As you’ve probably guessed already, this is a post by Tim (general rule: Tim’s posts are about philosophy, religion, or science, whereas Kathryn’s are about Eden or recipes and have pictures). Hope you enjoy this one and that it makes you think about the deeper issues in life!
There are many people who think that Christians live by faith and atheists live by facts, but anyone who has examined the two belief systems in any detail whatsoever knows that this is simply not the case. When I was in high school, and even throughout my first year or so of University, I’m going to be honest: I would have loved to be an atheist. There are so many appealing factors about atheism: no need to go to church or follow silly religious traditions, apparent freedom from conviction and guilt as a result of – what Christians would consider to be – immoral behaviour, basically no obligation to do good to others (outside of one’s own personal desire, which is generally very little)… the list could go on, but when it comes down to it the most appealing thing about atheism for me was freedom from the constraints of religion.
I’m not going to get into why all these perceptions of Christianity vs. atheism are fundamentally false, but I would like to point out some of the barriers to atheism for me. These are what I found to be a few of the tough questions; the ones that made me realize that plunging in would require at least as much faith as committing my life to Christ. Atheists – I welcome you to defend your beliefs in response:
- WHY does anything exist? It’s one thing to come up with various theories on how the universe came to be, from a physical, historical perspective, but that’s an entirely different question. Atheism (or naturalism, we’ll say) is grounded in the belief that truth can only really be known via factual evidence, repeatable experiments, etc. It’s basically an extension of the scientific method to the entirety of existence. What gets me though, is that one of the most basic principles of scientific reasoning is that of “cause and effect” – nothing just happens without a cause. In order to cause a change in the trajectory of a moving object, for example, there must be some kind of intervention. So why (not how) did this vast expanse of matter we call the universe come into being in the first place? What could have initiated it from the state of nothingness that preceded its existence? As far as I can tell, to believe it just happened requires as much blind faith as believing it was intentional; in fact, the former belief strays further from basic reasoning than the latter, in my opinion.
- Genetic mutations lead to improvements? Seriously? I don’t believe DNA is a conspiracy or sinister invention of ‘evolutionists’, but I just can’t wrap my head around the concept of mutations being the basis of improvement (or, to be less subjective, of increases in the complexity of organisms, since naturalists could easily argue that humans do not represent an improvement over cyanobacteria). Here’s how I see it: we already have names for the effects of genetic mutation: most commonly disease and disability. Genes are highly specific sets of instruction for the production and assembly of each of our bodily components; when they become damaged, by errors in transcription, UV (or other) radiation, etc., depending on the location of the error on the gene and which aspect it was coded for, the result is generally (can I say always?) loss of intended function. Loss of function results in disability, disfigurement, disease (e.g. cancer), and so on… if this is the best explanation we can come up with for advancements in organism complexity, I’m not buying it.
- How can we explain the changes you see in peoples lives when they come to faith in Jesus? Becoming a Christian often leads to pretty radical changes in the lives of new believers. People are often ‘delivered’ instantaneously from addictions, crippling guilt, various kinds of spiritual oppression, etc. Some are miraculously healed (either upon conversion, prior to, or sometime afterwards). Sure, there have been plenty of scams and fakes out there over the years (Jesus anticipated that people would try to use his message for profit), but this stuff really does happen and it’s amazing. I personally know people who have been healed from physical ailments through prayer. I actually was healed once myself, much to my disbelief, as discussed in a previous post (on my old blog). If the basis of science is accepting the most reasonable conclusion based on observed phenomena, doesn’t this evidence speak for itself? What else can you do with this evidence? You can’t say, “well there are some things we just don’t know the answer to yet” – that’s exactly the stance that Christians are criticised for by atheists, only we hope to hear it from God one day when we meet face-to-face, whereas naturalists wait to hear the answers from men. If you do accept that there are some things that may never be understood, you are indeed placing your faith in your beliefs.
I suppose I could go on, but I’ve already written enough to make my point and (hopefully) provoke some discussion. If you’re agnostic – that is, you think we can never know one way or the other, so you’re just sitting on the fence – I don’t want to hear about it, because you’re effectively an atheist. When it comes down to it, everyone has to decide where they stand, and not deciding really is deciding in the end, since your lifestyle will be the evidence of your beliefs.