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The Real Consequences of Atheism

March 09, 2014     Time: 23:12
The Real Consequences of Atheism


An atheist blogger gets brutally honest about his view and tells other atheists to quit fooling themselves!

Transcript The Real Consequences of Atheism


Atheist: So what if the earth is vaporized by an expanding sun five billion years from now, or we are all killed by global climate change, or famine, or polluted oceans, or some unknown pandemic? Will we annihilate ourselves with weapons of mass destruction? Or will we just all kill ourselves just to see what comes next? Sooner or later it won’t matter that we were ever here at all . . . and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me whether we live five billion years or five. It will never be enough. The only thing you can do is live them as well as you can. Life is short. Life is meaningless. Life is delicious.

Kevin Harris: Welcome to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig, from time to time in our daily lives somebody stands up and shouts, “Wait! Stop the presses! This is what it is all about.” What we have is a comment that I think is very telling from an atheist who says, “Wait a minute. Do you know exactly what it is that we are talking about? That is, the real consequences of adopting an atheistic worldview.” I guess, Bill, from time to time this might be kind of jarring because a lot of what I hear coming from the New Atheist and the atheist community is trying to be positive and have their own charities and be more organized and even have their own songs, and all this positive and giving and being in community in the midst of life just like everybody else.

Dr. Craig: Yes, exactly. They would say you don’t need God for all of those positive endeavors and so what difference does it make?

Kevin Harris: “We can participate in that as well as you religious people. We can be good without God, and all those things.” Yeah. We definitely agree with this. Then an atheist comes along and drops a big wrench in the works by making this comment. This is on Wintery Knight’s blog.[1] Let’s listen. he says,

[To] all my Atheist friends.

Let us stop sugar coating it. I know, it’s hard to come out and be blunt with the friendly Theists who frequent sites like this. However in your efforts to “play nice” and “be civil” you actually do them a great disservice.

We are Atheists. We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself. While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not. Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time. But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination. They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past. They got us here. That’s it. All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose. Ex: I’ll marry and nurture children because my genes demand reproduction, I’ll create because creativity served a survival advantage to my ancient ape ancestors, I’ll build cities and laws because this allowed my ape grandfather time and peace to reproduce and protect his genes. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die. That is our bible.

Well, let's stop right there, Bill. Is that a pretty good synopsis?

Dr. Craig: Well, I think what he explains is the consequences of naturalism for moral values and duties. His claim is that if atheism is true then what we perceive to be moral values and duties are really just figments of our imagination ingrained into us by biological and social conditioning.

Kevin Harris: He goes on to say,

We deride the Theists for having created myths and holy books. We imagine ourselves superior. But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc. Rubbish. We are nurturing a new religion, one where we imagine that such conventions have any basis in reality. Have they allowed life to exist? Absolutely. But who cares? Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife. Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me. Some of my Atheist friends have fooled themselves into acting like the general population.[2] They live in suburban homes, drive Toyota Camrys, attend school plays. But underneath they know the truth. They are a bag of DNA whose only purpose is to make more of themselves. So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen. Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one. You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all. When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife.

I know it’s not PC to speak so bluntly about the ramifications of our beliefs, but in our discussions with Theists we sometimes tip toe around what we really know to be factual. Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may. At least that’s what my genes are telling me to say.

There's the end of the quote right there.

Dr. Craig: The odd thing about this fellow is that he derides other atheists who choose to live nice, polite, civil lives. He claims that they are actually inferior atheists. I wonder if he actually thinks that the superior atheist is one who lives a sort of libertine lifestyle who will go out and have sexual intercourse with your neighbor's wife, steal, even murder if that serves his own purposes? He seems to think that the enlightened atheist really ought to just completely abandon any kind of moral code of behavior.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, and he says, “So what? Because we are just blips. We are just bags of DNA trying to reproduce. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. So why be politically correct and why are you guys trying to look like Christians? Why are you trying to look like theists?” Our friend Frank Turek says, “We sit in the lap of God in order to slap his face.” We are steeped in Christian heritage and culture in so many ways in polite society. He just really kind of lays it out there.

Dr. Craig: Right. This is one of the consequences of denying a transcendent source or grounding for moral values and duties. You are just left with the physical, material world. It is hard to find any sort of place in that for objective moral values and duties. It is very difficult to see where these would come from on a naturalistic worldview.

Kevin Harris: Bill, are we right to think that this doesn't show that atheism is false, but does it mitigate everything he's laid out here? Does it mitigate against our most basic intuitions to show that this just isn't right?

Dr. Craig: Well, I do think that that is a very good question, Kevin. We need to ask, “Wait a minute. How do you know these things?” You notice there really wasn't much argument in this blog. It was mainly assertion. For example, I noticed in his second paragraph he said, “While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, and civility seem to exist, we know they do not.” And I thought, “Really? How do you know that? What is your argument?” He says,

Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past . . . But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination.

And my thought is, “Really? What is your proof?” That may be true given the truth of naturalism, given the truth of atheism, but why should we think that? Why should we think that our concepts of morality have no objective referent in reality, no objective truth? He doesn't really give any argument for that. At most he says that our beliefs are the product of our societal and evolutionary conditioning. Now, if that is meant to be an argument against their objective truth, that is a textbook example of the genetic fallacy, which is trying to explain away something – explain away a thing's truth – by showing how that belief originated. Even if it's true that our moral beliefs originated through social and biological conditioning, that doesn't show that those beliefs are false.[3] That would be to commit the genetic fallacy. So there is a real shortage of argument here for why we should think that our moral judgments are not true. Granted that they would be false on naturalism – that is not a proof that therefore they are false.

Kevin Harris: According to that worldview, they would be false. If this worldview is true. So you are back to really defending your overarching worldview.

Dr. Craig: Yes, that's exactly right. So give me your argument that naturalism is true. Indeed, the fact that I apprehend objective moral values and duties can give me a very good reason for denying that naturalism is true. Because on naturalism, moral realism is false but I can respond, “I think I have good reasons for thinking moral realism is true.” It really is objectively good to be a loving, kind, tolerant person. And it is objectively evil to be murderous, hateful, self-centered, and so forth. So why should I regard these moral judgments as false or illusory? All I see is this argument about how those beliefs originated, but that is a genetic fallacy.

Kevin Harris: Richard Dawkins said in River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.[4]

An elegant way of putting basically what we just heard.

Dr. Craig: Yes, exactly. Again, one would want to know, “Why think that is true?”

Kevin Harris: And yet Richard Dawkins, boy, he sure is a crusader for what he sees as the evils of the world and for the good.

Dr. Craig: Yes, he is just completely inconsistent. Where he says things of this nature, for example, in his The God Delusion, he also then condemns discrimination against homosexuals, the Amish treatment of their children, parents teaching creationism to their children. His book is just full of moral judgments and denunciations, none of which have any truth or objective validity on his view.

Kevin Harris: When you think about it, when he talks about this whole “We are just results of our DNA which neither knows nor cares; that it is pitiless,” yet he believes we should show pity. He says, “DNA doesn't and we just dance to its music.” Well, apparently not. Because if DNA that is singing the tune is pitiless but yet we are people who show pity and show great value as he does of showing pity on the unfortunate, well then he is certainly not dancing with the music.

Dr. Craig: Well, he would say that is ingrained into us because we are social animals, and just as a troop of baboons will exhibit cooperative and even altruistic behavior because natural selection has determined that that will be advantageous in the struggle for survival, so their primate cousins Homo sapiens have developed this herd morality that helps us perpetuate our species in the struggle for survival. But on Dawkins view it has no objective validity or binding force. There is not really anything wrong with child molestation or racial discrimination or wife abuse or things of that sort. All of these things are morally neutral on his naturalism.

Kevin Harris: William Provine in his debate with Philip Johnson – William Provine of Cornell – says,

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

Dr. Craig: Well, I would say no ultimate foundation for those things in biology. But, of course, that isn't the question. That would be naturalism. He is saying there is no room in naturalism for those things. But that is not what modern evolutionary biology teaches. That is what the philosophy of naturalism teaches.[5] But if there is a transcendent God who has created us and the universe, then even if he used the evolutionary process to bring about Homo sapiens on this planet, it would not follow that there is no foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will. So the listener needs to understand that although these are presented as judgments of science, these are actually philosophical judgments based in a philosophy of naturalism, and they are masquerading as though these were the deliverances of the sciences.

Kevin Harris: What I have often heard is that there may not be any ultimate meaning, the atheist says, but there is subjective, temporary meaning that we can make for ourselves.

Dr. Craig: Yes, I am sure all of these authors that you have quoted would agree with that, Kevin. Remember the first author said if you want to imagine these sorts of things, go ahead. Who cares. That's all right for you to believe those things. But they have no objective validity. So it is basically illusory. You are deluded if you believe and follow these myths.

Kevin Harris: That would tend to take the wind out of the sails of your subjective meaning and purpose that you erected for yourself.

Dr. Craig: I think it would. I think it is impossible to live happily and consistently within the framework of a naturalistic worldview. Although you may give lip service to the view that the projects and plans you pursue have no objective meaning, that it is just subjective, or that the values that you affirm and care about like the worth of your own children, or your wife's love for you, that these are merely illusions. I don't think you can really live that way. You really believe that those things are valuable and have an objective validity, and only by so doing are you able to manage to get through life in a reasonably happy way.

Kevin Harris: Wintery Knight in his blog here gives one more quote. I'll just let you synapsize it, Bill, because you've used Michael Ruse's quotation many times in your work. That is that morality is just a biological adaptation.

Dr. Craig: Exactly. This is the quote that I have often used from Ruse where he says that morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction and any deeper meaning is illusory. I would only disagree with him when he says that this is the position of the modern evolutionist. He seems to be implying there, again, that this is what evolutionary theory teaches us when in fact it makes no such statement at all because science can't make statements about ethics. These are philosophical conclusions that flow out of a philosophy of naturalism and they are masquerading as though they were the implications of evolutionary biology when in fact evolutionary biology is just neutral with respect to facts of morality. Ethics is not something that is open to the scientific method in terms of establishing its truth or objectivity.

Kevin Harris: Bill, in conclusion today, I want to ask you to give us some guidance on dealing with this, with our friends who are skeptical, are atheists, who are buying into the New Atheist movement. It troubles me to have to remind them from time to time of these quotes that we just said. But at the same time, I am compelled to do it because we are not skipping down the Primrose Path together even though we'd like to think we are. Even though there are real friendships going on between atheists and theists as we interact.

Dr. Craig: In my own personal apologetic, you will remember this comes up in two places. One is the absurdity of life without God where I argue that if God does not exist then life is ultimately without meaning, value, or purpose. I try to draw out the existential implications of atheism as a way of motivating the apathetic person to begin to really think about these issues. The other place that this surfaces is in the moral argument for God's existence, the first premise of which is that if God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. So, I love it when they say things like this because you can appeal to their own writers in support of that first premise. We can say to them, “I think you are absolutely right given the truth of naturalism. You have correctly discerned the consequences of a naturalistic worldview. I am 100% with you. If God does not exist, then there are no objective moral values and duties. You are right.[6]

Kevin Harris: And you said something along the lines once of, “Even if the evidence were 50/50, who in the world would want to lean toward such a negative, depressing, dark view?”

Dr. Craig: That was with regard to the absurdity of life without God. If we do come to the conclusion that on atheism life is ultimately without meaning, value, or purpose, then surely we ought to ask ourselves, “Is atheism true? Why should we embrace a view of the world that leads only to despair? Perhaps God does exist.” It is in that context that I said if the evidence is equal and doesn't incline either way – if it is 50/50 – then it seems to me that the rational thing to do is prefer theism. If the evidence is equal then it would be positively irrational to prefer death, meaninglessness, and despair to life, significance, and value.

Kevin Harris: I am trying to wipe as many bugs off the windshield as I can here so we can see as clearly as possible here, Bill. And that is, again, you are not saying that because I couldn't stand it if there was no afterlife, and there was no God, I just couldn't handle that, therefore, I have to just come up with all this stuff to convince myself that it is not true. And the atheist says, “Oh, no, it is true and you need to face it.” That is not the argument or even the contention. The contention is, “Look, when you look at life and the transcendental aspects of life, when you look at love and all these things, naturalism as you've described it and this despair just doesn't seem to be true.” Not that “I don't want it to be that way therefore I am going to sure it up and use my imagination,” and he says, “Who cares if you do that?” Rather, it just doesn't seem to be true intuitively, obviously, historically. That is not the way people live. And it seems to be from a philosophical word that you used – it's unlivable.

Dr. Craig: Yes, you'll remember, Kevin, the last time we recorded podcasts, we had that letter from a young mother who had been an atheist and freethinker most of her life until she had her first child. She said as she held that baby in her arms she realized, “I cannot deny that intrinsic moral worth exists. Here is a human person who has intrinsic moral value.” That caused her then to give up her naturalism and atheism. That is quite consistent. If p implies q, and q is false, then that means p is false as well. That is just logical.[7]