The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.
To regret religion is to regret Western civilization.
— Theodore Dalrymple
Abolish religion if you like. Throw everything on secular
government if you like. But do not be surprised if a machinery
that was never meant to do anything but secure external
decency and order fails to secure internal honesty and peace.
— G. K. Chesterton
Sigmund Freud popularized the notion that belief in God is simply a projection of a deep-seated wish for protection, and that theists create God in their parent’s image. He insisted that God exists only in our minds, and he called upon people to grow up and give up the “fairy tales of religion.”
However, the wish-fulfillment argument works both ways. Who is to say that the atheist does not arrive at his belief in the non-existence of God because he wants no one to interfere with his life? He prizes his autonomy, and atheism appeals to his deep-seated wish to be left alone.
A person’s attitude toward God may well arise from a wish for or a wish against God’s existence.
And, far from ruling out the existence of something, “wishful thinking” may actually be evidence for its existence. C.S. Lewis argues: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Well known atheist, Stephen Hawking, declared, “Religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” It may well be the other way around—that atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light.
The refusal to acknowledge the existence of light does not remove the existence of the sun. We cannot blot it out. Those who dwell in darkness may choose to be obstinate, but it only makes the final inevitable encounter with reality highly unpleasant.
–J. O. Schulz
Absolute atheism starts in an act of faith in reverse gear and is a full-blown religious commitment. Here we have the first internal inconsistency of contemporary atheism: it [often] proclaims that all religion must necessarily vanish away, and it is itself a religious phenomenon.
The Range of Reason
You meet a thousand times in life with those who, in dealing with any religious question, make at once their appeal to reason, and insist on forthwith rejecting aught that lies beyond its sphere, without however being able to render any clear account of the nature and proper limits of the knowledge thus derived, or of the relation in which such knowledge stands to the religious needs of men. I would invite you, therefore, to inquire seriously whether such persons are not really bowing down before an idol of the mind, which, while itself of very questionable worth, demands as much implicit faith from its worshipers as divine revelation itself.
Modern Doubt and Christian Belief
by C. S. Lewis
I was taught at school, when I had done a sum, to “prove my answer”. The proof or verification of my Christian answer to the cosmic sum is this. When I accept Theology I may find difficulties, at this point or that, in harmonizing it with some particular truths which are embedded in the mythical cosmology derived from science. But I can get in, or allow for, science as a whole.
Granted that Reason is prior to matter and that the light of the primal Reason illuminates finite minds, I can understand how men should come by observation and inference, to know a lot about the universe they live in. If, on the other hand, I swallow the scientific cosmology as a whole, then not only can I not fit in Christianity, but I cannot even fit in science. If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees. And this is to me the final test.
This is how I distinguish dreaming and waking. When I am awake I can, in some degree, account for and study my dream. The dragon that pursued me last night can be fitted into my waking world. I know that there are such things as dreams: I know that I had eaten an indigestible dinner: I know that a man of my reading might be expected to dream of dragons. But while in the nightmare I could not have fitted in my waking experience.
The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world: the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific point of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself.
I believe in Christianity as I believe
that the Sun has risen not only because I see it
but because by it I see everything else.