I have little faith. At least, I live like I have little faith. It is true. The intellectual arguments for God are sometimes easier to latch onto than actually living like I am accountable to God.
Living a life accountable to God is harder than simply believing. Living an accountable life means yielding myself on a regular basis, but I find my nature to be less than yielding at times. Even in the best of times, human nature is stubborn and hard.
I imagine that many a good atheist is simply being true to self, true to human nature, by refusing to give intellectual ascent to God. There is a certain consistency between the unyielding nature of the self and denying the existence of God.
C.S. Lewis realizes this fully when he recounts his own surrender to God:
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England…. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.
The actual “conversion” of Lewis would come later. Yielding to the reality that God is was just a step in God’s direction. Indeed, this is the essence of faith in God: yielding the self. Lewis captures the dance we go through beautifully in his autobiographical, Surprised by Joy. God is ever a gentlemen. The choice whether to yield is always ours. Lewis is compelling for the fact that he is uniquely insightful about his own journey of faith:
The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice…. I became aware that I was holding something at bay, or shutting something out…. I felt myself being, there and then, given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut; I could unbuckle the armor or keep it on. Neither choice was presented as a duty; no threat or promise was attached to either, though I knew that to open the door or to take off the corslet meant the incalculable.
Modern intellectualism has pitted faith and science, belief and knowledge against each other, but it is a false dichotomy. Materialism, the religion of pure science, cannot even sustain itself without God.
The materialist who debunks everyone else’s ideas as the subrational products of their brain chemistry or environment cannot avoid being debunked himself. If he is honest, says Lewis, the materialist will have to admit that his own ideas are merely the “epiphe-nomenon which accompanies chemical or electrical events in a cortex which is itself the by-product of a blind evolutionary process.” If all thoughts are merely the products of non-rational causes, this includes the materialist’s own thoughts. In other words, there is no reason according to materialism for materialism itself to be regarded as true.
Human knowledge is limited. Science is is practiced by finite beings. Knowledge and science can inform faith and belief, but faith and belief are not antithetical to knowledge or science. Atheists draw conclusions from knowledge and science that are more in the realm of faith or belief than they would care to admit. Believing there is no God is not a scientific conclusion.
The intellectual “proof” of God is pretty compelling in my opinion. I obviously qualify the idea of a proof: there is no pure experiment that will lead inextricably to God. Our lives are not a scientific experiment. We live once, and we die; there is nothing experimental about it. God does not thrust Himself upon us uninvited, as C.S. Lewis beautifully explains in summarizing his own journey, but the existence of God is inescapable if we are honest and willing to yield.
One of the “proofs” of God is the moral argument. There are others, as well, but I will address the moral argument here, in the vein of Dr. William Lane Craig’s presentation at Oxford (fittingly), using statements of the infamous atheist, Richard Dawkins, against his own position.
The formula of the argument is as follows:
- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist;
- Objective moral values and duties do exist;
- Therefore, God exists.
Most people accept premise 1 and premise 2. Two plus two leads to the logical inference that God exists, but many people do not want to reach that conclusion. Richard Dawkins agrees with premise 1. Dawkins says:
There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. We are machines for propagating DNA; it is every living object’s sole reason for being.
How do morals logically extend from random formations of matter? What construct of primordial ooze even suggests, let alone requires, a “reason for being”? Absent a Supreme Being, morality is an artifice and a fiction.
Interestingly, not even Dawkins lives as if morality is an artifice or fiction. Though Dawkins says there is no evil, no good, Dr. Craig points out that he is a “stubborn moralist”. Dawkins vigorously condemns, as “morally wrong” and “reprehensible”, the abuse and harassment of homosexuals, the religious indoctrination of children (which he says is tantamount to child abuse), the Incan practice of child sacrifice and the command of God in the Old Testament to slaughter the Canaanites. Dawkins even has his own version of Ten Commandments for guiding moral behavior.
Dawkins obviously claims the God of the Bible is immoral. On what basis or authority does Dawkins so vigorously assert his morality? What is the teeming soup from which Dawkins extracts a moral code?
By his own conduct, Dawkins does not live as if morality is merely an artifice. He is outraged and righteous in his moral indignation. Indeed, we all have the same sense of morality, though it takes on different nuances and forms depending on the values to which we ascribe.
While there are many moral values that are accepted by virtually everyone, the differences stem from our point of reference. We are all justifiably angry when someone lies to us or deceives us, but we are pro-life or pro-choice depending on our values. That morality is “a thing” is not denied by anyone. Even those who might claim to be amoral will belie that claim by their reaction to the indignities against them.
How is it, then, that we are so stubbornly moralistic? We all act as if morality matters, when it should not matter if we are only random arrangements of atoms that happened to form by chance into “life” and intelligence.
Richard Dawkins holds to both of the first two premises, as most people do, so he is being illogical to refute the conclusion that God exists. That God gives us choice, true choice, explains how a man like Dawkins can sustain the artifice of his own morality, centered on the values to which he chooses to ascribe, while denying the existence of God from who morality extends and without who morality (intelligence and life) would not exist.
This is taken from a “talk” that Dr. William Lane Craig gave at Oxford University in England. You can follow the link to hear the entire presentation given in a creative way.
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