March 18, 2010

Over the weekend, I had the great pleasure of renewing my acquaintance with a former seminary classmate, once a Christian apologist but now an increasingly influential atheist.

John Loftus, a one-time Christian professor of Philosophy, is the author of the book Why I Became An Atheist.  John was invited to debate David Woods, a one-time Atheist turned Christian apologist and theologian, at the Virginia Regional Apologetics Conference held in Chesapeake. John was, still is and always will be my friend.

I do not look down on or turn away in fear of this man. He is, if nothing else, a man of integrity.

What was it that caused this one-time man of God to turn away from his faith and deny God's existence? For the answer to that you should read his book. There you will find that an extremely great personal crisis coming at him from several directions precipitated his "deconversion."

On a larger scale, one may ask what would cause anyone to become an atheist or subscribe to the belief that there is no God. Keep in mind, that the atheist worldview is a belief system. In other words, no matter how you slice the cake, Atheism is a religion.

In Western Civilization, atheism is a growing religion. In fact, the number of new adherents to this worldview has grown faster than any Christian denomination or sect in the world. By a number of estimates, atheism in America has grown approximately 8 percent over the last five years, whereas the total number of Christian converts is slightly less.

John and I received degrees under the tutelage of Dr. James D. Strauss, now retired Professor of Philosophy and Christian Doctrine at Lincoln Christian University, Lincoln, IL. Dr. Strauss taught a class he called "The Making Of The Contemporary Mind." One of his featured lectures in this course was "The Five Faces of Atheism." These so-called "faces" are major influences in John's worldview and form the legs upon which atheism stands. They are the idols of unbelief in the secular city.

Modern atheism actually has its root in Rene Descartes (1596-1650), who is often referred to as the Father of Modern Philosophy. With him "rationalism" came into being. He said: "I never accept anything for true which I did not know to be such." Thus, the origin of what is called "Cartesian doubt."

Cartesian doubt puts all beliefs, ideas, thoughts and matter in doubt. Descartes showed that any grounds or reasoning for knowledge could just as well be false. Even the thought of God's existence.

This spilled over into science at the time of Galileo and Isaac Newton. Galileo upheld Copernicus' observation that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around (as was taught by the Roman Catholic Church for over a millennium). Galileo's teachings, along with Newton laws of physics were seen as direct confrontations with the Christian worldview.

As the Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th century took hold and grew, the Newtonian World Machine evolved and was adopted by French Naturalism which ushered in deism and naturalism. These worldviews came to America by the time the United States was born, science had moved from theism (God the Creator), to deism (God of the Gaps). You don't need God to explain the universe. You can use Him to explain the unexplainable.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) wrote his Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 and in it he postulated that man's theoretical reason is unable to establish God's existence. He stated that affirmation of God's existence is not an act of knowledge. That is to say there can be no certainty of God's existence based on reason.

Even though Kant adhered to theism in his Critique of Practical Reason, written in 1788, stating that although there can be no concrete reason for the belief in God's existence, ethical duties do constitute an object of practical reason, making ethics a legitimate ground for knowledge and God is now removed from knowledge.

Kant rejected the claim that science could ever affirm or deny God's existence. He thought that he demonstrated that faith and reason could not cross paths. With the polarization of faith and reason, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) took it a step further by removing God AND faith as a ground for thought. God now moves from being the "God of the Gaps: to the "God of the Guts." This means, belief in a Creator God is relegated to the misfits and neurotic members of society who, because of their beliefs, become a suspect class and objects of ridicule.

Enter the Five Faces of Atheism, grounded in the teaching of such notables as Auguste Comte, the father of Scientific Positivism; Karl Marx, the father of Economic and Political Communism; Charles Darwin, the father of Anthropological unbelief; Friedrich Nietzsche and his teachings of Moral Atheism; and Sigmund Freud, the founder of Psychological Atheism and his suggestion that "believers in a miracle performing, creator god, should be isolated from society as they breed a certain kind of neurosis that is dangerous to civilized cultures."

Next week I will delve into some of the teachings of these men and show you how my friend John Loftus and those of his worldview arrive at the conclusion that God does not exist.

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