness? Is it this question that frightens many? There are those who do not wish to be tricked like the vain Emperor (in the story about his new clothes) who was exploited by greedy weavers who promised him the “the best robes ever” made out of the pure GOLD that the Emperor himself would provide for them. However, according to the weavers these new clothes would be only visible to those who were bright and not ignorant. Interestingly enough, new atheists have a name for themselves, which is very self-congratulatory but very brief. They call one another “Brights”, not stupid, with intellectual prowess, but with greater superior intellect that is far above anyone who would dare to believe in God. It is not until someone comes with a CHILD-like faith and logic and asks a direct question that is not masked in flowery language, that the full extent of the meaning of this new name is discovered. What we need is more direct questions. We don’t need our questions being answered with yet more questions.
For me, the meaning of the story is simple, weavers are the atheists who actively publish books which are full of hot air, and very little substance. They sell their books, and become quite rich in the process. It is not until a small child comes and discovers the Emperor’s foolish nakedness that the Emperor finally finds out that his trust was misplaced, and his faith in the weavers abused. As a Christian I don’t think we can profit from our faith and for atheists, here is my challenge. If their interest is truly in humanity neither should they benefit from those who are genuinely and desperately searching. If this is their livelihood they should own up to it, or if it’s making them rich and offering fame that they would not otherwise obtain, they should question their motives. I don’t accuse atheists of being talentless. I only caution those who act like “village idiots” pretending to possess the knowledge and understanding of the entire universe. This is simply not possible in our short lifetimes and although people may specialise in certain aspects, they simply cannot know all there is to know.
Don’t be fooled: The Bible is right when it states “The fool said in his heart ‘There is no God’ ” for how can anyone know or prove such a “fact”. He/she either lacks modesty or is completely dishonest with himself and is intentionally seeking to deceive others so as not to be alone in his corner of disbelieving. We still yearn to be loved, approved and respected in a world that some perceive to be overpopulated. A little bit of love and companionship goes a long way. We need to stop self-adoration and stop self-medicating our emotions and instead challenge our minds. Only once we understand can we truly be emotional about anything at all.
I am often impressed with my children who ask the right questions with a great deal of insight. It seems to me that philosophy for many only serves to confuse and distract the real issues. Unfortunately for me, Philosophy is one of my favourite subjects but I think we need to be honest if we are trying to find answers to our questions, and not simply trying to seek the answers that we desire. That would be a definition of the fundamentalist, “Someone who is collecting data that will support his/her theory at the expense of any other information that may disprove his/her hypotheses.
Honesty is a great quality. Our personal experience does not hold all the answers. We can ill afford such luxury of ignoring our future. We are programmed to plan for the “rainy day”. We save for our pensions, we build our houses, we plant and reap and store our food, yet when it comes to eternity we seem to pay so very little attention.
I’m not suggesting that we should spend our life meditating and ignoring our everyday life. On the contrary, as we go through our everyday life I would encourage people to continue asking that simple question “Why”. This is the very question we used to use as we were growing up as parents of young children will undoubtedly know. There is no reason why we should stop now. I know what the right answer for me is but before I reached the conclusion I had to ask many questions.
Note that for Christians there are no multiplicity of right answers. Jesus himself puts it like this in John 14:6 14:6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
We have been granted freedom of choice, we are gifted with brains and a sense of reasoning. It is, however, our duty to ask questions. Please investigate the claims made by the Bible “to have the answer to our questions”.
The question continues to stand “what did you do with your life”? Did you ask yourself “where we are going”? Are you being honest with yourself? Are the quick dismissive answers you give simply a self-defence mechanism to protect your vulnerability?
There are many items on this blog that attempt to provide some answers to many of the questions that are being asked today. We should not be ashamed or afraid of attempting and even finding a degree of certainty for ourselves. Matthew 7:7 says this “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you“. You know what you need to do. God on the other hand has made a promise that he will bless your and my searching. So let’s test this promise and see whether our faith in him is being misplaced.
Defend the word
You have it wrong. Atheists aren’t “people who refuse to accept the possibility of existence of God,” but people who have recognized that there isn’t any real proof for the existence of god(s). That is a HUGE difference. Atheists accept that it is possible that their is a god, but are aware that it is also highly unlikely.
Your idea of becoming an atheist, “in order to avoid any sense of being responsible to someone else” is also utterly ridiculous. If anything, you’ve got this backwards. Atheists know that the responsibility of making the planet a better place falls directly on the shoulders of humanity, while the religious throw their hands up because some god is going to swoop in and save the “believers” and punish the “wicked” sometime soon.
Somehow your “HUGE difference” only to my assessment does not match my experience. It is very easy to hide behind the words, especially with comments like “there isn’t any real proof for the existence of God(s)” First of all, how do you know this? Have you checked all the information and all the claims that have been put forward by theists? I doubt this to be the case. Secondly, this shows your prejudice against religion and stops you from being impartial in this debate. Regarding your last point about the responsibility of care for the earth, note that long before atheism was established there have been many theists who advocated very strongly that we need to look after this earth as we have been put in charge and have a duty of care to do so.
You have to also remember that you most certainly do not have the “Answer” to the question of religion. You are right to acknowledge that the possibility of there being a deity still stands (even though you think this to be very unlikely) but note that your closing statement of this being “highly unlikely” shows that we as per usual resort to making statements and not engaging in real evidence. Note that whenever I hear an atheist trying to destroy evidence they only open more questions as destroying one side of the argument does not close the door to the argument of God’s existence. For some time atheists have persisted that Evolution is a strong proof that God is dead yet they fail to acknowledge that DNA and RNA do not have intelligence that directs their factory like production lines, and neither are any other sub-atomic particles that are showing all the signs of DESIGN. So much so that even atheists have to admit by reassuring each other with sayings like “we have to remind each other that the universe is not designed despite the initial signs, when presented with the structure of cells and apparent complexity…” We know that evolution offers one step forward and five steps backwards yet this is accepted as being a perfect explanation to our existence. And do not forget that the meaning of Life here on earth can not be satisfactorily explained by simply relying on materialism.
I’m sorry but when presented with information like this, I can only conclude that Atheism demands just as much faith as any other religion, the only difference is in its philosophical bias. Humanism, Existentialism and even scientisam only serve to confirm the tools used by the atheists are to elevate Human selfish and arrogant self-obsession. These do not provide adequate resolution to the difficulties we still face. We live in a world where the weak are destroyed by the strong, so called “smarts” also known as atheists ridicule theists in order to humiliate and bring into submission fearful opposition. It was Albert Einstein who said that he is amazed by the work of God in our modern society, where we have been given intellect big enough to understand enough, that we do possess only a limited knowledge of the universe but can nevertheless understand its magnificent design and appreciate the designer.
Not to mention the fact that any intelligent human being would agree that “knowledge” only seems to increase and not decrease the number of questions we have. So how on earth can any “Smart atheist” then claim to have more than 50% of the definitive answer that can reassure skeptics and searchers that they (the Atheists) know best.
A little humility goes a long way, and in particular we should be reminded that meekness is not the same as weakness, trusting in God does not make us less capable or intelligent or caring. In fact He gives us more moral support and authority than we need in order to continue the good fight.
Defend the word
Thanks for taking my comments. Attacking me personally instead of addressing my claim is an Ad Hominem and doesn’t really further your argument. If you have any real, credible evidence to the existence of any deity or group of deities, I’ll be the first person to admit that I was wrong.
You also mentioned making a claim without providing any evidence, but that is EXACTLY what you did with your “Last point on the responsibility of care for the earth.” The idea that atheism was “established” at some point in history is ludicrous. Atheism isn’t a belief system, but a lack of belief in a supernatural god or gods. The burden of proof doesn’t fall on me for NOT believing in something, but it does fall on you to prove your claim is true. If someone were to come to you and claim that, “The earth’s core consists of a giant ping pong ball filled with mayonnaise and dead elephants,” it would be up to them to prove it, not up to you to disprove. (on a side note, NOTHING can be disproved with 100% certainty, so I invite you to disprove that claim.)
On another note, I didn’t bring up the Theory of Evolution, but I’ll be happy to talk with you about it. We can continue here, or we could converse via email if you would rather. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of having in-depth discussions in “comments” just because of the lack of formatting options. I will say this however, your saying that “evolution offers one step forward and five steps backwards,” when it is the backbone of Biology, immunology, virology, as well as the field of medicine shows that you don’t really understand much about evolution at all. Like I said, I’ll be happy to talk to you more about it, just let me know.
Saying that Atheism requires as much faith as any other religious belief system doesn’t make any sense. As I mentioned above, Atheism isn’t a belief system. There isn’t any dogma that every atheist follows. We are just people that have this one thing in common. It may seem that way since you are on the other side of the fence, but your claim is the same thing as saying that both you and I follow the same dogma because we both don’t believe in Bigfoot (I’m assuming that you don’t in fact believe in Bigfoot.) It is funny that you should accuse atheists of using ridicule and fear as weapons when it is really the other way around. Atheists try to convince others by appealing to rational thinking by asking rational questions while Christians promise damnation and hellfire to those that don’t come around to their way of thinking. Which of those tactics uses more fear?
Oh, and as far as Einstein goes, he also said, “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”
Sorry I called you Jackson in my previous reply.
Thank you very much for taking time to give an answer to my reply. I will attempt to be rational in my reply to you, but have to admit despite my high IQ results according to the IQ tests I still struggle to know everything that there is to know. I guess this is due to the fact that Knowledge and Intelligence and two separate things. I still investigate and still regard reason as one of the most important assets that God gifted me with.
Let me put it the way you would hopefully agree with me. I will attempt to use Socratic reasoning with you and you can then answer my questions.
1. Do you think reasoning alone can answer all our questions that are outstanding in order to find truth? I hope your answer should be a BIG NO, otherwise how do you explain that almost all contemporary philosophers continue to highlight shortfalls of reason?
2. Do you think that contemporary science has all the answers we need including for our understanding of the spiritual world or realm as some put it? Again I hope you will answer a Big No to that. This is often overblown by atheists and frequently condemned by serious scientists who maintain that science is not able to justify the existence of God or disprove it. (I call this scientisam, a belief that science holds key to all our knowledge, note however that this is very unscientific as it’s exactly what the Philosophy of science states.)
3. Would you agree that if there is a God of the Bible he is not an hypothesis but a person, therefore significantly different. For many it’s not so much I don’t believe in God as I don’t believe God is for me.
4. Would you agree that there are still around 40% of highly educated scientists who profess a belief in a personal God? This is related to the fact that scientific data is open to interpretation and that no highly educated person should ever forget this?
5. I’m always confused as to why people choose to take one side of the argument but ignore the other? In your Case about Einstein you forget to mention that whilst he did not agree with the Biblical God nevertheless he stayed DEIST. I.e. that is a belief in a God who is real but removed and impossible to know.
6. Your assumption that I don’t understand Evolution again does not help our argument. It removes us from logical reasoning and makes this debate more emotional. This is a subject that I have followed for many years. I believe my understanding not to be faulty, data is not unknown to me but we do differ in our interpretation. See many posts on this blog listed under “Evolution” you can filter this on this blog.
7. To say that there is no God when there is no evidence for it you have to use faith, there are no two ways about it. This is not to say I think you are any worse or better than me, it’s only making a statement that we are two sides of the same coin. (Philosophically talking)
8. Talking about the earth and its core containing Ping pong balls is a straw man argument as the two are completely different. You can be intelligent and still be a Christian which is proved by the fact that today there are many Christian scientists who are happy to go on the record that they are followers of Jesus. This is the same argument Richard Dawkins uses, i.e. like a belief in the flying spaghetti monster, Father Christmas and the Tooth fairy, etc are the same as a belief in God. This is not logical and does not compute the right data and sequence for anyone to be able to logically examine this. There are many people who stop believing in the Tooth fairy when they are 6 years old but they become Christians in later life. Complexity and God are not two worlds apart, science is not anti-God, it is only that some Scientists are anti-God (around 40% declare themselves to be atheists, whilst there is a further 20% who say they are agnostics i.e. it is impossible to know)
9. On your very first point of giving you proof that there is a God, I can offer a number of them but again they are all open to interpretation like any other scientific data. Personal prayer and answers are pretty good for me. I.e. How do you explain when you pray for specific needs and God answers your prayer? I have personal experience of this. During my student days when I had a severe lack of finances I used to bring personal requests for eg a new pair of shoes, or trousers etc. which were exactly what I was given. I know of no other reason why God would waste his time fulfilling our wish/need list except to say “I’m here and I care!”. There are also a number of other reasons, like prophesy fulfillment given in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament. Some very specific examples about Jesus, for instance, can be found in Isaiah chapter 53. There are good cosmological reasons, sub atomic particles and structures which still stay unexplained by science. The fact that we have a so-called “God element” shows that even science gets puzzled by the workings of the universe. The fact that we have a Big Bang theory also points to singularity that resulted in everything we know and see today. A complicated ecosystem that is codependent on many variables, location of earth to the distance of the sun, and moon, which protects us from excessive radiation etc. including the location of the gas giants who act like a hoover for comets allowing life to develop and exist on the earth.
10. On the point of mocking and deliberately attempting to embarrass opponents please note the following: There is a difference in “Fear God” or “fear man” One is external to our influence and distance which offers freedom of expression i.e. I could believe and could not believe, the other is “you must be stupid to believe”. Our desire for self-reliance, and self governance is admirable but not self-sufficience. We still depend on what others say and do as we strive to be part of society. As Karl Marx put it “we are social animals”. This brings me to my last point, with further clarification on the belief system of an Atheist.
11. Assumptions (and therefore faith) of the Atheist stand as follows. These are basically attempts by some prominent Atheists like Karl Marx, Bertrand Russel, Sigmund Freud, and even today’s atheists favourite Richard Dawkins to explain the atheistic view point.
a.) There is no God or Gods
b.) Some poor self deceived people believe that there is a God (Often accompanied by insults of lack of intelligence)
c.) As God is not real this belief is driven by wishful thinking or self-delusion
d.) Faith is a choice as it fulfills their personal need (note that Dawkins says he can not understand what was the evolutionary benefit to the Belief in God)
e.) Faith in religion is a human invention as is God. Man created God not the other way around.
All of this is dependent on the first assumption that “there is no God” and is therefore a circular argument, which is self-dependent on the first point of the argument. One could therefore rightly conclude that Atheism is Faith as it follows a structural belief system that is not based on fact but on wishful thinking.
I don’t mind continuing our conversation here or alternatively you can e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org if that is easier for you. And by the way I apologize if you took my comments as a personal attack. They are not meant to be attacks but note that it is very hard to engage if I can’t answer directly to your comments. Also, most of my comments will be driven by my previous personal experiences, as I’m forced to read between the lines when communicating through the internet. As I’m not able to read your body language, voice intonation etc.
Kind regards and my respect for wanting to engage in conversation.
Defend the word