Why I can't be an Atheist, Part I
by Robert E. Meyer
As a Christian believer, I am quite content to let the atheist believe what he or she wants. My rationale for this and other pieces on the subject of atheism is a response to the often hostile and aggressive charges made against Christianity as a system of thought.
Some time ago, I was contacted by the proprietor of some irreverently named atheist website. Apparently he took issue with a certain piece I had written months earlier regarding my conclusions about a biblical passage from Matthew chapter 6 (one can only wonder why an atheist would want to dispute about biblical exegesis). I responded to his inquiry thinking that was the end of the discussion. The next day, I got a wave of E-mails making rather disparaging remarks, which had little to do with the topic in question. Based on what I could glean from the responses, their apparent Modus Operandi , was to roast a selected individual in an attempt to solicit an angry visceral response. If that didn't work, they would bring in their "cleaner" to finish the job, as I discovered yet the following morning. Here was his "love letter."
"As an unrepentant blasphemer, you see me and those like me as damned. Good for you! Enjoy it, Bob. But what you need to know is that all atheists see you as a delusional, intellectually inferior, weak-willed, gullible sucker who's incapable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality, and we laugh at you because of it. I would never hire an evangelical Christian. They believe in nonsense and as such can't be trusted with things of importance. If I were a customer prospect, I'd never buy a thing from you. (I wouldn't trust your ability to support your customers in an effective and intelligent manner.) If I were a loan officer, I'd never put a dime in your hand. (I wouldn't trust your ability to manage your finances or maintain a job through which you could repay me.) If you were a daycare owner, I'd never leave my child with you. (If I couldn't trust you with money, how could I possibly trust you with my child?) In fact, I wouldn't even trust you for the time of day if I had to catch a plane. Your intellect, and that of people like you, is sorely compromised, and I'd never allow your kind to affect me personally in any way shape or form. If the rest of the "god-believing" world wants to trust your intellect, then good for you. Youshall have their trust, their employ, their business, their money, and their respect. Kudos! Enjoy your delusion."
At first, since I did not recognize the author's name, I thought it was a prank that came from an adolescent child. Then I realized how it fit in with the other comments I had received from that group. Just about every survey taken to measure the religious beliefs of the U.S population concludes that 15% or less of the total population are infidels. It made me wonder how tolerant a society we would have if such people were ever in charge. It made me ask myself if this was a display of the logic and reason atheists so often claim to have cornered the market on. It gave me no reason to think that the implementation of their "enlightened" utopia would produce a better society than the one created in spite of the "rampant religious abuses" that they so bitterly condemn.
We might ask the question, how would things be different if atheists were in charge in terms of consensus? I wonder about this: what will happen to those who dissent against the prevailing zeitgeist? Will such people end up as subjects inside asylums for the criminally insane? Will they be done away with in some other fashion? Letters such as those above, though they likely represent a vitriolic minority, don't give me pause for confidence that the virtue of tolerance will be better established under the "enlightened" canopy of atheism.
What will become of scientific investigation? Early scientists saw their inquiries as a method of "thinking God's thoughts after him." Without a construct in place which binds technology to ethics, what limits on social and scientific experimentation will inform the distinctions between what can be done, versus what ought to be done? Will we see the continued incorporation of the naturalist philosophy and dogmas girding the structure of scientific inquiry? We see this scenario placed out in the current "stem-cell" debate.
Atheists often complain that people of religious faith say that you can't have morality without religion. They will go on to say that there are many "non-religious" people who are moral. Some religious people might well make such arguments, but that's not the precise indictment against atheism's perspective on morality. The point is that the atheist has no transcendent foundation for his claims of what is moral or amoral in the first place. A materialistic universe offers no unmistakable moral absolutes of right or wrong. What happens is determined by the random movement of matter in motion, or a chain of cause and effect, the source of which is often unknown.
Of course, the atheist may stipulate a morality based on some popular construct; i.e. Natural Law, Ayn Rand's Objectivism, "Do anything as long as it doesn't hurt others" (a truncated version of what is often referred to as the minimalist ethic), a preference to pleasure over pain, etc. These are merely constructs based on some individual preference. What ultimate authority confirms their truthfulness, besides the coercive power to enforce the adaptation of a particular view? The person who discovers such morality to be fiat, such as Marquis de Sade, is positioned to promote self-serving exploitation. The sadist may get pleasure from pain, the masochist may enjoy torturing and bringing about pain, but on what basis can the atheist declare these alternative perspectives to be "morally wrong" only because they differ from his selected social construct?
The same is true when it comes to the attribution of atrocity to certain systems of thought. Christianity often is accused of mass atrocities in the past. While this is a legitimate criticism, the Christian in turn can say that non-theistic worldviews acted out, caused more mayhem in the 20th century, then all the religious misdeeds throughout history. The question is not whether atheism will always cause genocide, or whether your local atheist will wake up tomorrow and become a serial axe-murderer. The real question is on what basis can the non-theist condemn such crimes and atrocities given a lack of transcendent moral authority, and his own materialistic assumptions? The atheist will protest against such attribution of atrocities, saying people such as Mao, Pot-Pot and Stalin were fanatics, but they didn't commit atrocities because they were atheists or because of a non-believing ideology. Still, they certainly had a worldview that enabled them to carry out and justify their purges.
There is yet another distinction here between atrocities in the name of God and those of the non-theist camps. As a Christian, I can stand beside the secularist and condemn the wrongs in God's name. However, I can theoretically correct these wrongs through a proper application of the Christian worldview. On the other hand, if Lenin says, "you've got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet," and Stalin accomplishes that mandate with his purges, how do you correct his evolutionary perspective on the sanctity (or lack thereof) of human life? Stalin acted consistent to his non-theistic, evolutionary prospective. The atheists who condemn Stalin and other mass murderers are simply borrowing from a Judeo-Christian perspective in order to condemn such acts.
How does someone with a metaphysical narrative depicting humanity as a meaningless speck on a clump of dust in a vast universe, suddenly derive the concept of human dignity when it comes to protesting the arbitrarily disposing of some of the specks?
I expect we will get some answers when we read the responses after this piece is published.
Robert E. Meyer is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
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