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by Ron Lancaster
Presented at an Adult Forum on November 25, 2012

Atheism, the disbelief in a deity, has a history as long as religion itself. There have always been those who thought it nonsense to pay heed to an invisible and supposedly powerful God who could make the rains start or the sick be made well.

As far back as Ancient India there existed schools of Hindus and Buddhists who rejected the notion of a Deity. In the West, atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greece with a man named Diagoras in the 5th Century B.C.

For most of history atheists were not a force to be noticed. Before the end of the Reformation they kept to themselves and kept quiet in fear of a painful death at the hands of the various Christian sects who demanded lock-step thinking on this issue.

As the Western world emerged from the violent Reformation more people began speaking out against the notion of a God of any sort.

Certain intellectuals, through their writings, expressed objections to religious orthodoxy and the common belief in a Higher Power. Well-known thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbs, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, and Nietzsche doubted the existence of any being higher than man. In the 20th century Madeline Murray and Bertrand Russell were noted atheists, but they kept their disagreement with the idea of a deity within the bounds of decorum.

Today that is not the case. A movement called “New Atheism” is afoot, led by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens, and others. These are the high priests thrusting into the debate using thin threads of logic and fiery bolts of anger.

Their idea is that religion should not simply be tolerated, but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument. They started a loud and vociferous movement that attracts a fanatical bunch ready to toot the horns and bang the toy drums for atheism. They are extreme fundamentalists just as much as the conservative bible pounders. They have the same mentality only the other side of the coin. They also feel it in their realm to regulate the beliefs of scientists and will rail unceasingly at those who profess a faith in God. Their minions are everywhere these days using the courts and bullhorns to make Christmas secular and take the word “God” away from the public ear.

For a number of years I took a turn at being an atheist and my great arguments were against religion and the God it represented. Eventually I was cured after I spent a few years reading both sides of the argument.

It is not atheism that I object to, but rather the in-your-face, loud, obnoxious way of presenting it by the New Atheists that I find troublesome. They use religion as a whipping boy and science in a fictitious way as a cover for their somber dogma. Their puffed up and painted doctrine of nihilism is marked by the absence of dignity and charity of tongue.

*

When I started thinking about this subject for presentation I decided that I did not want to refute old ground that has been plowed to death by any number of preachers and professors. I do not want to deal with religion here because that has been the main battleground for the theists and atheists. They go back and forth on the benefits and liabilities of religious belief. I think there are better ways of approaching the subject. My aim is to point to the probability of God, not the necessity of religion.

This of course, knocks the wind out of the usual atheist sales pitch as they point to the outrages of religious people as if that is some sort of proof against a Deity. Religious people are just people, whatever they profess and whatever ceremonies they carry out, and are just as prone to misbehavior and idiocy as any other human. They do not, in this context, represent God, only their selves and maybe their followers. Today’s New Atheist are evangelists and train their guns on these easy targets, but which have no relevance to whether there is a deity or no.

First of all, we are talking about beliefs here. There are no limits to what one can believe on any subject. Beliefs beget opinions, and opinions are box canyons for thought. When opinions are further nurtured and the person finds like-minded people who share them, the opinions evolve into an attitude. Attitudes are cast in concrete and become inseparable from the person living them. Our attitudes are the billboards we lug around to show the world who we are.

Long-standing atheists who have engaged in many verbal tiffs with their counterparts have a host of attitudes that are probably unshakable. No matter what I say they will not be swayed. It is way too much fun arguing and pontificating with all the righteousness like any fundamentalist of any religion.

*

The New Atheists advertise them selves as logical and rational in their approach to the question of a God. However, their logic is self-serving. They bend and distort the facts and dismiss any contrary evidence. And they refuse to gaze beyond the perimeters of their limited sensory perceptions.

*

Christopher Hitchens uses inflammatory extreme language to mock religion in his best selling book, God is Not Great. Reading it felt like an assault on my sensibilities, as he bashes what he sees as the idiocy of believers. He says, “I can’t stand anyone who believes in God or evokes a divinity.” He calls Christian teaching child abuse. Every sentence is piled with as many vile, disgusting descriptions and metaphors as he can fit in. About a belief in God he said, “It is babyish and feeds our infantile needs for reassurance and comfort.”

Of course, he admits he wrote the whole book while highly intoxicated. He was trying to pick a fight just like a drunk in a bar. These were his 2.0 blood alcohol words of wisdom. He was a world-renowned alcoholic and it sharpened his tongue into a cutting wit. Liquor loosed his devils on the pious for being phony and the church attendees for wasting their time.

Nothing can be said to a man such as this or to his many fans. He died, so we are out of his misery. His book was a most hateful rant that tore at the fabric of the decent and sweet of humanity.

God is Not Great came from the dark dungeons of a demented mind. And yet, Hitchens was a celebrity in many places, including the literary world. Wherever he spoke or debated his opinions he received wild cheers. Saying outrageous things always draws a crowd of well-wishers. Hitchens was a fanatic with glib tongue. If a fanatic hits the seam just right, the unseemly side of humanity spills out on the rest of us.

*

Richard Dawkins is popular also. In 2005, Prospect Magazine named him one the three greatest intellectuals in the world. He is the Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, and as such writes books and gives lectures on his favorite part of science, evolutionary biology. He does not write as a scientist per se, since his books are of a philosophical type, but unlike Hitchens, he tries to sound reasonable in his arguments, however flawed his premise.

Dawkins’ recent best-seller is called The God Delusion. In it he does try to match Hitchens in lack of taste. He spends much of it insulting anyone who might believe in God. He writes, “God is a delusion—a psychotic delinquent, a sadomasochistic and malevolent bully. Belief in God is like believing in the Tooth Fairy. We need to leave this crybaby stage,” and so on.

The same magazine that was so high on him before called The God Delusion “dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory.” His hostility to religion is astonishing and is never explained.

Underlying his agenda is the pervasive argument that science has already disproved God. In his summary after many assertions with no proof he said, “There almost certainly is no God.”

His first book, The Selfish Gene, from the 1970s, went a long way to popularizing biology using his assurance for genes’ directing all aspects of life. His gene-centric theory is a mystery because he presented it without a shred of evidence, making up terms and concepts as he went along.

In one of his books, The River of Eden, he insists “The universe has no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Again this is at best a philosophical statement based on his attitude about God. He describes biology as, “The study of complicated things that give the impression of having been designed for a purpose, but in fact, the purposeless forces of mutation and selection were responsible.” In other words, don’t believe your eyes, believe my yarn.

*

And yet, as much as many scientists have derided the idea of a Grand Designer of the universe, they still place complete faith in nature and the universe being a rational system of organization with a hidden elegant scheme. From the tiniest sub-particle to the largest grouping of galaxies, there is order and invisible laws governing everything. In fact, all the evidence demonstrates a universe as an engineering and artistic marvel, infinitesimal particles molded and sculpted to the closest tolerances and well fitted.

No one has an answer as to how it got this way. The reigning idea (or myth) of the Big Bang is strong inference to the idea of the first cause being stimulated by a powerful intelligence beyond our conception. It certainly fits the first words of the Bible, “God created the heavens and the earth.”

The New Atheists are iconoclasts tearing at the fabric of rationality. Pose almost any serious question and they have only general dismissive answers, citing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution or the Multiverse Hypothesis, where we are just in one of countless parallel universes. Some call this incredulous even for science fiction.

They have put the onus on Natural Selection and random mutations as to why we have eyes, and why we have such a remarkable brain, but the larger questions of where does the power of the eye come from is not answered. Further, why should the brain have the power and ability to see into the heart of nature, or of mathematics? These have nothing to do with survival of the fittest. And why are the five dimensions of our material world, sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, so readily available to us though our senses? Are they pure chance or gifts from God so we can make our world sensible?

Darwin’s theory was an early effort, but he lacked any specific and detailed evidence for the arrival of new species. Still he introduced his theory that with enough small changes and enough time a new species would emerge. Then as now, this was music to an atheist’s ears that took it to mean that no God was on the horizon.

Darwin’s musings became sanctified by the new field of Atheistic Biology and evolved into a merry bandwagon that depends on the gullibility of the educated class who have swallowed the doctrine whole. It is very “uncool” to say you don’t believe in evolution.

Reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, I was struck by his careful use of words. To him it was a theory and he used modified language. He said, “Let us suppose,” and “We may suppose,” 700 times in his book. Today Darwinists use only absolutes. To them Darwin’s theory is a fact. They believe it despite the mounds of contrary evidence piling up every day. Plus, the idea that a mindless process can create a Mind stretches credulity to the maximum. But to voice objections to this absurdity is to be a heretic of a very serious sort.

In truth, there is no way to measure Natural Selection. It is a theory in a void. Darwin based his thinking on artificial selection of farm animals, but it never resulted in any new species, only variations or breeds. The real mechanism of speciation is still not understood at all. Major transitions in biology always appear rapidly and fully formed with their own kind of knowledge and language.

Every day intellectuals from a wide range of disciplines come out and reject Darwin’s ideas on evolution. Many are atheists but plainly admit they don’t have any mechanism to replace Natural Selection, and God is not an answer they admit to either.

In fact, for over 100 years paleontologists have hotly disputed the notion of gradualism in evolution, the bedrock of Darwinism. Life actually appeared clearly by what is called “saltation,” meaning every species arrived suddenly in the rock record and then stayed the same without modification, called stasis, for the entire time of its existence. Feathers, fins, legs, and wings in inexhaustible patterns suddenly throb to life with no antecedents. The famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould led the charge against Dawkins and most biologists for their paucity of evidence aside from strong opinion.

Also, now the newly discovered complexity and specificity of the cell is too extreme for such easy answers like random mutations creating unique functions or organisms like butterflies or cuttlefish. There are too many other factors that go into speciation besides change in genes. Somehow, within a cell is the capacity to build a dinosaur or a flee, but no one knows how it is done. The barrier between species is too high. Plus, to make it higher, Yale and Stanford studies have recently found that different organs within a body contain different genetic variations. This throws the whole study of genetics another head scratcher and it makes it more difficult for random mutations to effect positive change toward new species.

Biologists must concoct wild stories of adaption or smoke to keep Natural Selection alive in the minds of true believers. This is bad news because Dawkins has said that Darwin has allowed an atheist to be intellectually fulfilled. Dawkins did design and perfect several computer games for his book The Blind Watchmaker that he said proves that no design in nature is necessary for Natural Selection to work. So, his rebuff of supernatural intelligent design comes from his own design.

This is perhaps Dawkins’ best-known work, but it is not scientifically derived. It is work of metaphysical prejudice. He tries to blend in with scientists; however his “findings” are assumptions that he continually insists that his readers should accept using their imagination. He even admits that his ideas are all speculation, but as he says, “It must have occurred this way” and, “That is the kind of way it must have happened.”

Dawkins builds a weak construct of how the human eye might have evolved through countless small changes. He says it is only our lack of imagination that prevents us from seeing the truth of his reasoning. As usual he is not hemmed in by experiments, but a queer kind of logic. “It happened because it could have happened.”

*

Science studies the laws of nature, but where did they come from, and why is everything symmetrical, mathematically precise and universal? The laws are loaded with information that makes everything happen. All that exists, at every level, from elementary particles to social behavior, is guided by a tight, unbroken network of laws. Even our free-will is under harness.

Actually, the laws of nature cannot produce a single event of themselves. They are set patterns to which every event must conform. Laws are the links in a chain, but the question is, who created the chain? Is there a chain maker and law-giver that we call God?

Science has unraveled some of the mysteries of the atom, that it was formed from smaller components of unknown number, but not where those particles came from or why. They are the beginnings of countless numbers of tiny increments of order from which everything else is built. Recently, physicists think they have isolated the Higgs Boson, the missing component in the Standard Model. But it still does not answer why it is there at all.

We live in a baroque universe that is surprising and bizarre at every turn and connected like the ground does the plants. We live, in fact, in a deep mystery where every answer is a new question, a hundred questions. Everything that seems solved will belie that solution in time. Dark energy and dark matter is just the latest discoveries that science has to account for. It turns out they may be neither matter nor energy, but laws or forces like gravity. How do they even know there are such phenomena? It is because their calculations say so. “Why is it,” asks physicist Eugene Wisner, “that mathematics are so unreasonably effective?”

Mathematics is like a law in that it doesn’t do anything, but in this case can describe what happens as a result of a law.

Where did everything come from anyway? No one has ever experienced anything that came from nothing. These New Atheists are not equipped to handle such queries. They want to complain about religion but not why everything in nature is tightly wound law and order. An atheist makes a complex world simplistic by trusting in the infallibility of science. Unfortunately, that infallibility is a myth.

Sam Harris has written several books praising the accomplishments and potential of science for solving every human problem including the understanding of morals. He indicates that we don’t need God when we have science. While he puts science on a high pedestal he conveniently forgets the dark side of science that has caused much misery to Man, including their pact with the devil for ever-more lethal weapons of war. Unfortunately, science is ethics neutral and too often marches to the beat of the Money Drum, and not the human heart.

*

While science can study the material world, measure it and use mathematics to quantify it, they have no tools to qualify it. Counting the stars, calculating the speed of light, or describing a species of beetle is all part of the objective world, but is only made relevant by the subjective world of values, those ethereal non-things provided by a Mind. Realizing meaning and merit makes objects come alive and is out of the realm of scientific enquiry. Quality, that is the subjective, immaterial side of life, is the soul of measureable things. Naming a flower and seeing it as beautiful are two different worlds—objective and subjective. They are equally important.

I think most atheists do not recognize human spirituality, and that may be the problem that divides them from theism. Think of our spirituality as our psychology. We think and feel from our spiritual or psychological part. That is what animates us, makes us love or hate, think the great thoughts or small, show kindness or cruelty, believe in God or not. Everyone has a large spiritual element, an atheist turns a blind eye toward it.

*

How did life as we know it get here in the first place? Darwin did not touch on this except to suggest it might have started in a warm pool somewhere with a certain brew of chemicals reacting.

And are we the only such life in the universe? A New Atheist will say no because they want to eliminate the notion that we are special her on earth. They say there are many life-bearing planets and that we are only a random sample of what is around us. This, of course, is an absolute untestable assertion.

Some, like Carl Sagan, use the illogical arguments of large numbers and time to prove the idea of life being common in the universe. He says that even if one planet in a galaxy of a hundred billion stars holds intelligent life, that would mean there are one hundred million life bearing planets in the universe, and given enough time, human like creatures would evolve. Of course the numbers are made up so the conclusion is worth zero. The trouble was that many people believed Sagan because had the mantle of authority and he had a TV show. Dawkins also trotted this one out.

Atheists must wrestle with the incredible fine-tuning of the universe toward a life-friendly earth. To them it is quite coincidental that all the necessary chemical elements are here in the right proportions: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc. There are hundreds of things that have to be just perfect for life to exist. If even one are off by a tiny bit or absent, the whole house of life would collapse.

*

The Universe contains three levels, atomic, molecular, and spiritual. It has all the marks of a beautifully thought out enterprise. The atomic structure was designed to permit molecules to be formed into cells so that life as we know it all around us could evolve. The cells that build the human body were made as a receptacle for the spiritual part or soul, as many call it.

On the atomic scale, which is of brute matter, is the frame and structure from which life is housed. It took billions of years of evolution, which means a rolling out toward more diversified and complex life, to mature into the world we see around us. The earth and all its flora and fauna shouts of an extraterrestrial intelligence more wonderful than we can ever grasp and that breathes fire into matter and brings the living kingdom to life. All of the great discoveries by man lead up a funnel to the Throne of the Almighty.

Without a master designer life is not coherent. It is too perfect for the slap dash of random mutations. Everything sprouts from the cell and no one has a clue to its origin. The genetic code is universal, all but identical across animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria. The cell is a complicated little living machine embedded with a code for it all. With its many protein folds and its snarl of a genetic regulatory system, it is a common design shop, a toolbox for the making of life. DNA is like a piano. It can play many tunes.

From a dandelion to African lion, there is nothing but cells making energy that some other celled creature will consume, and be consumed in turn. It is a beautiful and unending loop of existence.

A body, stripped of skin is an electrical and mechanical engineer’s dream come true. Everything is intricately connected to a high degree of sophistication and efficiency with pumps, filters, temporary storage tanks, and so on, all run by electricity and chemistry. It would smack of farce to see an atheist look at that and say, ‘Whoa, another random example of nerves, vessels and muscles falling in place.’

I was visiting my hand surgeon a few weeks ago and he was explaining the mechanics and intricacies of the human hand. During our conversation he pointed to my hand and said, “This was intelligently designed.” He was the third surgeon who told me that the body was designed.
As an essential aid to life are countless trillions of microbes living in and on every plant and animal. A human would quickly die if he or she were swept clean of these tiny creatures. They have a large say in our health and well-being. Every body is an eco system supporting multitudes of little beings, which in turn aids and is indispensible to the host body. This is a dazzling system of symbiosis. This must be accounted for as a miracle of design that we are just now discovering.

*

Just like other species, homo sapiens appeared all the sudden, without claws or horns, hair instead of fur, upright instead of stooped, with marvelous hands and unlimited brain power. Man soon ruled the world where only pretenders reigned before.

To account for the emergence of human beings is not within the power of any atheist. We are so unlike anything that came before. The great stores we have of humanoid fossils and skulls give no hint of the magnificence of impending civilizations. Humans are transcendent beings, a vastly superior idea in creation.

This is because we are born and live within an animal especially designed to use the five senses in more striking and subtle ways—to be able to taste a strawberry, smell a rose, see a sunset, feel a fur, hear a melody, and to be enriched by each in our spiritual essence. This is known as the quality of life.

Inside this animal, built on the chassis of an ape with vast improvements, we have almost god-like abilities to think, to be inspired, to have sentiments, have the conception of time, appreciate literature, and a thousand other attributes not given to any other being.

We also have consciousness which no one, much less one of the New Atheists, can explain. Dawkins thought it was a ‘stroke of luck,’ and Daniel Dennett said that ‘a miracle happened.’ Many scientists are at this point trying to explain the emergence of this amazing gift that only humans have, but like the other unearthly, nonmaterial parts of what it is to be human, thought and emotion, it is not within their capacity to explain.

Complex thought is perhaps the single most striking thing about humans when compared to other creatures. It is not a physical thing, but out of it can flow the manipulation of things and the creation of everything from a chair to a civilization. From this invisible Empire of the Mind comes a host of magical states like intuition and inspiration, and integrity. Thought implies consciousness and consciousness connects us to the world and all that lies within time and space. Thought and consciousness are the children of the Mind, which operates through the physical brain. Atheists generally think the brain and mind are one. They are not. The Mind is our link to the vast, deep and rich world of God.

*

By hoisting the flag of scientific evidence, the New Atheists have tried to explain why the universe and all its parts are so finely tuned. But the mountain of facts they supposedly stand on turns out to be a hill of beans.
Theistic science, on the other hand, needs no such unsound supposition because the evidence only points in one direction—up, and up. The universe is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of things and non-things converging into a vast distillery where everything is in constant flux, being transformed into something else, something mysterious and something wonderful. Such is our inheritance, a much embellished, lush, resplendent and grand world. We only need to acknowledge its Divine Source to harvest an even more prodigious bounty.
In the story of the elephant the atheist is the one who will not reach out, will not dare touch what he is so afraid of discovering. For the others who try to make sense of what they feel their descriptions may be partial or faulty, but their intent is serious and their hearts are true. In consequence, the New Atheists, with their hidden fear, miss so much that life has to offer. It offers, with grace and beauty, the comfort of a metaphysical Truth.

And that is: God made us, everyone.

Thank you.

—Ron Lancaster

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