Atheism's Faith and Fruits
by James D. Bales,
reprinted in The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 8, June 1952.
Unbelievers constantly bring against Christians the charge that the Bible is unworthy of a place in a scientific age since it calls for faith but men must walk by sight. By the term faith they seek to convey the idea that the Bible asks men to believe without evidence, and often contrary to the evidence. This is a misunderstanding of what the Bible means by faith, as any student of the Bible knows. The unbeliever, however, is also believer.
Why It Is Important To Consider Beliefs Of Unbelief
The strength or weakness of a position is made known not only in its power of attack but also in its power of defense. Frank Ballard well wrote: "The true value of any theory, or principle, must be found not in its powers of destruction, but of construction. This must be the more affirmed from a critical survey of the latest productions of naturalism. For what do we find, by way of construction? Surely the wholesale assumption of just everything that is required in order to make evolution a working hypothesis (see Haeckel's Monism False). And this is styled the explanation of the universe! The more the literature of the subject is studied the more thoroughly justified appears the strong summary of Dr. Bowne: 'As soon as atheism is required to develop a theory of life and thought and knowledge (and morality, J.D.B) from its own resources, further argument is needless.'" (Theomonism True, pgs. 342-343).
By studying the beliefs and fruits of atheism we can see even more clearly the strength of the Christian's position.
Why The Unbeliever Is A Believer
The unbeliever is not without beliefs, for the term unbeliever does not mean one without any belief but one who does not accept a certain faith.
The unbeliever must always have beliefs for the simple reason that a denial of one thing or proposition often amounts to an affirmative of another proposition. A system of denials often works its way finally into a system of affirmations. He who rejects faith in God is affirming the all-sufficiency of matter to create the present world and man.
Beliefs of Atheism
The atheist believes but he cannot prove that God does not exist. To know that God does not exist one would have to know everything and be everywhere, for the thing which he did not know might prove God's existence, and the place where he was not might contain evidence of God's existence. And the person who possessed such characteristics would be God himself! The atheist cannot reverse this argument and say that one must know all in order to have sufficient reason to believe in God. Several lines of evidence prove that it is rational to accept God and irrational to reject God. We need to know at least some of these things, but we do not need to do all in order to know these things. To illustrate: To prove that a certain statement is not in the writings of Charles Darwin one would have to know all of Darwin's writings, for the page he did not know might contain the statement. But to know that the statement is there one would not need to know any page but the page which contained it.
The Atheist Sometimes Finds His Own Creed Difficult To Believe
A friend, who was an atheist, once told the author that most of his atheistic friends were not really atheistic as they believed that "some sort of something," superior to matter, was necessary in order to account for the world.
The Atheist Scoffs at the Idea of an Eternal God But He Must Believe in the Eternal Existence of Matter
Something has always existed for something now exists. If in the beginning there was nothing, there would be nothing now for out of nothing comes nothing. So everyone must accept the fact that something has always existed, and the only issue is whether it is reasonable to believe that "In the beginning God" (Spirit) created matter, life, and mind; or whether "In the beginning Matter" created mind, consciousness, and intelligence.
The Atheist Must Believe in the Spontaneous Generation of Life from Non-Life
This is contrary to all scientific experiments, and is as far greater miracle than the resurrection of Christ. It is, in reality, the miracle of the creation of something from nothing since life, consciousness, will, and intelligence are found in man but not in matter. Something utterly unlike matter was produced, the atheist must believe, by matter.
The Atheist Must Believe that the Order Evidenced in Nature and in Man Is the Result of Chance Or of Something Labeled Fate Or Law
Even atheists concede that there is at least "apparent design" in nature.
The Atheist Must Believe that Man Is a Machine Without Any Responsibility for His Conduct
For he contends that man is merely matter and without any power or choice. And yet, the atheist continues to hand out praise and blame as if he thought that man had some responsibility for his conduct.
If Man Has No Responsibility Then There Are No Moral Values
Morality implies an "Ought" and "Ought" implies some power of choice. To say that a person "Ought", or "Ought Not" to do a certain thing is to say that he can help what he does and that he has an obligation to act in one way instead of in another.
The Atheist Must Believe, If He Is Consistent, that All Thought Is Irrational, for It Is All the Inevitable By-Product Of Irrational Causes
Mental processes are wholly determined by the physical movement of atoms in the brain, the atheist ultimately holds. As Woolsey Teller put it: Thought is "a form of vibration and sensation in the nerve fibers of the brain and of the nervous system -- thought is matter in motion" (The Atheism Of Astronomy, pgs. 10,11). And this movement of matter is mechanically determined; there is nothing rational about it. One thinks the way he does because forces make matter move in that certain way in his brain. The self-styled "freethinker" is not even a free-vibrator for all is determined, and nothing is free. There is therefore nothing rational about the arguments of the atheist against the believer in God. It is just the way that his brain happened to rattle! How strange and instructive it is that those who claim the name of "rationalist" and maintain that Christians are not rational should end up with a position which implies that all thought is irrational! (C.S. Lewis' Miracles).
These, then, are some of the articles of faith to which the atheist is automatically committed. It is amazing that men who hold such articles of faith should think that Christians are credulous. The Christian's faith is based on evidence, but the unbeliever's creed is believed often without, and often contrary to, the evidence. In discussions with atheists this should be made clear. Furthermore, the atheist should be called on to defend his articles of faith. Instead of spending all of our time supporting with evidence and argument what we believe, we should spend part of our time pressing the atheist with the demand that he prove his own articles of faith.
Fruits of Atheism
It is a fact, which unbelievers themselves acknowledge, that ideas have consequences, and that these consequences are the unfoldment of these ideas and their implications in life (Matthew 7:20). Thought is constantly being tested not only within the laboratory of life where the testing need not be hidden from the eyes of other men.
The revelation of its futility, and the judgment and condemnation brought on it by its own fruits, should be sufficient to lead thoughtful, moral men utterly to repudiate its philosophy. When we examine its fruits of utter pessimism; its wreck of morality; and its degrading superstitions; we know that atheism has reached its crisis in the world of thought and that its judgment against itself is devastating.
The Pessimism Of Unbelief Is One of the Things Which Strikes the Thoughtful Observer
That pessimism is a logical outcome of unbelief may not only be theoretically established, but also demonstrated by statements from unbelievers. As the unbeliever, and poet, Swinburne put it:
"...the gods love not justice more than fate,
And smite the righteous and the violent mouth
And mix with insolent blood the reverent man's,
And bruise the holier as the lying lips."
(Works, XIX; 109).
In other words, no matter what one does his fate is the same. Conduct, whether good or bad, does not change the outcome.
James Thomson, who crawled into a drunkard's grave, was perhaps the most pessimistic of poets. Life was vain to him. "From Nothingness to Nothingness -- all is lost!" His City of Dreadful Night is filled with the crying despair of an unbeliever. We give a selection or so from it:
"Here Faith died, poisoned by this charnel air,
Here Love died, stabbed by its own worshipped pair.
Here Hope died, starved out in its unmost lair.
"Speak not of comfort where no comfort is,
Speak not at all; con words make foul things fair?
Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss:
Hush and be mute envisaging despair."
The theme of the entire poem is that "They leave all hope behind who enter there." And if they did not want to continue this life of despair "over its wall hand ever the rich dark clusters of the Vine of Death, within easy reach of thy hand, which may pluck of them when it will."
And so one could continue to present atheism's dark view of life. If in the end man shall be conquered, and his work wiped out, then why "in a struggle strive and yearn?" It must be remarked that that which is so utterly destructive of life can hardly be the truth about all life. It is unnecessary to spend much time reminding believers what a contrasting view of life they have, and what a hopeful and peaceful life the believer may experience when he really lives by his faith.
The Moral Consequences of Unbelief Are Even More Frightful Than Its Pessimism
This is not to say that all atheists are very immoral, for we are grateful that many of them live above their creed because they are held up by moral ideals of either a past religious faith or the general attitude of society which has been influenced by the moral principles of the Christian religion. And yet, logically speaking, atheism casts all morality out of the universe. Atheism removes the very basis of morality in that it denies human responsibility and the power of choice. It is as irrational to speak of an immoral man as it is to speak of an immoral rock. Man is a mere matter-machine without the power of choice, self-determination, or responsibility. The "ought" is an illusion and morality is merely custom. What we call moral principles, they maintain, are merely customs of society which are subject to flux and flow. What society sanctions is moral, what it repudiates is immoral. In other words, morality is merely a custom of majority vote. If the majority are Nazis, Communists, or criminals, their customs are as moral as any other customs for there is no standard higher than customs. There is no absolute, fixed standard by which to evaluate one custom higher, and more moral, than another custom. Morality is destroyed when this doctrine, of might and majority as the makers of morality, is adopted.
From the pens of atheists let us prove our charges that atheism destroys the very idea of morality, of obligations, of responsibility. Teller maintained that there are no fixed principles of morality, but simply standards which various societies form, and that it is just a matter of what one thinks (Bales-Teller Debate). He could not give one moral reason why it would be any more wrong for one atheist to kill another than to kill a cow.
Morality is also destroyed when a debased view of man is taken. Teller wrote that "As for the rank and file, they are no more biologically fit to profit by a cultural environment than a codfish is to fly an aeroplane." (Essays of an Atheist, pg. 152). Teller's Darwinism would not offer any objections to, but would give reasons for, their elimination. "For the rabble -- I watch them as I do cattle." (ibid., pg. 190). And what is wrong with keeping cattle within fenced areas to serve us as we see fit? Such a philosophy cannot condemn Russia's ruthless methods in dealing with some of her own citizens.
With reference to sex, morality is also banished. Bertrand Russell teaches that "mutual inclination" justifies sexual intercourse. (What I Believe, pg. 45).
Russell also taught that man is as much governed by the laws of nature as are the stars (pg. 9); that "ought" means simply what "someone else wishes us to desire" (pg. 37); and that there is o scientific justification for the idea of "virtue" or "sin." (pg. 42). Teller agrees with him in robbing man of any feeling of responsibility, for he wrote: "all men act the way they do because they cannot act otherwise" (Essays of an Atheist, pg. 233).
These quotations are enough to indicate what a frightful world this would be if all men acted in harmony with such ideas. In fact, could the world exist if all men followed these ideas? Atheism would soon destroy all mankind if followed by all men, and thus there would be no one left to believe in atheism! It is only because there are enough people alive who do stand for decency, honesty, and such like that the atheists themselves have a lease on life.
Atheism, when lived, would make life impossible.
In spite of his rejections of God and of morality, Wilhelm Stekel maintains that atheists still fear, at some time or another, the judgment of God will come upon them. His dealings with many individuals, including atheists, led him to conclude that deep down in every man's heart there is a fear of the wrath of God on him for his sins. (R.E.D. Clark, Science and Religion, Vol. 1:63). Clark reviewed Stekel's book, The Interpretations Of Dreams.