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No person should be allowed the luxury of holding a belief while ignoring its implications. Why? Because the implications of today’s prevalent beliefs shape the ethos of the next generation. For instance, suppose I had been born into a culture which had been largely shaped by the belief that the ability to overcome a rival tribe was conferred on me through a rite of manhood. Obviously, I would go through that rite. After several defeats I might come to question the effectiveness of the manhood ritual. I might come to believe that the rival tribe’s practice of cannibalism made them more powerful. Since cannibalism had not been part of my cultural ethos, I would probably find the idea of eating another human to be distasteful (pardon the pun). For me, eating another person would be hard, but propagating my ideas would be easy. Suppose I convince others in the tribe of my position and after another defeat at which I get killed, they decide to eat a couple of the felled rival warriors. What if after that, my tribe won the next battle? My tribe would most likely continue to dabble in cannibalism. Within two generations the buffet would be open.
Lately, I’ve encountered some pretty aggressive anti-theists. The messages coming from that camp are fraught with what I would label, “ideological dissonance.” So, just to do my part to help everyone come into personal harmony, I present this atheistic ontological syllogism for review:
P1- Meaning is an interpretive construct of a sentient mind.
P2- Sentience requires interplay between evaluative consciousness and memory.
P3- Consciousness and memory are products of chemical processes in the human brain.
P4- When the brain is destroyed, consciousness ends and memories are erased.
C1- Relative to the deceased individual, regardless of the details or duration, the life that he or she lived becomes retroactively meaningless.
P5- At some point, all brains and their products will be destroyed.
C2- Human life, regardless of the details or duration, is utterly meaningless.
P6- Resources invested in something which is utterly meaningless are wasted.
C3- The attempt to survive or accomplish anything is a total waste.
If you disagree, please tell me why. If you agree but still choose not to commit suicide, then it’s because you fear the only certainty of your existence. In short, your life isn’t advancing the human condition or accomplishing anything noble; you are just procrastinating. So, the most consistent atheist ethic would be “die today” or “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
If you are living in the West, then you were probably raised with a value system which says that you should value human life. The basis of that value is, “all men were created equal” or some similar formulation. Your heart is trying to retain a borrowed ethic the basis of which your mind and mouth deny. So, feel free to keep going where you’re going, just please admit that you are going there.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the reasons that people have for disbelieving God or for questioning his nature. I myself have struggled and continue to struggle with doubts. In fact, I struggle to believe those who say that they have not struggled with doubts. It’s hard to believe in God. Bad things happen. Prayers go unanswered. Then there are the contradictions between the biblical narrative and scientific discoveries. Not to mention contradictions between the biblical narrative and the biblical narrative. Finally, and most devastatingly, there are the walking contradictions, those who claim to follow Christ yet do violence to his name through their behavior.
We’ve all encountered contradictions in various forms. What we do with them will shape our souls and the course of our lives. By spending some time recently reading literature from unbelievers, I have discovered a pattern in the way they tend to process these contradictions. Their thinking tends to follow an “if, then” heuristic. For instance, “If God is all-powerful and completely good, then why is there suffering?” That’s a great question to ask as are many others posed by those who do not believe in God. It’s a logical question. I respect people who ask good questions and I feel indebted to them for helping to take my thinking to a higher level. I don’t want a faith which is untested or based on assumption.
Having said that, I want to challenge the atheistic challenge by suggesting that drawing conclusions from the “if, then” heuristic presupposes that all variables are known. For instance, a child whose parents take him to get a shot might question the love of his parents for him since he has built a heuristic that says, “If you love me, then you won’t hurt me.” We can easily see that while for this child the dilemma is very real, the contradiction exists only in his faulty perception of reality. Here is another example which I found in Scripture the other day: “The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” (Luke 23:36-37) Roman soldiers standing at the foot of the cross could not possibly understand how or why a king would submit to crucifixion. They possessed a heuristic which said, “If you have power, then you will use it in your best interest.” Looking back at this event through the lens of redemption, we can easily see that not only did the cross not challenge Jesus’ identity as the Christ, it validated it. So, there was more to be understood and the soldiers reached a conclusion too early.
Perhaps in the debate over the existence of God, some humility is called for. Perhaps at the beginning, we should all acknowledge that there is much we do not know. I’d like to challenge myself and anyone else who will accept it, to allow contradictions to elicit further discovery rather than premature conclusions. After all, the first definition for “heuristic” in Dictionary.com is, “serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of further investigation.”