THE FIVE FACES OF ATHEISM, Part 5
April 23, 2010
As we have seen in the last four articles, Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud are the five faces that adorn Mt. Atheism. All modern forms of Atheism has been touched or influenced by one or more of these men.
This series of articles began out of an interest in laying the groundwork and showing the roots of modern Atheism. It was sparked by a debate I attended back in March in which a dear friend of mine and former seminary classmate argued against the existence of God. This former Christian was and still is a friend. But his arguments in favor of a godless universe have been grounded in the assumptions of those who wish to explain away the possibility of a being who can intercede into the affairs of man.
Having looked at the roots of modern Atheism as grounded in the philosophies of those mentioned above, we will look at how atheism today is making its assault on religion and why they won't stop until Judeo-Christianity is eliminated.
Religion's power is rising again in the West and atheists are becoming alarmed. The enormous amount of teaching and preaching on end-times themes and the missionary endeavors in the third world and Africa have raised the eyebrows of the intellectuals. The sleeping giants of atheism in the 20th century have been aroused out of their rest and they are aggravated.
Alarmed by this rising influence of religion, atheist today have grown more outspoken and militant. What we are witnessing in America is, according the Dinesh D'Sousa, atheist backlash. "The atheists thought they were winning, but now they realize that, far from dying quietly, religion is on the global upswing. So the atheists are striking back, using all the resources they can command." In D'Sousa's words this is not a religious war, but a war over religion. It has been declared by leading Western atheists who have commenced the hostilities.
Statistics show that in America the number of atheists is growing. The Pluralism Project at Harvard University reports that people with no religious affiliation now number nearly 40 million. That is about 15 percent of the population, up from less than 10 percent in 1990.
Atheists come in different varieties , making up their own sectarian camps. There are secularists, nonbelievers, non-theists, apatheists, anti-theists, agnostics, skeptics, free thinkers, and humanitarians. Fine distinctions separate some of these groups. While agnostics say they don't know whether God exists, apatheists say they don't care. Some of these groups are not technically atheists, but they have one thing in common, they aren't believers.
The distinguishing element of modern atheism is its intellectual militancy and moral self-confidence. We have seen an influx of atheist books in the last ten years that spew forth vitriolic verbosity in phrases too often difficult to be understood by the average person with a college education.
Atheists like Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, and Victor Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis pour out atheistic pride is such a manner like it is a "coming out" party. Even Christopher Hitchens, in his book God Is Not Great, argues from the same assumptions we have already considered from those five men who gave us the foundation to "slay the culture of religion once and for all."
In Europe, the Wall Street Journal reports, philosopher Michal Onfray has rallied the unbelievers with his best-selling Atheist Manifesto, which posits a "final battle" against the forces of Christianity.
Never before have we seen what we are witnessing now. Two popular atheists, American philosopher Daniel Dennett and British biologist Dawkins, published articles calling on fellow unbelievers to give up the term atheist, as the tern, they suggested, has such negative connotations. Their alternative is to be called "brights." That's right! They want to be called "bright" as opposed to unenlightened, which they subscribed to Christians. Dawkins defines a bright as one who espouses "a worldview that is free of supernaturalism and mysticism. Dennett says "We brights don't believe in ghosts or elves or the Easter Bunny - or God."
The implication is clear, brights are the smart people who don't fall for silly superstitions like healing the sick and raising the dead.
Long considered a marginal and reticent minority, atheists are now lashing out at religion with enormous gusto. Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg writes, "Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be out greatest contribution to civilization." Advocating everything short of execution, Weinberg wants religion, particularly the few that believe in miracles, to be eradicated and those who adhere "to such nonsense, removed to any places of influence in the public place, including the whole of society itself." Although Weinberg did not explain what he mean by removing Christians from society, he did make it clear that those who believe in a miracle performing interventionist God should, for the good of civilization, be put in isolation much like the internment camps of Nazi Germany.
What gives the atheists today so much confidence and has brought them out in huge numbers? The answer in a word is science. Many atheists believe that modern science - the best know way to accumulate knowledge, the proven technique for giving us airplanes and computers and drugs that kill bacteria - has vindicated the nonbeliever's position.
It seems that a majority of scientists in the United States are atheists. Only about 40 percent - a sizable minority, but a minority nevertheless - believe in a personal God. According to Edward Larson and Larry Witham in an article they published in 1998 in Nature magazine, among members of the elite National academy of Sciences, "only 7 percent of scientists can be counted among the ranks of the believers."
What is it about science that supports atheism? For one thing, science seems to work better than religion. Carl Sagan once said, "We can pray over the cholera victim, or we can giver her 500 milligrams of tetracycline every twelve hours." In such cases, Sagan says, even Christians are likely to supplement their prayers with medicine.
Another reason, according to Steven Pinker in his book the Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, is that "the modern sciences of cosmology, geology, biology, and archeology have made it impossible for a scientifically literate person to believe that the biblical story of creation actually took place." While science relies on the principle that "nothing is more sacred than the facts," Sam Harris charges that "theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed it is ignorance with wings."
This is what my friend, John Loftus, has concluded. Theology assumes there is a God, there is no God, ergo, those who have a theology are ignorant.
Dennett, Dawkins and Loftus interpret Darwinism to mean that all life can be understood entirely in natural and material terms. Man is nothing more than matter in motion. The soul? Well, that's a product of fantasy. The afterlife? A myth. Human purpose? An illusion, which may give you something with which to entertain you while still alive.
Leading biologists spell out some of the implications. As Darwin has shown how life is "the result of a natural process," Francisco Ayala writes that we are "without any need to resort to a Creator."
Scientific atheism has its roots in the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment can said to have been fathered by Rene Descartes, who, as we noted in the first article of this series, brought "rationalism" to the forefront and argued: "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.
Leading thinkers of the Enlightenment, like Voltaire, were anti-clerical and anti-religious. Many just started out as "anti-organized religion," not necessarily denying the existence of God, but many denying His relevancy.
Auguste Comte didn't need God to recreate a society in which men could live together in some harmony.
Marx portrayed religion as "the opiate of the masses" like a drug that dulls the mind and keeps man from thinking and acting rationally. Thus, to him, God was a hindrance to progress.
Darwin thought he proved that his theory shoed how creatures that appear to be designed "have in fact evolved according to the pressures of chance and survival." To Darwin, God was not a creator and didn't make man.
To Nietzsche, God prevented man from "becoming," actually evolve into a superior being he called the ubermensch, or "overman." Nietzsche hated religion, and by religion he mostly meant Christianity. For him, Christianity represented hostility to life, a seething hated of existence dressed up as faith in another life.
Then, Sigmund Freud basically put the icing on the cake by subtly suggesting a solution as to what to do with these "religious" people. It is the same conclusion that Steven Weinberg is urging on society today: Remove Christians from society - put them in a sort of solitary confinement "where they can do no harm and destroy another civilization."
The Five Face of Atheism have sown the seeds which have now grown up and is bearing its fruit for us to see today. For atheists today, they see their first priority is to weaken the power of religion worldwide and to drive religion from the public square so that it can no longer influence public policy. A secular world, in this view, would be a safer and more peaceful world.
Philosopher Richard Rorty proclaimed religious belief as "politically dangerous" and declared atheism the only practical basis for a "pluralistic, democratic society." These ideas resonate quite broadly in Western culture today and form the basis of much of the progressive-socialist worldview, currently being advanced by the Obama Administration and the leaders of the Democratic party. Obama may say he believes in God, but he is advancing a cause in which he is trying to persuade as many as possible to rely on government and not religion. After all, those who don't support his issues "cling to their guns or religion...as a way to explain their frustrations."
Meaning: God is no longer the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer. He has been moved all the way down to the status of "God of the Guts." Then, as Freud would say, those who rely on feelings and not facts, on emotions and not thought, are too neurotic to be in positions of persuasion and power. They are those who believe in a mystical god and therefore have flawed reasoning ability.
In my next and final installment, I will answer the question: What must Christians do in this age wherein atheism has pulled out all stops and appears to be hell-bent on destroying that last vestiges of Christianity from the face of the earth?
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