Shortcomings of atheism
Is atheism a sensible worldview or not? Read why it is difficult to explain the existence of rationality and morality on the basis of atheism
Many atheists are convinced that if atheism were the prevailing view in society, it would positively lead society forward. They think that if there were more atheists and like-minded people in society, we could expect to experience a better future. Whereas, they reject Christian theism, which they see as an old-fashioned, false view. They are also happy to bring up the thousands of injustices done in the name of God, while not understanding that those are the result of apostasy and people’s ignorance to the teachings of Jesus and the disciples. Heinous acts did not occur because people followed the teachings of Jesus and the disciples, but because they did not follow them.
But is atheism itself a rational and useful worldview? While atheists believe so, there are, in fact, fundamental problems to it. One of the major issues is the fact that atheism provides no basis for rationality or morality. Hence, we will examine these topics in more detail.
1. NO BASIS FOR RATIONALITY. If you talk to atheists (the author is himself a former atheist and evolutionist), you will very soon find that they consider themselves scientific, progressive, and wise. That is also one reason why they turn their backs on the Christian faith. Atheists do not believe the Christian faith to be reasonable or true, nor do they believe that God created everything. Instead, they believe the universe and life came about spontaneously, without reason and knowledge. They think that the origin of the universe and life is without reason, and that we have evolved — after life came about spontaneously — from lower animals.
There is a but. That is, this way of thinking holds a big problem. If we did evolve from lower animals such as fish, reptiles, and ape-like creatures, how can anyone rely on their own and others’ reasoning and knowledge? Can information from fish, reptiles, and ape-like creatures be reliable? While a person, such as an atheist, may consider him or herself intelligent and rational, there is reason to doubt the rationality of his or her thoughts. Their supposed wisdom may be misreasoning. This applies to atheists and everyone else.
An even bigger problem arises from our supposed origin from the Big Bang, in which there was no life, no emotion, and no rationality. Atheists assume this notion is true, but it is difficult to explain how a stone-like inorganic matter could begin to speak, feel emotions (joy, sorrow, anger, fear, infatuation, love ...), and think rational thoughts. Atheists consider themselves wise, but if you think about this with common sense, it starts to lose credibility. Stones and inorganic matter do not spontaneously become sentient and rational (or begin to eat and reproduce). Atheism, and the assumption of the rationality of an atheist, is thus a self-cancelling doctrine.
Darwin had to admit this, as well. He noted that if a person has evolved from lower life forms, his or her beliefs may not be reliable:
I have awful doubts of whether or not the convictions of the human mind are of any value, whether they are at all reliable taking into account the fact that the human mind was evolved from the minds of less developed animals. Would anybody trust convictions generated in the mind of an ape, if there are any such convictions in the minds of apes? (1)
2. NO BASIS FOR MORALITY. Another problem with atheism, and what the last century has shown to be true, is the weakness of moral foundation. If there is no God and no faith in Him, there are no all-binding, objective, definitive values. There is no authority beyond humans in atheism, whereas according to the Christian faith, for example, there are ethical guidelines that are all-binding (the teaching of Jesus and the disciples). This does not mean that an atheist could not be moral, it is only that they have no objective basis for their morality in this mindset. People are not allowed to talk any more about evil than they talk about goodness, because those are personal and time-bound perceptions (“My morals, your morals, etc.”). Everyone can define their own values since ethics and morality are not related to God. Who could then claim, for example, that Saddam Hussein’s morals were either better or worse than other people’s morals?
Moreover, if one does not believe that they are responsible for any of their actions, it is easy for them to end up doing wrongful things to others. This perspective is logical, and anyone can understand it. The belief that there is nothing after this life certainly influences behavior. Such a belief can diminish the motivation to do good.
Instead, the awareness that God exists and that our actions matter, make one hold back from wrongful acts. If we really believe that we are accountable for what we have done and how we have treated others, we are not so eager to act against others. It makes us act a little better. It limits evil more effectively than the assumption that there is no God and no judgment after this life.
Croatian- born Yale University professor Miroslaw Volf, who has seen violence in the Balkans, refers to the same idea. He states that the spiral of revenge in the Balkans is not due to faith in God but because people reject the idea of God’s judgment. Only faith in a perfectly righteous God, and that judgment and revenge belong to Him, can cause one to refrain from revenge in a case where their relatives have been killed or raped:
If God was not angry about injustice and deceit and would not put an end to violence permanently - such a God would not be worthy of worship. - - The only way to prevent ourselves from ever resorting to violence is to insist that violence is justified only when it comes from God, - - My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires faith in divine revenge is to be unpopular with many - - in the West. - - But the peace of a suburban home is needed to give rise to a thesis that man's nonviolence is due to the belief that God refuses to judge. In a sun-scorched land that is soaked in the blood of the innocent - - it withers without fail - - like other prisoners who please the liberal thinking. (2)
What about the injustices of the last century? It was during that time that by far the most widespread human rights violations of humanity were committed, but why did they happen? The best explanation is certainly that the Christian faith lost its significance, and atheism took over. For example, Germany was a leading country in liberal theology and religious criticism in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, Darwin's theory contributed to the diminishing importance of the Christian faith throughout Europe. Darwin’s theory reinforced the notion that God does not exist and that we are therefore not accountable to Him for what we do.
The following quote refers to its early development. In Germany, for example, massive crowds left the church, and atheistic worldview and morality took over people’s minds. The book was published just five years before World War II.
From time to time in many countries there have been masses of people leaving the church after a war. And so 305 000 people left the Evangelic church in Germany in 1920. This fleeing from churches has continued. In 1930, 59 225 people left a Lutheran church in Berlin alone, not to mention those Catholics and Jews, who abandoned their fathers’ belief… We do not need to get too much into the spreading of atheistic ideologies during the 20th century. It is enough said that the number of those, who publicly recognize or silently accept the absolute nonexistence of God, has tremendously increased. Some men, who are considered educated, claim that the modern science makes believing in God impossible. They either completely stop believing in God or state that “science requires new a new concept of God”. This denial of God begins in schools among children. In a few cities thousands of children of the age of 6 to 14 have, all the way from the lowest classes, walked the streets carrying the following stickers: “God out of schools”, “Take down God-superstitions”, Religion is a narcotic” etc. (3)
Other quotations point in the same direction. They show how atheism was at the root of the great injustices of the last century, which exceeded the injustices of previous centuries. Many atheists do not realize this. They are able to see the mistakes of religion — made by the apostate church and because people did not follow the teachings of Jesus and the disciples — but not what is the result of apostasy from God. Known from the last century are e.g. the governments of Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot, as well as the numerous communist states where atheism was the official doctrine.
[What would you say to those, who blame religions?] I would try to make them think about the horrific 20th century, during which we encountered more destruction than ever before. Possibly, along with the destruction of Jews, the greatest crimes were committed by two openly atheistic nations. The Soviet Union with its atheist museum being one and Mao’s China being the other. Both were militantly atheistic. And what did they do? They killed 70 million of their own people. Why won’t we ever hear that this is what atheism causes? There is something devious about it. Why the sins of religion are always so harshly judged (as they should be), but no one ever pays attention to the sins of atheism. (4)
Dr. Paul Johnston, a British historian: “Typical of the 20th century and the primary reason for its terrors, is that people, who gained great carnal power, were not afraid of God and did not believe that any absolute behaviourial code was restricting them.” (5)
The role of Enlightenment in the terrors of the 20th century remains as a blind spot in Western understanding - - Communist governments were founded in pursue of utopian paradigm, which originated from the heart of Enlightenment - - as a side product in the attempt of reshaping one’s life. Pre-modern theocracies didn’t attempt to do this - - The kind of terror that Lenin practiced did not originate from the tzars. (6)
Alexandr Solzenitsyn: Over half a century ago, when I was still a child, I remember hearing many elderly people talking about the disasters that Russia faced like so: “People have forgotten about God; this is all because of it.” After that I have studied the Russian revolution for over 50 years; during that time I have read hundreds of books, collected personal stories and have written eight books myself to research those phases. But, if I were asked to summarize as shortly as possible the primary reason for the horrific revolution, which took ca. 60 million of our people, I could not say it any more clearly than to repeat: People have forgotten about God; this is all because of it.” (7)
Human origin, theory of evolution and morality. As noted, atheism has two major shortcomings: it provides no basis for rationality and morality. On the basis of atheism, it is difficult to justify the rationality of anyone’s mindset (even if the person would consider him or herself intelligent). Likewise, on the basis of atheism, it is difficult to argue for any kind of binding moral values.
What is atheism based on then? Its main scientific basis has been the theory of evolution. Only it provided a scientifically sound basis for atheism and the rejection of God, but also for the rejection of morality. There was no longer any permanent basis for morality because it had no connection to God. Its importance in changing people’s worldview cannot be understated.
With particular reference to the human rights violations and injustices addressed in this text, the theory of evolution itself did not lead to these acts. Instead, this theory influenced people’s worldview in a way that made them question the sanctity and value of human life. It involves e.g. the following factors:
The line between humans and animals became blurred. When it comes to the theory of evolution, it is based on the assumption that all current species stem from a single original cell. This theory is believed even though the spontaneous generation of life has not been proven, and no examples of real species transformations are known. There are no examples of species changing into another in Darwin's book On the Origin of Species, or in any other evolutionary literature. Not even bacteria have been found to change into other bacterial species, let alone into another species-kind. Alan Linton, Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Bristol, has written on the matter:
Throughout the 150-year history of bacteriological research, there is no evidence that the bacterial species has changed to another. (8)
So how did Darwin's theory - even if there is no concrete evidence for it - affect our understanding of humans? In short, it diminished the value of a human. Human life was no longer considered qualitatively different from the rest of the nature. People only saw a slight difference between humans and animals, as humans were thought to have evolved from simple life forms through gradual changes. As a result, it was difficult to draw the line between humans and other living creatures. Humans themselves were seen as subject to constant change like all other creatures. Behind the inhumanities of the last hundred years is a distorted image of the human:
If you find it hard to believe that evolution is related to the above, a few basic examples in history will clearly show this connection. In fact, I have not yet met any knowledgeable evolutionist who disagrees with me on the connection between these moral issues and evolution. They may not think this should have happened, but they admit that people applied evolution in this way. It is important that you do not misunderstand what I am now saying. Of course, evil and anti-God philosophies existed even before Darwinian evolution. People had abortions before Darwin popularized his views on evolution. However, what people believe about their origins affects their worldview. When people reject the all-created-God, it affects how they treat themselves, others, and our world. (9)
Science on race and scientific racism. Secondly, when Darwin’s theory became accepted and it became assumed that humans originate from more primal animals, this also led to the notion of the inherent superiority of certain races. It was thought that some races are innately more capable, intelligent, and better adapted. People were classified as valuable and less valuable based on race, ableness, and other traits. This view, called social Darwinism, was common in the early 20th century. It was adopted in many countries. The theory of evolution thus provided a pseudo-scientific justification for racism and human inequality. It was no longer believed that the entire human race came from a single pair of humans and that all human races have the same short lifespan. This notion was rejected because of Darwin's theory.
The Nazis also embraced the idea of racial inequality, which emerged with the theory of evolution. The history and human rights violations of the 1930s and 1940s cannot be separated from the Nazi worldview, where race was everything. This notion is well reflected in the statement of the German racist biologist, Fritz Lenz, in 1936. He stated that racial doctrines could be put into practice because
“With National Socialism, we have achieved such an organic worldview to rise. According to its founder, Adolf Hitler, the National Socialist state has placed race at the center of social life. Faith in race is the basis of the National Socialist worldview. It does not just believe in scientific knowledge about the nature and laws of race. Rather, first comes the desire to defend one’s own race: this precedes and is above all scientific knowledge. The importance of racial biologists’ knowledge is that it provides the tools and methods for preserving, improving and perfecting the breed.” (10)
Nevertheless, people believe in moral values. As stated, the shortcoming of atheism is that it provides no basis for morality, nor for rationality. There are no binding, objective and definitive values in atheism. They are lacking.
Nonetheless, people generally believe that there are moral values that bind all people. While many may at first suggest that everyone should determine their own morals, they will very soon cancel their statement, when interviewed about it. This belief in the moral values that bind all people is a very strong indication that there is a moral reality that is not human dependent and comes from beyond us. Timothy Keller explains further:
The popular notion that we should all determine our own morals is based on the belief that the spiritual world is not like the rest of the world at all. Does anyone seriously believe that? For many years, I always stayed in the room for an hour to answer questions after morning and evening worship. Hundreds of people remained to exchange ideas. One of the most common arguments I heard was, "Every person has to determine for themselves what is right and what is wrong." I always responded to the objectors by asking, "Is there anyone in the world right now who is doing what you think they shouldn’t be doing, despite what they personally believe on the correctness of their behavior?" The opponents always reply: "Absolutely." Then I ask, "Doesn't that mean that you still believe that there is some kind of moral reality that is not defined by us and that must be observed in spite of what a person feels and thinks?" Almost always the answer is silence - either contemplative or irritable. (11)
The Bible also suggests that every human being has an inner understanding of right and wrong. Everyone understands that there are acts that are right and acts that are wrong. Paul wrote the following:
- (Rom 2:14-16) For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law to themselves:
15 Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
What can be deduced from the above? The existence of morality refers very clearly to God and that He originally placed the law of morality, that is, the notion of right and wrong, in the human soul (as He made us sentient and thinking beings). It is also a strong indication that God will once judge every human being.
So, you who have thus far denied the existence of God, take this matter seriously! Consider the possibility that the living God created humans, which is the reason for the existence of thought and morality! Atheism does not explain these things, as stated above, but the existence of God is a perfect explanation for the existence of rationality and morality. We have reason and morality because God is rational and moral, and because He made the first humans in His own image (Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.). In addition, God shall judge us, as the Bible says in many places (e.g. Rom 14: 12 So then every one of us Shall give account of himself to God.).
How can one be released from judgment then? Everyone knows deep down that they have not always done what is right, but can everything be forgiven?
The answer to this is found in the Bible. Jesus Christ came into the world to bridge the gap between God and humans. He took our sins to the cross and only through Him can we be forgiven. He is the way to God, as the following verses show:
- (John 14:6) 6 Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
- (Acts 4:12) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
So, if you personally want to be saved, welcome Jesus into your life and turn to Him in prayer. You can do this, for example, in the following way:
THE PRAYER OF SALVATION: Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn away from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven through Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.
1. Charles Darwin: The Life and Letter of Charles Darwin Including an Autobiographical Chapter. (1887, 1: 315-316), Edited by Fancis Darwin. London: John Murray.
2. Miroslav Volf: Exclusion and Embrace. A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, s. 303,304. Abingdon 1996.
3. L.H. Christian: Kylvöä ja satoa, p. 114,115
4. P. Cousineau: Conversations with Houston Smith on the spiritual life, p. 259
5. Michael Green & Gordon Carckner: Kymmenen myyttiä kristinuskosta, p. 18
6. John Gray: Black Mass, Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, 2007. London: Penguin, p. 36,39
7. Jukka Norvanto: Raamattu elämään, Alussa 1 Moos 1-5, p. 34
8. Linton AE, Times Higher Education Supplement (20.4.2001), p. 29
9. Ken Ham: Valhe, evoluutio, The Lie: Evolution, p. 112,113
10. Pekka Isaksson & Jouko Jokisalo: Historian lisälehtiä, p. 178
11. Timothy Keller: Mihin Jumalaa tarvitaan (The Reason for God), p. 71
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!