2 – Meaningless and with grave consequences on human behavior
From a Christian perspective
Atheism is a meaningless philosophy with potential grave consequences on human behavior.
Yes, many wars have been caused by religion however the communist and Nazi atheist ideologies gave rise to more killings during the 20th century than all the religious persecutions of human history.
Study some famous atheists’ lives- Nietzsche, Darwin, Hitler, Stalin, Aldous Huxley, Sartre, Russell etc- to consider the influence of their beliefs on their own lives.
The Christian view is intrinsically linked with the concept of meaning. With meaning many things are bearable in life, but without it life’s pain and loss as well as the very notion of death become intolerable, even grotesque. In spite of all the virulent attacks against it, faith (true religion) remains the only hope in face of death both for the deceased and for the grieving survivors.
Ravi Zacharias, in his book “Can man live without God”, said: ‘Under close examination atheism’s foundations are philosophically incoherent, morally bankrupt and unable to logically or existentially support civilization.”(1)
Atheists say that matter simply is, nature simply is, nothing exists but natural phenomena, there are no supernatural forces, which is why all religions are considered irrational. Yet apart from God the concepts of pain and death remain not only very difficult to answer they simply defy justification.
To see the influence atheistic beliefs had throughout history let’s take a quick look at some of its main philosophers and adopters’ lives.
The main philosopher representing atheism is Frederick Nietzsche, a thinker who, among others, had a powerful influence upon people like Hitler and Mussolini. From “The Madman” nihilism exaggerations to funereal moods without apology, Nietzsche was one of the antitheistic prophets of the 20th century predicting doom and gloom.
He considered Christianity the lowest point of human progress because of its teachings of morality, repentance and humility, which, in his view, were going against a civilization of power, weakening the mind. He offered the antitheistic view as an alternative but warned that the immediate entailments could be catastrophic…His estimation that the negative impact would be only temporary could not have been more wrong.
Atheism provides the logical basis for an autonomous, domineering will, expelling morality. Darwin himself, like Nietzsche, predicted violence if evolutionary theories were translated into a philosophy of life.
The consequences of the atheistic foundations clearly seem to be a world of violence, discord, emptiness, alienation and racial hate.
Ravi Zacharias, former atheist said, “We can now witness our culture as a whole in a mindless drift toward lawlessness, living the inexorable result of autonomies in collision… The reason actually it still has a sort of stability is because society has managed to smuggle in foundational strengths of Christian thoughts buried far below the surface to maintain a stability somehow, while above we see humanism’s bizarre experiments growing unchecked. If we truly put into place the same principles below the ground that we flaunt above the ground we would completely self-destruct.”(2)
The same author took an example for the above from architecture: the Wexner Center for performing arts in Ohio, US. The architect built inside stairways that go nowhere, pillars that hang from the ceiling without purpose, angled surfaces to give a sense of vertigo etc saying that he designed the building to reflect life itself –senseless and incoherent. Which is fine… with perhaps only one question: Did he do the same with the foundation? A question that denounces right away the double standards of the deconstructionist philosophy, one of the many descendant philosophies of atheism.
The influence of atheism in Nietzsche’s own life.
It is interesting to note that the insanity he predicted for the world overtook Nietzsche personally. In one of his books he identified himself as the “successor to the dead God”. His life bore all the marks of physical and mental deterioration. He was almost blind, extremely lonely, living and writing in a dark freezing un-kept room surrounded by books, manuscripts, drugs and potions to alleviate his debilitating pain of migraines, stomach aches, constant vomiting and syphilitic condition.
He also had an episode in his young stage that according to his biographers was the turning point in his moral and spiritual outlook. When a student in Cologne, instead of being led by a guide to a hotel- as he asked, he was lead to a brothel and it seems he was rudely shaken by the place, stating that the only soul in that place belonged to the piano. After that, nevertheless, he returned there and ended up contracting syphilis.
The theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest has justified many exploiting human behaviors – from greedy capitalists to communists and finally Nazis. The concept of extreme individualism – stating that some persons have less importance than others and it is natural and normal to exploit those weaker than you has lead eventually to the development of the Nazi movement.
Marx-Lenin adopters as well as extreme right capitalists have been both anti-creationists and justified their actions often through the atheist worldview.
The Holocaust did not result from a military strategy as much as it did from the educated elite, proponent of antitheistic and materialistic philosophies. If we remove the 10 Commandments from our moral code, the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment may lead directly to the gas chambers.
Hitler words hanging on a wall in Poland at the Nazi death camps were:” I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience… we will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence- imperious, relentless and cruel.”
“That this was conceived and nurtured in the mind of the most educated nation at that time in history, on the soil that had also given birth to the Enlightenment almost defies belief… but it was atheism’s legitimate offspring. Man was beginning to live without God.” Ravi Zacharias, ‘Can man live without God’ (3)
Stalin (his name means steel and was given to him by his contemporaries)
There is no clearer demonstration of atheism’ downfalls than the experiences of Russia and China as each has, in its own way, tried to exterminate the idea of God, only to realize that He rises up against all odds.
Is there a connection between Stalin’s antitheism and the large scale murder of his own people, approx. 15 millions? One of his convictions (depicted through the chicken story) was that one can really rule humanity if one is able to reduce it to the level of animals. His convictions managed to prompt even the suicides of several members of his own family.
According to Malcolm Muggeridge who had a conversation with Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Joseph Stalin (while working together on the BBC documentary on her father’s life), Stalin died having terrifying hallucinations but still clenching his fist toward the sky.
Some atheists, like Aldous Huxley, unblushingly admitted the reasons behind their antitheistic choice: “for myself as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation- from morality, from a certain system of politics and economics… the only simple way to justify our political and erotic revolt was to deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever.”
Darwin- from what history reports, tragedy contributed significantly to Darwin’s personal journey outside Christianity.
Darwin was in his 40’s when his 10 year old daughter, who had developed a strong emotional connection with her father and was literally the joy of his life, died. Experts that studied his life seem to agree on the fact that this particular event turned him away from God once and for all. Another important aspect that is not so well known is that he struggled considerably before abandoning his faith also due to his wife, Emma, who fundamentally opposed Darwin’s ideas.
Jean Paul Sartre– a leading exponent of atheistic existentialism.
There are many things to be said about his life including the fact that he was considered by his close friends a ‘supreme egoist’. In the words of his friend, Michele Vian: “he refused order, refused family, refused children, refused being faithful and was happy”. “Here we all are, all of us eating and drinking to preserve our precious existence and there is nothing, nothing, absolutely no reason for existing.” Jean Paul Sartre.
However he did shock everyone when on his deathbed, he disavowed the choices by which he had lived.
It is certainly true that not all antitheists are immoral or gloomy but the point is obviously that antitheism – as a belief system- provides every reason to be immoral, being free of any objective point of reference with which to condemn choices.
Also in front of the question of pain and death, atheism remains entirely useless and provides no answer at all. With all the atheism’s talks of hope, optimism and utopia, never before in history has such hopelessness invaded so many people as the heart’s deepest longings remain unmet.
In this regard, G K Chesterton presented a quite powerful idea when he argued that “for the Christian, joy is the central feature of life and sorrow is peripheral because the fundamental questions of life are answered and the peripheral ones are relatively unanswered. For the antitheist, sorrow is central and joy is peripheral because only the peripheral questions are answered and the central ones remain unanswered.”
Still, if Nietzsche’s theories have created such evils as Hitler’s, what about the evils that Christianity has produced like the persecution of unbelievers during the Crusades?
That is a good question but there is an importance difference to be made.
On the one hand the evils of atheism are a direct outgrowth of the teachings of atheism. And this is the most painful reality for atheists to admit. This is not saying that atheism equals killing, and not saying that all atheists are “evil”, this is saying that violence is a logical deducible path from atheism (Darwin himself categorically stated this in his books).
History shows that where atheism has reigned blood has flowed- China, Russia, Nazi Germany are some examples. On the other hand it is clear that when Christianity has used the sword and brought pain and violence it only drifted extremely away from Christ teachings. Jesus hasn’t agreed once with the exploitation of people or the use of violence. Ravi Zacharias said: “The use or abuse of Christianity in contradiction to the very message of the gospel reveals not the gospel for what it is but the heart of man. And this is another reason why atheism is so bankrupt as a view of life, for it miserably fails to deal with the human condition as it really is.”(4)
The fact and the matter is that atheism cannot be defended (ie defend the absolute negative- there is no God), as all atheists philosophers concede, and as Russell* admitted himself. Even if they all have tried, hence the softer version of agnosticism, which is nothing less that a convenient switch that sounds sophisticated and friendly while hiding in atheism for all functional purposes, still its Latin uncomplimentary equivalent is ignoramus.
The above is not to say of course that all atheists, agnostics endorse similar views or attitudes but just to give examples for where this philosophy may lead and what it can actually justify under its theoretical assumptions.
(Source: (1-4) Reprinted by permission. ‘Can man live without God?’ by Ravi Zacharias. Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Other sources: Wikipedia. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/darwin-struggle-evolution-origin-species/ or http://www.bbc.co.uk/darwin/?tab=8&video=true, http://www.metta-physics.com/2011/05/darwin-argued-gods-hand-evolution/ )
For a lighter and much shorter version of an atheist view on life please see Woody Allen’s comments below:
*Note on Hitler:
Despite the controversy regarding Hitler’s beliefs (see more here), most scholars and historians seem to agree that Hitler -although brought up and confirmed as a Catholic- has proven a clear abandonment, even despisal of Christianity, by the time he was exercising his control of Germany, using the worldview only as another propaganda tool.
“In Hitler’s political relations dealing with religion he readily adopted a strategy that suited his immediate political purposes. According to Marshall Dill, one of the greatest challenges the Nazi state faced in its effort to “eradicate Christianity in Germany or at least subjugate it to their general world outlook” was that the Nazis could not justifiably connect German faith communities to the corruption of the old regime, Weimar having no close connection to the churches. Because of the long history of Christianity in Germany, Hitler could not attack Christianity as openly as he did Judaism, communism or other political opponents. The list of Nazi affronts to and attacks on the Catholic Church is long.”