Atheists are Good Without God!
An Atheist announced on an internet discussion board, “Atheists are good without God!” It was not the first time I had heard it. Over the past twelve years, on the many atheist forums I had visited, the atheists and even some professing “Christians” had made this claim. To support their assertion, they posted a few “studies” that showed how atheist ethics (devised from their own empty non-belief system) were superior. Atheists had lesser numbers in prison, they claimed, a lower divorce rate, less crime in secular countries, and better raised children because they taught their children (the atheist ethics of) tolerance (which excluded Christians), anti-racism and the “Golden Rule” or empathy. Empathy, they avowed, was the best guide for morality. Empathy, in fact, would create the Utopia the world has, since the Garden of Eden, yearned after for so long. This godless form of morality was purportedly superior to all notions of cold and rigid religious dogma and objectivity.
Upon first consideration, exchanging cold, hard, objective morality for that of warm, gentle, compassionate empathy is appealing. But is it correct? In this blog I will show my readers how in truth it is a recipe for failure and the reasons why.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines empathy as: 1. The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it. 2 The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this.
I wrote this in 1983. The essay originally appeared as Chapter Six in J. M. Wallis, Chaos in the Classroom (Bullsbrook, WA: Veritas Publishing Company, 1984).
Depending upon the ideas and values one holds, music and music education in Australia may or may not be in a dilemma. According to the values of this writer a real dilemma actually exists. In this article, I intend to point to the cause of the dilemma and offer suggestions for a solution.
The initial cause of the problem is the adoption of a false philosophical base, out of which comes the values that people hold. Following in the wake of the philosophical writings of Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant, man in the twentieth century has denied the possibility of knowing that objective reality exists, and hence denies that objective criteria in any field of endeavour really exist. This is illustrated in contemporary slogans such as “do your own thing” or “if it feels good, do it” and “that’s just your opinion”. In other words, philosophical anarchy, resulting in anarchy in every sphere of life, has become the new ideal.
Psychopath! What picture does that word conjure in your mind?
Too often we associate the idea of psychopath with Anthony Hopkins brilliant portrayal of Dr. Hanibal Lecter. Lecter is a psychiatrist with an eating disorder: He’s a cannibal. So you see him on the screen apparently eating someone’s brains.
Now that picture is not one of a real psychopath. And neither is it a picture of a pastor or church leader.
But . . .
There are number of identifiers of a psychopath, and his near-twin brother, the narcissistic personality disorder. They share common traits. One of the identifiers is a continuous attempt to manipulate people and outcomes.
But the most obvious identifier of the psychopath is anti-social behavior. Sound familiar? It should. It is common among people who insist that their understanding of life is the only one. Others must conform to their model of reality. And they undertake a number of activities to ensure this occurs.
It is often thought that self-esteem is a key ingredient to success. But studies conducted by staff at Florida State University (and elsewhere) have made some remarkable discoveries.
One of the discoveries was that the people with the highest self-esteem were criminals. There’s nothing like a little research to blow pet theories into the water.
When Dr. Roy Baumeister studied at Princeton, he chose the topic of self-esteem and used it to get his doctoral degree. This was at a time when self-esteem was just appearing on the horizon.
But at a conference in 1984, a sociologist asked him, “What’s wrong with self-esteem? How come it never does any good, never predicts anything?”
What compels men to sacrifice their lives on its altar?
Some of its experts claim it is merely a chemical reaction in the brain. Others presume that it is an evolutionary mechanism of survival. Some claim that correlation implies causation and insist that love, other emotions, thought, volition, and what is theologically called the ‘soul’, are instinctual, hardwired into the brain because we observe that emotions cause brain alterations. Furthermore, drugs and other mind altering events can change thinking and emotions.
The Mechanisms of Attachment
Concerning the mechanisms of infant attachment that J. Bowlby described in his psycho-analytic studies of the child, Everett Waters et al says, “(The) brilliant descriptive insight concerning the nature of the child’s tie to its parent allowed J. Bowlby to highlight the apparently purposeful organization (programming) of infant attachment behavior without invoking drive concepts and without attributing goals or other cognitive guidance that might simply have replaced one bit of magic with another. Or was it simply one bit of magic replacing another?”
Everette Waters et al continues, “This is the only point at which evolutionary theory plays a critical role in Bowlby’s theory. The argument is this, ”Attachment arises from interaction between an infant with certain biases (programs) in its learning abilities and an average expectable environment (i.e. responsive mother). The biases in infant learning abilities, taken with the expectable environment, essentially guarantee that the attachment behavioral system will be put together according to the species specific pattern (programming).
“Bowlby proposed that these biases evolved by natural selection. This was a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, if it could be supported by evidence that specific biases in learning abilities can indeed evolve.”
To complicate matters more, Everett Waters et al, notes that “Bowlby emphasized that the infant mother relationship is a genuine attachment not merely an infantile precursor. He also emphasized that (the) infants’ reactions to separation and loss are more than mere cries. They reflect the same grief and mourning process experienced by adults. The similarity of infant separation responses to phases of adult grief and mourning was subsequently documented in several striking films by Bowlby’s colleagues, Joyce and James Robertston.
After hypothesizing the evolutionary mechanisms involved in producing these programs, they conclude, “This has been a source of naïve and fruitless speculation that is more likely to discredit attachment theory than to add depth or clarity. (Learning to Love, Milestones and Mechanisms, Everett Waters, et al, pages 7-9)
Science News says in their November 30, 2010 article, “Hormone Oxytocin Bolsters Childhood Memories of Mom’s Affections,”Researchers have found that the naturally-occurring hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin intensifies men’s memories of their mother’s affections during childhood. The study was published November 29 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
“We know very little about the biological mechanisms that support human attachment bonds, but understand that oxytocin regulates attachment in animals, and plays a specific role in forming social memories,” said Dr. Bartz. “Our study suggests that oxytocin may similarly play a key role in human attachment by modulating these early memories of mom.”
The Question Secularism Cannot Answer
The question persists in the secular world,“Where did this attribute called ‘love’ come from?” “What is the soul?” Scientists scratch their heads in consternation when attempting to proffer a feasible hypothesis. How does a physical gene, or nervous system, or hormone, produce these invisible, yet dynamic and living characteristics? With no evidence, but circumstantial, they declare (they MUST declare to retain their materialistic worldview) that somehow the physical does indeed create the immaterial. Now that is more than a bit of magic!
Let us compare another physical device, our radios, that correlates with an invisible component, radio waves. One day our radio becomes defective, failing to perform its transformation of received radio waves into intelligible sound waves. In other words, when our radio fails, its transmissions become fuzzy or completely unintelligible. Does this prove that the radio itself created the radio waves? Is a lack of functionality in the radio in some way a demonstration that the radio waves no longer exist? That is what some scientists are saying about our brain, that it creates the “soul” and when it dies, the soul dies with it.
However, the radio is similar to the situation we have with our brain. We certainly observe emotions affecting the brain and defects in the brain skewing emotions (sometimes our transmissions are fuzzy), but, as the radio is the user interface for radio waves, the brain is the user interface for the soul and spirit. It enables interaction between you and God who is Spirit. Will scientists ever discover a love gene, or a hate gene, or a sadness gene, or a God gene? That remains to be seen. You will witness your lifestyle alter your brain and its activities and then the resulting changes affect your life. However, if you reproduce, will you pass your cerebral alterations on to your progeny? or will their behavior alter their brains as it did yours?
The Proof that There is More than the Material World
The unseen world of abstractions, such as love and hate, philosophy and its questions, HOW something works, LIFE itself, the PROGRAM that compels life, and especially morality, conscience and ethics, all prove there is more to this life than the material world. Evolution has no acumen to do such things as instruct, program, lead or direct, give purpose, decide, perceive, discriminate, create laws or devise a plan, or prescribe a moral code that instructs in the school of right and wrong. These are all things that proceed from intelligence and perfection of character. Evolution is not intelligent. Yet, we observe, throughout the entire universe, purpose and provision for survival…and law.
The “survival mechanism” does not solely exist in sentient beings and living organisms that perpetuate themselves by natural selection and some innate or built-in drive to live. “Survival” i.e. perpetuation, is also built into the Universe from the various sub-atomic particles up through the solar systems to the workings of galactic formations and all other natural phenomenon whose survival, i.e. continuance, depends not on biological selection processes or the drive to live, but the invisible laws of nature that bind them in all their workings.
It is, however, what we would expect if a Masterful Being loved His creation and therefore mercifully built into it all the mechanisms of survival, homeostasis, population control and protection, perpetuation, and best of all, the ability to THRIVE and LOVE, and to ENJOY life. Stunning beauty and joy intertwine the Cosmos. It is not just a practical machine, which would be magnificent in itself, but a handiwork of incomparable splendor! This is confirmed by the First Law of Thermodynamics which, very simply stated, says “Neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed, they can only change their form.” It is demonstrated by Einstein’s famous E=MC2 formula.
That there is a Masterful Being behind all the Cosmos gives sense to where love came from and why love is a dynamic that goes beyond mechanistic programming, yet is present in most creatures! Though universal, love is at least partially a learned attribute. That is, it is not entirely programmed into the information base of sentient beings, though scientists find it difficult to distinguish between instinct (programming) and learned behavior. I have spent my life consorting with animals and have observed many times a mother whose mother did not nurture her in infancy, have no capacity to nurture her own young. Reproduction transmits the problem to the next generation (only by human intervention to keep the young alive). Lack of (usually human) outside intervention immediately causes those lines to go extinct in that first generation. This extinction is not by any physical weakness or mutant gene at all, but by the absence of the invisible attribute of love and the nurturing drive.
Diane Benoit, MD FRCPC, says in “Infant-parent attachment: Definition, types, antecedents, measurement and outcome,” The quality of the infant-parent attachment is a powerful predictor of a child’s later social and emotional outcome. By definition, a normally developing child will develop an attachment relationship with any caregiver who provides regular physical and/or emotional care, regardless of the quality of that care. In fact, children develop attachment relationships even with the most neglectful and abusive caregiver. Therefore, the question is never, ‘is there an attachment between this parent and this child?’ Instead, the question is, ‘what is the quality of the attachment between this parent and this child?’
Does Evolution Provide the Answer?
We return to Bowlby. According to him, the species typical responses in infants show that there is also a program in force. J. Bowlby theorizes that attachment response is triggered by the nurturing behavior of the care-giver. (International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1958)
Everett Waters, et al, says about Bowlby’s theory, “In brief, Bowlby proposed that human infants’ behavior toward their primary caregivers is under the control of an attachment behavioral control system (programming). He described this control system as a neutrally based feedback system that integrated several functions.” They go on to say that the control system is activated by the care-giver’s sensitive responses to the infant. Innate to the infant are behaviors that elicit these parental responses. They propose that the control system resides in the nervous system. However, they have yet to explain where exactly in the nervous system it is or how it got there. (Learning to Love: Milestones and Mechanisms, Everett Waters, et al, page 5)
It is important to know even on these base levels how complicated and system wide the action of bonding and attachment is. What is also important to consider is where, in the hypothesis of the evolutionary/uniformitarian scheme of things this “gene” was acquired. Consider the fact that there is evidence of maternal bonding in nearly all, if not all, mammals, most birds and even some fish. Since, presumably, these genetic ‘accidents’ are accomplished via random mutations, the statistical likelihood against any one such event happening is truly immense. This is especially so if one were to Google or Bingle “beneficial mutations” in the Genetic literature. Mutations beneficial to those other than the organism are rare. On the other hand, one beneficial to the mutant itself is almost non-existent. When it does provide some benefit, there are usually accompanying side effects that actually harm and weaken the organism.
Then to assume that such a mutation occurred more than once (mammals, birds, fish,) brings the image of lab coated PhD’s scrabbling around in the dust at the bottom of the hypothesis barrel for a reasonable explanation that isn’t there. In such a scenario, nevertheless, they fall back on the unlikely, the improbable and, finally, the impossible. On the other hand, if it was to have happened, all three of the given groups had to have had a common ancestor (according to evolutionary theory). It also seems likely, within the E/U hypothesis that this common ancestor MUST or have been close to a single cell or multi-cell grouping. It seems obvious that such a maternal love, and by extension love in general, would have been totally extraneous to the life and potential death of the parent organism hence totally immune to the random vagaries of natural selection. It makes acceptance of such a ridiculous impossibility an impossibility in and of itself, leaving the reasonable investigator, reader, etc. to look for some other, more likely explanation….a common CREATOR!
If not the Creator, we must answer the questions, who did the programming of such mind-boggling, complex features? Who “drew up” the instruction manual, for the plan? Who was it that provided the information for life, animate and inanimate, that fills LIBRARIES with its volumes, the information not written with three or four letter words, but at the least, FIFTY Letter words that must be spelled with absolute precision? Not one letter can be missing or out-of-place or the structure crumbles! We have NEVER observed random chance causing programs of this caliber to fall into being. Even intelligently designed programs, such as Dawkins appropriately named ‘Weasel’ program, are massive failures before the density of the instructions in DNA. Intelligence invariably writes these programs. Anyone who claims otherwise is not adhering to the scientific method, but speaking from a philosophical basis. In other words, they are not involved in science but in philosophy.
Is the Program Running Down?
When we see so much hate and cruelty, or even lack of emotion or empathy in the world, we wonder if these invisible programs are becoming exhausted, leaving us relegated to emotionless inanimate objects! Indeed God prophesies that in the last days, “… because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Mt 24:12) Therefore, is becoming a rock and an island, or a program run robot, from a sentient being, progress and advancement of the species? Or is the machinery running down? Are we witnessing evolution or devolution—progress or regression?
If immaterial conditions are not exclusively programmed, where did they come from? What first organism “learned” the gamut of emotions and taught them to its offspring who passed it on to their offspring? Who was the first instructor that taught dumb creatures this beautiful attribute? Did the other organisms coincidentally acquire these emotions also? Or did this acquisition begin early in the cellular stage of evolution, as previously mentioned, and then persistently make its way to all populations of advanced species? I speak as a fool, because I do not believe in evolution. These questions show the improbability and illogic of evolution producing the dynamic, multifaceted life you see today.
The nuances of emotion, love, hate, affection, empathy, happiness, distraught, and everything in between, reveal person-hood–just what you would expect if there were an Intelligent Being behind it all. The Person-hood of God is the watermark upon His entire creation! YOU with the dynamic spectrum of love and hate, sorrow, joy, a conscience for right, and wrong, have the watermark of God on your life! His personality is upon all of His handiwork, even as the personality of a human artist expresses itself in all of his art forms.
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” If God devised such a system as this, and He indeed did, we can trust Him when He says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
- This research was funded by the Beatrice and Samuel A. Seaver Foundation. Additional study sites include Columbia University and McGill University. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101129152433.htm↵back
More of the Same or Something Different?
And there is this to consider. People turn to the Christian faith in the first place because they are looking for something more than the secular world has to offer; it is a disservice to give them back more of the same.
When you end up telling the world what it already knows, it will have no further interest in listening to you.
As for the argument about reaching the young people through relevance, well, that approach has already been tried and has been found to be a colossal failure. When liberal Catholic and Protestant educators tried their hand at being relevant, they succeeded only in hastening the departure of young people from their churches. It was relevant for the editors of one Catholic textbook to use three pages of advice from Carl Rogers’s book On Becoming Partners as the basis for the chapter on marriage. It was equally relevant to present an episode from a popular television show in another such series. It is relevant also, I suppose, to put personality quizzes in Christian books or to run Sunday school discussion groups along encounter or values clarification models or to teach “decision-making skills.” All of this is up-to-date and in tune, but what does it have to do with Christianity, which is timeless? Moreover, the tone is all wrong: it is much too familiar and worldly, too casual and irreverent. It is not a sacred tone.
Finally, it doesn’t work. According to every index, these attempts at modernization only serve to weaken the faith of church members. Nor do they attract new members. When you end up telling the world what it already knows, it will have no further interest in listening to you.
- William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction: the Failure of Modern Psychology (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), pp. 175-176.↵back
“Pietism has killed what Liberalism and Neo-orthodoxy left alive.”
“Religious families need not worry that therapy will draw their child away from their faith.” This sentence commences the closing paragraph of an article published in one of the world’s leading news magazines, Can Your Child Be Too Religious? It’s a broad discussion that eventually suggests that your child can be too religious, and that therapy might help in an adjusting process.
I have a niece who raised her daughter in the Christian faith, and even had her schooled at the local Christian College. At 17-years of age, my niece’s daughter is an ardent atheist who no longer affirms the Bible is true, that abortion is murder, that homosexuality is wrong, as she once did. And the change came about as a result of her therapist who had the idea that too much religion was not good for her.
But just as importantly, it is while this teenager is attending a Christian College that she is “snatched” from out of the Christian community into the world of rampant anti-God atheism. As she said to me, “I hate the Bible and I hate the morals of the Bible.” Which is kind of strange coming from someone who claims she has swapped religious “hate” for “love.”