Last week,I suggested that both atheists and theists have motives for their belief systems.
When King David declared, “The fool says in his heart there is no God,” he identified skepticism and atheism as a heart problem, not an intellectual one. In other words, being free from God is part of the skeptic’s wish list.
I suspect most atheists, when they’re being honest, admit they prefer there to be no God, and therefore no judgment. Last week I quoted Peter Hitchens, formerly an avowed atheist, who confessed that after burning his Bible he felt “free”—free from rules and free from fear of judgment. He also shared the confession of Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy and law at New York University, and author of The Last Word: “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God…. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (pp. 149, 50, emphasis mine)
Now as for me, I admit that I prefer an orderly universe with rewards and consequences at the end of life. Either position—God or no God—requires faith.
One of the men at The Shepherd’s House where I volunteer likes to declare his belief that there is no God and the Bible is a human book filled with fairy tales. I admit he has added pizzazz to our class discussions. I confess I am also coming to love him as a potential brother. I commend him for his honesty, and we hug after almost evey class session.
So what difference does it make if we believe in or deny God’s existence? Can’t we just agree to disagree? Of course. But we must also bear in mind that there are critical issues at stake—issues that affect both the individual person and our culture.
Consider the second part of Psalm 53:1: “They (the fools) are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”
Is that overstatement? Perhaps. We all know skeptics and unbelievers who are good citizens who do admirable charitable acts. But, we can’t do anything that will appease God or earn brownie points with Him.
David warns that choosing to exclude God leads to other choices resulting in destructive behavior. Paul affirms this truth in Romans when he says that people who once knew about God suppressed that truth—a willful choice driven by their motives. The result has been the perversion of the entire human race. Consider the litany of bad behavior, in Romans 1:29-32, that has resulted from the decision to ignore God.
There is a price to pay whenever a nation chooses to toss the Rulebook under the bus or to deny God’s existence or relevance. The inevitable results include chaos and eventually anarchy—the law of the jungle where the strong rule over the weak.
So how do we decide what is good and what is evil…what is right and what is wrong? Postmodern thinking and the emphasis upon individual freedom have created a culture of moral relativity. It’s a replay of the book of The Judges, where “every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
Nobody will be safe, and no one held accountable for their actions. It is essentially war in the streets. In literal military warfare both sides (the good men in white hats or the evil men in black) are often guilty of committing atrocities. That is why modern nations have adopted rules of warfare. Unfortunately, too often the rules are ignored. This is especially true in atheistic states that attempt to erase every vestige of religion and God.
In his book, The Rage against God, Peter Hitchens writes, “Atheist States have a consistent tendency to commit mass murder.” We need not look any further than Soviet Communism under Stalin with an estimated 6-9 million non-combatant deaths. Or consider Chinese Communism under Mao zedong with up to 70 million civilian deaths. Today there is a renewed attempt in China to resist the expansion of Christianity. Consder the atrocities under the totalitarian dictatorship in North Korea or Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
I admit horrible atrocities have occurred in the name of religion—even Christianity. But, that was religion gone awry. It was wrong and flew against the teaching of Jesus who instructed His followers to turn the cheek and forgive their enemies.
Without God it is impossible to determine right and wrong. Your “truth” may not be my “truth.” Who then decides what is good or bad? Consider the following quote taken from Tim Keller’s recent book, Making Sense of God:
Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov sarcastically summarized the ethical reasoning of secular humanism like this: “Man descended from apes, therefore we must love one another.” The second clause does not follow from the first. If it was natural for the strong to eat the weak in the past, why aren’t people allowed to do it now?” (42–43)
Keller concludes, “While there can be moral feelings without God, it doesn’t appear that there can be moral obligation.” (178)
Without an absolute set of rules we are free to create our own. Is marriage a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman or a temporary agreement to “hang out together?” Without the Rulebook who determines if the fetus in the womb is a real human being? Unfortunately, the choice is too often based upon motives. Even avid pro-lifers have capitulated to convenience to avoid embarrassment.
I propose that there is only one reliable force to restrain evil: biblical Christianity.
When any culture seeks to remove the influence of religion and belief in God they create a vacuum—a vacuum that quickly fills with subjectivism and “the right to do as I please.” That is a culture without a compass to point the way or a lighthouse to warn of dangerous rocks beneath the surface.
Removing God in the Public Place has resulted in the rapid loss of civility. We are becoming just plain rude. Whether entrenched on the Right or the Left we seldom listen but shout over one another and insult one another.
Yes, there is a price to pay when nations rage against God, pronouncing Him irrelevant. I suspect part of their motivation is to resist any One who challenges their freedom to do as they please without accountability.
They may claim they are being rational or high minded in this. In reality, it’s just a shortcut to the gutter.
Do you agree or disagree? I welcome your feedback. Do you believe a culture can remain moral and survive without God?