Atheist Beliefs — Part II
Part II – Modern Applications
Atheism is a belief system. Atheists don’t like to admit it but it is. They want us to believe atheism is based on scientific facts, not beliefs. However, the basic tents of atheism are unproven and cannot be proven. You must believe atheist doctrine in order to be an atheist.
This discussion of atheist beliefs is divided into three sections. The first section examined ancient atheist beliefs. Lucretius produced the most complete statement of this system of belief during the first century B.C. in his book On the Nature of Things. This second section concerns the growth of atheism and the application of atheist doctrine to new areas such as science and business. The third section discusses one of the ugliest developments of atheism—scientific racism.
In the ancient world very few people admitted a belief in atheism. Atheism dragged on with just a few followers through the fall of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, and the Middle Ages. Lucretius’ book was lost and, by all appearances, was lost forever. In 1417, Poggio Braccolini, a former papal attendant, discovered Lucretius’ manuscript in an unknown monastery in Germany. The book immediately became an important foundation for the Enlightenment.
Atheism returned to Europe with a vengeance during the sixteenth century. Courtesans in the royal courts of Europe fanned the flames of atheism. Freethinkers, mostly in France, added fuel to the fire. During the eighteenth century atheism captured Enlightenment thought and thinkers. The dominance of French atheism culminated in the French Revolution and the subsequent establishment of the first modern atheist state.
In the previous essay we examined the ancient beliefs of atheism. Modern atheism applied those beliefs to Western civilization. During the twentieth century atheism transformed our society but did not improve it.
Why did atheism not improve society? Well, atheism acts like a thief. The Bible says in John 10: 10, “The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy.” (NAS) Atheism certainly fits that description.
Please consider these two areas of our society that were transformed by atheism.
Science Is Atheistic in Structure and Content
Atheists don’t like to share. They have taken control of science, forcing God out. Now they continue to keep God out of science. Evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Lewontin provides an example of this attitude.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
In other words, because science deals with the physical world, non-physical concepts can play no part in science. Scientific atheists also claim that materialism is the only world-view compatible with science. Atheist and biologist Stephen Jay Gould theorized that science and belief inhabit two separate, non-overlapping worlds.
The lack of conflict between science and religion arises from a lack of overlap between their respective domains of professional expertise—science in the empirical constitution of the universe, and religion in the search for proper ethical values and the spiritual meaning of our lives.
But Gould also acknowledges the difficulty in maintaining this position.
This resolution might remain all neat and clean if the nonoverlapping magisteria (NOMA) of science and religion were separated by an extensive no man’s land. But, in fact, the two magisteria bump right up against each other, interdigitating in wondrously complex ways along their joint border. Many of our deepest questions call upon aspects of both for different parts of a full answer—and the sorting of legitimate domains can become quite complex and difficult.
Western science arose within a Christian world-view. This is why science and Christianity “bump right up against each other” and have a “joint border.” In fact, atheism is the upstart that wrestled science from Christianity’s embrace.
This is why atheism cannot explain some of the most fundamental principles of science. These principles include the existence of a law-based universe, the uniformity of nature, and cause and effect.
Atheists believe that chaos produced the order found in the universe. This belief is totally irrational. Nor is it supported by the evidence. Christian Sye Ten Bruggencate addresses uniformity of nature.
“As far as science goes, science is dependent on the uniformity of nature, or no scientific prediction could be made. Problem is, no atheistic worldview can account for the uniformity of nature, the very foundation of science.”
The existence of God undergirds these fundamental concepts of science. Uniformity of nature produces an organized, rational design. A law-based universe requires a law-giver. The uniformity of a law-based universe is expressed in cause and effect.
Atheism cannot reject these fundamental concepts. If they did, science would fail. However, they try to add their own beliefs and prejudices. For example, they continually try to establish their own origin myth as scientific fact.
The atheist origin myth consists of three basic tenets. First, the universe is eternal; second, the universe is composed of corpuscles (atoms) and void; and, third, corpuscles randomly connect together to form all living and non-living objects.
For the last three or four centuries atheists have tried to ram these concepts into science. During the twentieth century, science started to gain some measure of maturity. This newly gained maturity caused a reexamination of the atheist origin myth.
Here are the results: science no longer holds to the first atheist belief—the eternal universe. The second belief is called into question as science and quantum mechanics struggle to understand the boundaries between energy and mass. The credibility of the third belief is undergoing review due to a new understanding of the astounding complexity of life.
The words of physicist Werner Heisenberg ring true:
“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
God gives us guidelines for science. Atheists ignore the Giver and His guidance. They have conclusively proved that unguided science easily becomes misguided science.
Before long, the arrogance and rebelliousness of man applied some of atheism’s “science” to totally unimagined areas, such as business.
Survival of the Fittest
The publication Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species in 1859 totally changed the world. Actually, years before Darwin wrote his book, atheists believed random combinations of atoms produced the world and everything in it. Darwin’s most important contribution to the theory of evolution was the mechanism called “natural selection.”
Herbert Spencer invented the phrase “survival of the fittest.” The phrase appeared in his Principles of Biology, published in 1864. Spencer applied the principle of “survival of the fittest” to his own economic theories.
“This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection’ or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.”
Can a simple phrase cause such an enormous change in society? At times, yes! A simple phrase such as “Remember the Alamo!” or “Remember the Maine” served to motivate and justify acts of war.
Another example comes from the Gospel of John in the Bible. In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus “you must be born again.” This simple phrase revolutionized man’s understanding of God’s love and salvation.
“Survival of the fittest” quickly was adapted to justify the differences between classes in society. The man who was rich or owned property was said to do so based on his superior moral qualities of industriousness, temperance, and frugality. Any attempt by the state or by social do-gooders to help the lower stratum of society would interfere with natural processes. The poor were unfit. They should not be helped in their struggle for existence.
Social Darwinists argue that the strong should see their wealth and power increase. The weak should see their wealth and power decrease. Social Darwinists opposed government handouts, safety regulations, and child labor laws. They believed the weak should not be pampered. If the weak cannot survive, then let nature take its course.
Ebenezer Scrooge demonstrated this attitude in Charles Dicken’s classic book A Christmas Carol. When a couple of gentlemen approached Scrooge for a donation for the poor, Scrooge’s response was:
[Scrooge] “I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned [prisons and workhouses]: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”
[The gentlemen] “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
[Scrooge] “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
How did someone become rich and successful in America? Was it because of hard work? Was it due to education and skill? Was it just luck? According to social Darwinists such as Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, the people who were the most fit to survive became successful. If a person was poor, it was because he lacked the necessary skills to achieve success. He was not fit to survive.
According to James Rachels* in his book Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism, capitalists quickly interpreted the survival of the fittest theory as “an ethical precept that sanctioned cutthroat economic competition.” How was this connection made?
Survival of the fittest fits hand in glove with the competition inherent to capitalism. “Survival of the fittest” also is known as “the law of the jungle.” These two phrases justify all sorts of hateful behavior in the name of survival. For example, if there is a job that you and I want, my survival and the survival of my family validates any action I can take to destroy your chances to get the job.
Darwinism helped justify the ruthless exploits of capitalists such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Carnegie summarized and validated his brutal business practices in his essay The Gospel of Wealth, saying,
The price which society pays for the law of competition . . . is also great . . . But, whether the law be benign or not . . . It is here; we cannot evade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual it is best for the race, because it ensures survival of the fittest in every department.
Survival of the fittest, according to Carnegie, is justified because it produces wealth. Of course, this does not apply to the thousands of men who worked for Carnegie and were paid the lowest wages possible. Survival of the fittest only works for predators. The predators win; everyone else loses.
John D. Rockefeller reportedly once said that the “growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest . . . the working out of a law of nature . . .” For Rockefeller, survival of the fittest justified kickbacks from railroads and other forms of unfair competition.
Rockefeller maintained a Christian front while he abused his workers. His depth of commitment to Christianity is called into question by his support for the theory of evolution and his belief that the early books of the Bible are mythology. His treatment of others also causes people to wonder how closely he followed Jesus.
“Survival of the fittest” is part of the ethics of atheism. It is a modern addition to the pursuit of pleasure.
Atheism is a belief system. What you believe does make a difference. Beliefs are expressed through actions. Actions affect others.
People throughout history have been self-centered and greedy. We also are competitive. We want to know who is best. We want to be first. But if we always have been that way, is it fair to blame atheism for the deficiencies mentioned in this article? How could atheism change us and our society?
Before the age of atheism people knew how far their actions could go. There was an accepted standard of behavior. People also accepted the existence of absolutes. Right and wrong, good and bad served as real concepts to limit the actions of people. At times it was very difficult to define right and wrong, good and bad, justice, et cetera, but people believed in and valued these concepts.
The laws and values of the Bible supported this search to define good and bad and other absolutes. The Ten Commandments laid a foundation for many laws and legal codes. People felt it was important to follow the teachings of Jesus, such as, “love your neighbor as yourself.” They recognized the importance of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” They often fell short of the standard but at least there was a standard for behavior. People believed God would hold them accountable for their behavior while they were here on earth.
Atheism changed all of this. Suddenly there were no rules—there was not even a God. There was no accountability. People could do whatever they wanted to do. They could be as bad as they want to be. There is no future for the person who tries to be as bad as he wants to be.
The Bible says the following in Proverbs 14: 12:
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Under the spell of atheism, people went down the path that seemed right to them. This path ends in death.