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Atheism Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

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In her interview with marathon swimmer Diana Nyad — the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage — Oprah Winfrey said she believed in something greater than herself but did not go so far as to say that she believed in a personal god.

Nyad said that she was an atheist but found herself “in awe” of the cosmos. Oprah could not understand how someone who could be so awestruck by the vastness and beauty of the cosmos could not believe in a god-like entity.

“I don’t call you an atheist, then,” Winfrey said. “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery — that is what God is . . .  God is not the bearded guy in the sky.” Is God an abstraction? God is certainly not a “bearded guy in the sky,” but He’s a whole lot more than wonder and mystery. God is not like the impersonal Force of Star Wars.

With an impersonal “god,” man is sovereign. He becomes the definer of what is worth awe and wonder. Atheists and New Agers like Oprah agree that the cosmos must be impersonal so they can define it and ultimately control it.

“Cosmic impersonalism necessarily has to exclude any concept of final causation, since there can be no personal, directing agent who has created our world in order to achieve certain ends. Without a directing agent — a conscious, powerful planner — the concept of purpose is meaningless. Modern science denies the doctrine of transcendent cosmic personalism, so it also has to deny teleology [purpose], except with reference to the goals of man or men. It is man, and only man, who has brought purpose into the rationalist’s universe.” [1]

Oprah is as confused as Nyad as this exchange shows:

“I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching being who created all of this and sees over it,” Nyad said. “But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals, and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel the treasure of it.”

Winfrey agreed: “Well, I believe that and feel that so deeply. It’s why every time I enter my yard or leave, I say, ‘Hello trees!’”

The rationalists have become irrational. Atheists who claim that reason is the operating directive for what’s real and right must argue for a cosmos that came into existence spontaneously. This is the height of irrationality, and yet it forms the basis of the “there-is-no-god” worldview. New-Ager Oprah is talking to trees. There’s not much difference in the PhD atheist and the tree-conversing talk-show host.

Contrary to all her protestations, Nyad is not an atheist. “So to me,” Nyad told Oprah, “my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.” Nyad has her own version of religion. All so-called atheists transfer their belief in the God they truly know and suppress (Rom 1:18–23; cf. Ps. 14:1) to a belief system of their own making: “For they exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:25).

This confused and bizarre exchange outraged atheists. They want an apology from Oprah for denigrating their belief system. They’re offended. But how can electrically charged globs of matter that will one day return to the ground and become “dust in the wind” be offended? The elements of the Periodic Table are not offended when they’re used to make a destructive atomic weapon or a batch of methamphetamine.

The elements that make up the human body aren’t offended at or by anything. How can the combination of some of those elements express “awe” and “love” as Nyad claims for her brand of religion?

For an atheist, humans, animals, and plants are nothing but matter animated by the effects of electricity. Of course, no atheist actually lives consistently within the confines of the materialist belief system, no matter how hard he or she tries. Lester Frank Ward argued that “nature has neither feeling nor will, neither consciousness nor intelligence,” [2] and yet he wrote that sentence to be understood, and in doing so exhibited an intelligence that matter alone cannot account for.

Even atheist high priest Richard Dawkins can’t live consistently with his atheist assumptions:

“All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And it’s exactly this feeling of spine-shivering awe — almost worship this flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder, that modern science can provide.

This isn’t science, but Dawkins can’t live with the full implications of a cosmic impersonal world. He has to infuse it with “ecstatic wonder” that cosmic impersonalism cannot and does not provide. Dawkins has said as much: “The universe is nothing but a collection of atoms in motion, human beings are simply machines for propagating DNA and the propagating of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object’s sole reason for living.” [3]

It’s no wonder that Dawkins and his fellow atheists can’t live consistently as a product of a cosmic machine that replicates itself. In his Devil’s Chaplain, Dawkins wrote, “It is pretty hard to defend absolute morals on anything other than religious grounds. . . . Science has no methods for deciding what’s ethical.” [4]

Dawkins wasn’t the first Darwinist to get nervous with a matter-only cosmos. Thomas Huxley (1825–1895), noted for being an ardent defender of Charles Darwin, described the physical world as “Dame Nature.” Even today, scientists will speak as if Nature is a person doing all kinds of spirited things. Evolution itself is said to do things as if there is an entity called “Evolution.” Michael Poole writes about the attempt to personalize what is necessarily impersonal given atheistic assumptions: “‘Dame Nature,’ like some ancient fertility goddess, had taken up residence, her maternal arms encompassing Victorian scientific naturalism.’” (Quoted in Lennox, God’s Undertaker, 28.))

And it hasn’t stopped. Evolutionists consistently talk about “natural selection” as if there is consciousness in the selection process of selecting short legs over long legs in frogs. A computer program doesn’t create itself. It doesn’t randomly select data unless it’s programmed to randomly selected data.

Atheists need to get consistent with what they say they believe. Matter and electricity can’t be offended or express awe. Given atheistic materialist assumptions about our origin, apologizing to someone is no different from apologizing to a tapeworm or a rock. We’re all made from the safe stuff.

In Season 1, Episode 3 of Breaking Bad, there’s a discussion about the makeup of the human body that takes place between Walter White and Gretchen Schwartz:

Walter White: Let's break it down. Hydrogen. What does that give us?

Gretchen Schwartz: We're looking at 63%.

Walter White: Sixty-three, that is a big bite. My next step’s gotta be oxygen.

Gretchen Schwartz: Oxygen, 26%.

Walter White: Twenty-six. There you have your water.

Gretchen Schwartz: Carbon, 9%.

Walter White: Carbon, 9.

Gretchen Schwartz: For a total of 98%.

Walter White: Right.

Gretchen Schwartz: Nitrogen, 1.25%.

Walter White: One-point-two-five.

Gretchen Schwartz: That brings you to 99 and a quarter. Which only leaves you with the trace elements down where the magic happens.

Walter White: Oh, wait a minute. What about calcium? Calcium's not a trace. Got a whole skeleton to account for.

Gretchen Schwartz: You would think, right? Calcium's only 0.25%.

Walter White: What? That low? Seriously? Damn, I never would've thought that. Okay, so where does iron fit in.

Gretchen Schwartz: Iron. 0.00004%

Walter White: What? You can't have hemoglobin without iron.

Gretchen Schwartz: Apparently, it doesn't take much. No doubt. Go figure.

Walter White: Sodium.

Gretchen Schwartz: Sodium, 0.04%. Phosphorus, 0.19%.

Walter White: Point-one-nine. There we go. So the whole thing adds up to... 99.888042%. We are 0.111958%. Shy.

Gretchen Schwartz: Supposedly that's everything.

Walter White: Yeah? I don't know, it just... it seems like something's missing, doesn't it? There's got to be more to a human being than that.

Gretchen Schwartz: What about the soul?

Walter White: The soul? There's nothing but chemistry here.

A consistent atheist would have to agree with Walter (although they might disagree on the percentages). Chemistry doesn’t care. Chemistry never has to apologize. Did Little Boy and Fat Man have any obligation to apologize to the dead people that were incinerated in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August of 1945?

Former atheist C. S. Lewis encapsulated the inherent moral problem of atheism:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” [5]

Atheism means never having to say you're sorry about anything. Atheists either need to be totally consistent or they need to adopt a better worldview.

  1. Gary North, Sovereignty and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, 2 vols. (Dallas, GA: Point Five Press, 2012), 2:340.[]
  2. Lester Frank Ward, Dynamic Sociology; or Applied Social Science, as Based Upon Statistical and the Less Complex Sciences, 2 vols. (New York: Appleton, [1883] 1907), 2:12.[]
  3. Richard Dawkins, “BBC Christmas Lectures Study Guide” (1991). Quoted in John Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, updated ed. (Oxford, England: Lion Hudson, 2009), 56.[]
  4. A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2003), 39.[]
  5. C. S. Lewis, “The Rival Conceptions of God,” Mere Christianity (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1956), 31.[]
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