Suppose your friend remains unconvinced by the arguments we examined in the first article that the odds that life could have come into existence by chance are so fleetingly small as to be impossible. Now what? Let’s therefore regroup and come at the problem from another direction.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there is no God and see what that premise does to the things most people take for granted in everyday life.
I went to college way back in the 1970’s majoring in Earth Science, a time still characterized by the uncertainty and turmoil of the decade preceding it. Though the unrest was on the wane, it was still a time of questioning many pillars of our society such as how the government was being run, capitalism in general, and whether or not God was dead or even if he ever existed at all.
I remember as if it were yesterday when an upperclassman told me in my first freshman weeks something to the effect of, “By the time you’re done here, you won’t believe in God.” I disagreed with him but I can’t for the life of me remember whether I made a good case for my point of view or not. As it turned out, college did not turn me into an atheist and I’m hoping that over the course of the intervening decades I can better defend my beliefs.
Where Science Leaves Off
I’ve always been fascinated by science, ever since the day my mother had sent away for a map of the solar system back in 1959 (I know the date because I discovered its copyright year on the Internet). The sun, planets, and other celestial objects were presented in full, vivid color, and totally captured my attention. From there I went on to getting books on astronomy and the other sciences, an activity that has lasted up through today! Truth is, not being the scholarly type by nature, science is about the only subject I consistently “aced” in school.
I came to appreciate the ability of science to explain how things were put together and how they work, from atoms to stars, single cells to people. I’ve also learned its limitations, the things it couldn’t explain. There are two categories of the latter: things presently unknown which the future likely would resolve and those that are unquantifiable that which will forever lie outside its grasp. Let’s take a look at some of those of those “immeasurables.”
A Pound of Trust
Ever trust anyone or anything? At some point in your life you must have, though a lot of people would strongly deny they ever did. Here are some simple examples: When you go to the grocery store every week and buy a can of soup, aren’t you trusting that what’s inside isn’t actually a lethal poison?
How about when you got into your car to go to the store in the first place? Didn’t you trust that your vehicle was designed in such a way that it would get you there without falling apart en route? Or that the guy with the red light wasn’t going to T-bone you when you drove through the intersection when you had the green?
Admittedly, it gets more complicated when it comes to trusting in any kind of relationship because you’ve probably noticed by now that no one is perfect – including the owner of the face that looks back at you in the mirror every day. Unless you have some level of trust, life pretty much becomes impossible. You might not realize it, but you trusted the total strangers who filled the soup can and those who designed and assembled your car.
Trust is not something science can handle because it can’t be measured or seen. Show me a pound of trust, or any other emotion, for that matter, but it exists all the same. Science is even more at a loss to demonstrate where it came from in the first place.
It’s time now to explore some other “immeasurables” in the context of a universe with or without God.
Why Get Upset?
Unless someone is a sociopath, just about everyone in every culture has a capacity for outrage under some pretty universal circumstances. For example, harm coming to a family member or friend at the hands of someone else. Little kids getting horrible diseases and having to suffer through no fault of their own. Watching a hardened criminal get released on a technicality to commit crimes again. Grappling with someone close to us dying. I’m sure you can make your own list.
The question here is, what is it that gets us so upset about these things? Is it just a matter of self-interest in hoping that the bad things we see happening to others won’t happen to us or is there something more that we can’t quite put our fingers on but is an integral part of our natures? If it is, why is it so?
Putting God into the picture makes the answer a lot easier because we who believe humans are made in his image. The Bible shows us the same sorts of things also outrage God. The evidence of this lies in what Jesus did when he was here. He cured the sick, stood up for the downtrodden, raised the dead, and finally in the greatest of all miracles, was raised from death himself. God makes the concepts of “good” and “evil” genuine because he was the one who defined them in the first place.
Removing God from the equation nullifies everything the Bible teaches as well as the reason we should be indignant about anything because from the atheistic point of view whatever happens is nothing more than a roll of the dice.
Isn’t it therefore interesting that most atheists will still be just as upset over the same things that believers are? Their problem is, unlike those who accept the existence of God, they have no logical reason for their dismay because whatever happens is all the product of random chance.
One’s point of view regarding the existence of God means everything when it comes to good or evil, right or wrong. For the believer, God is the ultimate lawgiver who defined these things in absolute terms even before he made the universe. These standards are clearly seen in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), Jesus’ summary of the moral law expressed in the Commandments (Matthew 22:34-40), and his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7). Since believers accept that God made the absolutes of the physical laws on which the cosmos operates, absolutes of morality are certainly consistent with his character.
But what do we have if there is no God?
In this case, the concepts of right or wrong are totally in the eye of the beholder. The problem is that if everyone freely “did their own thing,” no stable society could ever exist. Since it was necessary for people to be able to live together cooperatively, they had to come up with some rules to make it possible, some means of governing. Across the span of history right into the present, we see all manner of variations of government ranging from reasonably free kinds where its citizens have a voice in how they are governed to rigid autocracies like North Korea where only the voice of the guy on top matters.
For a country like the United States which was founded by men who believed in God (despite what the modern historical revisionists would have you believe) many of the biblical principles of right and wrong found expression in its original founding principles and laws, a legacy which reaches up into the present, yet is no doubt under challenge in our present times. Even so, we are still a lot better off than those atheistic dictatorships where one man and his underlings call the shots. One need look no further than Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Kim’s North Korea to find examples of a state-defined morality those of us in free countries find totally repulsive.
If God does not exist, however, none of these systems or societies is better or worse than any other in absolute terms because right and wrong are defined by whatever the respective society says they are. If one decides that killing some of its residents simply because they are of a certain ethnic group is okay while another society finds this abhorrent, so what? Nothing is intrinsically evil or good because there is no ultimate “Lawgiver” to define these terms in the first place.
Despite this, I would wager to say that most people, even atheists, function as if there really are some kind of universal standards that operate at a level beyond civil law and at times supersede it. That was certainly Dr. Martin Luther King’s premise in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963:
“One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’ ”
As we all well know, his premise was based entirely on his belief in God who defined what was just and unjust in absolute terms right from the start – or, in our case, before the universe ever came to exist.
But Dr. King is only right if his premise of God’s existence is correct. Otherwise, his views on racism being evil are nothing more than his personal opinions, not better or worse than the opinions of a leader of the KKK or neo-Nazi group.
To sum it up, a believer in God can logically argue what is right and wrong based on his or her premise that he established the standards. An atheist lacking this basic premise cannot logically claim anything being intrinsically good or bad, even though most of them go through life acting as if this is the case.
Ever watch a particularly striking sunrise or sunset? Or see the arch of a rainbow in the summer sky after a thunderstorm? Or gaze up into a perfectly clear night at a sky speckled with thousands of stars?
How did it make you feel?
If you’re like most of us you experienced a sense of awe, even if you know the science behind what you were seeing. There is just “something” about experiencing such things that touches one in a way that words cannot describe. We don’t know if other creatures we consider to have a reasonably high order of intelligence are also capable of feeling what we call “awe,” but we know for certain that we can.
Why do we have this ability? It certainly isn’t required to help us find food, shelter, or to procreate. Could it be related to the universal tendency of humans throughout history to develop some kind of religion which goes beyond just an attempt to understand or perhaps even control aspects of nature that are at the time unexplainable and uncontrollable?
It seems that for some reason we humans seem to have wired into our being some kind of impulse to seek out something much greater than ourselves. I might be wrong but I’m of the opinion that it takes a real struggle for someone to turn into an atheist because they have to make a concerted effort to go against this basic drive all humans seem to have.
Perhaps the best evidence of that is just how vehemently atheists defend their point of view when challenged by someone who does believe in God. Why is that? After all, if God doesn’t exist, aren’t they making much ado over . . . nothing? Seems like an atheist has to work awfully hard at denying God, as if trying to shut out a persistent inner voice that keeps telling them that they are completely wrong! (See 1 Kings 19:9-12)
Bigger than Us
According to Genesis, the first two people knew right from the start that there was “someone” else besides themselves who was much greater than they were. It is likely in their sinless beginning that this relationship with God was on a level far beyond any which was possible after separation caused by the Fall, although there are many incidents of “close encounters” of various kinds afterward throughout the Bible (e.g. Genesis 28:10-17; 18:1; Exodus 3:1-4:16; Ezekiel 1:26-28). When Jesus came to live among us, mortal humans once again could talk to God face to face but even then only Peter, James, and John, got to behold the merest a glimpse of his true glory (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8 ).
However, for most of history since the expulsion from Eden, our knowledge of the one True God has been limited (1 Corinthians 13:11-12) which led to just about every society developing some kind of religion. The earliest were usually some kind of nature worship. In the midst of something like a powerful storm, a total solar eclipse, or the aurora borealis (or australis in the southern hemisphere), this is perfectly understandable. Most of the things in the natural world are much bigger than we are and still remain beyond our ability to control even with the technology of the Twenty-first Century. Nature-religions such as Wicca still exist today and are even finding “scientific” incarnations in the more extreme elements of the environmental movement.
Generally, though, many cultures moved from worship of nature to the “deities” they believed to be controlling it. Only comparatively recently has the idea of “one God” become predominant, with variations amongst them. The one true God has repeatedly made himself known directly across early history to men such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, to name but a few, right up into modern times, most clearly as Jesus of Nazareth, the record of these encounters faithfully preserved across the millennia in what we now call the Bible.
If we accept the existence of God as revealed in this Bible, then it makes a lot of sense that he would instill a trait to seek him out in every human who has ever lived. Unfortunately this quest has all too often led to what in some cases have become bloody confrontations among peoples of varying views across the ages, right up to the present.
Even conflicts which are not overtly termed as “religious wars” have religious underpinnings. In the Twentieth Century, World Wars 1 and 2, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War were between free societies based on Judeo-Christian principles against those in which the “state” (or its respective leader) was the object of worship, as was the Cold War of the century just past.
Today, the increasing rise of Islamic terrorism against Jews and Christians is a particularly ugly, escalating and clearly religious conflict, though it seems that the politicians and media just aren’t seeing it in these terms. I have no doubt the inability to see this reality is but one component of our age that will ultimately bring about the war of Armageddon as the Antichrist tries to take over the world claiming to be “God” and demanding worship as such. With that in mind, it’s time to consider what may be the most important question of all.
A Plan for Humanity?
From the perspective of the pure evolutionist, humans, whales, trees, or algae evolve only in response to their respective environments. If they fail to adapt successfully, they become extinct. There’s no “plan” for any of them, no predetermined destiny. If something ends up going extinct, then it either failed to adapt or was at the wrong place at the wrong time like the dinosaurs when the asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago and killed off most of them.
If it happens again while we’re still here, we could share their fate. We could even do it to ourselves in a global nuclear war or in developing and turning loose a lethal virus into the environment. An Armageddon is now a real possibility. But if the atheists are right, it doesn’t matter because nothing – including us – has any real purpose anyway. We’re only here as the product of totally random chance
Yet if one instead subscribes to a universe designed and run by God, then humans were created in his image and he has an overall plan for them. Many religions of the world have their own concepts of where we will eventually end up, but for our purposes, we’ll stick to the one that the Bible reveals since it is, in my opinion, reliable to a much higher degree than any of its competitors (a vast subject of study and commentary in itself). That plan is to bring those who believe in him into his presence for all eternity by the atoning sacrifice of his Son Jesus and to one day recreate the entire universe and come to dwell among us in the New Jerusalem on a new Earth.
Without God, there is no plan. On an individual level, once one takes his or her last breath, as far as they are concerned, it’s the end of the line. As a species, our future would continue to unfold in a random manner until it ceases to exist just like the countless other species that came before us Barring divine intervention even if we manage to hang on for a long haul, our sun’s increasing output will one day make life on Earth impossible, evaporating our oceans and turning our planet into a second Venus. But it gets worse because billions of years from now the sun will expand into a red giant and swallow up Mercury, Venus, and possibly Earth itself.
We might be smart enough by then to figure out how to make a mass exodus to Mars to escape the solar fires, but even that will be temporary. Presupposing we did manage to survive the flames, the sun will eventually contract and cool off. The problem will then become one of dealing with the intense cold instead of the searing heat.
If we are then advanced enough technologically to travel to another star system to escape our dead one, it will only delay the inevitable once again because no star lasts forever, nor will the universe itself. There are even some theories that matter itself will be torn apart as the fabric of space continues to expand leaving only an unimaginably cold, dark, nothingness behind.
Just as death is an inescapable fact of life for the individual, so it will be eventually be for everything if there is no God to intervene. (Personally, I like the ending of Revelation 21 and 22 a whole lot better!)
I hope this article and its predecessor have provided something for both believers and non-believers to ponder and hopefully discuss, should the opportunity arise. If you, like me, are a believer, then you have real reason to hope for the future. Perhaps the arguments here may help in convincing others that our hope is a genuine one and one in which they, too, can share.