This is the first in a 6 part series.
As some of you may know, I am not an atheist. Nor am I an agnostic. I am also not a professional bowler, nor do my feet smell like roses. I could list other attributes about myself, but I think these four are pretty revealing, and enough for what I want to write about for the next six blogs or so.
A few months ago, I was talking with someone online who was an atheist. In the course of the conversation, I tried to explain that Atheism required as much faith as believing in God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He tried to explain that Atheism is not faith, but a lack of faith, specifically in God. And no matter what I said to him, he went back to this one point. I politely bowed out of our very cordial discussion (it really was!) and I got to thinking. A lot. For about five months! My first thought was a simple one: what is faith? This led to a second thought: why am I a Christian, and not an atheist? From this came a third thought: am I out of peanut butter already (that last thought has little to do with this blog, but it did prompt me to buy a large container that I now keep in my drawer at work. True story!) So this series which I am writing, is the outcome of the mental gymnastics I have been doing since that encounter.
What I want to do over the next few days is explain why I couldn’t be an atheist. I want to explain why my faith isn’t strong enough to believe in the absence of God. From the start, I have to tell you that I am not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. There are many great authors (both Christian and not) who have tackled this subject with much greater finesse than I ever could. But I am not here to prove anyone wrong. I don’t expect anything I do to convert anyone to a knowledge of God. Rather this is just an explanation of why my faith is what it is. So please forgive the typos, the inadvertent strawman, and the occasional Occam's Razor. Like I said, I am by no means an expert in Apologetics. If anything, the older I get the more I realize just how naïve I am.
To make this easier for me, I am breaking it down into six topics. They follow, at least in my head, a logical order where the one builds upon the next. I’ll outline them briefly now, and get into them over the next few days. After that, I will start on the first one.
1 – Absolute Truth – My belief that there is absolute truth.
2 – The Second Law of Thermodynamics – My problem with the idea of a random or accidental creation of the universe.
3 – Adolf Hitler and Martha Stewart – The issue of Moral Relativism.
4 – Einstein’s Static Universe – The limitations of man.
5 – The Charlie Brown Principle – The need for meaning in Life.
6 – The Three Monkeys – Denying or acknowledging my own experiences.
Now before I finally begin, let me be clear: there will be quotes from the bible. There will also be other quotes and links to both secular and spiritual sources. And if you are really good, there may even be cake! (OK, the cake part was a lie, but if any of you want to meet for coffee and a pastry, hook me up!) So, on with the show….
Not Enough Faith to be an Atheist:
My First Issue: Absolute Truth
I had a very interesting discussion with an eight-year old recently. We were talking about a time I had told her I had seen a U.F.O. (note: a UFO! I do not claim to have seen an extra-terrestrial, nor am I sure I even believe in intelligent life on other planets. But, I have seen a flying object which I could not identify.) She went on to tell me that UFO’s were not real. I didn’t argue the point as I knew that she meant E.T. phoning home, and not merely sky-bound phenomenon. She then went on to say something else that floored me: “…and ninjas aren’t real either!”
What? What kind of eight-year old doesn’t believe in the awesomeness of ninjas? I tried to explain the role of shinobi in feudal Japan in the 15th century, but she simply refused to believe that ninjas ever really existed. It is a sad world we live in, when ninjas are placed in the same locker of reality as Alf and Santa Claus. I mean, ninjas are amazing! They sneak around in black pajamas, kill people with hollowed-out duck eggs and poison knitting needles, and they get all the best lines in the movies! Who wouldn’t want to believe in ninjas? But try as I might, this stubborn specimen of pre-pubescent intellectualism had no room in her world-view for Japanese pre-industrial super assassins.
As I tried to explain my point further, she then let out the second shocker of the day: “That is just your opinion, Wayne. And I have mine.” So, the existence of ninjas is… opinion? I tried to explain to her the difference between opinion and fact, but no matter what I tried, she simply refused to see that what we were debating was a matter of fact, and not opinion. To be honest, I love talking with this little munchkin. She is extremely intelligent for her age, and believes nothing easily. She searches for proofs and evidences in anything people present to her as facts. But, if she can’t see the logic in it, then she merely files it under “opinion”, allowing both parties to think they are right. (As a side note, this has since become a bit of a bonding point between us! Any time I tell her something she simply cannot believe, she will tell me that ninjas aren’t real, either! LOL!)
This weird little discussion outlines something I very strongly believe in: Ninjas! No, that’s not it… What was it again? Oh yeah… Absolute Truth. I believe that there are some things that are inherently correct and true, what we sometimes call facts. In my opinion, gravity is a fact. I also believe in thermodynamics, the rotation of the earth around the sun, that “A” is the first letter of the Roman alphabet, and millions of other little things (and not so little things.) I am sure that most of what I listed would be agreed upon by 99% or more of the people in the world. I am sure that there would be little room for debate. Sure, you always get the odd job here or there, but most of what we are discussing is considered universal truth.
At this point, some of you may wonder what any of this has to do with God. Well, it is this: Either God is real, or He isn't. This isn't a case for opinion, but a case of fact. Either he exists, or he doesn't. It's really that simple. After all, we are talking about an entity in the universe. So, just like Elvis, unicorns, Ravi Zacharias, and Invader Zim, either God is real, or He is a figment of my imagination.
This may seem trivial, but it isn't. You see, we go back to absolute truth. Either something is real, or it isn't. Obviously, there are those beliefs that fall into opinions, those that are matters of taste, rather than fact. These are the things that are based not upon reality, but our own subjective beliefs. Is blue prettier than white? Does West Ham suck this year? Is Johnny Cash the greatest singer ever? These are all matters of opinion. There is no right or wrong (except that West Ham are rather suck-ish this year...)
And we live in a society that places matters of religion into the category of opinion. But unlike whether broccoli is better cooked or raw, God either is or isn't. So, if God is real, then we have to ask additional questions: what is our relationship to Him, His relationship to us? What obligations do we hold to each other? What, if anything, does He expect of us? You see, if there is a divine Creator, then we are His creation. And just like clay yields to the potter, we must yield to Him. And if He isn't, then we have a moral obligation to... well... what do we have a moral obligation to? (I better tackle that one later.)
Next time, I'll start talking about my first issue of atheistic faith, and that is: The Second Law of Thermodynamics.