By Ron Galloway
New Atheists, as well as atheists in general, habitually declare that atheism is based on facts and reason, while insisting that belief in God is based solely on faith and is thereby the enemy of reason.1 It’s as if they never knew that a great host of Christian thinkers long ago refuted the idea that belief in God is the enemy of reason.2 Thanks to those earlier Christian philosophers, I don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Instead, I shall illustrate why atheism is always the product of an irrational, blind faith.
How can atheism be so easily dismissed? The answer has to do with the nature of reason itself. Any claim truly grounded in reason must contain one essential ingredient. And what is that? Experience.
Let me explain. David Hume, the famous opponent of miracles, understood that any attempt at reason apart from experience is no more than an irrational leap. But Hume made a mistake when he argued it would be irrational to embrace miracles as real, simply because he had never experienced the miraculous.3 He was not wrong about the relationship of reason to experience, but he erred by relying too much on isolated individual experience as his basis for refuting miracles. He had no answer to the immense impact of the collective experiential testimony of the New Testament where miracles were concerned, and the witness of the early Christian community to the resurrection and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.4
Despite Hume’s attempt to limit reason and truth to individual experience, the very nature of collective witness and testimony is eminently rational. This is confirmed and made obvious by the role of collective or group witness, or even individual witness, in a court of law.5
The rationality of a collective witness is something we all experience daily. I have never been to New York, but it is perfectly rational for me to believe in New York based on the experience of others who have been there.
However, it would be completely irrational to believe in New York if no one ever went there and no one ever witnessed to its existence. This little example makes very clear how irrational any claim is that has no basis in either individual or collective experience. If no one ever experienced New York then belief in the Big Apple would not only be irrational but also a mere wish projection, such as found in Sigmund Freuds’ writings. Projection, according to Freud, is no more than an irrational wish.6
This scenario about a New York never experienced by anyone illustrates why atheism is completely irrational. The great irony is that atheism is beyond individual or collective experience. Atheists believe that lifeless matter brought intelligent life into being. Yet no one in human history has experienced an event of this sort, either individually or in plurality. For this reason atheism is inherently irrational, a kind of Freudian wish, a fantasy projection for people who prefer irrationality to belief in an intelligent creator.
Of course, it is true that there are many things we believe in that people do not directly or collectively experience. But to be rational these things must be based on deductions grounded in experience.
For example, I do not directly experience the shape of atoms or the countless reactions going on in outer space. But all such phenomena presuppose a causation of some kind that can be detected (experienced) and thus added to the sum of human understanding. This is the case whether we are speaking of the atom or the force of gravity. Both are inherently rational because they are based on a causal deduction based on human experience. No one can see an atom with the naked eye, but we can detect its presence and thus deduce the structure of atoms. Nor can gravity be detected by any normal means, yet its effects are everywhere seen.
The entire realm of Spirit involves this same kind of thing. For example, when a demon-possessed child speaks in a language he or she has never heard, coupled with extreme profanity totally uncharacteristic of the child, this squares with the common attributes of demon possession.7 But none of these examples are outside of experience. What is totally outside all human experience is the atheistic notion that non-intelligent matter brought about intelligent being. This is not only irrational, but contrary to what every one regularly experiences. For our individual and collective experience of matter is not that it decides what to do with intelligent beings, but that it is controlled by intelligence, whether we’re speaking of the simple act of picking up a cup or the more complex work of programming a computer.
Of course, what we call matter is more like mind stuff when it is seen in the light of physics. Indeed, that was the conclusion of thinkers such as Einstein, Alfred North Whitehead, and Heisenberg, along with the rest of those who belonged to what was called the Oxford movement.8 It is supremely important to note that none of these careful thinkers ever concluded that unintelligent matter developed into intelligent being.
Why, then, do some scientists and biologists, such as Richard Dawkins, imagine that through “hard” scientific work they will be able to show that lifeless matter brought intelligence into being? Whether scientists of this persuasion are aware of it or not, they are attempting to bring life from non-life, not because they are driven by rationality, but because they have an irrational desire to avoid dealing with a being higher than themselves. Their desire must be an irrational desire because no scientist has ever experienced anything that would rationally suggest lifeless matter as the source for intelligence.
In their search to understand the basic building blocks of existence, scientists are not encountering greater and greater simplicity, but rather more and more complexity and precision. This naturally leads rationally thinking human beings to search for an intelligence behind the complexity. This is why famous atheist Anthony Flew finally conceded that the complexity of laws and processes in the universe require a lawmaker. As far as we know, Flew never became a Christian, but as an old man he finally admitted the irrationality of atheism and the rationality of faith in a higher being.
This same irrationality is why atheism comes up with notions such as the idea that good and evil are fictional, and that there is no such thing as right or wrong. Statements of this kind simply fly in the face of the world’s collective experience. Try as we might, we cannot dismiss from our laws, our courts, or our individual lives the sense of good and evil, right and wrong. These must have been embedded in human understanding by an intelligent designer. This is the only possible explanation as to why Marxists and other atheists often cry out against injustice. They cannot get away from pontificating about right and wrong, even when they deny existence to both. Such obvious irrationality mystifies the casual observer, but I stand on solid ground when I say it stems from their initial irrationality of wishing that lifeless matter could bring intelligence into being.
A New York never experienced by anyone, and a universe in which non-intelligence brings intelligence into being, are bedfellows.
1 The New Atheism, in particular, does this. The basic assumption is stated by Richard Dawkins in countless YouTube Videos. Rather than depending on the God hypothesis, the argument goes, let’s work hard and show we do not need God. But if one examines Dawkins’ assumptions, he is living in the realm of Freud’s projections, i.e., wish fulfillment. Let me state it in a way that does not conceal the implications of his position. It is as if Dawkins said, “If we just work hard maybe my wish will come true. We will be able to find that lifeless matter created intelligent being.” See Dawkins’ work The God Illusion.
2 Contemporary thinkers such as William Lane Craig, John Warwick Montgomery, Larry Hurtado, Irving Hexham, Leon Morris, FF. Bruce, Bruce Metzger, Mortimer J. Adler, and a great many others could be listed. But as long ago as the middle ages a school of Christian thought called “Scholasticism” grounded every claim on careful reasoning. Unfortunately, due to contemporary misrepresentations of Medieval Christianity, the myth still flourishes that for Christians faith and reason have always been in opposition. Any who wish to examine the real history of Christian thought can look to the writings of Kenneth Scott LaTourette, the brilliant Church Historian. See also the excellent history of Christian thought by Otto Heick.
3 See David Hume’s “Inquiry Concerning Human Nature” as well as his “Dialogues on Religion”. These works elucidate what Hume meant by reason.
4 In a work titled “Incredible About Turns” I examine this rock-solid evidence for the resurrection. See the archives of faithbeyondbelief.ca.
5 See John Warwick Montgomery’s treatment of reason and the conclusion of jurisprudence itself that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is “beyond any reasonable doubt” (youtube.com/watch?v=ew_BHUA_UXM). For further videos on the same subject search for John Warwick Montgomery and the Resurrection.
6 For Freud and the notion of projections see his Future of an Illusion. Here Freud argues that religion is an illusion based on his theory of wish fulfillment, but Freud’s charge of wish fulfilment more fitly describes him, not religion.
7 The most credible and powerful work on demon possession I have ever encountered was written by Father Malachi, a Catholic Scholar. It is a heavily documented account of a number of individuals who were demon possessed. The work is called Hostage to the Devil. I challenge any atheist to read it and remain an atheist.
8 See David Foster’s The Philosophical Scientists, viii-x, 2-6,7-31. Here Foster discusses the “Cambridge Club”