One of the most frequently asked questions in my lectureships concerns whether there really is such a thing as an atheist. Are there reasons why atheism makes sense? Somehow, many people seem to believe that there is no such thing as a real atheist. We hear catchy sayings like “There are no atheists in foxholes.” That suggests atheists are actually hypocrites who, for various reasons, pretend not to believe in God even though they do.
Having been an atheist for many years, I know that such suggestions are not valid. Many people genuinely believe that there is no God. There can be many reasons for a person denying the existence of God. We want to share some of them with you from our own experience:
REASON 1. The lesson of history has been that religion has consistently opposed science and human advancement. As we look back to Galileo, Copernicus, Pasteur, and virtually every great scientist of the past we can see religionists opposing their ideas. History tells the stories of scientists who were persecuted and sometimes killed because their theories conflicted with the traditional religious views of the day. Even today religious opposition frequently works to stop scientific advancement. A percentage of college-educated atheists are atheists because they view religion as a stumbling block to human progress. For them, that is why atheism makes sense.
RESPONSE. In the past religion has at times blocked science when men followed tradition, not the Bible. Even today, however, we have Christians who oppose science because of traditional beliefs or because of human religious teaching. The atheist certainly has a valid complaint here. The only problem with his argument is that he fails to realize where modern science started and that it cannot stand alone.
First, look at where modern science started. It began with the recognition that if God conceived the creation, it must display intelligence with logical and understandable order and design. If we believe that nature is a product of blind, random chance, then we could expect it to be random and chaotic and incapable of being understood. Science began when humans realized that the creation and its design could be understood and studied.
Secondly, what we mean by “science can’t stand alone” is that it cannot determine the uses humans should make of its discoveries. Many times religious concerns about the moral implications of a scientific discovery are construed as attempts to stop science when they are actually an attempt to give science intelligent and productive direction.
ADVICE. We who believe in God need to make sure that if we oppose a scientific effort, our opposition is based on Christian principles from the Bible and not on tradition. We also need to be sure that we do not rely on pseudo-science and false science to back up our efforts to reach the skeptic. We must urge ourselves and others to think and examine, not accept and follow.
We will look at a second reason why atheism makes sense tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2019