We left off with some heady critiques of Christianity. Time to look at some defenses for the Christian position.
C.S. Lewis simplifies this metaphysical debate in his book Miracles. To Lewis, the debate regarding the existence of God is really a debate about borders. The naturalist claims that our reality can be explained within the boundaries of scientific explanation. The naturalist claims that miracles are either scientifically explained events that occur in nature, or else they are tricks of one’s senses. The supernaturalist claims that miracles are events that lie outside of the realm of scientific explanation. The line is easily blurred between the two, as science is not yet advanced enough to explain all of existence. Thus, Lewis argues that we are at an impasse, both sides pushing for the truth of their argument, while the philosopher sees that either view may be true. The jury is simply still out due to insufficient evidence.
The main problem, as I see it, with the atheistic worldview is the inability to explain existence. The following joke outlines this problem quite clearly:
“A scientist believes that he’s found the secret to life.
So, he goes to God and tells him, ‘God, we (humans) don’t need you anymore. I’ve found a way to create life. We’re self sufficient now. It’s time for you to leave.’
God thinks for a second, and then he says, ‘Well, before I go, maybe you should demonstrate how you create life… just in case there’s something wrong with your method… I might be able the help (God, always the humble guy!).
With that, the scientist bends down, picks up a handful of dirt and starts to pat it into a ball, saying ‘I take some dirt, and make it into a ball…’
God interrupts at this point and tells the scientist, ‘No no… get your own dirt.’”
– Author unknown
The point here is that scientific inquiry does have a lot of answers, but I don’t feel that science yet has a satisfactory answer to the origins of existence. And even if science is able to explain the origins of existence, how would we know if it is the correct answer? After all, aren’t these scientific explanations just theories? As with all theories, there are unlimited possibilities, but until we actually experience the truth, none of them has been proven. Think, for example of the early scientific arguments in support of a flat earth. It wasn’t until a more complete theory came along that this worldview was revised. Similarly, maybe we currently subscribe to a worldview that will be revised when a more complete explanation of reality arrives. With any theory of existence, it seems that there is a certain leap of faith required, even if the theory is scientific in nature.
Regardless, the goal here is not to answer whether God exists or not, but instead, it is to discuss the implications of a worldview that does not include God. To Russell, our reality is not very nice. The bad oranges prevail. Justice is missing from the world. There is no reason to be optimistic regarding justice in the world. Without God, we’re left to our own devices. Russell is referring to loneliness and desolation. Nietzsche explains desolation quite well with his outline of nihilism. To Nietzsche, nihilism means, “That the highest values devaluate themselves” The aim is lacking; ‘why?’ finds no answer.” [Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, New York, New York: Vintage Books, 1967, pg 9.] Nihilism argues that existence is meaningless. To the nihilist, there is no universal truth and there is no meaning to life. Similarly, atheists also struggle with a lack of meaning and a loss of universal truth. While many atheists will deny that they lack meaning in their lives, I suspect that they would be hard pressed to offer a reason for existence that is derived outside of themselves.
Next post: Sisyphus and the meaning of life.