Choosing Life 3

next page  >>> 

<< Previous Page  << Page 1                                       Page 4 >>  Page 5 >>  Page 6 >>

What do you believe?

One of the problems of trying to discuss the subject of God and life after death with non-believers is their cast-in-stone jump-off position.  Marilyn Adamson, a former atheist illustrates this well when she says that “. . if a person opposes even the possibility of there being a God, then any evidence can be rationalized or explained away.”6  She goes on to liken it to someone who refuses to believe that people have walked on the moon. “No amount of information is going to change their thinking, (whether) photographs of astronauts walking on the moon, interviews with the astronauts, moon rocks... as all the evidence would be worthless, because the person has already concluded that people cannot go to the moon.”

But diehard or otherwise, many atheists having made their beds are content to lie in them.  Indeed, this would seem the logical position since disbelief is effectively a negative concept and it is difficult to understand any attraction that its adherents may have to run about trying to persuade others to follow in their footsteps.  In his book, God Exists: I have Met Him, André Frossard5 (pictured, right) who also began life as an atheist, expresses this notion brilliantly.  He describes the attitude during his childhood of he and his family to the subject in this way:  

“We were what could be called perfect atheists, the kind that no longer ever question their atheism. The militant anti—clericals who still survived and spent their time speaking at public meetings against religion seemed to us rather touching and rather ridiculous, as might an historian intent on debunking the tale of Little Red Ridinghood.

Their misguided zeal was merely uselessly prolonging arguments to which reason had long since provided an answer. For by this time the perfect atheist was no longer the one who denied the existence of God but the one for whom the question of God’s existence did not arise.”

The fantastic story of André Frossard's completely unexpected conversion from total Atheist to Believer in the space of a couple of minutes in his own words can be found here: André Frossard

But the hawkish atheists that Frossard talks about not only exist, but are becoming increasingly belligerent.  One such ‘evangelical’ atheist, a renowned journalist, Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011), in an open letter to the Atheists Conference of America in 2011 departs sharply from his customary perspicuous, logical style. In a scattergun attack, he describes ‘religion’ and refers to its adherents in the following terms:

“. . It is these forces (i.e. “the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family”) among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.

That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy (i.e. religion) is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.”  [My emphasis].

These words, stripped of some of their thunderous magniloquence, echo in just two paragraphs the stance of many who view ‘religion’ as something in varying degrees between irrelevant and dangerous.  Militant Islamism doubtless does pose a very real threat, but to indiscriminately lump together all belief systems in this manner is highly unreasonable. In particular, true Christians are diametrically opposed to violence of any kind. Jesus Himself taught, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 56:22 NIV). And, in his letter to Titus, Paul instructs that Christians are to deport themselves by being subject to rulers and authorities, obedient, ready to do whatever is good and to slander no-one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility towards all men. (Titus 3:1-2 NIV). Christians know that mankind’s only route to salvation exists in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pruned of its fiery rhetoric, the central tenet of the above-cited quotation is the assertion that:

“It is (mankind’s) innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.”

But do we not need to ask ourselves whether this is the same morality we see reflected in the gaunt eyes of six million Jews as they are stripped of their clothing, their gold fillings and their dignity and herded into extermination ovens?  Is this the same sense of decency that sanctifies as good business sense the expenditure of countless billions on productions of weapons of war and of mass destruction whilst tens of thousands starve? Is this the sense of propriety which looks the other way while hapless families carry their starving emaciated children to refugee camps only to watch them die anyway because help came too late?  Where is the ‘outrage’ against such crimes against humanity? Is this the same sense of correctitude that has brought our world to the brink of self annihilation: the power to end all life on our planet over sixty-seven times or more?

How many can see any irony in the fact that our race’s vast store of accumulated knowledge and ‘enlightenment’ which supposedly relieves us of all reliance on some “despotism of the sky” has also given us the potential to realise the biblical prediction of our planet’s total annihilation—made over twenty five millennia ago−long before the possibility of such technology was even a bad dream?  If you’re honest, whatever your own perspective, you’ll agree that there is no rhetoric in any of these questions.  They reflect stark inescapable reality.

The matter does not end there.  There is another question that also needs an answer.  It is the one that should give the cynics of this world pause for thought although ironically, it never seems to do so.  As the apostle, Paul, so succinctly put it:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

The question is this: If we abandon reliance on a God-given code of ethics and conduct, what yardstick is to be used to measure any other?  The suggestion that we can rely on any “innate solidarity” is clearly hollow given the natural human propensity to divide rather than unite. The reality is that our divisions, our “innate” competitiveness and naked aggression are factors that have dogged society from the mists of time. Historically these have been the source of all war and conflict; they have given rise to the sort of bigotry such as Aryanism that lead to places like Auschwitz and Hitler’s Final Solution and to the ethnic cleansing which resulted in millions of deaths in Africa and Eastern Europe.  

Oh yes, it’s true.  We make laws.  They fill vast libraries.  Surely then, these must reflect the inherent goodness of Man; his discretion to discern right from wrong; his ability to order society without some unwanted heavenly intervention. But was not the persecution of European Jews in the 1930s onwards and ultimately Hitler’s final solution sanctified by law? In South Africa, did not Apartheid have the status of law in all its grotesquerie? Does a law that protects the evil and corrupt from public exposure meet with the common standards of “human goodness”?  Of course, it can be argued that these are obviously wrong and indeed, this is so, but this misses the point.  Those evil laws were made, enforced and upheld by multitudes of people.  The question then is by what standard do we say that such laws are wrong?  By human standards?  But were not the ‘evil’ laws also made by humans?

Here then is a stark reality: What is left for those who deny God? If Christian ethos are pie-in-the-sky to be eschewed as outmoded and claustrophobic we are then at the mercy of each other.  Heaven help us . . . that’s a scary thought!   There is another concept that is inextricably tied up with the idea that we, the human race, have “evolved” to the point where we can now proceed on our own with no intervention from above and therefore competently decide between right and wrong.  It is the notion advanced by experts such as B F Skinner, (pictured, below left) the founder of the behaviourism school of thought, and many others.  They believe that all people are born innately good. Some however become bad because of warping through exposure to society. Now secular humanists love this notion because it supposedly refutes the Christian fundamental that Man is a fallen species.

Thus behaviourism offers a convenient way to avoid the idea of mankind being a fallen race whilst simultaneously proffering an explanation for the undeniable existence of evil, an inconvenient detail that humanists and others could do without.  Significantly, both socialists and secular humanists adhere strictly to the concept of evolution.  Communists relying on their dialectics believe that when the process is complete, this will lead to the abolition of the State: mankind will live in harmony once the proletariat have complete control of the means of production.  Secular humanists hold that we will simply evolve-out the bad streak in our otherwise inherently good society.  Surely, both groups live in cloud cuckoo land.

In 1975 aged nineteen, I would again be a witness to death’s spectre. But this time it would not be an isolated, unexpected incident. I went to war.

next page  >>> 

<< Previous Page  << Page 1                                       Page 4 >>  Page 5 >>  Page 6 >>

5André Frossard, God Exists: I have Met Him (Translated by Marjorie Villiers) Collins, London 1970

  6 In an an essay entitled "Is There a God?"