Monthly Archives: April 2008
The recent comments made by Illinois State Representative Monique Davis reveal an unfortunate deep-seated fear that many Christians have regarding atheists. Representative Davis berated an atheist and told him that he had no right to testify due to his lack of belief in God. She even called the philosophy of atheism “dangerous” and said that it was dangerous for children to even know that the philosophy exists.
The fear revealed by Representative Davis is unnecessary, and her actions only serve the cause of atheism in ways she probably can’t imagine. There is no need to fear atheism, or atheists. I have personally interacted with many avowed atheists, and have found them to be the same as anyone–they are people first and foremost. They do not recognize their creator, nor do they feel that their rights as humans were first derived from God.
Because there is no derivation of rights first from God in the mind of an atheist, it is therefore society–majority rules–that decides objective morality. This makes said morality subjective rather than objective. No objective morality can exist with such a system. But that is a different subject for another time. Atheists still believe in the objective morality outlined in the Bible, and many of them follow it much more closely than even the most deeply religious that I know.
Atheists are not the immoral hate-mongers that Representative Davis fears. Her comments are absolutely appalling. I’m very glad that she apologized for her comments, and I’m glad that it was done directly to the person whom she offended.
Her Christian witness will be tainted by her comments, but in apologizing she did the right thing. I’m appalled by her comments, but I applaud her humility in apologizing for her unwarranted outburst.
The truth is that we, as Christians, have nothing to fear from the atheist philosophy. It is unfortunate that atheists are viewed in the light that Representative Davis has now personified. I pray that she takes the time to learn more about atheists before she tries to speak out against them again.
Why be moral if there is no punishment in the afterlife? Daren Jaques, of Just Atheists, answers the question like this:
Well, there are lots of reasons. 1) I will not be as successful in life if others cannot trust me, and if all I ever do is look after myself, then people will not trust me. This applies to lying, stealing, and harming others generally. 2) I do not believe that I can be “absolved” of my wrongdoing through either a shaman’s magic (confession) nor through the ritual drinking of human/god blood (communion). That means I need to try and be as good and kind as possible every time I act because there are no do-overs. (source)
Daren is right that he will not be as successful in life as he could be since no one around him will have any reason to trust him if he is very self-serving. But he is also correct in saying that confession and ritual drinking of blood will not absolve him of his sins. There are no do-overs–you get a choice one time in life, and it is best to do the moral thing then and there. You will never get another chance.
Daren says that it is not the threat of eternal punishment that motivates him to do good deeds, it is the mutual benefit of all. There are two problems with this statement. First, Daren has admitted that an objective good and evil exist, which is part of the theist worldview, not the atheist. The atheist view does not allow for such things to exist–things can only be what they are.
Second, in his preceding statement, Daren lists success and winning trust as his primary motivation, not altruism. Daren wishes to be successful in this life and win the praise of others. Jesus points this out in Matthew 6:1-18 that this is the mark of a hypocrite. Daren isn’t being moral for the sake of being moral. He’s doing it for the sake of being noticed positively by other people.
Daren states that the theist is only moral to avoid eternal punishment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only the Christian, committed to Christ, is truly free to will and do good for its own sake. Those not in Christ may do good, but it is always for their own ends. In his attempt to prove otherwise, Daren has proven the truth of that statement.
Brian J. Sabel from Just Atheists wrote a post that caught my attention. Since my grandma died, I’ve been thinking about death quite a bit for obvious reasons. Obviously, my view of death is that we who place faith in Christ go on to eternal reward, while the rest do not. “[I]t is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment . . .” (Heb 9:27).
I believe that my grandma has gone on to that eternal reward. Not because I want to believe that since it is a comforting thought for me, but because my grandma placed her faith in Christ. At the funeral, I could see the fruits of the Spirit in her lives through the stories people told of the lives she touched. I had no idea how much time she donated freely to good causes. Even though she was sick, she still donated time and crafts to other sick people. She was an Eucharistic Minister and traveled to the sick and infirm at homes and hospitals to share the Lord’s Supper with them, and to talk and pray with them.
I could easily get into the debate about faith vs. works here, but suffice it to say that I believe her actions proceeded from her faith and that faith is what saved her, not what she did in this life. That isn’t the point of my post. The point is that Brian from Just Atheists believes that this life is all that there is and that view of life elevates life on earth above the religious view.
Many faithful see this as a very bleak way to view our lives. Without the rewards of the afterlife, they say, our lives on earth have no value or meaning. They often view my rejection of a belief in an afterlife as a cynical and nihilistic view which robs humankind of our best qualities. They could not be more wrong. And, in fact, I feel that my view elevates the value of human life beyond the capacity of a religious view.
The finite nature of our lives compels me to believe that each life is unique, valuable, and irreplaceable. When a person dies she is gone and we will never get her back. The consequence of this belief is that I love the people around me very deeply because I recognize how precious they are and how fortunate I am to experience their lives – they could be gone from me so quickly. (source)
Brian actually has a point. His view elevates the view of this life above how religious often view it. But the Bible doesn’t teach us to view this life as one of much importance. The Bible calls this life a “mist” (Jms 4:14). Like Brian’s astute observation, the Bible affirms that this life can be taken from us at any moment. Unlike Brian, the Bible states we must build our treasure in heaven (Mt 6:19-20).
Does this mean that the religious should place no importance on this life whatsoever? Of course not! There is certainly wisdom in the expression “We don’t inherit this planet from our parents, we borrow it from our children.” With all of the comparisons to God as the landowner and humans as His stewards in Jesus’ parables, can anyone ever really conclude that we aren’t called to be stewards of this planet? God commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply,” and in order to do that effectively, we must be good stewards of the resources on this planet.
So there is some importance in this life. But, unlike the atheist viewpoint, this life is not all that there is. There is more out there, there is eternal life to be spent in perfect communion with our Creator, and with those that have gone before us in Christ.
Meanwhile, let’s be good stewards of this planet. When God returns to earth, we’ll have to give an account for it.