A Slightly More Philosophical Musing
For several days this week, I am going to provide posts that are more philosophical in nature. I hope they will be helpful. I want to address the issue of atheism by looking at what several prominent “original” atheists have said.
I want to do this because, too often, Christian are on the defensive against the, at times, harsh and condescending attacks from those who are disdainful of all things religious and spiritual. I do not want to attack, but I do want to use some of the atheists’ own words and show some of the consequences of life without God, life without transcendence, and life where you are Master of Your Universe. It is not a pretty place.
If you remember (but you probably do not) the famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell and his rather poorly reasoned book, Why I am Not a Christian,* I would like to borrow Mr. Russell’s views as to why I am not an atheist.
Here is just one of Russell’s beliefs as a consistent atheist:
All labors of the ages,
all the devotion,
all the inspiration,
all the noonday brightness of human genius,
are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system . . .
the whole temple of Man’s achievement
must inevitably be buried beneath
the debris of a universe in ruins.
First, I greatly admire Russell for being honest about his atheism. He does not try to manufacture purpose and meaning from his worldview, for he knows the ending of a materialist philosophy that has no room for God, no room for Spirit, no room for anything other than matter.
Second, I understand how utterly contradictory, how desperately nihilistic, and therefore, how devoid of hope Russell’s statement is for life. Why live if what Russell says is true? Why live another day longer if I am doomed for non-existence? Why suffer anymore? Why run the rat race? Why fight the addiction? Why bother?
So, Russell’s philosophy is a basic reason why I am not an atheist—and why the vast majority of humanity is not atheistic. It simply offers no sustainable reason for meaning and purpose. No true foundation for morality. No solid ground for love and beauty.
That is why I am NOT an atheist.
Why I am a Christian is simple. Jesus does. And he does so in a spectacular and majestic way. Which is why we have been in our reJesus series.
Notice here that Russell raises the traditional argument against believing in God. A dying child. Why would God let a child die? But also notice Russell does not give you his own opinion. Why? Because it would be unbearable for Russell to admit what he believes. Namely, that it does not matter in the end. Why does it matter that an 8 year old dies to a condition of non-existence versus an 80 year old doing the same? Both have no spirit, no essence, no enduring existence.
And, evolutionary theory, which Russell believes in, is survival of the fittest. Evolution does not care about the child dying. An impersonal universe does not care.
Children dying are another reason I am not an atheist and why I am a Christian. For resurrection and eternal life are a hope in the midst of suffering.
And then there is Russell’s revisionist view of history seen in his quote to the right. In fact, it was Christianity that valued reason and which nurtured science (yes, there were comical counter-examples along the way of the church against Galileo, etc.). But to think that reason and science are opposed to one another is wrong. Science is simply the work of manipulating and controlling matter. Science is concerned with the mechanics of how things work—what things are made OF.
But science, on its own, cannot do two things. First, it cannot ensure that science will be used wisely and for good ends. Wars are waged with greater destruction than ever before because of science.
Second, just because you know what something is made OF, does not mean you know what it is made FOR. That is a question of meaning. Science, good science, does not pretend to answer that question. In fact, science cannot answer that question by use of the scientific method. For real science, the question of what something is FOR is meaningless.
So, the need for meaning, what are people for, what are flowers for, what are stars for, what are poems for, is another reason why I am not an atheist. For the question of meaning needs the reason of the Logos-Word-Person known as Jesus, who tells us exactly what all things are for.
*This book by Russell was poorly written, hastily written, and does not actually represent the depth and density of his thought. It was more a diatribe than a meaningful argument against Christianity.