Guernica — Revealing Atheism’s True Values
From the glory of the cross we drop into the pit of despair. We fall into the dismal chasm of atheism.
“Guernica” was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1937. The painting is grey, black, and white. It is a large painting, approximately 10 feet by 25 feet. It was inspired by an event in the Spanish Civil War.
The Spanish Civil War began in 1936. General Franco led the right-wing Nationalists. They fought against the ruling Republican government. Franco was supported by German and Italian Nazis. Hitler used the war to test the German Army and Air Force. He was preparing them for their own war.
In late afternoon of April 26, 1937, the sleepy town heard the drone of German airplanes. They did not know their town was the target of a Nazi experiment. The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) asked, “What will it take to bomb a town into oblivion?” The people of Guernica were their guinea pigs.
When the airplanes left, the town was totally destroyed. April 26 was a Monday in 1937. It was market day. At least 10,000 people crowded into the little town to go to the market. An estimated 1650 townspeople lost their lives.
Picasso was living in Paris at the time. He never visited Guernica. He felt inspired to paint this picture. He painted a masterpiece of despair and hopelessness. He painted a masterpiece of atheist thought.
Guernica, the painting, shows an abandonment of hope. At the far right an agonized soul reaches toward the sky. A little to the left is what appears to be a disembodied soul. The bottom of the painting is littered with grotesque limbs and body parts. A naked light bulb – a symbol of forlorn hope – serves as the sun. Below the sun a horse screams in agony. The painting is completed with the image of a woman on the left. She is reaching toward the sky. She is abandoned by hope.
Why is this painting so devoid of hope?
Picasso was an atheist. That was his world view. A world view is a set of basic beliefs. It answers the basic questions of life: Who am I? Does life have any meaning? Is there a God? How did the world begin?
Many people go through life never thinking about their world view. They never ask these basic questions. They move from one experience to another. Some of them are still looking for a world view. Others are afraid to commit to a world view. Some never bothered to ask themselves for the meaning of life.
Religion provides us with a world view. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and other religions are world views. Atheism, humanism, and materialism are world views of a different sort. Their answer to some of the basic questions of life is “no.” For example, atheists believe there is no God. Life has no meaning.
Committing to a World View
Committing to a world view changes the way you see life. The change doesn’t end there. Your world view establishes for you the way the world is. You define everyone according to your world view. The French atheist Jean Paul Sartre explains:
“When a man commits himself to anything, fully realising [sic] that he is not only choosing what he will be, but is thereby at the same time a legislator deciding for the whole of mankind – in such a moment a man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility.” (from the essay “Existentialism is a Humanism” by Jean Paul Sartre)
In another part of his essay, Sartre says, “Our responsibility [in choosing a world view] is thus much greater than we had supposed, for it concerns mankind as a whole.” For example, when one chooses to become an atheist, he decides there is no God. He believes there is no God in his life. He also decides there is no God in anyone’s life. There is no God at all!
Consequences of Believing in Atheism
Some atheists consider atheism as pure freedom. Because there is no God, there are no rules. There is no right or wrong. There is no truth. There are no values. A person can do whatever he wants to do. But this is not freedom. It is moral anarchy.
For Sartre, this is not such a good thing:
“The existentialist [and the atheist], on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good . . ., since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it.”
A true atheist does not live in a perfect world with “true” freedom. There are consequences that come with his world view. According to Sartre:
“if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise [sic] our behavior? . . . We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.”
Some people think it’s a good thing to have freedom without God. Sartre disagrees:
“Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse.”
Atheists Feel Abandoned
If there is no God, man is all alone in this big, dark universe. We have been abandoned by God. According to Sartre, “And when we speak of ‘abandonment’ – a favorite word of Heidegger – we only mean to say that God does not exist, and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end.”
This is the world view of the true atheist. There is no God. There are no absolutes. There are no values. There is no meaning or purpose to life. We are alone and without hope. Then we die and cease to exist.
From this world view Picasso created Guernica. The painting follows no rules of art. It is not a reproduction of reality. Picasso paints a horse, a sun, and various suffering people according to his own rules. The painting preaches no rules or values. There is just horrible death. There is no hope.
These standards are an appropriate reproduction for the atrocity called Guernica. But do you really want these values to be the standard for your life?
Choose wisely. Choose God.