A few weeks ago, as some of you may recall, famous science instructor (I’ll not call him a scientist; he specializes in explaining, not doing the work himself) Bill Nye engaged in a debate with not-quite-as-famous science instructor Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. It was quite a display, generating fantastic amounts of buzz on the internet, with followers and critics in both directions. The topic in question was “Is Biblical Creationism [as espoused by Answers in Genesis, and others] a viable model of origins?” (For the video of the debate, click here.)
I watched the debate via livestream at the local Bible college in my town. I expected a gracious and courteous performance from Mr. Ham, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Nye also conducted himself very professionally. Creation and evolution are hotly-debated topics, with much emotional impetus on each side, so I was happy to see that it didn’t devolve (much, anyway) into name-calling, or any other kind of bile. The same could not be said for the internet, of course, but then, sadly, no one really expects better from the internet community at large. Current readership excepted, of course.
Embedded in every creation/evolution debate, inevitably, is the notion of whether there is or is not a God. I’ve written on this topic multiple times. I find it interesting because, as this article in The Atlantic points out, it’s fashionable to think that atheism is the intellectual view. (Interesting side note: I found this article on Reddit.com, which is hardly in favor of any theological belief at any time—stranger things have happened, but not often.) The author of the article does a fair job of giving the lie to that notion, and I won’t take the time here to repeat all of her conclusions; it’s a good read if you have the time.
What interests me is the motivation behind such a belief. What is it that drives a person, or a civilization, to desire that there should be no God? Atheists of this intellectual stripe would very much like to have us believe that their views only come from an orderly and reasoned examination of the world, and that they did not draw any conclusions until completing such an examination. I find that unlikely, but even if it were so, it seems to me that that would be a position to be resisted. There would be the temptation to continually seek new evidence until I had enough to allow me to change my conclusions and accept the reality of God! Instead, what we see are atheists anxious to reinforce their atheism. That boggles my mind. What value is there in such a belief?
I’ve gone to great lengths in other entries to explain why a universe without God would be a terrible place to live. The short version is that a reality without God is a reality without any true meaning. Now, it may be that the great atheist thinkers have simply failed to carry their beliefs out to that logical conclusion, although I think the number of them who have committed suicide would belie that thought. But make no mistake, that is the logical conclusion of atheism. If you are a happy atheist, you simply haven’t yet gone where your beliefs are taking you.
Why believe it? Why want to believe it? I think that the reason atheists desire their atheism is because it relieves them of their responsibility to God. If they can deny God’s existence, then in essence they are shaking their fists at Him and saying, “I am not yours! You don’t command me!” In more modern terms, it’s “You’re not the boss of me!” But the catch is, that’s all you get. Bragging rights, basically. You stood up to your creator.
Ultimately, you lost. If your atheism is true, then your godless world has no hope in it. Your life doesn’t count. You didn’t come from anywhere; you aren’t going anywhere. Neither are your parents, your kids, any of the people you value, if you do have people you value. It’s a majestic world, but a worthless and empty and vain world, too.
And if your atheism is false? Then you also lose, if you hold onto it. If the Bible is right, then you and everyone else are sinners in need of redemption. Christians, too—they have found that redemption, but make no mistake, they definitely needed it. Atheism is the rejection of that redemption, and there’s nothing left after that but judgment of sin, which leads to hell. I suppose you could say that other theistic religions, like Islam, are right instead of Christianity, but you still lose; they also include notions of sin and judgment and redemption, if in different ways.
I hate to see people treat spiritual things like a game. All of this debate, it’s not just a matter of who is right and who is wrong. It’s intensely practical, because it matters for every person alive on Earth. It’s not a game…so don’t play to lose. That’s what atheism does.