Friday, April 02, 2010

Book Review: The Making of an Atheist - Part 2

Making of an Atheist
Read Part 1 of this review.

2. The Irrationality of Atheism

In this chapter Dr. Spiegel deals a fair amount with one of atheisms "leading champions of atheism" and his "conversion" to theism. Antony Flew.

"In this chapter we will look at the principal categories of evidence that persuaded Flew to become a theist, and we will see why any fair-minded person should be similarly convinced of the reality of God." p42

There were three evidences that moved Professor Flew from atheism to theism, and they were: "the laws of nature, the existence of the cosmos, and the presence of life." (p42) Nature's laws are very constant. The question is why? Scientists could formulize laws from the data they study, yet they cannot answer the question, "why?" Even though some scientists still deny God and believe that the laws of nature are as they are by necessity, "this only raises the 'why' question at a different level." (p43) What makes these laws necessary?

Flew's second point, that the universe exists at all is underscored by what is known as the Big Bang theory of the start of the universe. All that this theory really does is to confirm that there was indeed a beginning to space and time. Most atheists do not answer the "why" question to why the universe started existing. They do not want to go further back than the Big Bang.

"It is one thing for a scientist, as a scientist, to refuse to theorize on the cause of the universe, since this is really a question of metaphysics. But a philosopher properly can and, in fact, must pursue this question. To refuse to do so is negligence." p45

One of those that refused to ask questions pertaining to what transpired before the Big Bang. As  Christians we have to pursue the "why" question wherever they lead. The universe demands an explanation as to its cause. Whatever begins must have a cause. Apart from the existence of the universe, it is also very well fine tuned for our existence on this planet! There is a very narrow range of cosmic constants in which life such as ours is possible, and the nfact is that our universe, and our planet, is such a universe and planet.

The odds against a universe such as ours spontaneously coming into existence are so enormous, that some scientists appeal to concepts such as multiple universes. Spiegel explains:

"The problem with this theory is that it i mere speculation. There is no independent scientific evidence to support it. It amounts to an ad hoc hypothesis aimed entirely at avoiding the implications of cosmic fine-tuning." p47

Flew's third point is that it is impossible that life could emerge spontaneously from non-living matter. The fact is, as Dr. Spiegel writes, that there is only a chance of 1 in 1040,000 for this to happen. Statisticians usually consider any chance less than 1 in 1050 to be impossible! Hence, it simply did not happen that way!

Dr. Spiegel points out that each of these categories of evidence for God, as shown by Professor Flew, is immune to evolutionary objections.

"Natural selection presupposes the existence of living organisms, so Darwinism is of no help in responding to any of these evidences for theism." p48-49

Some atheists refer to what is called "chemical evolution," for the emergence of life. Yet it is only a euphemism for spntaneous generation. Richard Dawkions knows that this is a grasp at straws, and so seriously considers Francis Crick's "directed panspermia" theory, the aliens started life on earth. Yet, even the "directed panspermia" theory must tell us where the aliens come from!

Dr. Spiegel, next, performs a Biblical diagnosis on atheists as to why they really do not believe in the existence of God. The fact that many atheists are "intellectuallu sharp suggests that something other than rational exploration is going on here." (p51) Here Dr. Spiegel directs us to Ps 14:1, "the fool says in his heart, there is no God." The word "fool" denotes someone who is morally deficient. The Bible does not deny the intelligence of atheists. What passages such as Ps 14:1 point to is a certain moral corruption that influences the thinking of atheists. Hence, they do not lack intelligence but self-control and the right moral values.

According to Rom 1:18-29, the problem of atheism is not lack of evidence for God's existence, since God has made His existence plain to see in creation. Rejecting God and unbelief is therefore inexcusable. It is the wickedness in the unbeliever that suppress the truth.

"Consequently, the unbeliever's capacity for rational thought is compromised, and this leads to even more wicked conduct." p53

Sin corrupts the mind, which leads to more sin, which in turn further corrupts the mind. The mind steeped in unbelief is blinded towards God, ethics and some aspects of nature. Belief influences behaviour and behaviour influences belief. This points back to the effects of sin on the mind and how those effects on the mind lead to more sin. Rejection of God deadens the mind theologically and morally.

After explaining Alvin Plantinga's ingenious argument that shows why belief in naturalism can never be reasonable, Dr. Spiegel writes:

"What these examples show is that the practicality of a belief does not imply its truth. Nor does the practicality of an entire coginitive system guarantee that it is aimed at forming true beliefs. This means that if naturalism is true, then we have no reason to be confident that any of our beliefs are actually true, and this includes our belief in the truth of naturalism. In other words, if naturalism is true, then we have no reason to believe it is true. If ever there was a self-defeating wordview, this is it." p59 [emphasis the author's]

3. The Causes of Atheism

In this chapter Dr. Spiegel works towards proving that atheism is greatly influenced by absent or wicked fathers and immoral behaviour.

Attempting to prove that being fatherless is a great driving force towards atheism, Dr. Spiegel makes great use of psychologist Paul C. Vitz' research into atheism and the effects of absent fathers on the tendency of becoming atheists.In Vitz' studies he found a strong link between atheism and the fatherless. Vitz has confirmed his thesis when he discovered that many atheists from the modern period lost their fathers to death, such as David Hume, Arthur Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and Sartre. Atheists who had weak or abusive fathers were people such as Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Feud, H.G. Wells, Madalyn Murray O'Hair and Samuel Butler.

On the other hand, Vitz studied the lives of theists of the same era as the atheists mentioned above and found that the following theists had good relationships with their fathers: Blaise Pascal, Edmund Burke, William Wilberforce, G.K. Chesterton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Thomas Reid.

Vitz does make the point that fatherlessness does not guarantee atheism.

"Given the strong majority of religious believers, it appears that most children of defective fathers manage to resist bthe temptation of atheism. Still, others, such as C. S. Lewis and Antony Flew, give up their atheism even after many years of unbelief. So the psychological dynamics of atheism are very complex, but the impact of the father relationship does appear to be profound." p68

Even though many atheists were fatherless or had bad relationships with their fathers, an explanation as to why people are atheists does not excuse them from their unbelief. The reason why father figures are so important in children's lives is that father figures mirror God in children's lives.

"Whether we call it psychological projection, transfer, or displacement, the lack of a good father is a handicap when it comes to faith." p70

Spiegel also makes use of historian Paul Johnson's book Intellectuals, to show what despicable lives many of the most well-known intellectuals lived. Spiegel writes of this book that it is an

"exposè that recounts behavior so sleazy and repugnant that one almost feels corrupted by reading it." p70

These brilliant people were novelists, poets, playwrights and philosophers who tried to create the values that society was supposed to hold on to. Yet they were the ones who were "sleazy and repugnant." These were people like Jean Jacques Rousseau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Karl Marx, Henrik Ibsen, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Johnson's book highlights just how modern intellectuals fail to live up to being moral visionaries and that their moral perversity should give us pause concerning the legitimacy of their moral ideas.

"This is because one's personal conduct impacts one's scholarly projects... the works of these intellectuals were often calculated to justify or minimize the shame of their own debauchery." p72 [emphasis the author's]

In short, these intellectuals conform truths to their desires. As a result their ideals were based on their will to be immoral rather than an honest quest searching for the truth. Such ideological motivation to skew the truth can be seen in the "research" of Margaret Mead and Alfred Kinsey, both of whom provided data in their own research to maximize variation and not normalcy. Their research was skewed by their own immorality. Chronic sexual misbehaviour is a devastating form of rebellion against God.

Apart from being "fatherless," immoral lifestyles also drive people to atheism which essentially drive them to personal rebellion against God, not because they have proof, but as Thomas Nagel says, he hopes there is no God. It is not reason that is behind atheism, but willful rebellion.

Read part 3 of this review tomorrow.

Read the following:
Interview with Dr. Jim Spiegel
Review of The Making of an Atheist Part 1
Review of The Making of an Atheist Part 3

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