Atheists and non-atheists are going to debate the topic ‘Would the World Be Better off Without Religion?’ this evening at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The debate will start at 6:45 p.m. and last until 8:30 p.m., November 15, 2011. Here are the debate participants:
British philosopher and professor A.C. Grayling, who has written more than 20 books on philosophy, religion and reason, will team up with Matthew Chapman, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, to argue against religion. David Wolpe, Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, and Dinesh D’Souza, president of the King’s College in NYC, are set to oppose.
I have to say that I never would have agreed to the debate topic. First, it implies that atheism is not a religion. Atheism is a belief system. An atheist believes things about the origin of the universe and the meaning or non-meaning of life. All an atheist can say is what he believes. He does not know everything, so he can not say what that he knows enough to be dogmatic about his atheism.
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Second, an evolutionist cannot know if something or someone is ever “better off.” Better off implies a standard. “Better” assumes that something can be “worse.” There was a time in evolution’s past that the strong overpowered, killed, and many times ate the weaker competitor. It happens every day in the wild, as the saying goes, “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” Homo sapiens are the result of long ago superior animal ancestors forcing their will on inferior animals. We got here, say the evolutionists, because of millions of years of bloody struggle. Maybe someone like Adolf Hitler was ahead of his time, one of evolution’s “hopeful monsters” who was born out of evolutionary time. He did what he did because he believed in evolutionary necessity. How can an atheist say otherwise? How does he know the world is worse off because of what the Nazi’s did?
Third, and related to the second point, how does the evolutionist account for good and evil in a universe that had a material beginning? At best, good and evil are what the majority of people at a given time say good and evil are. There is no fixed ultimate standard. There is no one standing outside ourselves judging us. There are no cosmic rules or cosmic sanctions. All judging of what’s “good” and “evil” is socially determined. But one generation’s definition of good and evil is another generation’s evil and good. Who’s to say otherwise? The high priest of atheistic evolution Richard Dawkins says as much:
In the universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Houseman put it:
For nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither know nor care.
DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.1
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One has to wonder why Dawkins would ever write such nonsense even if he believes it. But he does believe it. He has to believe it. It’s his religion.
Fourth, for the two atheists, tonight’s debate hinges on Christianity being true. The two atheist-evolutionists will continually borrow from the worldview they deny to criticize that same worldview. Again, Dawkins makes the case for us: “Natural selection is a deeply nasty process. . . . Human super niceness is a perversion of Darwinism because, in a wild population, it would be removed by natural selection. . . . From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human super niceness is just plain dumb.” Even so, Dawkins’ life depends on the reality of “human super niceness.” The problem is, he and his fellow atheists can’t account for it given the operating assumptions of their materialistic worldview.
I hope those from the religion side understand and use these points. They are irrefutable. Even the reason the two atheists will use to debate this evening can’t be accounted for given the process of “something from nothing” evolutionary beginnings.
- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 133.(↩)