The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

We All Believe in Something

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All worldviews are by definition belief systems. A person does not have to believe in God to be considered religious. “Richard Dawkins has publicly admitted: ‘I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.’”[1] How would the atheist react if a Christian wrote in a similar way? “I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of a sovereign God.” John H. Dietrich admits that he is a religious humanist.

For centuries the idea of God has been the very heart of religion; it has been said, “No God, no religion.” But humanism thinks of religion as something very different and far deeper than any belief in God. To it, religion is not the attempt to establish right relations with a supernatural being, but rather the unpreaching and aspiring impulse in a human life. It is the striving for its completest fulfillment, and anything which contributes to this fulfillment is religious, whether it be associated with the idea of God or not.[2]

Since we are all limited in knowledge (omniscience) and restrained by our inability to be everywhere (omnipresence), an atheist puts forth his claim that God does not exist in terms of a faith commitment. When the late Carl Sagan wrote, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,”[3] he was making a declaration of faith, a statement of his chosen unverified and non-provable ultimate presupposition. There is no way he could be assured that God does not exist based on his limited knowledge and experience and the limited knowledge and experience of others. Sagan admitted that “the size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding.”[4] Even so, he tried to convince himself and others that the material world was all that existed. He believed one thing to be true and dismissed any worldview that did not conform to it without having all the facts or the ability to understand fully what he did know. Sagan’s assertions do not conform to reality. Greg Koukl describes the inevitability of belief:

Everybody believes something, and even what appears to be a rejection of all beliefs is a kind of belief. We all hold something to be true. Maybe what you hold true is that nothing else is true, but that is nonetheless something you believe.

Even if you are agnostic, you believe that it is not possible to know things about ultimate issues like the existence of God. You believe in the justifiability of your agnosticism—your uncertainty—and you have a burden of proof to justify your unwillingness to decide. There is nowhere someone can stand where he or she has no beliefs.

If you reject Christianity, there is something else that you end up asserting by default.[5]

Once a person rejects Christianity, he has not set himself free from the concept of faith. He has only transferred his faith to something or someone else.

For Sagan, the cosmos is god, a glorious accidental substitute for what he assured himself were ancient, pre‑scientific beliefs about the deity and the origin and nature of the universe. The very idea of a personal God, in Sagan’s worldview, is simply “the dreams of men.”[6] Even so, Sagan’s worldview is fundamentally religious. He did not entertain the possibility that his own worldview was simply the dreams of an atheist. Sagan’s starting point—his ultimate presupposition—evaluates all that he sees or doesn’t see in the cosmos. There is no belief more fundamental. All that follows in the Cosmos worldview is measured by his one‑sentence, presuppositional yardstick: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” William Fix doesn’t allow Sagan to get away with his claim of “objectivity”:

When Sagan excludes even the possibility that a spiritual dimension has any place in his cosmos—not even at the unknown, mysterious moment when life began—he makes accidental evolution the explanation for everything. Presented in this way, evolution does indeed look like an inverted religion, a conceptual golden calf, which manages to reek of sterile atheism. It is little wonder that many parents find their deeper emotions stirred if they discover this to be the import of Johnny’s education.[7]

Sagan worshiped an eternal cosmos that he presupposed is an evolutionary substitute for the eternal God of the Bible who gives life and meaning to the cosmos. Sagan says it like this: “It is the universe that made us. . . . We are creatures of the cosmos. . . . Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed, not just to ourselves, but also to that cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.”[8] The primordial biotic soup nourished our ancient ancestors as they emerged from that first ocean of life. These memories, according to Sagan, are eternally etched on our evolved psyche.

The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to return. These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble whatever gods may be.[9]

How can anyone know this? Such a belief is nothing more than a hypothesis, and not a very good one at that. This isn’t science. It borders on mysticism. Sagan makes it clear that there are no transcendent personal “gods” in his universe, only “accidents”[10] that somehow developed into design and meaning.

At times, however, Sagan muses rhapsodic over a seemingly benign reverence for the cosmos that hints at a deep religious commitment to atheism and elements of paganism. “Our ancestors worshipped the sun,” he reflects, “and they were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and the stars, because we are their children.”[11] But who made the cosmos? How did the cosmos get here? Why is there design, order, and complexity in the cosmos? Sagan never answered these questions. He couldn’t as long as the cosmos is all that is ever was or ever will be, and he remained a finite creature who had limited knowledge of the universe and access to it.

Defending the biblical worldview means pointing out that all of us argue from a non-neutral starting point. None of us is objective. The facts are interpreted in terms of out belief patterns, our presuppositions. The Christian is not given an option of arguing from a supposed neutral starting point. If he begins with the assumption that God’s Word is not true, then he adopts the worldview assumptions of unbelievers and is a fool, biblically speaking. And that’s the worst kind.

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Endnotes:

[1] “Dawkins made this remark in response to a question posed by the New York Times to a number of prominent scientists: ‘What do you believe what you cannot prove?’ The published responses on January 4, 2005.” Quoted in Robert Royal, (February 17, 1984), 12. The God that Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West (New York: Encounter Books, 2006), xii, 277.
[2] Quoted in Cornelius Loew, Modern Rivals to Christian Faith (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1956), 11.
[3] Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), 4.
[4] Sagan, Cosmos, 4.
[5] Greg Koukl, “You’ve Got to Believe Something,” The Plain Truth (January/February 1999), 39.
[6] Sagan, Cosmos, 257.
[7] William R. Fix, The Bone Peddlers: Selling Evolution (New York: Macmillan, 1984), xxiv.
[8]
From the 13-hour long television presentation of Cosmos aired in the fall of 1980. Quoted in Richard A. Baer, Jr., “They Are Teaching Religion in the Public Schools,” Christianity Today
[9]
Sagan, Cosmos, 5.
[10] Sagan, Cosmos, 30.
[11] Quoted in Baer, “They Are Teaching Religion in the Public Schools,” 13.

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