Monday, May 12, 2008

Atheism: Camping at God’s Grave

Concerning belief in God there is a broad spectrum of positions ranging from devotion, to acknowledgement, to ignorance and finally direct opposition. I have met many people in my life all holding different positions. Many religious people are indifferent, and most who call themselves atheists or agnostics are only stating a shallow opinion on the subject.

However, standing at opposite ends of the spectrum are two camps that look at each other in total disbelief and fascination. The committed atheist wonders at the life committed to the unseen deity, but the believer must also wonder about the commitment of the atheist. I checked Google today and there were 15 million hits for the phrase “There is no God”.

Motive & motivation are always a factor in belief or unbelief, and I marvel at the determination of the atheist to prove that something does not exist. He even becomes angry at that thing that does not exist to the point that he seems to be camping out at the grave of God, always digging a hole to prove that it is empty. He can’t seem to tear himself away from digging much like a dachshund my wife once had growing up. He was obsessed with turning over large rocks in the back yard to see what was under them. After he turned over the rock he would proceed to do it again and again until we stopped him.

The committed atheist often becomes one at a young age before having devoted a lot of study to the subject. There is usually some event that has shattered his view of God. It could be the failing of a leader, a misrepresentation of some biblical truth by a charlatan or an unexplained loss. Personal failings are often projected onto God with illogical results. “I am mad at God about myself, so I will keep him in exile. I will maintain his nonexistence.” Simple revenge. All evidence after this is seen through these glasses as objectivity is lost and the radical is born.

You would think that once the idea of God has been eliminated that the person’s anger and moral crisis would disappear; however, for the committed atheist it often intensifies. I see a similar thing in people who have unresolved issues with a loved one who has passed away. In their hearts they are still arguing with that person to the point that they feel anger when they visit their grave. Some atheists are in a worse situation because they are angry with what they believe is an empty grave.

One aspect of radical Atheism’s continued fight with the nonexistent god is what it considers to be “the problem of evil”. While claiming that evil exists – an assumption that requires an absolute morality - they claim that a benevolent god whose existence defines good & evil does not exist because evil exists. Once again, their hearts reveal that they are waging a personal debate - based on God - with a personal God…who can’t exist. A non-existing god is kept in place as the
whipping boy for humanity's failures, and the radical atheist can scarce live without him.

There are a great many arguments on each side of this great debate, and I have encountered many of them. I am one who has committed his life to knowing a personal God, but I do not understand a life committed to proving God does not exist. If God does not exist then our existence is short. Why waste time debating unless the questions of the soul concerning God are not really answered? Why not “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” as Solomon said?

Life is indeed short. All sides agree. Eternity is long. Atheists do not agree on this, but in private they wish for a good eternity when they reach their later days. The irony of it all is that God did have a grave. He became like us, lived like us, died like us and inhabited a grave for a few days. The grave could not hold Him though. It will not hold us either from entering one of two eternities.
Pascal wagered that closing the door on God is not wise, and even though it is an old wager it is still a good one.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Heb 11:6

… the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen! Luke 24:5,6


sorceror said...

Actually, there are other consistent ways to understand morality than as 'commandments'.

Samuel Skinner said...

Can you hear the strawman?

Remember- evidence is required for a belief. You have none. Therefore there is no reason to believe what you said.

I'd go on, but this is simple enough.

Also, if you deconvert, please don't be like sorceror- type out your responses.

Mike Watkins said...

Sorcerer, thanks for the response. The article that you linked is lengthy, but I will take a look. I read a few paragraphs – it is late on my side of the world – but I think that I see where it is heading. I hope to respond more in detail.

Samuel, I did state my belief in God, but my purpose was not to prove it to you. I wanted to show that some radical atheists are obsessed with the “no god” position. Sorcerer engaged an element of my moral argument, and I welcome such dialogue.

At a minimum my argument was a psychological one. Why in fact do some atheists troll the Net for posts like mine? Why must they take the bait that I laid out? I have many friends who are atheists or agnostics, and if I were an atheist I would think of Christians as my freinds actually do think of me. They are glad I am happy, and we do not sit around challenging one another. We do from time to time have very friendly discussions. Some have become Christians, and some have not.

I do not make a straw man of atheists. Many have strong scientific arguments against the existence of God that the average Christian would not know how to refute. I have a degree in Physics, and worked many years in a research lab. At least three of my professors in Nuclear Physics were Christians, and one in Atomic Physics was. Others were Agnostics, Atheists, Deists, Buddhists, etc. Some believed in Intelligent Design, Theistic Evolution, Natural Selection, Punctuated Equilibrium…the list goes on.

Most remain life-long inquirers of truth. The more they learned about our Universe the more they realized they did not know.

Samuel Skinner said...

Bah- they are obcessed with the "no God" position the same way politicans were obcessed with the threat of communism. Do they constantly have to repeat that it is flawed? Constantly attack it?


As long as people believe in nonsense it is our duty to try to show them they are wrong. When it is one person- a word. A hunderd- a speech. A thousand- a debate. When it is 5 and a half billion things are serious.

We troll because we care. We care about the future of mankind. I care. I care because people believe things that are false. The truth is so beautiful- how could I hoard it all to myself? Such selfishness is... inconcievable.

Yes, you do straw man. "Moral crisis", "anger at God", "commited atheist"... basically the third paragraph onward.

The more we learn the more justify pride in ignorance? How can such double think exist? How can you say "the more we learn the more they realized they do not know" when YOU claim to know who holds the keys to the kingdom?

I do not know everything, but I know enough. I can tell right from wrong, sanity from madness and reality from nonsense. Religion does not take advanced knowledge to refute- all it takes is logic and the willingness to question.

Take a look out into the world. A good
What is it most lacking? Logic and the willingness to ask questions. And as long as faith exists these two attributes will wither and die.

sorceror said...

The vast majority of atheists aren't 'evangelical', true. Indeed, a lot of them go under the color of 'agnostic' just because it avoids conversations they find tedious.

Others are very vocal and bitter, but honestly I've never run into one in person and I'm not sure how common they really are.

Then there are those who discuss atheism and theism, not out of bitterness, but as ambassadors or lobbyists. Atheists are highly stereotyped in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Atheists do get discriminated against, just like any minority. And many people base policy decisions that affect everyone purely on religious grounds.

In such an environment, being outspoken - though not necessarily confrontational - can be important just to promote mutual understanding and to safeguard one's rights.

Since most atheists tend to live quietly (since there's a real stigma attached to being atheist) the bitter and/or outspoken atheists are the only ones most theists ever see. This can lead to the impression that all atheists are obsessed with 'attacking God' or whatever.

More, it can seem to Christians like they are being specifically targeted, but much of that is just an artifact of Christianity being (by far) the most common theism in the Western world. Atheists don't usually have to address Santa Claus or unicorns because few people are lobbying to mandate chimneys in every home or banning saddles because one might accidentally be used on a unicorn.

Mike Watkins said...

Sorcerer, you make excellent points. I agree that some people calling themselves Christians are very hostile to other faiths. By defending truths that we all whole dear they also violate other truths such as courtesy, kindness & love.

I also regret the political cycle where Evangelicals fall prey to agenda’s of secular conservatives. I was once a knee-jerk conservative as a new Christian, but the spirit of many confrontations left me feeling polluted. I remember in the 80’s Lee Atwater was the conservative bad boy, but upon contracting cancer he went and apologized for his bad behavior. I for one apologize to you for persecution in any form.

The radicals on each side often misrepresent ordinary people on both sides, but we in the middle can maintain civil dialogue. I may be a radical of sorts seeing that I am a cross-cultural missionary, but I want to demonstrate my faith through kindness and not conflict.

While you make good points about the west I am now in the east, the former USSR, and I have lived here since 1993. The fallout of forced atheism nearly killed the soul of the Slavic people. The examples I can give are monstrous. I know that non believers could also give examples of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and they would also be correct. For better or for worse moralities can be legislated to one degree or another. However, faith lies in an inner realm, and it cannot be legislated.

Thanks, for your insightful comments.

sorceror said...

Your points about militant atheism (and that's using the proper definition of the term, people who use violence to advance their views) are well taken. I have a relatively simple, basic classification scheme.

One can be 'naturalist' or 'supernaturalist', depending on whether one believes that supernatural things can and/or do exist. But there's a separate dimension, whether one is moderate or dogmatic about either.

I think I'm in the 'moderate naturalist' category. I can get along fine with 'moderate supernaturalists' - I think they're wrong, but they're at least willing to talk about it. I find 'dogmatic naturalists' and 'dogmatic supernaturalists' to be equally scary, often for the same reasons.

Mike Watkins said...

Anon, your personal comments are welcome, but I ask you not to spam my site with all these links. One mention of them is enough. Thanks

J. K. Jones said...

I find it interesting that certian people ignore the mass of philosophical and scientific evidence for God's existence.

Mike Watkins said...

J.K. I believe that the ultimate issue is a spiritual one. A person who thinks about existence and ultimate accountability will at least consider these things. People in the west do not see or face mortality the way the developing world does. Such questions are inconvenient, but they will be dealt with, sooner or later.

On a liter note I see from your site that you are a Star Trek fan. So am I, and I am going through all the voyager episodes right now when I get free time.

God bless.

Samuel Skinner said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Watkins said...

Mr. Skinner, I deleted your last post because of questionable wording even in abbreviated form. My blog is sort of my living room or my front porch. It is a place where friendly people can congregate and express ideas relating to the post. For anything not related to the post I would rather contact through email.

As for my front porch my kids are nearby, and I will not allow inappropriate conduct or language. I am not asking for agreement, but it must be civil and respectful.

As for evil in the world just don’t diagnose – criticism – but be a part of the solution. I am involved in several humanitarian ventures in this part of the world, and I can get you in contact with secular agencies as well who do similar work.

Be a part of the solution. It is hard, you will get your hands dirty and your heart will soften towards all people as has mine. However, it takes great commitment.

J. K. Jones said...


Glad to hear you are a Star Trek fan. As for Voyager, Janeway has always been my second favorite starship captain.

I still don’t see any reason to think that the traditional arguments for God’s existence (cosmological, teleological), in their proper form, have been refuted. God’s existence is a certainty.


Samuel Skinner said...

I don't know why post was deleted. It was not the one where I was a raving fanatic... got to find that one.

I'm keeping that short because I have another foe- Voyager. The show was bad. REAL bad.
See the opinionated Voyager Episode Guide for details. But at its simplest they had 12 opportunities to go back to the Alpha Quadrent! And they let them slip through their fingers... Their incompetance is astounding.

As for Jones, I suggest you read elementary logic. They have been refuted- sorry.

By the way Mike, there are times when community service becomes entirely pointless. That is when war obliterates all that you have spent your time doing. I look across the world and I see madness. I see the steps that lead to war. In America- the Dominionists. In Europe- the Muslims. In Eastern Europe- the authoritarians. In the developing world fundamentalists of all stripes...

I hope I am wrong. But if the past has taught us anything it is that civilization is a thin veneer... and no match for fanatics.

Also, it would be nice is you have a convinient source of "things that will get you deleted" on hand. Otherwise it feels arbitrary.