Belief Is Not Rational — Part II
In part I, I asked, “What makes belief so powerful?” Why do atheists work so hard to prove the irrationality of faith? Here are some of the arguments given by atheists to prove the foolishness of faith.
A Remnant of Superstition
Atheists paint compelling word pictures. They tell of primitive savages in tribes dancing at night around a blazing fire. These natives singing chants to their gods to frighten away the scary thunderstorms. They did not understand the scientific working of nature. So they created a god to control the thunderstorm. According to atheist propaganda, the Canaanites created Baal, their storm god; Greeks formed Zeus; Romans invented Jupiter.
What do Jews and Christians believe? Did nature produce the Christian God? No. God created nature. No one created Him. And we are not to fear nature. We are to fear God and hold Him in awe. God is the Lord over all nature.
But atheists act like all gods are the same. Why can’t they take the time to learn the difference between one god and another. They reflect, “Why waste time studying beings that don’t exist?”
Baruch Spinoza, a deist, warned of superstition. He lived in Amsterdam during the seventeenth century. He believed in God, in his own way. Spinoza believed there is only one substance. It is infinite. We call this substance God. God is nature. Likewise, nature is not God’s creation. Nature is God.
Superstition is contrary to true religion. Superstition is the step-child of fear. According to Spinoza in his Treatise on Theology and Politics, “superstition doesn’t get its claws into men except when they are afraid.” Thus, “what they worship in their illusory religion is nothing but ghosts, the delusions of minds that are depressed and scared.”
Some people think that superstition arises from a confused idea of God; but my account of the cause of superstition clearly implies three things about it:
•All men are naturally prone to it.
•Like all delusions of the mind and impulses of frenzy, it is bound to be fluctuating and intermittent, and
•It is kept up only by hope, hate, anger, and deception, because it arises not from reason but only from the most powerful affects.
Religion also is disfigured by the schemes and organizations introduced by men.
But ambition and wickedness have been so powerful that religion is identified . . . with defending human inventions, so that religion consists not in loving kindness but in spreading disagreement among men and propagating the most bitter hatred. . . . To these evils we may add superstition, which teaches men to ignore reason and nature, and to wonder at and venerate only what is contrary to both.
Spinoza’s god is nature. Nature is not superstition. Superstition is caused by fear. Superstition is not the product of reason. Religion is marred by superstition and also by the cunning of men. These men teach others to ignore reason and nature and to obey superstition. Spinoza considered Christianity as one of these superstitions.
About one hundred years later a Scotsman named David Hume added more fuel to the fire. He wrote regarding the origin of religion in his treatise The Natural History of Religion. (1757)
Convulsions in nature, disorders, prodigies, miracles, though the most opposite to the plan of a wise superintendent, impress mankind with the strongest sentiments of religion, the causes of events seeming then the most unknown and unaccountable. Madness, fury, rage, and an inflamed imagination, though they sink men nearest the level of beasts, are, for a like reason, often supposed to be the only dispositions in which we can have any immediate communication with the deity.
According to Hume, religion has nothing to do with a loving God. Religion is the product of “madness, fury, rage, and an inflamed imagination. But that’s not all. According to Hume, religious people live in a state of terror. In their paranoia they imagine legions of invisible powers seeking their destruction.
The primary religion of mankind arises chiefly from an anxious fear of future events; and what ideas will naturally be entertained of invisible, unknown powers, while men lie under dismal apprehensions of any kind, may easily be conceived. . . . A panic having once seized the mind, the active fancy still farther multiplies the objects of terror; while that profound darkness, or, what is worse, that glimmering light, with which we are environed, represents the spectres of divinity under the most dreadful appearances imaginable. And no idea of perverse wickedness can be framed which those terrified devotees do not readily, without scruple, apply to their deity.
Wow! Somehow I miss all of that terror when I raise my hands in worship on Sunday morning. I’m starting to wonder who really is deluded by fantasies. Is it me? It sounds like the atheists win the price for delusion.
Atheists think religion is not based on reason. No wonder. How could reason survive all of the supposed paranoia, panic, and intense fear?
A few years later Ludwig Feuerbach put a different twist on the superstition. He wrote in “The Essence of Christianity” that belief in written revelation is “superstition and sophistry.”
Hence the belief in revelation is, at least for those of a subsequent age, belief in a written revelation; but the necessary consequence of a faith in which an historical book, necessarily subject to all the conditions of a temporal, finite production, is regarded as an eternal, absolute, universally authoritative word, is superstition and sophistry.
For Spinoza, the true religion of nature has been marred by superstition, fear, and human agendas. For Hume, religion is the result of panic and fear. The believer imagines battalions of unseen beings waiting to attack. Feuerbach considered belief in an authoritative, written revelation as foolish superstition.
Christians, on the other hand, continue to build homes for the homeless, feed those who are hungry, build schools, and educate children.
Atheists continue to beat this drum. They consider religion to be superstition and devoid of reason. But they have are other reasons to attack religion.
Belief Hinders Social Evolution
Atheists believe that those ancient religious superstitions are holding mankind back. Science is the future, they say. Religion is the past.
Julien Offray de La Mettrie was a doctor. He was a man of science. He also was an atheist. He wrote a ground-breaking book in 1748 titled Man a Machine. In this book he compared the human body to a complex machine. At the end of his book he compared the mighty oak of science to the weak reeds of theology, metaphysics, and Aristotelian philosophy.
What could the weak reeds of theology, metaphysics and the Aristotelian philosophy departments do against such a firm and solid oak? Those reeds are childish weapons, like practice foils that can give pleasure in fencing but can never wound an opponent. •‘Weak reeds’? . . . Here is my system, or rather the truth, unless I’m greatly mistaken. It is short and simple. If anyone wants to argue against it now, let them!
Science is truth, according to La Mettrie. Religion and theology must yield to this truth or they will be trampled by science.
About one hundred years after La Mettrie, another French atheist named Auguste Comte developed a philosophy called Positivism. Comte taught that theology and metaphysics were phases humanity went through during its development. The third and final stage of this development is positivism.
Positivism affirms the superiority of positive knowledge. Positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena in the physical. The empirical sciences verify the properties and relations between these phenomena.
Comte believed positivism is the perfect system. Positivism possess a central point that brings together feeling, reason, and activity. According to Comte,
There should be a central point in the system towards which Feeling, Reason, and Activity alike converge. The proof that Positivism possesses such a central point will remove the last obstacles to its complete acceptance, as the guide of private or of public life.
Religion will be replaced by science. God will be replaced by belief in humanity.
Such a centre we find in the great conception of Humanity, towards which every aspect of Positivism naturally converges. By it the conception of God will be entirely superseded, and a synthesis be formed, more complete and permanent than that provisionally established by the old religions. . . .
Thus Positivism becomes, in the true sense of the word, a Religion ; the only religion which is real and complete; destined therefore to replace all imperfect and provisional systems resting on the primitive basis of theology.
Comte believed that positivism addresses the entire person. It is new, modern, and science-driven. Modern people will see its superiority to ancient theology and metaphysics. At least, that’s what Comte thought. Comte’s philosophical system was well received in its day. Now it lies helplessly on the rubbish heap of the failed ideas of history. Christianity, however, continues to change lives every day.
Thomas Huxley also was convinced those ancient traditions soon would meet their demise. The marvels of science are so compelling. Religion cannot stand in the way. Huxley said so in an essay titled “Science and Religion” (1859). He responded to a person who pointed out that evolution was contrary to the Bible. How could Huxley defend evolution? The Bible says we are descended from a man and a woman. Huxley replied, rather arrogantly,
Now let me tell you quite frankly, that I almost think it beneath the dignity of my calling, as a man of science, to listen to such objections as these. If it be really true that science is opposed to religion, all I can say is, so much the worse for religion. If science is really opposed to traditions, the sooner the traditions vanish and are no more seen or heard of, the better. For science, and the methods of science, are the masters of the world.
Huxley technically was not an atheist (he invented the word “agnostic”). But this attitude toward religious belief continues to poison our society’s attitude toward the Bible.
Consider one additional argument from the atheists.
Who Made God?
Atheists believe they have created an argument that will devastate the ranks of Christians. Let’s hear it from Bertrand Russell, one of their best.
“One day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: ‘My father taught me that the question “Who made me?” cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question “Who made God?”’ . . . There is no reason why the world could not come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.” From Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell.
Shame on you, Bertrand. That argument takes advantage of persons who never studied philosophy (almost everybody). Bertrand, most people do not understand the concept of infinity. You realize that. And yet you take advantage of this. You know truth but you hide it from others. You use lies to confuse us. Shame on you, Bertrand.
Atheists hate these proofs from logic. Philosophy-oriented believers in God love them. Why? In his book Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume, a skeptic, relates a discussion between a believer and a skeptic.
DEMEA (the believer): . . . had we not better adhere to that simple and sublime argument . . . which, by offering to us infallible demonstration, cuts off at once all doubt and difficulty?
The argument which I would insist on, is the common one. Whatever exists must have a cause or reason of its existence; it being absolutely impossible for anything to produce itself, or be the cause of its own existence.
PHILO (the skeptic): [Let’s] drop all these abstractions and confine ourselves to more familiar topics.
Why do they hate these proofs? Atheists and skeptics have no answer for these proofs. Like Hume, they answer by changing the subject. Or, like Russell, they make up a little joke to confuse us. But it’s a simple statement: Whatever exists must have a cause or reason of its existence; it being absolutely impossible for anything to produce itself, or be the cause of its own existence. Whether you believe it or not, it’s the simple truth.
There is another question similar to “Who made God?” This is it: “Why does anything exist?” I don’t know. Why does anything exist? No one has ever proposed an answer to that question. There is no explanation for existence. It just IS. Things exist. I can’t explain it. The answer is beyond my ability to understand. But my lack of knowledge changes nothing. Things exist!
Who made God? That question is beyond my ability to understand. What lies beyond infinity and eternity? The question itself is irrational. It does not make sense – at least I can’t make sense of it. Who made God? I can’t answer. I can only accept the incomprehensible, inescapable fact that God exists. He always has. He always will. That’s part of His eternal nature.
Truth Is Truth
Let’s not waste time. Atheists waste a lot of paper and ink with their silly quips. They say a few clever words. They think these words destroy theistic proofs.
Atheists come and go. Their wisecracks overflow from books. Next year they are forgotten—both the atheist and the wisecracks. But God exists. That’s the truth. God is Truth. God is eternal. So is truth.