The nonexistence of God is nothing more than a nonsense option. The categories of good and evil themselves require some sort of transcendent standard. What makes things good? What makes things evil? Atheists have, by and large, given up on the idea of an absolute standard of morality. After all, spiritual emptiness and the nonexistence of anything outside of the simple material universe is no way to come up with an ethical system. Morality is cultural preference (which cannot be said to be right or wrong) and fundamentally relative. It takes on (to be generous) the same authority as Wisconsin speed limits on a Nevada highway at night.
People are raped in this world, and rape is evil. Because evil exists, there must be no God. Because there is no God—no authoritative standard over creation—the badness of rape downgrades to a mere matter of societal taste. Ethnic cuisine, ethnic ethics. In God’s absence rape is no longer fundamentally evil. In our country, you’ll get confined to a cell (if caught and convicted), but that just means we enforce our taste, not that our taste has any real authority over anyone else. In other societies, girls have been passed around and traded like baseball cards. Is that right? Is that wrong? You like exploitation; I like apple pie. The two discussions exist on the same plane. There’s no such thing as moral and immoral. In this country, we eat gyros. In this one, we eat pizza. And we’ll give you a ticket for jaywalking. . . .
I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve enjoyed the Discovery Channel. But in that world, if I want to reproduce with you (or tear you limb from limb) I just need to be bigger and stronger than you are. You look pretty small and a little sickly. Shall I feed you to my young? Why not? Cannibalism might not be condoned in your culture, but it has a long and storied tradition in mine. Are you saying that your culture is superior, that it is somehow right while mine is wrong? You’re being a racist, but likely you’re still small, and even racists taste good in casserole. . . .
True atheism is nonsense. If there is such a thing as beautiful, such a thing as good, or even such a thing as bad, then there is a transcendent standard that determines which is which. An atheist can say that society prefers mothers to murderers, but he cannot say that this is as it should be. Tell us what is, by all means. But without God, you cannot tell us what ought to be.
An atheist can tell us that he is a good person. I believe he has never stolen a lawn mover or murdered his wife. I believe him. What he cannot tell me is what is fundamentally wrong about lawn mover theft and wife killing. He will try, but he can’t change the fact that in his world there is no such thing as fundamental wrongness.
Let the man with the biggest armies and booming voice make the rules. Jews and gypsies and homosexuals be damned.
I don’t like that picture. I look at the world and I see beauty. I see love and loss, birth and death, joy and sorrow. I see a world where color exists, and in enormous generosity we were given eyes to see it. This is a world where bread makes a smell as it’s baked, and we just happen to have noses to smell it. Color, smell, sound, taste—these are things that could have gone unnoticed; we could have been senseless in this reality, careening around like so many spattering particles. Were our noses invented first, or the smells? Our eyes, or the sights? Breasts, or desire?
We have been created as recipients. I look at the stars, at the stars, at the grass, at my fat-faced children, at my fingernails, and I am oppressed by gratitude.
I have been given a belly so that I might hunger. I have been given hunger so that I might be fed.
I look in the atheist’s mirror. I look at his faith in the nonexistence of meaning. I look at this preaching and painting. I see nothing but a shit-storm.
Why should I walk through that door? Why would I live in your novel?
Historically, one of the most attractive features of atheism has been its claim to stark realism. No matter how unappealing a godless universe may turn out to be, atheists claim to be committed to adhering to the truth at all costs. However, in this essay, I would like to show that at the very heart of atheism are several extremely unexpected paradoxes, areas in which atheism is shown to be in tension with a commitment to realism and a life consistent with truth…
I want to summarize the paradoxes I believe are inherent to the atheism.
1. Truth-seeking. If a truth-loving God doesn’t exist, then truth-seeking is neither intrinsically good nor morally obligatory. Therefore, paradoxically, the Christian has grounds to urge all people to seek the truth and to claim it is their moral obligation to seek the truth whereas the atheist has no grounds to urge others to seek the truth or to claim it is their moral obligation to do so.
2. Moral reflection. Suffering and evil in the world is so prolific and horrendous that we instinctively avoid thinking about it to preserve our happiness. If Christianity is true, then all suffering and evil will one day be destroyed and healed. If atheism is true, suffering and evil are pointless and will never be rectified. So, paradoxically, a Christian gains the emotional resources to reflect honestly on suffering by reflecting on reality (as he perceives it) while an atheist gains the emotional resources to reflect honestly on suffering only by ignoring reality (as he perceives it).
3. Moral motivation. If Christianity is true, then all of our moral choices have tremendous, eternal significance. If atheism is true, then none of our moral choices have any eternal significance. So, paradoxically, the Christian gains the motivation to act morally by reflecting on reality (as he perceives it) while the atheist gains the motivation to act morally only by ignoring reality (as he perceives it).
None of these observations imply that atheism is necessarily false or that Christianity is true. But I hope that they do cause atheists some serious reflection. At least in these three areas, there is a conflict between the general perception that atheists live a life of realism, facing the truth about reality squarely, and the philosophical and psychological reality of atheism itself. In contrast, Christianity not only provides a basis for the idea that truth is of intrinsic value, but provides resources to enable the Christian to conform his beliefs and behavior to the truth. I would like to gently suggest that those who value truth-seeking and realism should consider whether atheism can justify or support either of these ideals.