Irrational Disbelief: The Hypocrisy of Scientific Atheism

Somewhere along the line of modern history, the idea has taken root, spread, and become commonly held among seculars that religious people hold to a Faith that is separate from, and at odds with, natural reason. Modern science, following the lead of modern philosophy and modern secularized religion, has fallen for the heretical notion that there are two separate tracks of history: a material track, which many assume to be the true one and to which many attach all their trust, and the spiritual one, which is reduced by many to mere fantasy; a delusion held by believers to bring hope to their otherwise short, desperate, and meaningless existence. We are confronted with atheists who claim that science, rather than faith, has sole claim to real knowledge. Atheism, they claim, is a more reasonable and informed position than faith. Faith is portrayed as superstition; something that stands purely above reason. We have faith, they say, because we prefer being faithful to being reasonable. Some atheists claim that people of faith would rather be told what to believe than to use intelligence to determine truth for themselves.

On the contrary, Catholic faith is not fideism (belief that we cannot approach knowledge of God through natural reason, and that we can only rely on faith and authority), which was condemned by the first Vatican Council. Natural reason, which includes utilization of the physical sciences, always leads us in the same logical direction as supernatural faith. The Church has always recognized the non-contradiction of science and faith, and understood that proper religious beliefs are always able to coexist with scientific knowledge. Authentic theology is never at odds with accurate science, and in fact the two can be, and should be, complementary; using each other as aids to mutual advancement. When there appears to be a contradiction between scientific observation and theological belief, we do not have to choose which one we will believe and which one we will reject, we simply have to double-check our understanding of both. The problem is always found in our perception of science or faith; our misinterpretation of one or the other, and never in the truth of either discipline.

This attitude was present even in the midst of the Galileo controversy, an event which is commonly hurled against the faith by atheists who claim that the Church is opposed to scientific discovery. In a correspondence related to this case, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine stated “if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the center of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary, and say rather that we do not understand them than that what is demonstrated is false” (Bellarmine’s Letter to Foscarini, April 1615). In other words, when science which seem to contradict doctrine is proven to be true, the Church will never deny those demonstrations, but rather will reevaluate its theological position.

While atheists claim that religious people are unreasonable, unscientific, and slavishly obedient to a system of belief, it can be seen that it is in fact these atheists themselves who irrationally adhere to their non-belief even in the face of clear observable evidence, sometimes even going so far as postulating fanciful hypothetical possibilities in attempts to sidestep concrete empirical data. In his book Modern Physics, Ancient Faith, renowned physicist Stephen Barr points out, “How ironic that, having renounced belief in God because God is not material or observable by sense or instrument, the atheist may be driven to postulate not one but an infinitude of unobservables in the material world itself.” As an inductive method, science always moves from particulars towards universals; it starts with observations and tries to move towards general conclusions based on the empirical data. Some scientifically inclined atheists, on the other hand, ignore those observations which naturally lead to God in an attempt to protect their preconceived notion that God does not exist.

Another irony is that this debate, which some claim to be a clash between faith and reason, is not really rooted in either of these categories. According to Barr, “The fact of the matter is that there is a bitter intellectual battle going on, and it is about real issues. However, the conflict is not between religion and science, it is between religion and materialism.” Stephen Barr and several other recent authors have pointed out that religion not only supports natural science, it is in fact what makes natural science possible and necessary. Barr suggests “as non-scientific as the Bible was in its outlook, in a number of ways its message helped to clear the ground and prepare the soil for the much later emergence of science. It did this in part by overthrowing the ideas of pagan religion … all of the things which the pagan had learned to venerate as divine were reduced to the status of mere things by Jewish and Christian teaching.”

In his article,‘Cosmos’ and One More Telling of the Tired Myth,” Fr. Robert Barron recognized that many of the leading figures of the modern scientific movement were either Christians themselves, or educated at Christian institutions, or both. According to Barron, “all of the founders would have imbibed the two fundamentally theological assumptions that made the modern sciences possible, namely, that the world is not divine—and hence can be experimented upon rather than worshipped—and that the world is imbued with intelligibility—and hence can be understood…. Without these two assumptions, the sciences as we know them will not, because they cannot, emerge.”

Modern physics has given us a number of very convincing mathematical theorems and empirical data sets which point towards the existence of a transcendent God, but the most convincing arguments still come from the realm of philosophy, which is actually quite scientific in the classic sense of the word (“to know” something). Perhaps the most famous of these is the Thomas Aquinas’s proof of the necessity of a Prime Mover, also known as the Argument from Causation. According to this logic, everything must have a reason for being something rather than nothing. Each instance of a “contingent” being must have a cause for being here. The chain of causes/explanations cannot be circular—it has to be linear and start somewhere. Some have looked at this simplistically as a chain of physical processes (such as a row of dominos toppling over in succession), but while this may be a helpful and valid example, it is somewhat limiting. Aquinas was not so much concerned with physical causes as he was with ontological ones. This chain is not so much about how as why. In The Restoration of Christian Culture, John Senior wrote, “Anyone in his right mind can see that all of this around us and including us is not a sufficient reason for its own existence. Either there is an ultimate Existent (which we call God) who is sufficient reason for existence, or there is no reason for the existence of anything—which is radical absurdity, and radical absurdity is not a reasonable alternative.”

The final blow to the atheist argument from science comes after all the evidence has been presented and the observer is asked to come to his own conclusion. Science and reason would dictate that our decisions should honor the factor of probability in relation to possible outcomes. We ought to weigh what we will provide or, more specifically, sacrifice, in the hopes of a desired outcome, and simultaneously weigh that sacrifice against any possible undesired outcomes. In other words, before we decide how much resources we are willing to supply to any venture, we need to know what we stand to gain from it if we do, or, on the other hand, what we may lose if we don’t.

Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth-century French mathematician and Catholic philosopher, applied this logic to the question of the existence of God: the investment in question is our life, the desired benefit is eternal happiness, and the undesirable risk is eternal suffering. In his famous work, the Pensees, he stated, “I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true.” Pascal very reasonably pointed out that if we are willing to give our lives, which are remarkably short in comparison, we may (if our hopes in God turn out to be true) gain everlasting bliss. If, on the other hand, we decide that God’s existence and his revelation seem unlikely and therefore choose to dismiss them and the demands made by them, we may (if our presumptions prove to be wrong) lose our chance for eternal happiness and instead receive eternal damnation. According to Pascal,

If you win, you win everything, if you lose you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then; wager that he does exist. Here there is an infinity of infinitely happy life to be won, one chance of winning against a finite number of chances of losing, and what you are staking is finite. That leaves no choice; wherever there is infinity, and where there are not infinite chances of losing against that of winning, there is no room for hesitation. Since you are obliged to play, you must be renouncing reason if you hoard your life rather than risk it for infinite gain, just as likely to occur as a loss amounting to nothing.

According to this logic, it seems ridiculous to place your wager on the assumption that God does not exist. Additionally, the odds are even further tilted (as if 70-80 years versus eternity is not leveraged enough) since it is only by matter of opinion that a life lived apart from God’s law would be more enjoyable than one lived in accordance with it. Natural law philosophy teaches us that we achieve a greater level of happiness (eudaimonia) when we live according to God’s law than if we live in opposition to it. According to this theory, we receive natural rewards and punishments according to our participation with the logos; the ordering principle through which God created the world. Therefore, being obedient to God makes us far happier even in this life than being disobedient would. With this understanding, even the 70-80 years which you could theoretically “live it up” proves to be less than attractive.

Pascal identified that those disbelievers who credited their disbelief to reason were in truth not only unreasonable, but also self-deceptive. “At least get it into your head that, if you are unable to believe,” said Pascal, “it is because of your passions, since reason impels you to believe and yet you cannot do so. Concentrate then not on convincing yourself by multiplying proofs for God’s existence but by diminishing your passions.” Pascal recognized that disbelief was ultimately rooted in the desire to disbelieve, and perhaps most commonly rooted in desires for other things which may preclude a life of faith. Atheists, in Pascal’s perspective, should spend less time trying to postulate theories to support their disbelief and more time asking themselves why they are so vehemently proposing and clinging to them. The question for all of us is: where will you place your bet?

 Editor’s note: The image above of Blaise Pascal was painted by François II Quesnel in 1691.

Dusty Gates

By

Dusty Gates currently serves as the Director of Adult Education at the Spiritual Life Center for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, KS, and as an adjunct Professor of Theology at Newman University in Wichita, KS, where he resides with his wife and three children.

  • Fred

    You know, it is quite easy to get discouraged about the state of the world these days as I do quite often. I listened to Pope Benedict this morning reflect on how best to engage with people of other religions in the long game of eventually bringing others to the truth of Christ. Though he was talking about religions of course it could easily be applied to our culture wars as well, atheists being no exception. Of course, reading the gospels are a reminder that the task has never been easy. Pope Francis’s reminder this week too about the favorite tactic of the prince of this world is to divide us and pit us against one another. Reflecting on their wisdom gives me hope, even if I’m unsure how to go about it myself. Evil is rampant in the world, and we’re not going to help Christ sitting in our comfortable (for now) domiciles.

    • tom

      If Christians don’t take to the streets, we are doomed…at least on Earth.

  • Vinnie

    Those who deny God and, therefore, want to “live it up” in this short lifetime, really are living in despair. That is a sad way to live yet it’s clung to tenaciously.

    • Rich Coleman

      Yet it may be true.

  • Watosh

    If the miraculous nature that surrounds us does not convince one of the existence of God then you are blind. Really our world is composed of miraculous entities, both inert and life forms. Everything is just right and in the right proportions. All of this as a result of combinations of protons, neutrons and electrons that make solid substances yet are mostly nothing. And every single cell has been found to be amazingly complex. We are told DnNA contains “coded instructions, well just exactly what does the actions the instructions call for? So many things. Here we have a little, fragile butterfly that is capable of flying thousands of miles. How much instrumentation would we have to install to duplicate this feat of navigation? The world is proof to anyone who will open their eyes.

    • Fred

      Amen. Science is a gift from God allowing our minds to expand in observing our natural laws. Sadly, some stumble along the way and are consumed with pride thinking that science can explain everything. Particle physics is great, but ask what makes up muons, and where did they come from? Observing that the universe is expanding is wonderful, but what came before the singularity of the Big-Bang, and where did all that matter come from? And so on, and so on. My recent favorite though is discussing the settled science and certainty of climate change.

      • former atheist

        All (serious) scientists recognise that the universe is governed by the Laws of Physics and Chemistry, the Laws of Mathematics.
        Even a child can recognise that all Laws require a Law-Maker / Law-Giver – whom humans call “God,” the “First Cause,” “Super-Intellect,” Super-Master-Engineer” “Super-Master-Architect of the Universe.”

        Yet the likes of Mr. Dawkins would have us believe the SUPERSTITION that the extraordinary immutable Laws of the Universe somehow magically formulated themselves; then magically self-assembled to make extraordinary sense.

        Modern science discovered that sub-atomic particles such as electrons and photons are like particles, as we would expect, but they are also like waves and this phenomenon is referred to as “wave/particle duality.”

        “The whole known Universe consists of trillions upon trillions of dual natures.”

        BY THE WAY, this helps Christians understand the interesting analogy:

        That Christ has two natures – Divine as well as human (Christ having taken on human form to live amongst us) – is entirely [comfortably] consistent with modern science as well.

        The MIS-INFORMATION peddled by the likes of Mr. Dawkins has resulted in the public having many misunderstandings of the limits of science. One common MISCONCEPTION: that Science contradicts the existence of God AND because of some vocal individuals (both inside and outside of science) stridently declaring their beliefs, it’s easy to get the impression that science and religion are at war.

        IN FACT, people of many different faiths and levels of scientific expertise SEE NO CONTRADICTION at all between science and religion:

        Because science deals only with natural phenomena and explanations, it CANNOT support OR contradict the existence of supernatural entities.

        Indeed Professor F. Collins (Geneticist) says that “one of the greatest tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion HAVE to be at war”.

        The likes of Dawkins “carefully omit” the fact that much science was indeed began and subsidised by the Catholic Church. Indeed the Vatican Observatory is still one of the foremost in the world. It was Monsignor Georges Lemaître who first proposed the Big Bang theory at a conference in California in 1933 (and at which Albert Einstein gave him a standing ovation for – in effect – “the best explanation of the physical beginning of the Universe”).

        So it is important for us to educate ourselves in the truth.

    • Rich Coleman

      What would a non-miraculous universe look like?

  • Peter Arnone

    Thank you Mr. Gates. One might imagine in today’s world of statistical analysis and playing the percentages that atheism would be non-existent. Unfortunately, we live in a world with millions of narcissistic gods who will never part with their personal divinity.

    • former atheist

      Peter, You have hit the nail on the head about the many “narcissistic gods” firmly entrenched in their arrogance, eg:

      It is fashionable today for the “godless” to suggest that historically Christianity has been a force for evil rather than for good.

      However, In his book “Atheist Delusions”, Historian David Hart describes how
      Richard Dawkins and other “new atheists” would have us believe that Western humanity, during the times of “the age of faith, culture stagnated, that science languished, wars of religion were routinely waged, that witches were burned by inquisitors, and Western humanity laboured in brutish subjugation to dogma, superstition, and the unholy alliance of church and state; that withering blasts of fanaticism and fideism had long since scorched away the last remnants of classical learning; that inquiry was stifled; that the literary remains of classical antiquity had long ago been consigned to the fires of faith, and that even the great achievements of “Greek science” were forgotten…”

      Dawkins’ story then generally continues [with the assertion] that the dawn of a
      new age gave birth to the Enlightenment, where church, superstition and intolerance were cast off in favour of reason, science and progress.”

      This, says Hart, “is a tale that is ‘easily followed and utterly captivating in its explanatory tidiness…”

      — BUT there is a HUGE PROBLEM with Dawkins’ story —

      “its DEFECT is that it happens to be FALSE in EVERY identifiable detail.”

      and thank you Fred for reminding us that Mr Dawkins’ obfuscations (and those of
      the atheist so-called “four horsemen of the apocalypse” (more like “four head-less horsemen”) are indeed “the favorite tactic of the prince of [darkness in] this world is to divide us and pit us against one another.”
      At this point it is interesting to read “Disinformation” by former KGB agent (who defected to the West in disgust, burdened by a bad conscience and lives in hiding) – about the tactics used (even now) by Russia on its own imperalism: “There are enough stupid idiots in Islam and in the West who will do our dirty work for us – and all at no expense to us.” How? by spreading deliberate incendiary lies on both sides; pitting each side against each other to destroy each other physically and ideologically. This is happening as we speak as the West now confronts ISIS. Eventually, all Russia has to do is ride in unchallenged and take any territory and “spoils of war” it desires… and further “spread its errors throughout the world” – just Our Lady of Fatima warned!

      Christians must wake up before it’s too late! They have slid into comfortable
      complacency and have “fallen asleep at the wheel” while Satan has
      been very furiously busy fracturing families; dismantling the law to accommodate
      abominations; dismantling/dumbing-down the education system, also forcing
      it to adopt abominations of which we are reminded in Romans 1 to 32 (see the thus-far-unchallenged idiotic “Purple Penguins” episode in Nebraska where students are now being ‘pushed’ into an exclusively-secular mentality and punished for non-acceptance of “normalisation” of abominations).

      • former atheist

        continued …

        The following are examples of how BIGOTRY and a distorted foundation
        of scholarship, of intellectual laziness of some one-eyed-scientists compounds the problem for themselves — demolishing for them any serious scientific inquiry. Two examples come to mind — where willful ignorance has reduced their statements to utter absurdities :

        Professor Richard Lewontin (atheist geneticist at Harvard): “We take the side of science in SPITE of the patent ABSURDITY of some of its constructs … in SPITE of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so-stories, because WE have a PRIOR commitment – a COMMITMENT to MATERIALISM. It is NOT that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the CONTRARY, that we are forced by our a PRIORI ADHERENCE to MATERIAL causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce
        material explanations, NO MATTER how counter-intuitive, NO MATTER how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an ABSOLUTE, for WE CANNOT ALLOW a DIVINE FOOT IN THE DOOR” (The New York Review of Books, p.31, 9/1/97).

        Professor George Wald (a Harvard biologist): “There are only two possibilities as to how life arose.
        “One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution; the other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is NO THIRD POSSIBILITY.

        “Spontaneous generation, that life arose from non-living matter, was scientifically DISPROVED 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and
        others.

        “That leaves us with the ONLY POSSIBLE CONCLUSION — that life arose as a SUPERNATURAL creative act of God. I will NOT accept that philosophically because I DO NOT WANT TO BELIEVE in God.

        “Therefore [IN DEFIANCE OF ALL LOGIC and EVIDENCE] I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible …” (Scientific
        American 199, September 1958, p.100).

        Professor Edward Feser describes this arrogant approach to science as “SUPERSTITION” (“Atheism – The Last Superstition”)

        Now contrast the above statements with the openness to genuine serious
        scholarship of other scientists:

        The logical and scientific data pointing to God’s existence is so overwhelming, that an increasing number of scientists are publicly acknowledging the metaphysical implications of both the ‘Big Bang’ and the ‘fine-tuning’ characteristics of the universe. Here below is a sample of their views, beginning with one great name from the past:

        * Albert Einstein (Nobel Prize 1921): “Everyone who is SERIOUSLY involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is
        manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

        Allan Rex Sandage (famous astronomer, dubbed the ‘Grand Old
        Man of Cosmology’ by the New York Times, and a former atheist): “It
        was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I could understand the mystery of existence.”

        Dr Arno Penzias(Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist): “I invite you to examine the snapshot provided by half a century’s worth of astrophysical data and see what the pieces of the universe actually look like…In order to achieve consistency with our observations we must…assume not only creation of matter and energy out of nothing, but creation of space and
        time as well. The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”

        Professor Vera Kistiakowski (professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former president of the Association of Women in Science): “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”

        Dr Stephen Meyer (a geophysicist with a Cambridge doctorate in origin-of-life biology): “If it’s true there’s a beginning to the universe, as modern cosmologists now agree, then this implies a cause that transcends the universe. If the laws of physics are fine-tuned to permit life, as contemporary physicists are discovering, then perhaps there’s a Designer who fine-tuned them. If there’s information in the cell, as molecular biology shows, then this suggests intelligent design. To get life going in the first place would have required biological information; the implications point beyond the material realm to a prior intelligent cause.”

        The advance of science over the last half-century has revealed powerful new evidence that life and the universe are the product of intelligent design, especially in the fields of astrophysics and microbiology. At the cosmological level, it has become increasingly apparent that the physical laws and parameters governing our universe (e.g. the force of gravity, the energy density of empty space, the difference in mass between neutrons and protons, etc.) are so exquisitely fine-tuned to permit the emergence of life, that even the tiniest alteration in any of these laws and parameters would have catastrophic consequences. Astrophysicist, Dr Hugh Ross,
        for instance, has identified 148 astrophysical parameters that must be ‘just so’ for a planet to exist that can support human life, yet the odds against this happening by chance are, he calculates, many times greater than the total number of stars in the entire universe! Given such facts, even so great an astronomer and former atheist as Fred Hoyle, has written: “I do not believe that any scientists who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the Laws of Nuclear Physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside stars.”

        “… For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1)

        • Kilo4/11

          Good work! May the Holy Spirit carry you on and on!

          • former atheist

            Glad you liked the info. Please feel free to share it with as many people as possible. Why? Because that’s what was instrumental in my own conversion, especially since till then, I had been steeped in DIS-information by today’s many Christo-phobe “professional liars.” Now I am like a reformed smoker, making sure everyone sees the evidence of harm from ignorance about smoking…. but in this area self-delusion resulting from willful ignorance and intellectual laziness.
            I hasten to add that only those in prayer are granted that extra insight /skylight to God’s beauty and wisdom.

            Fred Hoyle (the Richard-Dawkins-of-his-day and also a “militant atheist” till he converted) eventually conceded that he felt compelled to truthfully “to follow the evidence to wherever it led.” He conceded that his earlier thinking simply failed all logic but that his arrogance prevented him from seeing the truth. It is heartening that his self-description in his biography paints as more arrogant than Lewontin and Wald.

            It is time to pray for all non-believers (and this includes all individuals who have, in their laziness, turned away from Christianity).

            Cheers.

  • brucenyc

    Interesting comments about science and the material world particularly when juxtaposed with the current renunciation of biological sex in favor of subjective gender

  • hombre111

    Well done, sir.

  • Dick Prudlo

    A most insightful article suggesting we all place our bets, as Pascal describes.

    The Modernists today, like those of yesterday, have placed their bets with both sides in the hope that God is reasonable. I suspect He is, and therefore, they will only spend half of eternity in hell. I know that is a rather peculiar postulate, but modernist’s are very peculiar folks for they think that God’s mercy is greater than His justice. Now, I ask you, is that a smart concept?

    • Visitor

      seems kinda petty for the creator of the universe to punish non “believers”with half of enternity in a hot place (what is the calculation of half of enternity?). What is His point in this cosmic game of enternal punishment or reward? I simply don’t buy this story. It makes no sense. Why would the creator of a vast universe, one far larger than the one described in the Bible, concern himself with the petty affairs of a species located on a planet orbiting a minor star in one of hundreds amongst hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with billions of star systems? Your myth is just too small.

      • Dick Prudlo

        Dear visitor: Your unbelief requires a read of Mr. Pascal. Then move on to the proofs of God’s existence. From there your disbelief may be a forgotten period of your life. My use of “half an eternity” was simply to underscore how very foolish Modernist thought is. But, I see you grasped that, no?

        Further, your not buying the enternal (sic) punishment or reward,concept is due too you not understanding God’s love for you and me. And, by and by the size of the universe speaks writ large that He who created you put you on a pedestal to show you his greatness and his love.

        • Get Real

          It absolutely staggers me how the writer of this article can make a fairly rational argument to support the need to have an open mind on the idea of the existence of God…and then tie it in with the concept of ‘eternal suffering’ that has no basis what-so-ever in truth.

          A life lived under the threat of ‘hell’ is no life at all particularly when it is bleeding obvious that the concept of ‘hell’ is a man made one and NOT from God at all.

          It sickens me that people still spread this nonsense. People who subscribe to the fear of this lie deprive themselves of the chance to live life as God intended it to be lived…and then still have to answer to God on the day of judgement as to why they chose to spend their short time on earth following the lies of man such as the concept of ‘eternal suffering’ (but claiming them to be of God).

          If there is a judgement day then the purveyors of such wickedness should be trembling in their boots. I would imagine there to be no greater sin than to claim something to be of God when in fact it is NOT!!!

          • Mark Chance

            The “concept of ‘hell'” comes from Scripture and Tradition, and hell is not a threat we live under. Instead, we live under the promise of deliverance available to all.

            • Scott W.

              I’d go even further and suggest that Man has a natural sense in his conscience for the Four Last Things (death, judgment, Heaven, Hell) but the corrupted conscience can only dwell on Hell and on how unfair it supposedly is.

          • Anthony Zarrella

            And exactly where do you get your certainty that there is no Hell? Certainly every Christian has good reason to believe (Matthew 13:50, Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46, Revelation 21:8… among others).

          • pnyikos

            You are relying on a concept of Hell which takes too literally the image of eternal, unremitted torment. In _The Great Divorce_, C.S. Lewis presented a much more humane view of hell and even made it plausible why many people would willingly choose hell over heaven. This book was discussed right here in Crisis a short while ago:

            http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/civilized-reader-c-s-lewiss-great-divorce

            Of course, this undercuts the literal wording of Pascal’s wager, but one could still argue that, by starting to believe in God early in life, one can more easily develop habits that make much easier the choice of heaven in the kind of afterlife as C.S. Lewis depicts.

            • former atheist

              No, pnyikos,

              The concept of Hell is NOT AT ALL “too literal”. In fact, it IS all real… And it would be neglect of duty for the Church not to make known the truth:

              >> Jesus himself often spoke of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to live according to the Ten Commandments and their conscience which God had “inscribed into their minds and hearts” (Romans 2:15)

              >> Jesus himself solemnly proclaimed that he “will send his angels, and they will gather all evil- doers and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into
              the eternal fire!” (Mt 25:41), into the outer darkness where
              “men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Mt 22:13; Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13).

              >> The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

              >> The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the
              Church on the
              subject of hell are a call to the
              responsibility incumbent upon man to make responsible use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to (self)-destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt 7:13-14)

              Because humans have been given the gift of FREE-WILL, NO
              person is pre-destined by God to go to Hell. ONLY a persons’s WILFUL turning away from God (mortal sin) and in full knowledge of the gravity of his actions, and persistence in it until the end, without repentance, would ensure the person the prospect
              of Hell. This is NOT lack of mercy. This IS real justice: when God will ask us: “how do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?” … and persons persistently/stubbornly embedded in evil will not be able to prevaricate the truth to escape Divine Justice.

              I agree with Anthony that “Certainly every Christian has good reason to believe (Matthew 13:50, Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46, Revelation 21:8… among others).
              Hope this helps.

      • DE-173

        “Why would the creator of a vast universe, one far larger than the one described in the Bible, concern himself with the petty affairs of a species located on a planet orbiting a minor star in one of hundreds amongst hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with billions of star systems? Your myth is just too small.”

        Classic anthromorphic projection. We are limited in capacity and inclination (hence the unimaginative name “visitor”) so surely God is so limited-the same error that leads Islam to conclude God has no NEED for a Son.

        Of course, the flipside -why would the creator bother to create something only to abandon it?

      • former atheist

        Dear Visitor, God is a God of unconditional LOVE. God IS love itself.

        God is evident in nature all around us. It is stunningly
        beautiful – to those who bother to look closely.

        Scientists have illustrated even a single living cell (fauna or flora) as a marvel of sophistication that cannot ever be rivaled by the complexity and sophistication of a man-made nuclear plant. The planet is throbbing with life so that even Stephen Hawkins remarked “but WHO breathed fire into the equation?”

        In other words the Universe is governed by immutable LAWS which – by LOGIC – must have had their origins in a Law-Maker /Law-Giver / God / First-Cause – Who also taught us to respect and conduct our lives by the Ten Commandments and to “Love one another as you love yourself”.

        Christ’s teachings are all about genuine LOVE: treating every human with
        dignity, kindness, forgiveness, graciousness, civility, chivalry, good manners. So that most of today’s Civic Laws are based on the Ten Commandments in order to bring about a truly sophisticated civilization based on fairness and genuine justice for all. The Ten Commandments are fundamental to God’s Kingdom that we are slowly building (despite the efforts of Satan to destroy everything).

        God has asked us to call Him “Father”. God has titled us humans as his own children – his own family. His Son Jesus has already willingly come to our rescue from Satan, regardless of the profound price He had to pay. “Greater love has no one than this – that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) … but there’s more than His heroism … Jesus demonstrated by His Resurrection (witnessed by more than 500 people) not to fear death, and that death is just a doorway to Heaven and that our true destination is eternal happiness with God.

        It’s interesting that most people who profess god-lessness have come from broken homes where they have experienced abandonement, anguish, loneliness, and depression. Ironically, unwise human law-makers now continue to capitulate to popular forces in an ever-increasing
        corrupted society which is insidiously eroding family life and promoting self-centred greed – a sad existence where there is NO LOVE.

        God, in his wisdom, wants us to make up our own mind to CHOOSE freely to live HIS way – so He has given us the GIFT of FREE-WILL. Therefore,as Professor Alvin Platinga explains:

        * God creates creatures who are significantly free, but in so doing, He cannot causally determine them to do only what is right.
        * Thus, if God creates creatures who are significantly free, He takes the risk that these creatures are also capable of moral evil.
        * Thus, if God creates a world containing creatures who are significantly free, it will contain creatures who are [also] capable of moral evil.
        * So why is there EVIL in the world?

        — If God creates a world containing creatures who are also capable of moral evil, He cannot guarantee that there will not be evil in that world.
        * Thus, if God creates a world containing creatures who are significantly free, He cannot guarantee that there will not be evil in that world.

        SO A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform MORE morally good than evil actions) is MORE VALUABLE, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all.

        Thus, God has GOOD REASON to create a world containing creatures who are significantly FREE.

        Thus, God [still] has GOOD REASON to create a world, which He cannot
        guarantee will not contain evil.

        Therefore we have been given a conscience to CHOOSE wisely, since
        the Laws of God are already “written on our hearts:” (“I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people” (Hebrews 8:6-13).

        Unfortunately, those who CHOOSE to BANISH any thought of God invariably end up with defective reasoning – that begins from FALSE PREMISES, which in turn can DEFORM the conscience which is then open to more corruption: “If Christ is not our starting point, something
        other than Christ is.” (Tyler Blanski)
        A DEFORMED conscience keeps defaulting to CHOOSING the glamour of sin – and every sin is a “vote for Satan to take even greater control of the planet”.

        “There is a ceiling to human knowledge, and only divine revelation can install skylights” – and ONLY a mind which is clear of the clutter of corruption can see the exquisite beauty of truth.

        Visitor, You can be assured, that God loves you and regards you as part of his family.

      • Rich Coleman

        He’s also obsessed with foreskins.

  • pnyikos

    John Senior wrote, “Anyone in his right mind can see that all of this
    around us and including us is not a sufficient reason for its own
    existence.”

    So far, so good. But then John Senior went on to write:

    “Either there is an ultimate Existent (which we call God) who
    is sufficient reason for existence, or there is no reason for the
    existence of anything–which is radical absurdity, and radical absurdity
    is not a reasonable alternative.”

    What isn’t reasonable about it? If something is its own reason for existing, then why should there only one ultimate Existent and not more than one–why not infinitely many, if it comes to that? We don’t know HOW any entity could have sufficient reason for existence, so why can’t there be many entities with sufficient reason for their existence, or none?

    • papagan

      “What isn’t reasonable about it? If something is its own reason for existing, then why should there [be] only one ultimate Existent and not more than one–why not infinitely many, if it comes to that? We don’t know HOW any entity could have sufficient reason for existence, so why can’t there be many entities with sufficient reason for their existence, or none?”

      You’re in the territory of metaphysics. Would it be fair to assume that for you metaphysics is entirely foreign terrain?

  • Idler

    “Somewhere along the line of modern history…”

    A good place to understand where this idea came from would be Martin Luther. Two of the most pernicious results of the Protestant Reformation were scripture alone and protestantism itself. Sola scriptura led evangelicals to trust the Bible alone. This meant the Bible is literal and the world is 6000 years old. This is the straw man that atheists are constantly knocking down when they ridicule the superstition of religion. We Catholics can have a rich history of faith and reason but atheists lump all Christians together.

    Protestantism itself has led to everything being questioned. This has led directly to atheism. If I can question the real presence, why can’t I question the presence of God Himself?

    “You will know them by the fruit they yield.” The fruit of Martin Luther’s dissent is atheism. “Any tree that is withered will bear fruit that is worthless.”

    “Any sound tree will bear good fruit”, this would be the Catholic rich tradition of faith and reason.

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  • Harry

    Hello Professor Gates,

    Great article! Very well put. For me, it brings up other questions.

    How do wrest the reins of control of the dominant institutions of society from the hands of atheistic fundamentalists whose irrational, blind-faith based beliefs have become the de facto state religion?

    The reasonable, rational theistic faith, compatible with true science (and with the beliefs of America’s founders), is being met with ever-encreasing state-sanctioned hostility.

    Why do we pay for their irrational, blind-faith based beliefs to be propagated in the public school system?

    Why do we tolerate their intolerance of rational, compatible with true science, utterly reasonable theism in the public school system?

    Why do we let an irrational, blind-faith-based belief system, which excludes the traditional, faith-based belief system which modern science ever more frequently vindicates, dominate public policy?

    We have gone all the way from a nation based on “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” to an atheocracy, which is even worse than a theocracy and worse than rule by those who claim a “divine right” to do so. Every regime in modern history that has been hostile to theism has also been lethal to innocent human beings by the millions.

    Where do we begin?

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