Categories
philosophy

Should atheists have children? – Part 2

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.

Todd Dow

Categories
philosophy

Should atheists have children?

Update: Sep 1 2011

I just realized that I never included a disclaimer on this post before I put it live. That would explain some of the nasty comments that were provided on this blog.

This essay was originally submitted as an undergrad paper when I was at the University of Toronto. It was a thought experiment and I was asked to answer the question, “Should Athiests have children?” This was my response. That being said, I would never consider imposing this on anyone in real life. It was a thought experiment. Nothing more.

I do still stand by my original logic on this topic, but I would never impose this on others or expect it to be applied in society.

In fact, out of all of the comments to this story, I am disappointed that nobody highlighted the main logic flaw with my argument (one that I knew when I wrote it, but realized that it could not be avoided). The flaw was that this same argument (of a purposeless existence) could easily be applied from the athiestic’s perspective towards a religious observer. The problem with this debate is that objective proof cannot be provided either way, which means that this debate will continue, with neither side able to completely substantiate their claims.

Regardless, for those that I have offended… relax. I’m not taking your babies away from you.

And, just an FYI that my creative juices are flowing again. I should have some new and original content on this site shortly.

Stay tuned!

Todd

In the next few posts, I will be asking the following question: Is it morally or ethically responsible for an atheist to bring children into the world, since that atheist subscribes to a worldview that is negative.

I will argue that the atheist is being morally and ethically irresponsible by bringing a child into the world since that same atheist subscribes to a worldview that lacks meaning, which I will argue is a terrible form of punishment. Thus, an atheist, by having children, is acting inappropriately by exposing children to not only the dangers of the world in which we live, but also with inadequate responses in the form of healthy worldviews that can be used to cope with these worldly dangers.

First, I will outline what it means to be an atheist, providing examples from Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche. Next I will discuss the negative aspects of the atheistic worldview, thus pointing out the reasons that atheists are being reckless in bringing children into this reality in spite of their negative worldview. Third, I will explain what moral and ethical obligations an atheist has in the world. Finally, I will highlight the contradiction posed by the question of creating life in a meaningless existence. My paper will hinge upon adequately addressing the question of whether or not a life described by atheism is worth living.

Both Bertrand Russell and C.S. Lewis subscribed to similar definitions of atheism:

  • An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. The Christian holds that we can know there is a God; the atheist, that we can know there is not.” – Bertrand Russell, What Is An Agnostic? pg 577
  • Some people believe that nothing exists except Nature; I call these people Naturalists. Others think that, besides Nature, there exists something else: I call them Supernaturalists.” – C.S. Lewis, Miracles, New York, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1947, restored 1996, pg 5-6

Atheism claims that God, as divine creator, is a myth and that the natural world can be completely explained through natural means. Whether or not we, as humans, can comprehend the science behind those natural means is debatable, but regardless, atheists claim that God is not required in our existence.Russell, as an atheist, suggests that the world is generally bad. Russell argues that since, in his opinion, the world is lacking in justice, God must not exist.

  • Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue: ‘The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance,’ You would say: ‘Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment’; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say: ‘Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against a deity and not in favour of one.’” – Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian, pg 591.

To Russell, God is an invention created by those that need God as a safety net: “Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.” [Russell, Christian, pg 591] As with other social critiques of religion, God exists solely to placate the practitioner into feeling comfort that justice will be served in a future life for perceived injustices that are experienced in this life. Using the concept of God, argues the atheist, is too convenience, especially considering the lack of scientific evidence to explain the existence of God. I counter that the scientific evidence is all around us to explain the existence of God.

Next post: C. S. Lewis to the rescue. Defense of the Christian worldview.

Todd Dow