INSIGHTS ON ATHEISM


#1

This subject has interested me for many years. I believe that at the heart of modern paganism and our present moral malaise is the worship of Nogod.

Let’s hear your favorite quotes or original thoughts on the subject.
Hear are two of my favorites followed by one of my own.

“There are practical atheists who believe that they believe in God (and who perhaps believe in Him in their brains) but who in reality deny his existence by each one of their deeds.” Jacques Maritain

"“What we all dread most,” said the priest, in a low voice, "is a maze with no center. That is why atheism is only a nightmare."
G.K. Chesterton

Unlike the atheist, who sees in the idea of God a monstrous tyrant of evil oppressing our freedom, the theist can see in God only the most tolerant and absolute Liberal. God permits us to love or reject Him, to do good or evil, to choose heaven or hell (with the caveat, of course, that actions have consequences).


#2

Hi Carl. Interesting thread idea. My contribution is to quote from an atheist. It’s a little long, but entertaining.

"Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching - an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sort of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.

You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell.” That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come.” That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world."
–Bertrand Russell in “Why I am not a Christian”

The atheist of Bertrand Russell’s stripe would no doubt also condemn teaching our kids to fear moving automobiles or open flames … it’s just *not nice * to make people fear that which threatens their comfortable ignorance. :stuck_out_tongue:


#3

I have a personal perspective on atheism. I started off my faith journey with a pretty tepid Presbyterian upbringing. Later, my career interests turned to science and, partly because of the misguided ideas about God and the universe that permeate modern science, I rejected God and became an atheist. Many years later, I converted to Roman Catholicism.

I think it’s funny how atheists look at people of faith and accuse them of having “blind faith” as though it were a bad thing. I used to be one of them, so it is even funnier looking at it from my new Catholic perspective. I used to say that, because I am a scientist, I need to see it to believe it. Well, seeing doesn’t bring faith, it brings knowledge. Faith is, by necessity, somewhat blind. If you can see it, if it is clear and concrete, right in front of your face, then it is knowledge. It doesn’t take any faith to believe in that which is staring you in the face. Faith is belief without concrete knowledge. I just never got that when I was an atheist.

What is truly funny about the atheist accusation of “blind faith” is that it is hypocritical. As for my own hypocrisy, I went though all my advanced science classes in high-school. In college, I took biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, and genetics classes and got my BS in Biochemistry. I studied in-depth the maddeningly intricate wonders of the microscopic and macroscopic universe. I learned about self-regulating biological functions that operated more like tiny little machines than anything you would think of as organic. I saw genetic coding that was transcribed and translated in a fashion that is eerily similar to the way data is stored and copied on a computer disk. I studied all this. I made it my career in life. And, yet, despite what was obviously the work of a Creator, I still believed in my heart that it happened by random accident. Talk about “blind faith”!

Based on my own life, I think many atheists reject God because of what they might refer to as “unanswered prayers.” I wanted this, I wanted that, I wanted God to play by my rules. I prayed to God and didn’t get what I wanted. So, I rejected him and that was it. Now, I know that God answers all prayers; sometimes we don’t like the answers.

I recently was in an online debate about politics and religion with a woman who was a professed atheist. She posted once that, one day, when she was 12 years old, she “figured out” that there is no God, and she “never looked back.” I didn’t ask her what form that particular revelation took, but I was curious. I also thought it odd that an intelligent, somewhat-rational adult would base their entire life and belief system on a decision they made as an adolescent.


#4

ADAM,

Thanks for picking up the thread.

Russell was great on the humane rhetoric, but a bit presumptuous in setting his compassion above the mercy of Jesus, who proved how humane he could be on the cross. What I remember somewhere in Russell was a statement that he would refuse to die for any cause because that cause might be a false one. So much for Russell’s humanity.

As for eternal punishment, it is we who condemn ourselves by the choices we make. This was made abundantly clear right from the start in the story of Adam and Eve. The story of Cain and Abel reiterates the lesson: actions have consequences. God has always given us fair warning, whether by Scripture, by the Church, by inspiration, or by the mandates of natural law.

Peace


#5

I have a neighbor who denies there is a God. We have some pretty serious discussions … sometimes exasperating. Anyway the interesting revelation I have had in my discussions with him is he is always searching. My neighbor (he is a physicist) knows that something greater than he is out there but does not want it to be God or more specifically the Christian God. He is in the dark and can’t find his way out … if that is the beginning of Hell you surely dont want to be there. After that I know only the Holy Spirit can bring someone into the light of faith. It is sad an heartbreaking to see someone lost. I pray for him often. I think that Atheism has to be a very lonely experience.


#6

NCGOLF

“I think that Atheism has to be a very lonely experience.”

Loneliness and abandonment. See psychologist Paul Vitz’s fascinating analysis of why so many notable thinkers have been atheists in his book Faith of the Fatherless.


#7

More thoghts on atheism by G.K. Chesterton:

“It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.” (“Introductory Remarks” Heretics)

“There is no bigot like the atheist.” (Magic)

“The atheist is not interested in anything except attacks on atheism.” (“Frozen Free Thought” The Well and the Shallows)

“An interesting essay might be written on the possession of an atheistic literary style. There is such a thing. The mark of it is that wherever anything is named or described, such words are chosen as suggest that the thing has not got a soul in it. Thus they will not talk of love or passion, which imply a purpose and a desire. They talk of the “relations” of the sexes, as if they were simply related to each other in a certain way, like a chair and a table. Thus they will not talk of the waging of war (which implies a will), but of the outbreak of war - as if it were a sort of boil. Thus they will not talk of masters paying more or less wages, which faintly suggests some moral responsibility in the masters: they will talk of the rise and fall of wages, as if the thing were automatic, like the tides of the sea. Thus they will not call progress an attempt to improve, but a tendency to improve. And thus, above all, they will not call the sympathy between oppressed nations sympathy; they will call it solidarity. For that suggests brick and coke, and clay and mud, and all the things they are fond of.” (ILN 12-7-12)

“Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle.” (“Wells and the World State” What I Saw in America)

“There are arguments for atheism, and they do not depend, and never did depend, upon science. They are arguable enough, as far as they go, upon a general survey of life; only it happens to be a superficial survey of life.” (ILN 1-3-31)

“I do not feel any contempt for an atheist, who is often a man limited and constrained by his own logic to a very sad simplification.” (“Babies and Distributism” The Well and the Shallows)

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” (Where All Roads Lead)


#8

One of the best ways to better appreciate the divine gift of faith is to engage in a “debate” with an atheist about whether one can prove the existence of God (or lack thereof). It strikes me as interesting and at times humerous to listen to athiest’s arguments to deny the existence of God that rely just as much on impossible to prove assumptions as the theist’s “proofs” of the existence of God… As a scientist who works in academia surrounded by purported athiests, I have never found such debates to “convince” anyone to abandon their denial of God. Those who do choose to truely listen and open themselves to receiving the gift of faith are those who see what they are lacking by seeing the “blind faith” of the Christian believer. What they see is true happiness, which can never be found apart from God. While reason will never contradict truth, reason alone will never convert an athiest. Only faith can cross the divide. Even someone who accepts Pascal’s wager as the sole motivation to believe in the existance of God has been given a share in the divine gift of faith.


#9

I think deep,deep,deep,deep down all atheists do believe in God. After all, believing in a higher being is part of being human. It’s convenient to not believe in God and all the consequences that go with that belief.


#10

It takes more faith not to believe in God in light of the evidence… :tiphat:


#11

[quote=Richard Lamb]It takes more faith not to believe in God in light of the evidence… :tiphat:
[/quote]

A good reason why atheism really is a religion, despite their wild protestations to the contrary. Methinks they protest too much :slight_smile:


#12

I think it’s funny how atheists look at people of faith and accuse them of having “blind faith” as though it were a bad thing. I used to be one of them, so it is even funnier looking at it from my new Catholic perspective. I used to say that, because I am a scientist, I need to see it to believe it. Well, seeing doesn’t bring faith, it brings knowledge. Faith is, by necessity, somewhat blind.

Listening one day to the Catholic Answers radio station I heard one say that Catholics have a huge treasury in the history and documents of the Church with which to defend the faith. So I followed up on this by purchasing some books on the miracles of the Church throughout the ages. For example, the wonderful and powerful 34+ validated Eucharistic Miracles of the Church as well as the unexplainable Incorruptable bodies of the Saints scattered throughout Europe. (see books by Joan Carrol Cruz) These are powerful examples that provide a “knowledge” upon which a faith can be built.

I have presented this treasury to the athesists I encounter.

Thus my foundation of faith does not have to reach back 2000 years. Jesus is very active in his Church, today. One can build the story of this truth and present the mysteries to show that faith is not all blind. Our faith is actually very rich.

Against this the atheist cannot prevail. He must then turn to petty arguments and scoffing. Ultimately, he will find himself in a corner. Then he will see that he is in a position to exercise free will toward or against God. Then the choice is between good and evil. Finally, then for what reason would one choose evil?

Consider the treasury of the Church against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail.

Joey


#13

Definition of an Atheist.

“An atheist is a person that spends his/her entire life fighting against something he/she doesn’t believe in.”

(quote source unknown)


#14

“An atheist is a person with no invisible means of support.” Bishop Fulton Sheen


#15

Having often discussed the topic of miracles with “athiests” I have found that no evidence, however compelling when seen through the eyes of faith, can compel an athiest to change opinion and begin believing in God without acceptance of the gift of faith. Faith does not contradict reason, but reason alone will not get one to God. In this respect, the first step on the journey toward God is indeed blind. Once someone has accepted this, the remainder of the journey can be illuminated by the numerous outward signs that have been provided to us.


#16

A paramount weakness in any case to be mounted for atheism is that it cannot prove how much better the world would be without religion.


#17

Let me preface by agreeing with you that atheism is at the root of modern moral decline. From the prespective of the Bible, there can be no doubt about that.

The first view or comment I’d provide is Romans 1 – which talks about men turning away from God toward their own vain reasoning, and thereby worshipping the created thing and not God. Romans 1 has more insight into the common moral state of modern man than any other chapter in the Bible.

The second view is this, which is more of a question: what do you think of fellows like John Dominic Crossan who is a de facto naturalist (which is not quite atheist, but once you cross all supernatural occurances off your list of the possible, what kind of God is that?) but claims to be a Roman Catholic? Let’s not pretend that Catholics are alone in this problem – Protestants have more than their share of kooks to contend with – but it would be interesting to see your take on people who avow both Catholicism and Naturalism.


#18

centurion

“but it would be interesting to see your take on people who avow both Catholicism and Naturalism.”

Such people are to be found everywhere in every generation. George Santayana comes to mind immediately. Santayana was at heart Catholic, but in his head atheist. Maritain tried to convert him in his last years but failed, or so it would seem. We never know how many atheists on their deathbeds have become full-fledged Catholics.

Then of course we had a movement several decades ago toward “Christian Atheism” (I believe Thomas Altizer was one of the promoters) surely a proposal for the most ludicrous takeover of one creed by another in the history of the world.

There were similar tensions in Thomas Jefferson, who found in Jesus enormous appeal as a human, but not as a god, and who rewrote the Gospels leaving out reference to miracles and those passages that support Christ’s divinity.

There is a group of atheists (I think in India, possibly Africa) who are emulating Mother Teresa on the principle that for atheists to take the high moral ground they have to at least rival in good works what the Catholics do.

These atheists are my favorite ones. Having learned hope and charity, they are two thirds of their way into the Church of Christ.

A Catholic who calls himself a Naturalist can only still be Catholic if he means by “Naturalist” one who is an aficionado on the subject of Nature … as might be said of a Catholic biology professor, or Saint Francis singing to his Brother Sun and Sister Moon.



#19

Atheism seems to be a category which includes a variety so great that it would take a super-computer to define them all.

Many who say and believe that they believe in God do not really believe in the Infinite Being Who is God. They believe in a variety of beings of gradually increasing power, many of whom are barely above human capacity.

There is, however, a very active type of atheism in the U.S. which has already succeeded in making atheism the official religion of the United States. These atheists are devout and devoted; they practice their religion faithfully and completely. They are not the pure agnostics many say they are, because a pure agnostic would not care if others believed in God and worshipped Him in public, in schools, in court houses. The devout atheist does not believe in that part of the First Ammendment which says that the free exercise of religion is protected. They have twisted the words of the Constitution to mean “separation of Church and state.” They openly state that “free exercise” means out of sight, out of hearing, and soon to be out of knowing. Nowhere does the Constitution state or imply that a public officials cannot express his religious beliefs freely wherever and whenever.

The validity of the experiment which was the U.S. Constitution has been invalidated. It is still within the power of the voter, but the voter is sound asleep; no the voter is in a very deep coma and no one has a secular cure. Prayer is ALL that can save the Constitution from terminal disease…


#20

i have collected, for phatmass.com, the following articles on atheism, which may be of help to you all:

Atheism and Agnosticism
Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God
The Ontological Argument for God’s Existence: “A Concept Greater Than Which First Meets the Eye”
Theistic Arguments
The Reasons to Believe
Does God Exist? (21 articles)
The Existence and Nature of God
Theism, Atheism, and Rationality
The Resurrection of Theism
The Experiential Basis of Theism
Intellectual Sophistication and Basic Belief in God
The Justification of Theism
The Mystery of Persons and Belief in God
God Exists: An Engineer Explains Why
Replies to Essays in The Logic of Rational Theism
Scientific and Empirical Arguments For the Existence of God
The Special Theory of Relativity and Theories of Divine Eternity
Timelessness and Creation
Creation and Conservation Once More
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
A Swift and Simple Refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument?
Theism and the Origin of the Universe
note: also see the “Science and the Existence of God” section of the entry***Faith and Science***

more to come in another post…


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