On Religion, Atheism, Science and Logic

A good friend recently renounced religion and “deconverted” to atheism. Yes, he’s still my friend. When one truly cares about somebody, that friendship doesn’t cease because he’s doing something you don’t agree with. It’s why I have friends in life who were or are addicts, homosexuals, nonbelievers in God, bureaucrats, die-hard liberals, storm video peddlers or Washington Redskins fans.

I may not agree with something they’re doing or believing, but by God, they’re people I care about and as such are my friends. Say I were on a storm intercept with a homosexual or atheist friend (as has been true for each, on several occasions); except this time, when reaching some truck stop in Backwater Oklahoma, someone threatens him. I would jump right in between them, ensuring that the aggressor would have to go through me first. And you bet I won’t back down. Being a red-state Bush Republican, as I am, is not a factor in that decision.

As a faithful Christian, atheism troubles me — not as a threat personally, but as a wonderful and forver life-changing opportunity closed (for now at least) for that person. It’s much like seeing a beloved brother choose a path of, say, mind altering drugs. While it feels good to the person involved, and they sure do seem happy to be free of responsibility to anyone but himself or his designates, the caring brother genuinely mourns the turn of events. The addict or atheist says, “don’t pity me or mourn me, I’m feeling great and better all the time. I’m free!”

But from the outside looking in, the caring brother — who wouldn’t mourn if he didn’t care, for cryin’ out loud! — sees the soul entrapped, walled off, shut off by choice from either reality (if drugs are involved) or potentially, from an eternal gift of spiritual life (if by renouncing atheism). The seeming giddiness of this “freedom,” be it within the drug induced high of the addict, or the atheistic rejection of responsibility to God, is a great and powerful deception. It is an artificial existence that never seems, from within, anything but real, until one somehow is busted out of that fantasy world. Yes, fantasy world — the very same term I often hear from atheists about religion, applies in this manner to atheism.

I don’t hate atheists at all. In fact, I care and desire the best for atheists, that caring being a form of love. What is “the best” possible? Well, what could be more desirable for anybody than eternal joy, with perpetual freedom from all pain, suffering and malaise? I simply want for atheists the same gift that has been promised us all by following a very simple, private and personal action prescribed succinctly and unambiguously in Scripture.

The result of that action is not freedom from suffering here on earth, in this life anyway. The best and most pious among humanity still suffer, and often horribly. Suffering brings about strength, and in many ways it is only through suffering that we can fully appreciate goodness and health. [Maybe that’s why God “allows” it, even if he doesn’t create it.]

Instead, the result of that commitment elucidated in Scripture is a promise of eternal life, even after physical death, and the ultimate in freedom — from any and all things evil, once this world is left behind. What could possibly be better? I challenge anyone to discover, or even invent or imagine, a better alternative than an existence of everlasting and unending joy and freedom from suffering of any kind.

But it does take faith to dial that call to the heavens, because:

    1. This, right here, is a broken world, beautiful by its basic nature but deeply plagued by civilization’s widespread hatred, evil actions, abuse, stupidity, injury, and physical and mental sickness. Few people, whether religious, agnostic or atheistic, would deny that. As long as we’re alive, we still must contend with an incessant bombardment of all that crap — whether or not we believe in God. [Doesn’t the hope of God help, then? It sure does for me. Without that hope it means that the entire burden of dealing with all the pain and evil around us falls on each individual. From personal experience I can assure otherwise.]

    2. As both atheists and rational Christians will agree — people are not supernatural. We don’t have the time transcendent foretelling power to look past the death of our bodies, to see what’s beyond. We simply do not and can not see there, past our own death — without faith.

Yes, faith alone can see beyond death. Nothing else can. Faith alone tells us that there is hope beyond our last breath, that we may become more free than ever we were in physical life.

By contrast, atheists have renounced the faith, and as such, cannot believe anything other than that the conscience simply blinks out, forevermore. Non-faith says it all just goes black. Game over, man…no more quarters. Zap. Lights out, always and forever, dark, nothing, gone. No more hate and pain, true — but no more love either. No more experience. No more adventure. No more excitement. No more challenge. No more learning and discovery. No more, period. Nothing. Black. Absolute deadness. Always.

Oh God, I pray not to experience that, for it sounds to me like a convincing version of hell.

Being doomed to eternal nothingness, as atheism does by nature, seems to be the ultimate trap, not freedom. You’re limited only to how much happiness you can muster until that uncertain time that — snap — you’re dead, and all is dark and silent forever. The thought of choosing to condemn oneself to a faithless forever of dark, numb nothingness upon physical death leads me to one conclusion:

The atheist is a soul tightly locked in the chains of “freedom.”

On another front, atheism as expressed by its most fervent adherents is every bit as closed minded as dogmatic religion, because it absolutely rules out the alternative, no exceptions. A bleeding-heart religious liberal that I recently read about had a bumper sticker saying “God bless everyone. No exceptions.” The essayist made a wonderful case for why that’s terribly misguided. [In short, evil people do exist and sometimes we need to kick their butts in defense of others’ life and liberty, with which I agree.] That writer also supports atheism.

Atheism’s bumper sticker might as well be, “Everyone bless himself because God doesn’t exist. No exceptions.” Is that any more open-minded?

Agnostics: At least they leave the door open, for they are not convinced one way or another. Perhaps that is why so many scientists are agnostics: The evidence is not yet sufficiently compelling to make a firm conclusion yet. But like any astute scientist recognizes, sometimes one must make a decision and draw conclusions without the presence of irrefutable evidence or absolutely complete data. In science, it’s called “theory” or “likelihood” or “statistically significant.” In law, it’s called “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In the agnostic it would be called “faith.” In all three, it’s something that can be achieved, albeit with a good deal of effort. The agnostic doesn’t have the luxury of procrastinating until after his life to find out. Like the scientist faced with publishing the paper or waiting forever for more data that may never come, he must draw a conclusion of some sort before the opportunity is gone.

Non-dogmatic Christians: They encourage all to follow, not sentence anyone to damnation. They don’t condemn atheists or agnostics to hell; they believe eternal fate is no man’s decision, including their own, but instead God’s and God’s alone. They believe that, by condemning someone to hell, the human casts himself as God, which is itself a dishonest and dangerous choice (a sin).

Unlike many Christians, I think I understand why some folks choose atheism. I was at that crossroads once. See, to the agnostic or atheist, no god ever has shoved before them a body of hard, tangible evidence, as narrowly defined by the human, of the existence of a higher power. [As if God exists to prove himself, and to serve people anyway, instead of the other way around…how arrogant of any human to put God in such a selfishly defined box! But that’s another rant altogether.]

As a child and early teenager, and aspirant to the scientist I would become, I vacillated between atheism and agnostic uncertainty. I was demanding: If you’re out there, show me the evidence! Speak to me!

Well, God did, and in a way I could understand perfectly. I didn’t realize it fully until later, but it was in the form of a highly mathematical thought which came on quite logically.

Probabilistic thinking is a cornerstone of science — whether in mine (meteorology) or any other. See, I was a storm fanatic before I could walk or talk. As a baby, instead of recoiling in fear at the flash-booms of those violent North Texas thunderstorms, I crawled to the door to watch the lightning and hear the thunder. As I sat in diapers at the screen door, the hail, deafening crashes of nearby lightning strikes, and torrential rain brought about giggles and smiles that made no sense to my mom; but it didn’t seem to happen often enough for my desires. On some level, I knew of the importance of assigning chances of events, even as a slobbering toddler in awe of thunderstorms and glued to the TV weathercast. And as an elementary and middle school kid seemingly obsessed with violent storms, the concept of scientific uncertainty and probability was driven home in every weather article I could read.

So, as a teen, it suddenly occurred to me to ponder the probability that everything in this universe, right down to the exact arrangement of all the uncounted quadrillions of atoms and molecules needed to come together in exactly the right way to jumpstart life, fell into place simply by accident. What are the odds? If you are a mathematician watching from afar at the start of the Big Bang, what is the probability that every single living thing, nonliving and event has assembled from the Big Bang exactly as they have and are now is arranged, from the nearly infinite number of potential atoms (and by extension, molecules) trapped in that singular point? One over that number, of course. How many molecules are there? Infinity. What’s one over infinity? What’s unity divided by an infinitely large number? Speaking in terms of significant digits: 1/[infinity] = zero.

Zero. That’s the logical probability, to me, that every single component of our universe and life all came to be as it is by pure chance — that God didn’t do any of it. Questioning my results, uncertain of them as any scientist ought to be, I went over the process again, recalculating that logic repeatedly. I tested and retested the theorem, off and on for months, maybe a couple years, and out spat the same answer every time. Therefore, I can make no other conclusion, as a scientific thinker, than the presence of God. And so it was. And so it is, but with time, faith and experience now clothing the raw logical core.

Recently my friend’s choice forced me to reconsider my own beliefs. Not doubt them, mind you…since that childhood outburst of universal logic, faith has slowly settled in and solidified the foundation laid by the initial computation. But being a compartmental thinker, I put on the science cap and, with over two decades elapsed and a more mature, worldly, experience coated perspective, reviewed the data tape and cross-checked the results again. The ouput: Same answer. My only lingering question is, “How can there not be God?” Logic and faith, together and inseparable, both gifts from above, derive the answer.



Comments

8 Responses to “On Religion, Atheism, Science and Logic”

  1. Mike Peregrine on June 2nd, 2005 11:14 am

    What an inspiring and thought-provoking post. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I’m thinking that I’ll likely be back to re-read this one a time or two. This non-threatening and loving approach to such an emotionally-charged subject is pretty refreshing. It is also a fine definition of faith.

  2. Thomas Loades on June 11th, 2005 6:58 pm

    As an atheist myself, I wish to add my perspective to this. • • • In the first place, atheism is no kind of fantasy world. It is firmly grounded in reality. Therefore, there is no real sense of distortion and certainly no spiritual trauma, because there is no proof that any kind of soul exists. So why should that concern us? It doesn’t. Christianity, on the other hand — or any other theistic religion — first requires you to put faith in some kind of force that there is no definitivve proof for either, sugar-coated with the potential of a great reward after death; that can’t be proven, either, since the dead can’t tell us about it, and no-one alive on the planet can experience it. And to achieve this “goal,” one must base their life around a text that is filled with occurrences that no-one who wrote of them observed and don’t occur now. (Except for hatred, intolerance, and violence justified by faith.) So which is the greater delusion? • • • Second, the theistic idea of what happens after death might sound far better than the atheistic, but when one dies, the brain stops functioning, and so does one’s consciousness. Thus, all will not be “dark and silent forever,” because there will be no awareness to experience that. The entire theistic concept of life after death also makes life now seem entirely pointless if that after death will be so much better and last for infinity. I’ve often heard it argued by Christians that atheism renders a person’s present life pointless — but no! For we realize that this ever-so-brief time we have to live is something to make the most of, not just be an impatiently-endured intermission before the “good” stuff of some eternal afterlife. • • • Now, it is true that science has not answered every question we may have about the world — or the universe — but that doesn’t deter me from atheism. For one thing, “god did it” is not a satisfying answer at all. It takes all the awe from things — like, millions of years of something so small as erosion could make something as beautiful as the Grand Canyon. Or that sheer chance could result in all the life on earth that we see today. Also, we may not know the exact origin of the universe, but we can add that to the list: We don’t know how to cure viruses, we don’t know why some supercells don’t spawn tornadoes — we’re still finding those things (among others) out. But if we just attribute it to a god, well, there goes all the thrill of discovery. But we could just as soon add that to the list of idiosyncracies of such a creation — like, why should a creator make vast (not necessarily infinite) universe, then lavish all its attention on a single, small planet within it? Why even create a universe? And if everything comes about from intelligently designed creation, what created the creator? • • • And if some creator gave humans both logic and faith, it is unfortunate indeed that either one — depending on which you choose as your viewpoint — cancels the other out. I know which I have chosen, and I’ll stay quite content in my realist world.

  3. tornado on June 21st, 2005 11:08 pm

    Insightful comments, and thanks all (both here and via private e-mail). This is mainly addressed to Thomas’ thought provoking retort and one or two of similar construction received behind the scenes from others, each of which follow a familiar pattern for atheistic apologetics.

    Exactly what is “reality”? Each person’s conception, for starters. In this regard atheism isn’t that different from religion; it’s the person’s “real” worldview. Atheism is itself a faith — in the lack of existence of God, in the restriction of life to that time between birth or conception and death, in the idea that all answers do or eventually will come purely from human analysis and investigation. But how do you *know*? After all, as you stated, we can’t *prove* beyond death and the dead aren’t talking. So, religious or not, life until death matters. It’s when we discover and learn.

    Discovery and learning, however, aren’t the exclusive playground of the nonreligious. God developed us (*perhaps* even through the means of evolution) to have a conscience, a mind constructed specifically *for* discovery; otherwise we already would know everything. Then what’s the point?

    Logic and faith don’t cancel one another, as I elucidated. It’s not an “either-or” matter. Instead they can supplement one another, each filling in the gaps rendered unknowable by the other, forming a fuller completeness of existence and awareness.

    Compartmentalize a bit and pretend for a moment that there is a God and that you are He. Wouldn’t you do the same, or would you evolve the highest life form into mindlessly obedient robots instead of vibrant minds of free will, capable of great modes of creativity, analysis, innovation, invention, discovery and, yes, love? That’s precisely what has happened. It’s not religion that screws things up, that causes “hatred, violence and intolerance justified by faith” — it’s selfishness and greed of the human of free will, who chooses the path of destructive thoughts and behavior.

    Faith doesn’t kill; people do. Like cars, guns, fire or any tangible tool, the intangible vehicle of faith can be, has been, and will be abused for nefarious purposes. But just because faith is abused, terrible things done by people in the name of “God,” doesn’t mean faith itself is the problem. Instead the problem is within the free choices of the people to commit the crimes, sins and misdeeds. Then the actions of them become a convenient and easy machete to wield for slicing away at all of religion, labeling an entire class of people (in this case, the faithful) for the most horrendous wrongs done by a relative paucity who wear that class’ label with utmost dishonor. It’s the same kind of thinking which perpetuates racism: using the real or perceived problems of a few as a cheap means to soil the whole. I don’t subscribe to that line of logic, and neither should an atheist regarding faith and the faithful.

    Finally, I have a challenge for all atheists.

    Do you love someone in some way? Your mom, your wife, your brother?

    You do? Really?

    Prove it.

    I don’t mean *show* it, as by kissing the bride or hugging the sister or helping the old dad fix up his house. None of that means you love them; those things can be motivated by all kinds of purposes outside love. To wit, perhaps someone is fixing his dad’s roof to shut his nagging, cantankerous mouth up about it, or hugging the sister or wife in a reluctant sense of duty, as some would.

    No, I mean *prove* you love someone…anyone.

    Walk away from the screen and ponder it for awhile, then read on.

    ……

    Can’t? Well, just why is that?

  4. Robert on July 12th, 2005 12:12 am

    I think Roger’s comments are wonderful, and I appreciate his concern for the non-believer. Christianity is a relgion of love, regardless of the actions of mortals. Christianity is unlike any other following in that the God of the Christian is alive. Christ’s existence is well documented, as was his coming by some rather fantastic Messianic prophesy in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. It is the perfect story, with a perfect eternal gift for those who accept God’s gift of life.

    Thomas wrote:”sugar-coated with the potential of a great reward after death; that can’t be proven, either, since the dead can’t tell us about it, and no-one alive on the planet can experience it. And to achieve this “goal,” one must base their life around a text that is filled with occurrences that no-one who wrote of them observed and don’t occur now.”

    Christ on earth provided the window for us to realize the perils of death, and the reward for the faithful. The accounts of his life, death and resurection were written in a timely fashion. One of my favorite little examples of this is the recollection of President Kennedy getting shot in Fort Worth back in ’64. Or when the germans bombed Pearl Harbor, right? No? Dont you think the accounts of Christ, if innacurate, would have been promptly corrected? Why on earth would some endure horrible martyrdom while maintaining their allegiance to the Messiah? This is a little simplistic, I know. So, I have included the following reference which might help you understand why I feel the way I do. We have a wonderful covenant now with God in Christ.

    If you have any doubt whatsoever about the existence and reality of Jesus Christ, I would suggest you read _The Case For Christ_, by L. Strobel, 1998.

    In His service,

    Robert W.

  5. Max Loh on October 20th, 2005 1:24 am

    I hope you guys still read this chain… I got bored online. Pertaining to the first guy’s logic arguement of how insignificantly small the chance is of life spontaneously generating in our universe? Consider this: Humans just happened to be born on such a magnificently life-giving planet, Earth. Should we be at all surprised? No; Earth was one of the few possible destination for life, so one shouldn’t be at all “surprised” or thankful that one happened to be born on Earth. Should we then be surprised that we happened to be born in a universe that generated life? No; that cannot be attributed to chance. If our souls were destined to be born anyway, we would have to have been born in such a universe as this. And what is the probability that this is the only universe? Since we don’t know anything outside of our universe, I would say that chances are rather small. And as for the issue of why we are self-aware and have souls in the first place… of why among all these souls, there even exists a point of view “me”… that leads into a more complex philosophy discussion that is greater than religion. Religion doesn’t talk about God issuing or creating souls; he only does things to souls.

  6. RJ on May 26th, 2006 11:32 pm

    Robert wrote:

    “Finally, I have a challenge for all atheists.

    Do you love someone in some way? Your mom, your wife, your brother?

    You do? Really?

    Prove it.”

    This is too easy… Ask the people I “love” if they feel “loved” by me. If they say yes, then I have proven that I “love” them. The problem with your question/challenge is that the word “love” is a concept, and therefore requires the person who “loves” to have someone who understands the meaning of the word from the givers standpoint. This person is the receiver of the “love”.
    The person is also real. I can touch them, smell them, see them… and so can everyone else who’s alive and kicking.

    Now, before you go off half cocked on “loving” someone in my family who is deceased… I don’t love anyone who’s dead. I DO appreciate what they taught me, the memories etc.

    RJ(The American Heathen)

  7. tornado on May 28th, 2006 9:03 am

    But wait! You can’t “see, smell, or touch” love, either, any more than you can “see, smell, or touch” God. How can “love” be any more real than God? It distills quite simply to this…

    By your very own line of “logic and reasoning,” if the target of the love (or of God’s Holy Spirit) claims to feel the presence of love (or God), and claims the receipt of that love (or the Holy Spirit) as true, then God is real to that person — the same as love.

    The argument for “love” but not God, therefore, is contradictory and illogical. It’s either both, or none. Which way will you have it? Either love *and* God are real, or neither are.

    The King is closing in on the lone Rook.

  8. RJ on May 28th, 2006 2:20 pm

    Tornado wrote:

    “But wait! You can’t “see, smell, or touch” love, either, any more than you can “see, smell, or touch” God. How can “love” be any more real than God? It distills quite simply to this…”

    Love is only “real” if there is something “real” to give it AND to receive it, otherwise it does not exist. Love and God are concepts, and have no single definitions. They are based on conjecture and interpretation. I “love” chocolate. I “love” Rogelio. I “love” my wife. Do I “love” them all in the same way? No. Do they all assume I love them? No. By saying I “love” chocolate, I cannot prove THIS “love”, for the chocolate cannot respond to the question “Do you feel loved?” Now, when I say I “love” Rogelio, only Rogelio himself knows HOW and IF I “love” him. The same for my wife. Only she knows HOW and IF I “love” her. But first, they HAVE to understand MY definition of the word “love”. Then, and only then, can they feel that love, understand it. Love is only real if there is something real to give it AND to receive it.
    Love MUST BE A SHARED experience to be real.

    Here’s an example…

    A guy named George “LOVES” a girl named Jen. George tells Jen he “loves” her. Jen tells him to stay away from her. She thinks he’s a loony tune.

    Does George’s “love” really exist? Only in his mind. He may even be delusional enough to think that Jen “loves” him. But, without Jen, George’s “love” is empty, devoid of any meaning to anyone other than himself.

    Tornado went on to write:

    “By your very own line of “logic and reasoning,” if the target of the love (or of God’s Holy Spirit) claims to feel the presence of love (or God), and claims the receipt of that love (or the Holy Spirit) as true, then God is real to that person — the same as love.”

    Your logic is flawed. You left out the reciever of “love”. Does this mean that if I make the statement “I love Santa Clause” that this makes him as real as God? Santa can’t respond, but that doesn’t make him any less real does it? Or how about the Magic Unicorn of Norman? I know He loves me.

    Here’s another common Christian so-called definition of God. “God is love” One cannot ‘define’ a concept with another concept. As I have stated in debates with people of many faiths… Define the word ‘God’ in such a way that ALL religions of the world can agree. Then we can pause long enough to have a debate over the existence of such an entity.

    I ask you Tornado… PROVE you love God. You can’t by my previous explanation. This is BECAUSE there is no God to respond to the question “Do you feel loved by (insert name here). Your DEEDS are not proof of love, as proposed by Robert W. Therefore, we reach an impasse?

    Tornado continues…

    “The argument for “love” but not God, therefore, is contradictory and illogical. It’s either both, or none. Which way will you have it? Either love *and* God are real, or neither are.”

    See above paragraph. By trying to ‘define’ a concept with another concept, you have failed in your goal to prove the existence of a God. The two are not one. Love can be proven when there is a giver AND a receiver. AND they both must be real for LOVE to be real. God doesn’t meet the criteria.

    I propose the following… Tornado, you are an Atheist as well as I. I just believe in one less God than you do.

    Tornado closed with…

    “The King is closing in on the lone Rook.”

    The King needs to go back to his castle and mope! 🙂

    RJ

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