I’ve been negligent in posting my fourth installment in this series, but here it is finally. So far I’ve argued that some are atheists because they are seeking liberation from a moral code, others reject the idea of God because religion has been used as a tool of oppression by the establishment, and still other reject God because they fear faith and see it as a dangerous thing for humanity. I want to offer two more reasons in this post and then move on in subsequent post to think about how we should respond as a believers.
4. Some reject the idea of God because of the overly confident assertions of scientists that science has disproven God. There is a stigma that goes along with faith, especially serious faith, in academia. I must confess that in reading Dawkins’ God Delusion I felt stupid. Why? Certainly not because his arguments were particularly strong (hint: there are virtually no arguments, just assertions and plenty of sarcasm). No, I felt stupid because he kept telling me I am stupid for believing in God. He points out several times that scientist are generally atheists (pg. 127), especially the elite scientists. He likes pointing out that the more educated one is, the more likely they will be atheists (pg. 129). He refers to belief in God as superstition and as reasonable as belief in the tooth fairy and Easter Bunny (pg. 75). He argues that a belief in God undermines serious scientific work and compromises intellectual rigor. He actually goes so far as to call intelligent Congressman and Senators liars for saying they believe in God: “There are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the Senate. Assuming that the majority of these 535 individuals are an educated sample of the population, it is statistically all but inevitable that a substantial number of them must be atheists. They must have lied, or concealed their true feelings in order to get elected” (pg. 67).
I will grant him, for the sake of the argument, that some may feel pressured to claim they believe in God or hide their atheistic leanings. There is a public pressure in this regard that is undeniable. Yet, I think we should be able to turn this argument around on Mr. Dawkins. Why do so few scientists and intellectual elites profess a faith in God? Could it be because of the peer pressure in the academic community? This is no doubt true also. Ben Stein’s movie Expelled chronicles how belief in God or advocacy for Intelligent Design derailed more than one career. Moreover, the number of scientist who claim a personal religious faith of some kind has not changed in the last 80 years. McGrath, “One of the most widely help beliefs within atheist circles has been that as the beliefs and practices of the ‘scientific’ worldview became increasingly accepted within Western culture, the number of practicing scientists with any form of religious belief would dwindle to the point of insignificance. A survey of the religious views of scientist, undertaken in 1916, showed that about 40 percent of scientists had some form of personal religious beliefs. At the time, this was regarded as shocking, even scandalous. The survey was repeated in 1996, and showed no significant reduction in the proportion of scientist holding such beliefs, seriously challenging the popular notion of the relentless erosion of religious faith within the profession. The survey cuts the ground from under those who argued that the natural sciences are necessarily atheistic. Of those questioned, 40 percent had active religious beliefs, 40 percent had none (and can thus legitimately be regarded as atheists), and 20 percent were agnostics.”
5. The last motive for the rejection of God, which I’ve already mentioned, is the notion that God is a hateful, vengeful monster. This view is expressed by Dawkins, who writes, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, monomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (pg. 51). Both Sam Harris and Christopher Hitches echo Dawkins argument. If you’re like me, then 1) you had to look a couple of those words up, and 2) you have wondered about God’s character also, especially after reading Joshua or Judges. Of all the reasons for a disbelief in God, this one may be the most difficult to help people over.
I will begin posting responses to these reasons for rejecting God soon. What I will post, however, is not a detailed critique of the arguments (maybe later). Instead, it will be a manifesto of sorts. Many of these reasons for rejecting God are rooted in sins, corruption, false teaching, misunderstanding, etc. within the church (with the exception of reason 5). Part of showing people the reasonableness of a belief in God will be correcting and guarding against these problems.