Tag Archives: Belief

I Don’t Believe in God Either

Peter Kreeft has a wonderful anecdote about his religious philosophy class.  He asks all the people who do not believe in God to put up their hand and asks them to sit on one side of the room.  On the other side of the class, then, is the theists or deists.  Then he asks the theists to argue against the existence of God and the atheists to argue for the existence of God.  Without fail, Kreeft says, the theists offer the best arguments one can come up with against the existence of God.  Also without fail is the atheists who tend to offer the weakest possible arguments for the existence of God.  In short, Kreeft says, the theist has thought out his position, while the atheist has tended to not really give it the thought it deserves.

I bring this up because I have discovered that this tends to hold true in much of my discourse with atheists.  Reading Karl Rahner for one of my courses – as painful as it was – reinforced in me an idea that has been germinating in my mind for quite some time.  I have come to realize that the god of the atheist is a god I don’t believe in either.  I too want to do everything I can to destroy the idol of that god in the world.  However, unfortunately, the atheist tends to equate that god with the God of the theist or the Christian, and it is in no way the same as the Christian God.

For Christians, God is completely Other.  He is completely transcendent to all creation.  We cannot grasp Him, we cannot put Him into a box, we cannot define Him completely.  For everything we do say positively about Him, we must hold that these words are insignificant in comparison to the reality that is God.  If God is love, He is ever more than our understanding of love, for example.  Yet when you talk to an atheist, they look at ‘god’ as some figure who can be examined, dissected, and parsed.  In short, their ‘god’ is one who is completely comprehensible to the human mind.  And they impose this idol as the god of all theists.  But this is not our God.  God is completely other.

Where is the proof of this?  The most common version is their equation of the Christian God with Thor, Zeus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.  In short: the gods or God: they are all part of our order of things.  They do not see God as completely other.  If God is not completely other, then I don’t believe in Him either.  A great proof of this is found in Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion”.  He says “the problem about a designer is this: who designed the designer”.  What we see in this is a subtle problem: Dawkins is equating the Christian God as simply the first thing in reality.  The whole of the cosmos and God are in the same reality: God is just the greatest thing of our reality.  But that is not the Christian claim.  Dawkins (and most atheists) set up a straw man.  They rightly destroy that idol.  But they have not ridden us of the Christian God because they have never taken Him seriously.

Yet when we look at Scripture, we see a very different understanding of God.  When Moses encounters God in the burning bush he asks Him a name and God refuses to give Moses a name; He simply says “I AM WHO AM”.  God refuses to give a name because to give a name means you can be manipulated.  Job’s search for meaning in his suffering is also a demonstration of God’s complete Otherness: “My ways are not your ways”.  God is infinitely more than anything in the created realm.  God transcends all that is: He is completely, totally, and irrevocably OTHER.  Thus, when people like Dawkins make the claim “who designed the designer”, it is a demonstration that they are unable to grasp the totality of the mystery, transcendence, and otherness of God.

This brings me to a second point on the topic.  We live in a culture which states that you have to try everything in order to make an informed choice.  My first reaction to this is simply “well, do I have to try murder to see if it’s wrong?”.  It is a rather extreme statement to make, but it is hyperbolic in order to demonstrate the absurdity of what Blondel calls “dilenttantism”: the need to try everything because that is what life is all about.  I bring this up because it leads me to the important of Blaise Pascal’s arguments for the existence of God.  Though I don’t have the space to go into detail about what he says, I simply want to emphasize his idea that it is the most reasonable thing to believe in God because it is the statistically best idea to embrace in virtue of his four possibilities.  What we tend to do is think that belief is purely in the mind.  It is an assent, and that is it.  But Pascal means something by belief.  He means that we ought to live as if God exists.

What does this mean?  It means that our life is formed by God: action is what is primary.  If we live as if God exists, then our minds will be formed to embrace the total Otherness of the reality of God.  What does this mean?  It means that it tends to be the case that those who are atheists have never actually given theism a shot because they have never lived according to what that entails.  Some may have been raised in religious households, but I have found that what they have been raised in tends towards superstition.  Some legitimately reject God as He is.  But my question to atheists is “Have you actually lived as if God exists?”  If not, then their statements are futile and what they say is not based on reality as such.  I would be much more willing to listen to an atheist who actually takes reality seriously.  Unfortunately, I have yet to meet one.

in Christ

-Harrison

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The Gnosticism of the Atheists

I invite you to watch this first:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/video/2011/oct/24/richard-dawkins-video-interview

 

The Dawkins interview begins at 1:50.  The funny thing, everything he describes religion to be can be attributed to atheism, demonstrating it to be just as religious as any religion.

But that is not the point of this post (though I find it funny that he says he never said that religion is pernicious, though he thinks it is…the illogicality of his arguments are not worth the time here.  Though his criticisms of the business element of religion in America is, I think, spot on).

The audio interview (which is 30 minutes long) is here where he made is famous statement:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/audio/2011/oct/24/john-harris-national-conversations-podcast-richard-dawkins

My point is the comment he makes about the fact that Jesus would have been an atheist.  Here is the excerpt:

“I wrote an article called ‘Atheists for Jesus,’ I think it was… Somebody gave me a t-shirt: ‘Atheists for Jesus.’ Well, the point was that Jesus was a great moral teacher and I was suggesting that somebody as intelligent as Jesus would have been an atheist if he had known what we know today.”

It is this comment that I have a beef with, but not the fact that it has anything to do with Jesus.  Silly remarks like that are not worth anyone’s time and are non-offensive to me.  The interesting comment, rather, is the idea that Jesus was “too intelligent” to be a theist.  In other words: only smart people are atheists, anyone who believes in God is stupid, irrational, and not part of the special “intelligentsia”.

When I heard this, the first thought that popped into my mind was the ever-ancient (and therefore ever-present!) heresy of Gnosticism.  What is Gnosticism?  Gnosticism is, in a certain sense, a difficult heresy to pin down.  A common overarching feature of many Gnostic movements, however, was the concept of a secret knowledge.  If you were one of the select few to have access to that secret knowledge, then you would be among the “saved” and “enlightened ones”.  In short, many atheists (though not all) fall into this category: if you were just smart enough, you would be an atheist too.  In short, only smart people are “the saved” of the world according to the new atheists, while the rest of us are still “ignorant and in our sin” of theism.  I don’t have much more to say about it, except for the utter arrogance of such a position.  It also demonstrates how evolution is no longer simply a science for them, but a way of life with the Origin of Species as their bible.  I am not contra evolution as a science, but I am contra evolution as a philosophy.  In short, they are the dominant ones, the ones who have the surest hope of salvation.  And what is their salvation?  The enlightened position of knowing the truth.  That is all.  There is nothing more afterwards, no immortality.  In fact, there is no meaning, no purpose and, therefore, no rationality and reasonableness to the world.  Their salvation is nihilism, though most refuse to admit this aspect because the dreadedness of nihilism is too much for most people to bear, save people like Nietzsche.

My point is simply that the arrogance of some atheists as enlightened and smarter than all the rest who are not enlightened because they aren’t smart enough is really just a logical conclusion of evolution as a philosophy (NOT a science: I am not arguing against the scientific merits of evolution, and need to state that again to ensure no one misunderstands me).  It is they who are the new breed of humans, the next stage in the evolutionary ladder, and we are the ones who will eventually be kicked off and into the past to be forgotten.  It is arrogant in so many ways, and most of all because it has no basis in reality. Man is religious by nature and looks for religious expression.  The New Atheists are no different: their’s is a religion with no god or gods, yet it is a religion in every way many other religions are religion: it is a submission of self to a system of beliefs that require faith in something ultimately and purely unproveable by reason alone.  You cannot argue for the non-existence of God: it is logically impossible.  Dawkins is one to equate God with faeries, goblins, unicorns, etc.  However, this is a non-starter and really quite silly since the concept of God – just as a concept, not necessarily as a reality – is of a totally other order than faeries and unicorns.  The fact that he equates the concepts of God and faeries demonstrates his inability to think subtly and logically about logically different things.  So, as I was saying, it is logically impossible to argue the non-existence of God and, I would say, it requires just as much belief, if not more, to believe in the non-existence of God than His existence.  (And note, I used the term belief there, not faith, for they are different things, something for another post).  The atheists are religious and their religion is gnostic atheism.  They will shout and scream and tell everyone to be enlightened like they are, but one day their light will dim and will be a blip on the screen of history, while faith in God manifested in Christ Jesus will reign on in the world.

On a final note, I want to take one more point to task against Dawkins and the New Atheists.  Many of them – and Dawkins does in the interview – mistake religion to be a moral enterprise.  They think that religion is only about morality, that people become or stay religious because of its moral principles.  I have heard many people say that they appreciate Christianity for that reason, but nothing more.  However – and I can only speak for Christianity here and am about to be hyperbolic to prove a point – Christianity has nothing to do with morality.  Obviously, morality is a part of the Christian life, but people do not become Christians to be moral people.  That is, actually, quite a boring reason and will ultimately not hold up.  People become Christians because they believe that Jesus is Who He says He is.  Moral actions follow, but they are not the raison d’etre of Christianity.  They are secondary (and important) and not primary.  Thus when he talks about morality and religion, he misunderstands Christianity at the very least and other religions as well I am quite sure.  It plays into a common misconception of religion, and it is partly the fault of people who used religion to promote their own moral values.  Moral values are important and essential, but they are not the basis of religious life.  This is why I must admit frustration when people say “I’m a good person, isn’t that enough?”  It is not enough because it is not what religion and especially what Christianity is about in the first place.  It is about falling in love with Jesus Christ and encountering and loving Him in others.  Jesus doesn’t care if you are a good person (though, obviously, he does to an extent): He cares about you loving His Father and serving Him in others because we are made for Him.

I also think, as a sidenote, that he completely misunderstands faith.  I have not had a chance to read it, but I recommend Avery Dulles’ book “The Assurance of Things Hoped For: A Theology of Faith” where he demonstrates the Christian concept of faith as being very different from the atheistic perspective of Christian Faith.

http://www.amazon.ca/Assurance-Things-Hoped-Theology-Christian/dp/0195109732/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1319906605&sr=8-3

 

in Christ

-Harrison

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