Here’s a great post by conservative British journalist Melanie Phillips. (I think she is Jewish, by the way)
I have a rather different take on this great division of our age. My view is that while we may be in a post-biblical — and post-moral — age, we have not disposed of belief. Far from it. We have just changed what we believe in. Our society may have junked the Judaeo-Christian foundations of the West for secularism. But this has given rise to a set of other religions. Secular religions. Anti-religion religions.
These are also based on a set of dogmas. They proselytise. They involve faith. But unlike the Judaeo-Christian thinking they usurp, these secular anti-religions suspend truth and reason. What’s more, I would say that it was the Judaic foundations of the West which, far from denying reason, gave the world both reason and science in the first place.
God has been pronounced dead, and in his place have come man-made ideologies — in which people worship not a divine presence but an idea.
These ideas, which brook no dissent, give rise inescapably to intolerance and indeed to tyranny. Indeed, they are far more tyrannical in their effect than the God of the Hebrew Bible who gets such a bad press for being so authoritarian. In fact, he has a truly terrible time getting his way. His people are always complaining, refusing to do what he tells them, blaming him for everything and always, always arguing with him. But ideologies which represent the will of man bend everything to the governing idea, which cannot be gainsaid. There can be no argument with them.
Rather than being rational, I suggest these are irrational; not tolerant at all, but deeply illiberal; not open to other ideas, but as dogmatic as any medieval pope. Indeed, these atheistic ideologies are reminiscent not just of religion but of medieval persecutions, witch-hunts and inquisitions.
Let me illustrate all this with an anecdote. After a debate in which he took part some time ago, I pressed Richard Dawkins on his belief that the origin of all matter was most likely to have been an entirely spontaneous event — which meant he therefore surely believed that something could be created out of nothing. Since this ran counter to the scientific principle of verifiable evidence which he tells us should govern all our thinking, this itself seemed to be precisely the kind of irrationality which he scorns.
In reply, he acknowledged that I had a point but said that the alternative explanation — God — was more incredible. But then he remarked that he was not necessarily averse to the idea that life on Earth had been created by a governing intelligence — provided, however, that such an intelligence had arrived on Earth from another planet. Leaving aside the question of how that extra-terrestrial intelligence had itself been created in the first place, I put it to him that he appeared to be saying that “little green men” provided a more plausible explanation for the origin of life on Earth than God. Strangely, he didn’t react to this well at all.
However, Dawkins is not the first scientist to have suggested this. It is a theory which was put forward by no less than Professor Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA.
A committed atheist, Francis Crick found it impossible to believe that DNA could have been the product of evolution. In 1973, Crick and the chemist Leslie Orgel published a paper in the journal Icarus suggesting that life may have arrived on Earth through “directed panspermia”. According to this theory, micro-organisms were supposed to have travelled in the head of an unmanned spaceship sent to Earth by a higher civilisation which had developed elsewhere some billions of years ago. The spaceship was unmanned so that its range would be as great as possible. Life started here when these organisms were dropped into the primitive ocean and began to multiply. Subsequently, Crick abandoned this theory and returned to the idea of the spontaneous origin of life from purely natural mechanisms.
How can someone so committed to reason be so irrational as to entertain such a fantasy?
What I found great about this article is that even though Melanie Phillips is a popular columnist, she actually deals with evidence when talking about God. So often on Christian blogs, you can read tons of posts that are really just inside baseball for Christians. It’s just pablum or lists of todos. The right way to talk about God is by talking about the evidence. Even Melanie Phillips sees that. Why don’t we?
I think we need to be very forthright when speaking with atheists and call them out for what they are. They are the people who hate astrophysics, and despise the Big Bang cosmology. They are the believers in the unobservable, untestable multiverse. They are the believers in the unobservable, untestable aliens who seed the Earth with life. They are the believers in the as-yet-undiscovered Cambrian precursor fossils. They believe that material processes can somehow produce creatures that have free will and consciousness. They are the ones who think that right and wrong are purely arbitrary – matters of opinion that are decided one way or the other in different times and places. They are the ones who believe that when you die, you are not accountable for anything you’ve done, and nothing that you’ve done has ultimate meaning. Let’s be up front about all of that, and hold them accountable for their anti-science, anti-morality, anti-human views. And let’s hold them accountable for running away from debates with their tails between their legs – like that coward Richard Dawkins did.