Tag Archives: Atheists

The importance of having a narrative when confronting the assumption of naturalism

How do you present theism as a rational belief to a person who thinks that the progress of science has removed the need for God?

Canadian science writer Denyse O’Leary writes about the history of cosmology at Evolution News.

Excerpt:

What help has materialism been in understanding the universe’s beginnings?

Many in cosmology have never made any secret of their dislike of the Big Bang, the generally accepted start to our universe first suggested by Belgian priest Georges Lemaître (1894-1966).

On the face of it, that is odd. The theory accounts well enough for the evidence. Nothing ever completely accounts for all the evidence, of course, because evidence is always changing a bit. But the Big Bang has enabled accurate prediction.

In which case, its hostile reception might surprise you. British astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) gave the theory its name in one of his papers — as a joke. Another noted astronomer, Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), exclaimed in 1933, “I feel almost an indignation that anyone should believe in it — except myself.” Why? Because “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”

One team of astrophysicists (1973) opined that it “involves a certain metaphysical aspect which may be either appealing or revolting.” Robert Jastrow (1925-2008), head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, initially remarked, “On both scientific and philosophical grounds, the concept of an eternal Universe seems more acceptable than the concept of a transient Universe that springs into being suddenly, and then fades slowly into darkness.” And Templeton Prize winner (2011) Martin Rees recalls his mentor Dennis Sciama’s dogged commitment to an eternal universe, no-Big Bang model:

For him, as for its inventors, it had a deep philosophical appeal — the universe existed, from everlasting to everlasting, in a uniquely self-consistent state. When conflicting evidence emerged, Sciama therefore sought a loophole (even an unlikely seeming one) rather as a defense lawyer clutches at any argument to rebut the prosecution case.

Evidence forced theorists to abandon their preferred eternal-universe model. From the mid 1940s, Hoyle attempted to disprove the theory he named. Until 1964, when his preferred theory, the Steady State, lost an evidence test.

Here is a quick summary of some of the experimental evidence that emerged in the last few decades that caused naturalists to abandon the eternal universe that they loved so much when they were younger.

The importance of having a narrative

Now I want to make a very, very important point about Christianity and the progress of science. And that point is that it is very important that Christians present the evidence in exactly the way that Denyse presented it in that article – in its historical context, featuring the conflict between naturalists and the experimental evidence.

All Christians should be familiar with the following basic pieces of evidence which fit the war between science and naturalism narrative:

  1. The origin of the universe
  2. The cosmic fine-tuning
  3. The origin of life (biological information)
  4. The sudden origin of the Cambrian phyla
  5. The habitability/observability correlation

When you talk about these evidences as a Christian theist to non-Christians, you have to have cultivated a genuine interest in reconciling your beliefs with science. You have to accept that there are two books that reveal God’s character and attributes. The book of nature, and the book of Scripture. And you need to be flexible about getting these two books to fit together. The book of nature gives us natural theology (see Romans 1). It tells us that God is Creator and Designer. The book of Scripture tells us that God stepped into history as a man to save us by taking the punishment for our headlong rush away from God, which the Bible calls sin. Science is one way that humans can recover some of basic knowledge about God. Knowledge that is only possible because God created and designed the universe (and us) in such a way that we are capable of making discoveries, and that the universe is capable of being explored and understood.

It’s very important to present these five basic evidences to non-Christians in the historical context. And here is the story you must tell: “In the beginning, there was the naturalism, and the naturalism tried to argue from ignorance that God was not Creator and God was not Designer. And then came the science, and now people have to give up their naturalism in order to not be crazy and irrational”. That’s the narrative you use when talking to non-Christians about science.

In the beginning was the naturalism:

  1. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the universe was eternal
  2. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that a life-permitting universe was as likely as a life-prohibiting universe
  3. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the cell was a simple blob of jello that could spontaneously emerge in some warm pond
  4. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the sudden origin of the Cambrian phyla would be explained by subsequent fossil discoveries
  5. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that there was nothing special about our galaxy, solar system, planet or moon

But then science progressed by doing experiments and making observations:

  1. Scientists discovered redshift and the cosmic microwave background radiation (evidence for a cosmic beginning) and more!
  2. Scientists discovered the fine-tuning of gravity and of the cosmological constant and more!
  3. Scientists discovered protein sequencing and exposed the myth of “junk DNA” and more!
  4. Scientists discovered an even shorter Cambrian explosion period and the absence of precursor fossils and more!
  5. Scientists discovered galactic habitable zones and circumstellar habitable zones and more!

And now rational people – people who want to have true beliefs about reality – need to abandon a false religion (naturalism).

Now naturally, science is in a state of flux and things change. But you have to look at the trend of discoveries, and those trends are clearly going against naturalism, and in favor of Christian theism. No one is arguing for a deductive proof here, we are simply looking at the evidence we have today and proportioning our belief to the concrete evidence we have today. People who are guided by reason should not seek to construct a worldview by leveraging speculations about future discoveries and mere possibilities. We should instead believe what is more probable than not. That’s what a rational seeker of truth ought to do. Proportion belief to probabilities based on current, concrete knowledge.

It is very important that Christians keep abreast of the progress of science, and give proper respect to science when forming our worldviews, and keep in mind what is really going on with atheism. There is a lot of loud worshiping of science by people like Dawkins and Atkins and Krauss, but if you dig into things a little, you’ll find that they are actually filled with rage and enmity against what science has revealed about nature. And not just in one area, but in many, many areas.

Atheism, as a worldview, is not rooted in an honest assessment about what science tells us about reality. Atheism is rooted in a religion: naturalism. And the troubling thing we learn from looking at the history of science is that this religion of naturalism is insulated from correction from the progress of science. Nothing that science reveals about nature seems to be able to put a dent in the religion of naturalism, at least for most atheists. Their belief in naturalism is so strong that it repels all scientific evidence that falsifies it. Atheists simply don’t let science inform and correct their worldview.

It falls to us Christian theists, then, to hold them accountable for their abuse and misrepresentation of science. And that means telling the story of the progress of science accurately, and accurately calling out the religion of naturalism for what it is – a religion rooted in blind faith and ignorance that has been repeatedly and convincingly falsified by the progress of science in the modern era.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

If militant atheists formed their own country, what would it look like?

Here is a story about North Korea from the UK Telegraph about a government run by atheists, for atheists.

Excerpt:

Christian missionaries have set up an extraordinary network of front companies – including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, schools and orphanages – in order to spread the Gospel inside North Korea.

For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, a father of three and an American citizen, ran a successful travel company offering tours of North Korea.

But as the 44-year-old passed through the Wonjong border crossing in November 2012, he was suddenly arrested. Convicted of “hostile acts” towards North Korea, he is currently serving 15 years in a labour camp.

What exactly happened remains a mystery. Mr Bae had taken at least 15 other tour groups into North Korea without incident. However, it seems clear that his mission to spread the Christian gospel was at least one major factor that landed him in trouble.

Mr Bae is not alone in using his company, Nations Tour, to evangelise inside North Korea. While precise numbers are impossible to pin down, the network of well-financed front companies, missions operating as businesses, is extensive.

North Korea, the most hostile country in the world to organised religion, has a strong pull for a certain stripe of evangelical Christians, and the 288 sq mile “Special Economic Zone” outside the city of Rason, where Mr Bae was detained, is Ground Zero for these modern apostles.

[…]According to one American who once travelled with Mr Bae, but who asked to remain anonymous, their group was able to carry bibles with them into the zone. Possession of bibles by North Koreans can lead to imprisonment, torture and perhaps even death.

The source said a delicate dance had played out on their arrival, with their bibles being counted by the border guards on their way in and then again when they left to make sure none had been distributed.

At the final inspection, the guards even flipped through each copy to make sure no pages had been ripped out and left behind.

Before arriving at the border, the 15-member group was told by Mr Bae not to discuss politics or carry out any overt proselytising. The two or three pastors travelling with them were not to be addressed by their titles.

Once inside North Korea, they were accompanied by government minders at all times. On group hikes with these “tour guides”, the source said they sang Christian songs, but hummed key verses to avoid saying “God” out loud.

“That was our way of worshipping and praising in our hearts, even if we could not say it,” the source said. “Talking about God directly, that would be asking for a death sentence.”

This is the dream of militant groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation. North Korea has an official state religion of atheism. Is that a factor in their horrible record for human rights? Well, according to the The Black Book of Communism, published by Harvard University Press, over 100 million innocent people were killed in atheistic, communist regimes like North Korea in the last century.

I have been working on a theory about what militant atheists mean when they say that religion causes a lot of wars. My theory is that they are actually talking about themselves. They mean their religion. They are boasting that they are number one at killing innocent people. A person can justify killing very easily if you believe that no one is watching you and no one will hold you accountable when you die for what you’ve done.

Of course there are lots of atheists in the Judeo-Christian West who live more peacefully, because they are living in a background of objective morality and human rights provided by Western religions. But in countries like North Korea, with a state religion that cannot ground free will or objective morality or human rights or judgment after death, there are fewer restraints.

Even here, we have already seen over 50 million unborn children killed since abortion became legal. And I can guarantee you that it’s not authentic Christians who are having these abortions. As a group, atheists tend to be among the most radical in favor of abortion rights. The Secular Census of 2012 found that 97% of atheists vote for abortion.

The idea of the strong killing the weak for pleasure is the law of the jungle, and it’s not surprising to me that those who think that humans are just animals would act this way with vulnerable children. If you only have 80 years to be happy in an accidental universe, then anything goes. No one is there to hold you accountable. If the weak get in your way, kill them all. That’s atheist morality. You don’t have to go to North Korea to see it.

If militant atheists could form a country, what would it look like?

Nancy Pearcey posted this story about North Korea from the UK Telegraph on Facebook, and I think it’s well worth looking at, because we need to be thinking about how big government impacts our ability to do our jobs as Christians.

Excerpt:

Christian missionaries have set up an extraordinary network of front companies – including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, schools and orphanages – in order to spread the Gospel inside North Korea.

For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, a father of three and an American citizen, ran a successful travel company offering tours of North Korea.

But as the 44-year-old passed through the Wonjong border crossing in November 2012, he was suddenly arrested. Convicted of “hostile acts” towards North Korea, he is currently serving 15 years in a labour camp.

What exactly happened remains a mystery. Mr Bae had taken at least 15 other tour groups into North Korea without incident. However, it seems clear that his mission to spread the Christian gospel was at least one major factor that landed him in trouble.

Mr Bae is not alone in using his company, Nations Tour, to evangelise inside North Korea. While precise numbers are impossible to pin down, the network of well-financed front companies, missions operating as businesses, is extensive.

North Korea, the most hostile country in the world to organised religion, has a strong pull for a certain stripe of evangelical Christians, and the 288 sq mile “Special Economic Zone” outside the city of Rason, where Mr Bae was detained, is Ground Zero for these modern apostles.

[…]According to one American who once travelled with Mr Bae, but who asked to remain anonymous, their group was able to carry bibles with them into the zone. Possession of bibles by North Koreans can lead to imprisonment, torture and perhaps even death.

The source said a delicate dance had played out on their arrival, with their bibles being counted by the border guards on their way in and then again when they left to make sure none had been distributed.

At the final inspection, the guards even flipped through each copy to make sure no pages had been ripped out and left behind.

Before arriving at the border, the 15-member group was told by Mr Bae not to discuss politics or carry out any overt proselytising. The two or three pastors travelling with them were not to be addressed by their titles.

Once inside North Korea, they were accompanied by government minders at all times. On group hikes with these “tour guides”, the source said they sang Christian songs, but hummed key verses to avoid saying “God” out loud.

“That was our way of worshipping and praising in our hearts, even if we could not say it,” the source said. “Talking about God directly, that would be asking for a death sentence.”

North Korea has an official state religion of atheism. Is that a factor in their horrible record for human rights? Well, according to the The Black Book of Communism, published by Harvard University Press, over 100 million innocent people were killed in atheistic, communist regimes like North Korea in the last century.

I have been working on a theory about what militant atheists mean when they say that religion causes a lot of wars. My theory is that they are actually talking about themselves. They mean their religion. They are boasting that they are number one at killing innocent people. A person can justify killing very easily if you believe that no one is watching you and no one will hold you accountable when you die for what you’ve done.

Of course there are lots of atheists in the Judeo-Christian West who live more peacefully, because they are living in a background of objective morality and human rights provided by Western religions. But in countries like North Korea, with a state religion that cannot ground free will or objective morality or human rights or judgment after death, there are fewer restraints.

Even here, we have already seen over 50 million unborn children killed since abortion became legal. And I can guarantee you that it’s not authentic Christians who are having these abortions. As a group, atheists tend to be among the most radical in favor of abortion rights. The Secular Census of 2012 found that 97% of atheists vote for abortion.

The idea of the strong killing the weak for pleasure is the law of the jungle, and it’s not surprising to me that those who think that humans are just animals would act this way with vulnerable children. If you only have 80 years to be happy in an accidental universe, then anything goes. No one is there to hold you accountable. If the weak get in your way, kill them all. That’s atheist morality. You don’t have to go to North Korea to see it.

The long war: a history of the conflict between religion and science

Let’s start with an example of a famous battle in the long war between science and religion.

Canadian science writer Denyse O’Leary writes about the history of cosmology at Evolution News.

Excerpt:

What help has materialism been in understanding the universe’s beginnings?

Many in cosmology have never made any secret of their dislike of the Big Bang, the generally accepted start to our universe first suggested by Belgian priest Georges Lemaître (1894-1966).

On the face of it, that is odd. The theory accounts well enough for the evidence. Nothing ever completely accounts for all the evidence, of course, because evidence is always changing a bit. But the Big Bang has enabled accurate prediction.

In which case, its hostile reception might surprise you. British astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) gave the theory its name in one of his papers — as a joke. Another noted astronomer, Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), exclaimed in 1933, “I feel almost an indignation that anyone should believe in it — except myself.” Why? Because “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”

One team of astrophysicists (1973) opined that it “involves a certain metaphysical aspect which may be either appealing or revolting.” Robert Jastrow (1925-2008), head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, initially remarked, “On both scientific and philosophical grounds, the concept of an eternal Universe seems more acceptable than the concept of a transient Universe that springs into being suddenly, and then fades slowly into darkness.” And Templeton Prize winner (2011) Martin Rees recalls his mentor Dennis Sciama’s dogged commitment to an eternal universe, no-Big Bang model:

For him, as for its inventors, it had a deep philosophical appeal — the universe existed, from everlasting to everlasting, in a uniquely self-consistent state. When conflicting evidence emerged, Sciama therefore sought a loophole (even an unlikely seeming one) rather as a defense lawyer clutches at any argument to rebut the prosecution case.

Evidence forced theorists to abandon their preferred eternal-universe model. From the mid 1940s, Hoyle attempted to disprove the theory he named. Until 1964, when his preferred theory, the Steady State, lost an evidence test.

Here is a a quick summary of some of the experimental evidence that emerged in the last few decades that caused naturalists to abandon the eternal universe that they loved so much when they were younger.

The importance of having a narrative

Now I want to make a very, very important point about Christianity and the progress of science. And that point is that it is very important that Christians present the evidence in exactly the way that Denyse presented it in that article – in its historical context, featuring the conflict between naturalists and the experimental evidence.

All Christians should be familiar with the following basic pieces of evidence which fit the war between science and naturalism narrative:

  1. The origin of the universe
  2. The cosmic fine-tuning
  3. The origin of life (biological information)
  4. The sudden origin of the Cambrian phyla
  5. The habitability/observability correlation

When you talk about these evidences as a Christian theist to non-Christians, you have to have cultivated a genuine interest in reconciling your beliefs with science. You have to accept that there are two books that reveal God’s character and attributes. The book of nature, and the book of Scripture. And you need to be flexible about getting these two books to fit together. The book of nature gives us natural theology (see Romans 1). It tells us that God is Creator and Designer. The book of Scripture tells us that God stepped into history as a man to save us by taking the punishment for our headlong rush away from God, which the Bible calls sin. Science is one way that humans can recover some of basic knowledge about God. Knowledge that is only possible because God created and designed the universe (and us) in such a way that we are capable of making discoveries, and that the universe is capable of being explored and understood.

It’s very important to present these five basic evidences to non-Christians in the historical context. And here is the story you must tell: “In the beginning, there was the naturalism, and the naturalism tried to argue from ignorance that God was not Creator and God was not Designer. And then came the science, and now people have to give up their naturalism in order to not be crazy and irrational”. That’s the narrative you use when talking to non-Christians about science.

In the beginning was the naturalism:

  1. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the universe was eternal
  2. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that a life-permitting universe was as likely as a life-prohibiting universe
  3. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the cell was a simple blob of jello that could spontaneously emerge in some warm pond
  4. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that the sudden origin of the Cambrian phyla would be explained by subsequent fossil discoveries
  5. In pre-scientific times, atheists maintained that there was nothing special about our galaxy, solar system, planet or moon

But then science progressed by doing experiments and making observations:

  1. Scientists discovered redshift and the cosmic microwave background radiation and more!
  2. Scientists discovered the fine-tuning of gravity and of the cosmological constant and more!
  3. Scientists discovered protein sequencing and exposed the myth of “junk DNA” and more!
  4. Scientists discovered an even shorter Cambrian explosion period and the absence of precursor fossils and more!
  5. Scientists discovered galactic habitable zones and circumstellar habitable zones and more!

And now rational people – people who want to have true beliefs about reality – need to abandon a false religion (naturalism).

Now naturally, science is in a state of flux and things change. But you have to look at the trend of discoveries, and those trends are clearly going against naturalism, and in favor of Christian theism. No one is arguing for a deductive proof here, we are simply looking at the evidence we have today and proportioning our belief to the concrete evidence we have today. People who are guided by reason should not seek to construct a worldview by leveraging speculations about future discoveries and mere possibilities. We should instead believe what is more probable than not. That’s what a rational seeker of truth ought to do. Proportion belief to probabilities based on current, concrete knowledge.

It is very important that Christians keep abreast of the progress of science, and give proper respect to science when forming our worldviews, and keep in mind what is really going on with atheism. There is a lot of loud worshiping of science by people like Dawkins and Atkins and Krauss, but if you dig into things a little, you’ll find that they are actually filled with rage and enmity against what science has revealed about nature. And not just in one area, but in many, many areas.

Atheism, as a worldview, is not rooted in an honest assessment about what science tells us about reality. Atheism is rooted in a religion: naturalism. And the troubling thing we learn from looking at the history of science is that this religion of naturalism is insulated from correction from the progress of science. Nothing that science reveals about nature seems to be able to put a dent in the religion of naturalism, at least for most atheists. Their belief in naturalism is so strong that it repels all scientific evidence that falsifies it. Atheists simply don’t let science inform and correct their worldview.

It falls to us Christian theists, then, to hold them accountable for their abuse and misrepresentation of science. And that means telling the story of the progress of science accurately, and accurately calling out the religion of naturalism for what it is – a religion rooted in blind faith and ignorance that has been repeatedly and convincingly falsified by the progress of science in the modern era.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

What would a Christian apologetics movie look like?

I found this video at Rational Thoughts.

This movie clip was made by Brian Godawa.

One of our commenters Kelli Welch just got her first movie on the big screen as well. She is interested in making films from a Christian worldview.

More on God and morality

Oh, I just noticed this related post from Cloud of Witnesses  via the Apologetics 315 Twitter feed.

This is a quote from Chad Meister from the new book “God is Great, God is Good“, edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister.

Excerpt:

“If evil truly exists, what we could call ‘objective evil’ — then there also exist objective moral values, moral values which are binding on all people, whether they acknowledge them as such or not.  If rape, racism, torture, murder, government-sanctioned genocide and so forth are objectively evil, what makes them so?  What makes them truly evil, rather than simply activities we dislike?  What made the atrocities of the Nazis evil, even though Hitler and his thugs maintained otherwise?  One cannot consistently affirm both that there are no objective moral values, on the one hand, and that rape, torture and the like are objectively morally evil on the other.  If there are objective moral values, there must be some basis — some metaphysical foundation — for their being so. . . .

But [you] can’t have [your] cake and eat it too.  If good and evil are objectively real, they need an objective foundation.  No atheist has provided one, and it’s doubtful that one will be forthcoming.

See, this is the kind of book that Christians should read, because it helps them to talk to their neighbors and to raise their children. Everyone needs to understand the moral argument, and to bring people to account when they claim to be a “good person”. What does good even mean, based on the claimant’s worldview?

Make sure you all follow Brian’s Twitter feed.