Friday, April 1, 2011

The Atheist fallacy.

People are sometimes surprised to hear I used to not believe in God.

I think that ultimately my unbelief was a result of not really understanding my faith in the first place. When you don't fully understand a belief it's easy to come up with reasons not to believe in it.

A lot of my friends have become atheists over the past four years. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to, but it's still a shame. It's not their fault. They came from the same faulty system I was caught up in, and I easily could have ended up staying the same. I was saved from that, somehow. God intervened for me and put a situation in my life where I had no choice but to give faith another try. My conclusions about His existence were much different when I relied on myself for my own catechesis instead of Catholic schools.

Regardless, I still wish that somehow I could give them a second wind in the faith. My efforts in discussing faith with someone usually end up in them either claiming they already know what I'm trying to tell them, or them getting offended that this is something I want to share with them in the first place.

So, what I would share with them, I shall put here instead. Ultimately, I believe arguments to be a useless gesture in a war that is ultimately a spiritual battle, but regardless, if it proves useful for at least one person, this won't be a waste of time. Also, these are only arguments against atheism — "why Catholicism" is a much longer story for another time.

My journey back towards belief began with the simple realization that I wanted more than sexual gratification, mental stimulation, friends, money, and worldly success. Even as an agnostic, or an atheist, or whatever I was, I admired heroes. Heroes willing to fight and die, not just for their societies, their freedoms, their friends, their offspring, their food supplies — you know, the things that would make sense if we were animals only looking to increase our genetic offspring and that of our herd — but for people they didn't know, that they would never meet, never interact with...even for the honor of people who were already dead. People like Aragorn, Obi-Wan, Roland Deschain. Heroes I read about and admired, and who didn't even really exist, except in my heart. If I am the product of hundreds of thousands of years of mindless evolution, rather than evolution created by God and guided by His hand...what in the WORLD would be the advantage of me wanting to die for something greater than myself?

I began to see many places in my life that were too convenient to be mere coincidence. My choice to come to Bowling Green was completely arbitrary and ended up being an incredible blessing. The fact that I ended up meeting the people I did was a complete chance that changed my college life forever. I could see him working in every intricacy of my life, from start to present. Not exactly a convincing argument for anyone besides me, though.

From then on, I found more and more reasons to believe in God, and I have even had some crazy spiritual experiences that I've discussed before in this blog. Incredible stuff, but not very convincing to your average atheist, and since I've already talked about them, I'll move on.

That being said, I wondered why God, if He existed, would allow such painful experiences in the world. Why would a good God allow hurricanes, tornadoes, starvation of the innocent, etc.? I do believe it is impossible for imperfect beings to exist in a world without these things. In the words of C.S. Lewis, "not even Omnipotence could create a society of free souls without at the same time creating a relatively independent and 'inexorable' Nature." A fixed nature of the world implies the possibility of evil and suffering, for "not all states of matter will be equally agreeable to the wishes of a given soul." We human beings, if we are truly free, may take advantage of the nature of the world to hurt one another, and an intervention by God to try and correct this to remove this abuse, while clearly imaginable, would eventually lead to an ultimately meaningless universe, in which nothing important depended on our choices. "Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you will find that you have excluded life itself." Do you understand, reader? Because God is perfect, he can create a perfect world for us to live in...but, it would be a world without our ability to choose, and since love needs to be a choice, it would be a world without love! So we, as imperfect beings, need to live in an imperfect world. It can't be any other way.

I'm anticipating arguments here, and I think this post would answer at least one of them. The other is technically about original sin, which I don't want to go into in this post, since this post is about explaining why I'm not an atheist, not why I'm a Catholic.

Another argument I often hear is that the world would just plain be better if we were all atheists. Well, it's been tried before. It ended up causing a lot of genocide (so much for religion being the most massive killer), and oh look - as it turns out, eventually those regimes either collapsed, or in the case of Cuba, became more tolerant of religion over time. China is pretty much the only one left. Was it because of communism? What about a democratic atheist society, where everyone just happened to eventually become atheist voluntarily? I posit that this would not work either, and I'll show you why.

Atheists would be happy to know that I think their view of a completely secular society has already begun. The changes in our culture from 1960 on has flipped our world on its head. Many older folks tell me that you never had to worry about locking your doors or knowing who your kids hung out with - pretty much everyone had the same values. Today, that's obviously no longer the case. Atheism does not teach people to be good - it teaches people to follow the law. But people can get away with not following the law.

That's not to say that you can't be a good person and be atheist. However, studies show that typically if you're atheist you give about 2/3rds the amount of time and 1/5th the amount of money a religious person does. Let's just ignore that, though. Let's say that the secular society we've begun continues in the direction it's headed in. Let's just pretend that we agree rising divorce rates are OK, that falling birth rates and rising abortions in secular countries are no problem, and that crime rates have risen since 1960.

I see a world in which people generally don't want to have children. Oh, they want sex, but they contracept and don't try for kids because kids are a nuisance, not a blessing. The number of people who do want children don't want a lot, and never enough to replace the current population. Don't believe me? It's happening in Italy right now. Eventually, maybe we'll realize our population is falling dramatically and we should just pay people to have and raise children. Of course, I'm sure many people would enjoy such a job. But not everyone would be in it because they love children. Ask any foster kid if they'd rather have a parent that wanted them than a parent that was getting money to raise them, and of course the vast majority will say yes. What a loveless way to have children. Generations without love, and the continued falling population, rising crime...see where this is headed?

Even if I'm wrong on that point, science can still never explain how this all began. Sure, it has explanations for how it all works, but not for why. Why even have a universe, an existence, a mind that knows things? Why have a rational being? Why are we not all animals, would it not be a better world that way, instead of a world where we struggle not to destroy it? Why have the beautiful cosmos, glorious stars spread across the infinite?

Why have you and me, two beings who can tell they are human and yet distinct beings?

There was a dream that I dreamed, and that dream was for belief.

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