This blog follows on from question #333 on Science and Religion.
I have a son who was once active in the church. He was a deacon and about to be considered for the eldership when he left the church and his wife and our grandkids. He now says he is an atheist. He says he isn’t angry at God, he just studied himself out of faith. We are beside ourselves and don’t know what to say or do to reach him.
As heart breaking as this is, it isn’t rare. I get these kind of notes or calls a few times a month and have for years. Even though some have argued against it, I still say that no one is an atheist because of the science. They are atheist because the universe isn’t being run the way they would run it if they were God. I meet a lot of atheists and I have met only two or three who have not, after I’ve known them for awhile, admitted that they were angry or upset at God for something. For some, it is as simple as the fact that they were frustrated in their marriage and God wouldn’t answer their prayers to change their spouse, making them more responsive sexually or more responsible financially, etc. For others, it is because an elder sexually abused their child or, in Richard Dawkins’ case, they themselves were sexually and physically abused by priests or nuns who ran their parochial school. There are a thousand ways to get angry at God and a thousand ways to use that anger as energy to walk out faith’s door into the world.
There are other ways to lose faith in God, of course. I began to struggle with my faith back when I was a young teenager and I heard yet another sermon against dancing (all forms, everywhere) where the Bible word lasciviousness meant dancing. A slightly older friend questioned the absolute prohibition on dancing our church held as an article of faith so I decided to prove he was wrong. I had access to libraries (I almost lived way back in the stacks of libraries; places forbidden to most. The librarians got tired of getting so many books for me so they just let me go get my own!) so I grabbed every Greek lexicon I could find along with a good set of commentaries. When I found out that lasciviousness didn’t mean dancing and, in fact, dancing never occurred even deep down in the alternative definitions, my faith developed a crack. I wondered what else I was being told that might not be true. When I went to defend our weekly practice of the Lord’s Supper (Sunday only, every Sunday) as obedience to God’s law and found out all we really had to back that up was an assumption we made about one verse (Acts 20:7) while we ignored all the other verses that indicated it could also be a daily practice… my faith developed another crack.
Let me put it this way and cut to the chase: when we hand our traditions to our children and declare that they are God’s law and not questionable, we are setting them up to fall away from faith. And they do. In droves.
Others, however, become atheists or agnostics only after their faith questions run into what seem to be the assurance of science that the Bible is unreliable, faith is a biological defense mechanism that arose through evolutionary processes, and evidence abounds that everything had a naturalistic origin… they break. They become too wise to be people of faith. This shouldn’t surprise us for the Bible tells us that this has always happened. Romans 1 goes into some detail about those who walk away from the Creator to worship, instead, creation. 2 Peter 1:16 says that we don’t preach “cunningly devised fables” when we speak of Jesus, but scripture says that others love to devise myths, even calling some of them “science” (1 Tim. 6:20). Paul repeatedly warns us not to fall for the fables that he sees our Enemy already bringing against our faith (e.g. 2 Thess. 2:10-12; 1 Tim. 4:6,7; 1 Tim. 1:3,4). In case you didn’t know — atheism was already present and powerful during the time of Paul. Evolutionary theory did not start with Darwin (he merely postulated a process for it and popularized it). No, long before Jesus’ birth men of philosophy and science (considered one and the same at that time) taught that there were no gods and that all life and elements spontaneously arose from natural processes. Their cunningly devised fables were already popular among the intelligentsia.
When I first sit down with a non-believer, I ask them, “What do we know?” I go on to explain my question. I am not asking about what we think, assume, or hypothesize. I am asking about what laws of science are so solid and replicable and observable that we KNOW them. We know that something doesn’t come from nothing (more on that later). We know that order does not flow from chaos. We know that intelligence does not arise spontaneously. We know that energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed. We know that time degrades all systems and elements within those systems. These are laws of physics — the traffic laws of the universe. And every single one of them stands completely opposed to the spontaneous creation of the universe and life that we find taught in our textbooks.
Science departments know that this is a serious flaw and that if knowledge of this gets out into the wider culture, they will lose their very lucrative and powerful position in society. So… they are devising fables as fast as they can. However, some wise and fearless men and women are now speaking out. The best one volume treatment exposing the fables and the bizarre way they are presented as science I have found so far is David Berlinski’s book “The Devil’s Delusion.” Berlinski is one of the smartest men I know and his position is powerful enough that he fears no attack (Ph.D. from Princeton, former Fellow at the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and also at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques). Dawkins and others dismiss him because he is part of the Intelligent Design movement but they have never, ever examined or answered his arguments. As we saw in #333, they dismiss his evidence without looking at it because their religion/science requires it.
Over the next few blogs, I will try to distill for the non-specialist reader what Berlinski and others have shown: science is no longer science when it ignores what we KNOW and, instead, follows cunningly devised fables hoping against hope that one day they will find a way to live without God.