THE FIVE FACES OF ATHEISM, Part 3

April 2, 2010

In the early seventeenth century, French Philosopher Rene Descarte brought "doubt" into the thinking of the common man. One hundred years later, the Newtonian World Machine pushed God back and only brought Him to the forefront when something couldn't be explained.

By the end of the 18th century, Immanuel Kant divorced faith from reason and God from reality, setting in motion the the growth of modern atheism. Following Kant was the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. It is Hegel who the late Christian Philosopher Francis Schaeffer called "the first man to open the door into the 'Line of Despair.'"

Hegel's most influential contribution to thought was Dialectic. In particular, the triad most often characterized as a three-step process to arrive at "truth," namely Thesis -- Antithesis -- Synthesis.  On the surface, it appears to be harmless, but there are ramifications. Dialectic, as promulgated by Hegel in the light of the French Revolution, was presented in this formula: a "thesis" (e.g. the French Revolution) would cause the creation of its "antithesis" (e.g. the Reign of Terror that followed), and would eventually result in a "synthesis" (e.g. the Constitutional state of free citizens). However, Hegel used this classification only once, and he attributed the terminology to Kant. The terminology was largely developed in the 1790's by Johann Fichte.

Even though dialectic originated with the ancient Greeks, Hegel was the first to base it on four basic concepts:

  1. Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time (this idea is not accepted by some dialecticians).
  2. Everything is made out of opposing forces/opposing sides (contradictions).
  3. Gradual changes lead to turning points, where one force overcomes the other (quantitative change leads to qualitative change).
  4. Change moves in spirals (or helices), not circles. (Sometimes referred to as "negation of the negation")

The ramifications of "everything" being transient and finite included all categories of reality and their originator. This would include God.

A thesis gives rise to a reaction (antithesis), which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of the synthesis. Hegel never used this specific formulation, but he did use the terms" Abstract - Negative - Concrete. His formula, Abstract-Negative-Concrete, suggests a flaw in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience. For Hegel, the Concrete (the Synthesis) is also called the Absolute, and must always pass through the phase of the Negative, that is, Mediation.

Enter God. God was not ever seen by Hegel as the Concrete. Rather God was the Abstract and abstracts are flawed. God, then, is flawed and, borrowing Kant's divorce of faith and reason, faith is abstract and flawed. God/faith then comes into conflict with nature/reason and the result (the Concrete) results in each category of reality denying God existence or relevance.

Enter the Five Faces of Atheism.

Last week we discussed the first two categories (or Faces), namely, Sociological Atheism and Economic/Political Atheism. Auguste Comte, the father of Scientific Positivism, concluded that science could rebuild society and create a new order - thus, eliminating the need for God or godly ethics.

Karl Marx, the purveyor of the communistic expression of unbelief, is considered the father of Economic and Political atheism. Teaching that man makes religion rather than religion making man, Marx believed that utopia, or the perfect living environment can only be created by man by revolution. God is not needed. In fact, God pollutes the minds of working people and should never be spoken of.

Now we come to the third Face of Atheism: Charles Darwin! The biological and anthropological express of unbelief is grounded in a man whose background was one of failure.

Darwin failed as a medical student, and barely passed as a student of theology. He was refused ordination by the Church of England and ended up as a surveyor for the British government. He led an expedition off the coast of South Africa (1831-36) and while there began to formulate his opinions which were destined to shake the educational and scientific world.

Collaborating with Alfred Russell Wallace, Darwin wrote in 1858 the first of his revolutionary publications, On The Tendencies of Species to Form Varieties. The following year, The Origin of Species was published and the whole of the first edition was sold out on the first day. T.H. Huxley commended the book as being " the key that unlocks the shut up answers as to why man is progressively worsening in his sociological makeup and bettering himself in his intelligence and stature."

Within ten years and by 1870, The Origin of Species was the accepted authority in scientific circles and evolution theory became the orthodox teaching in British universities. Even in Germany, where Karl Marx was postulating his expression of atheism through communism, Darwin's work was used as the explanation of man's revolutionary tendencies.  Marx found this work useful, commenting that "Darwin's book is important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the struggle of history."

In 1871, Darwin's third, and equally important work, The Descent of Man once and for all voiced his agnosticism. Although never denying the existence of God, Darwin could never harmonize the existence of God with science and chose not to explain God's use in creation or history.

Charles Darwin's theories had tremendous implications in decades following 1871. First, evolution came to fulfill the role of communist doctrine, explaining why progress leads to utopia and anything standing in the way of progress must be discarded. Darwin said, the weak will eventually die away, this the survival of the fittest. Marx, taking it a step further, said that Christianity is weak because its God is not necessary to explain man or nature. Any talk of God in a positive light was regarded as a weakness as well, and such talk needs to be marginalized. It only created weak men who, then, could never survive in a world of the "fittest."

By the last quarter of the 19th century many churches came to be divided over the issue of evolution. Archbishop Frederick Temple in his 1884 Bampton Lectures argued for evolution as a means to explain the origins of life, but not necessarily devoid of God, but merely used by God to bring life into being.

Process Theology and sacred existentialism permeated Europe by the end of the nineteenth century which eventually came to be taught in many of the mainline seminaries in America by the 1920s.  This created what came to be known as the "Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy" resulting denominational splits and schisms within the ranks of mainstream Christianity.

The implications of Darwin's teachings are fourfold: 

1 - God as Creator is eliminated. Man and reality came into existence out of nothing and not by a divine act of creation;
2 - God as Redeemer of lost mankind is no longer valid. Man doesn't need redemption if he is progressing (evolving);
3 - Creation is replaced by nature and the natural;
4 - Man is not made in the image of God, rather is a progressed animal.

Since the 1970's Darwin theories are taught as fact in all institutes of learning from elementary education onward.  All other possible views of human origin or the origins of the universe are dismissed as fable or false and are not allowed to promulgated within the hallowed halls of schools.

Yet, the teachings of Comte, Marx or Darwin alone cannot explain how we arrived at the state of modern atheism and its control over our schools, government and society at large. Morals must be directed away from God and man's need to appeal to God has to be explained away.  Next week we'll look at the last two faces of Atheism as I discuss Friedrich Nietzsche putting man in the center of the universe and "killing off God" and Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychological Atheism.

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