• David Schrader, PhD

Why I'm Not An Atheist # 2



Richard Simmons in his book, Reflections on the Existence of God talks about a movie from twenty-five years ago called the "Grand Canyon." It was a movie featuring Kevin Kline and Danny Glover. The main character, played by Kline, has been to a professional basketball game and veers off the crowded interstate to take a shortcut to get home. Unfortunately, in the process, he soon finds himself in a crime-ridden neighborhood, lost. When he pulls to a stop, the Lexus that he's driving suddenly stalls.


He immediately calls a wrecker service, and while he's waiting, you see these pretty rough teenagers come out of the shadows. They see what they’ve found, and they're getting ready to well . . . we don't know exactly, because right when they're going do some serious damage, Danny Glover comes to the rescue.


Glovers drives up in the wrecker and as he steps out to hook up the car, these thugs begin to protest because here they have a guy at their mercy. He drives an expensive car, he's a well-dressed lawyer, and he appears to be someone who could be carrying a great deal of money. Glover takes the leader of the group aside and announces firmly:


Man, the world ain't supposed to work like this. Maybe you don't know that, but this ain't the way it's supposed to be. I'm supposed to be able to do my job without asking you if I can. That dude [referring to Kline] is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than what it is here.

Life is supposed to be different. I think we all know this instinctively if we are honest. Danny Glover's character was referring to a type of moral behavior that we expect from human beings. There seems to be a right way to live. But who makes that determination?[1]


If that story happened today, the outcome might have been totally different. Perhaps the driver of the car and the tow truck driver might have both been robbed and shot in cold blood. Such is the state of decaying morality all around us today. Human life seems expendable with little regard to moral oughtness.


Jerry Crawford, 25, is one such example. He was serving time for burglary when he was let out to parole supervision due to Covid 19 “public health emergency credits”. Two days after his release, he shot and killed eighteen-year-old Davion Scarborough.[2] Besides the obvious question of how he obtained a gun while on parole, we also must ask, "What makes a person show such little regard for another person's life?"


Jerry Crawford was not following God's moral code. If he had a spiritual foundation grounded in God's morality, he probably wouldn't have been in prison in the first place.

Lord Acton believed that a spiritual foundation can be a deterrent to crime and lawlessness. He said, "A person's spiritual underpinnings creates an invisible yoke of duty on every citizen. It gives a reason to deny self-interest, to obey the law, to sacrifice for others. However, when we abandon our spiritual roots," he says, "duty loses its hold on our hearts. Crime and lawlessness are then unleashed."[3]


If atheists were honest with themselves, they would see the necessity of God's moral laws, not just for Jerry Crawford, but for all of us who want to live in a well-ordered society. Peter Kreeft, the great philosophy professor at Boston College, said, "No society has ever survived or will ever survive without morality, and no morality has ever survived without a transcendent source."[4]


Atheists would do well to consider the conclusion of George Mavrodes who taught philosophy at the University of Michigan for 33 years. He said that though the reality of moral obligations might not be proof for the existence of God, it is very strong evidence for it. He said that if anyone believes in absolute moral obligations, this only makes sense in a world where God exists. He makes it clear that this is the only way to account for one of the most significant aspects of human life. He encourages people who might not believe in God to be open to the possibility that the theistic view of life is truer to reality.[5]


C. S. Lewis also believed that moral law is better explained on a theistic worldview than a naturalistic one. This is because the notion of mere matter giving authoritative, prescriptively binding moral direction strains credulity. Lewis said, "If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other there would be no sense in preferring civilized morality to savage morality or Christian morality to Nazi morality."[6]


But because God our Creator is a moral lawgiver, he has declared there is a moral order that governs life. He reveals this moral order in the Bible. He tells us how we should live. The road map God gives us in the Bible helps us to avoid confusion and it keeps us from destroying ourselves.


Yet, some will argue that we can turn to the science of evolution to explain the existence of morality, where it helps us to recognize what is moral and what is not. But if we are just mere animals, by-products of some cosmic soup, why would we value or care about anyone? In an evolutionary world where the "survival of the fittest" reigns, we are bound to see a lack of morality and justice and plenty of abuse towards those that are weaker.


Nietzsche reinforced the prevailing philosophy in Germany that a genius was above the law, that he should not be bound by the morals of ordinary men. Private virtues simply stood in the way of the greater virtues of control and power. It was not the meek but the ruthless who would inherit the earth. The superman would crush cherished virtues so that he could rule the world. Listen to these words from Nietzsche's pen, "The strong men, the masters, regain the pure consciousness of a beast of prey; monsters filled with joy, they can return from a fearful succession of murder, arson, rape, torture with the same joy in their hearts."[7]


It has been said that after God died in the nineteenth century, man died in the twentieth. For when God is dead, man becomes an untamed beast. It's little wonder why Hitler was enraptured with Nietzsche and Darwin's survival of the fittest mentality.


Viktor Frankl, the great psychiatrist, and author who survived the Holocaust, wrote this stinging critique:


The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment – or, as the Nazis liked to say, "Of Blood and Soil." I'm absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.

Albert Einstein was one scientist that got it right about science and morality. In a discussion on science and religion back in 1930, he said, “you are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.” Einstein clearly believed science cannot have a basis for morality. As he put it, “every attempt to reduce ethics to a scientific formula must fail.”[8]


James Hunter and Paul Nedelisky wrote a book, Science and the Good, examining the quest by science to find a foundation for morality. They concluded that science has been extremely helpful in many areas of life but concluded: "Yet for all that science has taught us and for all the good that it has brought about, it has clearly not provided anything like a solution to the problem of morality – no way of resolving moral disagreement with empirical methods."[9]


Atheists are at a loss to explain our need for justice and morality. They are at a loss to explain why we instinctively know when we are unfairly treated.


Norman Geisler tells about the failure of atheism to account for our need for justice in a humorous story about a philosophy student in an upper-level philosophy course:


The student wrote a research paper arguing that there is no God, consequently, he went on to argue, there can be no objective or absolute moral principles. Judged by the paper's research, scholarship, and argumentation, most would have agreed it was easily in A paper. The professor, however, wrote these words on the paper: F – I do not like this blue folder.


The student stormed the professor's office waving his paper, protesting, “this is not fair! This is totally unjust! Why should I be graded on the colour of the folder? It should have been graded on its contents, not its colour!"


Once the student had settled down, the professor asked quietly, “Was this the paper which argued that based on the godless universe in which we live, there are no objective moral principles such as fairness and justice? Did you not also argue that everything is a matter of one's subjective likes and dislikes?"


"Yes... yes...", the student replied hesitantly. “Well then,” said the professor, “I do not like blue folders. The grade will remain an F.”


Abruptly, the face of the young man changed. It struck him that he really did believe in objective moral principles such as fairness and justice. As the professor changed the grade to an A, the student left with a new understanding of the objective nature of morality. It is easy to proclaim that there is no God, but it is impossible to live consistently and honestly within the resulting atheistic framework.[10]


I am not an atheist because I have learned what the Psalmist said in Psalm 19: 7-12 is so true and reliable. God is just. He is the moral lawgiver, his laws are perfect, and his laws are to be desired more than gold:


The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.[11]

 

[1] Richard Simmons, Reflections on the Existence of God, (Birmingham, AL., Union Hill Publishing, 2019), 68. [2] Lee Brown, NJ inmate freed early due to COVID is charged with murder 2 days later, New York Post, https://www.foxnews.com/us/nj-inmate-freed-early-due-to-covid-is-charged-with-murder-2-days-later, August 13, 2021. [3] Lord Acton – Chuck Colson in Breakpoint Magazine "The Power of Religion," October 4, 1993. [4] Peter Kreeft, C. S. Lewis for the 3rd Millennium: Six Essays on the Abolition of Man, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 91. [5] George Mavrodes, "Religion and the Queerness of Morality,” in Robert Dowdy and William Wainwright, Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1986), 213-26. [6] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book One, Chapter Two [7] William l. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1960), 111. [8] John Lennox, Gunning for God (Oxford, England: Lion Hudson Plc, 2011 ), 99. [9] James Davidson Hunter and Paul Nedelisky, Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundation of Morality (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), 11. [10] Norman Geisler, Intellectuals Speak Out About God (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1984), 147, 148. [11] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015), Ps 19:7–12.

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