Atheism or Irreligion?

I stumbled across a quick post today entitled “Is Atheism a Crutch?”. It made me go “hmm” because I have been thinking a similar thought these days.

Ravi Zacharias postulates that most atheists are not so for intellectual reasons but for moral reasons. In other words, many have not chosen atheism because they don’t think there is enough evidence for God or anything like that, but because they echo Huxley’s sentiment that they want this world to be without God and without meaning so they can do whatever they want without consequence. I tend to agree.

I am not saying that all atheists are immoral buffoons, but I do agree with Ravi. At the heart of atheism many times is not the rejection of God’s existence but the choice not to serve, worship, or really think of him at all. At the heart many atheists are not really atheists but simply irreligious.

Most of the people I have encountered who profess atheism do so out of rebellion in one way or another. They do not want to have God on their consciences telling them what they are doing is wrong. They do not like feeling guilty about sin and fearing hell.

By the way, conviction is not a bad thing, and fear of hell is not a bad reason to seek God’s mercy. In fact these are the very reasons we seek God – so he will make us into new creations in Christ Jesus. Salvation is not just “fire insurance,” but a new life that is born out of true sorrow and repentance.

So the root of both atheistic irreligion and Christianity is morality. Many atheists are so because of rebellion in one way or another, wanting to write their own moral laws. Many Christians have become Christians because they have seen the moral bankruptcy of their lives and the moral perfection of a holy God.

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11 Responses to Atheism or Irreligion?

  1. This is the standard wrong position held by many theists. You equate morality with God-belief but what we really know (through rigorous, empirical discovery) is that there is no correlation between God-belief and morality.

    Check out the results from a Creighton University study (a Christian university) at http://tinyurl.com/jpfkk . (The linked page, itself, links back to the Creighton U. study data)

    I don’t often cite other’s YouTube videos, but this one is short and cites much data that I am familiar with. There is no wishy-washy data in the bunch. View it here:

    Your statement “…they want this world to be without God and without meaning so they can do whatever they want without consequence. I tend to agree.” I find dim and offensive.

  2. Samuel Skinner says:

    Wow… this is unbelievable. “Lets not take the atheists at their word and answer them- well use psychoanalysis to ignore them!”

    I am an atheist for an intellectual reason (God not existing). I’ve always been an atheist- it isn’t rebellion. Although not exavtly a living saint, I am a decent human being.

    By the way I like your double think. You know people seeks God moral protection because he is perfect. Oh, and if you disagree with him you burn in Hell. Some one has apparently turned off their conscience. ANd having “God on your conscience” is just priceless- most of the time people join churches that tell them God has the same preferances they do- what a coincidence!

  3. Mike, you may find the statement offensive, but you cannot deny that in some cases it’s true. I cited a well-known atheist who held the sentiment. I am also convinced that there is a correlation between moral law and the Moral Lawgiver (God). I highly recommend C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain on the subject of the intellectual reasons for believing in God.

    Samuel, I am not ignoring the atheist, but I am providing an explanation that I have observed in some atheists. Also, I happen to be one Christian who is a biblical Christian, not one who goes to a church that caters to what I like, but one that tells it like it is even when it doesn’t sound pretty. I am appalled by the liberalism that has taken over the church. I am not a “doublethink” Christian.

  4. Krista,
    I generally do pick up the recommended reading from the apologists but never ask the same of the recommend-er (you in this case). I have to change this policy, though, because the apologetic tomes have invariably been painful reads and failed in their reasoning. (I was only able to make it about 100 pages into my last text (Limbaugh’s “I don’t have enough Faith to be an Atheist”) before I had to return it to the library…a relief actually) I will pick up C.S. Lewis if you will pick up Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon”.

    But before we even go that far…look at the Creighton University study and tell me why we need to believe that religion makes for a healthy society….or why we need believe that non-belief is bad for society. Please don’t trot out Stalin et. al.. They wanted to replace devotion to God with devotion to state and party. That argument fails.

    We non-believers merely claim that we are AT LEAST as moral and ethical as anybody else. I challenge you to, with rigorous, empirical data, to demonstrate otherwise. If you are unable to do so, you are morally obligated to stop disparaging non-believers.

  5. I know there are many textbooks that are awfully dry to read. I’ll check out that study you referred me to (haven’t really got a chance yet today but I will). I own a copy of The God Delusion… would you find it acceptable to substitute that for the Dennett book (really just don’t have the money to go out and buy it right now)? Anyways, I do have a few more things to say on the issue and will be posting today or tomorrow about them.

  6. Samuel Skinner says:

    Your giving explanations for why people are atheists, not why they are wrong. It is as silly as explaining why I am a liberal. My parents were liberals and it resonates with me because it isn’t anti-reason. All these things are however, irrelevant to wheter or not it is true.

    Motivation is irrelevant to wheter a belief is true or not. Wheter or not atheism is reasonable and true is the important part.

  7. Actually, I cited the Dennett book for a reason and Dawkins would not substitute. Dennett is a philospher looking at why the human animal creates religions. I suggest the public library as that is where I get most of my serious reading. I will purchase a book, generally, only when the the topic is of great interest and when the reservations by others at the library would make my wait too long. Interstingly, the wait list for Dawkins and Hitchens were far too long because of their popularity…striking a chord it would seem. The disadvantage of library books, though, is that I want to scribble in the margins and cannot.

    In Dawkins book (since you mention it) he takes the perfect tack with the structure of his book. He starts with a topic, states his position, states the common arguments against it, and then refutes those arguments. THIS IS HOW APOLOGETICS SHOULD WORK. In Limbaugh’s book (the portion I slogged through), he starts a topic, states his position, declares victory (or “mission accomplished”) and moves on. His argumentative method failed at every turn.

  8. Mike, I looked up the Creighton University journal article… wow. Honestly I think it’s terribly written and its conclusions are distortions. I’m not alone in this – the journal also published an article criticizing the author’s findings. You can read it at http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2006/2006-1.html . Skeptic magazine also completely misrepresented the findings. It claims “the study does show a direct correlation between religiosity and dysfunctionality.” It does nothing of the sort. A few objections:

    – The study chose 18 western countries, completely ignoring the rest of the world. I would be interested in reading the same statistics from Middle Eastern countries, India and South America.
    – “Religiosity” is never defined. Believing in God doesn’t necessarily mean that belief has any impact on a person’s life.
    – Merely showing some crime rates and things of that sort, and then saying that these countries claim such-and-such religion, and therefore religion causes crime is completely falicious. No correlation has actually been proven.
    – Again, see the criticism of the article for much more on its problems.

    As for the Dennett book, I’ll see about getting a copy. (I also like to scribble in my margins.) I recommend The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis for the trade-off. I agree that there are far too many bad apologists out there. It is my opinion that C.S. Lewis is one of the best. I also appreciate the ministry of Ravi Zacharias. It is interesting you mentioned “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist.” It was Norman Geisler who wrote it, a man whose work I also appreciate. Limbaugh only wrote the forward. I haven’t read the book myself but I’ve read good reviews both from Christians and atheists.

    Samuel, I agree completely that what is reasonable and true is what’s important. That is the whole purpose of this particular post – that many so-called atheists have not come to their position based on reason but instead by preference of wanting to believe there is no God. They have turned from faith not because they don’t believe in God but because they want to do what they want anyways.

  9. I knew that some had problems with the study but after a brief search (admittedly brief), the only critical paper I came up with was from a Christian university. In the spectrum of dispassionate, unbiased reviewers; this would have to rank very near the bottom of the list for providing credible criticism. That being said…

    Of course any sociological study is going to have, necessarily, more variability or “margin of error” than something dealing with, say, discreet numerical constants. Proper study design minimizes this though.

    Wisely and properly, the study selected the “prosperous western democracies” to eliminate variables. Including soviet (and former soviet) states that brutally FORCED atheism or current/former theocracies (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan et. al.) don’t fit the study and would introduce too many variables. The study was to include only states that have similarly social liberties to the US and have arrived at their state ‘organically’; where individuals/society set their own level of religiosity.

    “Religiosity”, in the study, was measured by the outward activities and survey results. Without referring to all the measures in the study, this included a) how often the citizenry attended church services, b) how often they prayed, etc.. Religiosity, in the study, is self explanatory…the more active the citizenry were in religious rituals and the more they claimed to believe in God…the higher their religiosity. As far as the “communication errors” (issues of translation between languages) mentioned in the linked criticism…Nowhere in my reading did I find indication the any surveys were done as “essay questions” that would require an accurate translation of a nuanced paragraph. Unless someone demonstrates otherwise, I imagine these questions to be something akin to “Do you believe in God? Yes/No”. Communications Errors seem a bit like grasping at straws.

    As far as correlation…
    I think you might have your terminology wrong here. There are a number of mathematical methods for determining correlation. The data DO demonstrate correlation ranging from slight to significant (depending on what ‘societal ill’ is being measured). This is mathematics and there is not really a dispute that there is a correlation. What you are referring to is causality…that is…Is crime higher BECAUSE of religion. In this regard, you are right. A good study can demonstrate correlation, but it is human inference (and further studies) that determine causality.

    For my purposes; I have no need to demonstrate that religion is evil (or any such thing). This study merely validates, empirically, that society can function just fine WITHOUT religion. This (and other studies) show, too, that non-believers such as myself are AT LEAST as moral and ethical as believers. I only wish to diffuse the bigotry that frames non-believers as variously depraved, immoral, amoral, unethical, stupid, and evil.

    In conclusion….
    Studies like these may not necessarily close the door on a topic, they may just spawn other studies that support or refute it. If you don’t like the results of this study, then sponsor another study. Before I will give it credence, though, it must be dispassionately peer-reviewed and vetted (as this one has).

  10. As far as the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist” and its author…the book was sitting nearby and, in glancing at the cover, saw the name at the top (Limbaugh’s) and attributed the book to him. I stand corrected…but still disappointed.

  11. Greg Logan says:

    Ravi Zacharias postulates that most atheists are not so for intellectual reasons but for moral reasons.

    Frankly I think this is self serving at best. The believe in an invisible omniscient omnipotent being within the context of every day existence is, well, more than aburd. If we can’t begin to grasp this basic fact, I don’t think we have any business criticizing anyone.

    My faith in this absurdity however, I note, is not too stretched when I consider the absurdity of the fact that I am writing a post on a rock spinning in the midst of an infinite abyss in front of a nuclear holocaust….

    Greg

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