The irrationality of atheism

By Tom Flannery

When Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza, two best-selling authors and intellectual heavyweights, squared off against each other in a spirited debate at The King’s College last month, many of those in attendance were probably expecting something quite different than what actually transpired.

Hitchens, after all, is the author of the atheist manifesto “God Is Not Great,” while D’Souza has answered with a defense of the faith entitled “What’s So Great About Christianity.” So it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a re-enacting of the age-old argument between religion on the one hand and science and reason on the other.

But that’s not how it turned out at all.

Instead, it was D’Souza, the Christian, who appealed to science and reason in his allotted time. Hitchens presented a case for anti-theism (a more militant and hostile brand of atheism), which turned out to be predicated largely upon sheer emotion – namely, a visceral hatred of all things religious.

D’Souza cited modern scientific discoveries that show we are living in a universe tailor-made for man, a universe so fine-tuned that if any one of dozens of laws governing the universe were altered by the slightest of margins it would be impossible for life to exist on Earth (the only planet we know of where anything even remotely resembling life can exist). Just how fine-tuned is it? Well, oxygen comprises 21 percent of our atmosphere; if it were 25 percent, spontaneous fires would be breaking out, 15 percent and we’d all suffocate to death. And that’s only one of many such examples.

Are they all just cosmic coincidences? Or, as D’Souza put the question, why should a universe made up of matter obey laws? We can all understand how a man or woman or even a child can think and act in a rational manner – but how do we explain a rational universe?

More to the point, how do atheists explain a rational universe? Christians look at a rational universe operating in an orderly manner according to fixed laws and see the glorious handiwork of a rational Creator who works in an orderly manner and is by nature a Lawgiver. Atheists look and see an accident, but one where a mind-boggling amount of information based upon a readable language (DNA) and fine-tuned according to observable laws is written into nature itself. How do they reconcile these seemingly contradictory facts?

In his debate with D’Souza, Hitchens certainly couldn’t. He didn’t even try. He knows very well that scientists have spent hundreds of years searching out, discovering and documenting the intricate, extraordinary laws governing our universe, and as D’Souza challenged during an exchange on “Hannity and Colmes”: “If scientists have spent centuries decoding the universe, who encoded it?”

But D’Souza didn’t stop there in his debate with Hitchens. He noted that the vast majority of scientists over the past few hundred years – Newton, Galileo, Kepler and so many others – were not only religious, but were professing Christians. He pointed out that human consciousness and conscience cannot be explained by random mutations or the chance reaction of colliding molecules. He showed how religion in general (and Christianity in particular) has gotten a bad rap as the purported inspiration of history’s greatest murderers and source of its greatest massacres, when the truth is that a handful of godless anti-theistic monsters in the 20th century (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc.) slaughtered far more many millions than were killed by the religiously motivated throughout all the centuries of human history combined. And he recounted just some of the ways Christianity has improved life and living conditions for untold millions of people the world over, with the help of an audience member who related how the people of his home island used to eat each other before the Christians arrived with the Gospel and cannibalism quickly disappeared.

In the face of all this evidence, Hitchens did little more than rail against God. Hitchens, you see, considers God a “celestial dictator.” He believes that living in heaven would be akin to being consigned to a concentration camp. He has said that even if the God of the Bible does exist, he would still neither love nor serve Him.

Not that there’s anything new there. He is merely following in the footsteps of a long line of anti-theists throughout human history who echo the sentiments of the God-hating philosopher Immanuel Kant when he admitted: “If you could prove the existence of the Christian God to us, we would believe Him all the less.” You see, the problem that the atheists (and anti-theists) have is not an intellectual one but rather a moral one. It’s not a matter of the head but one of the heart; they don’t believe in God because they don’t want to believe in Him.

Indeed, the evidence for God is so overwhelming that it takes far more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian. That fact was demonstrated yet again in the debate between D’Souza and Hitchens, as anyone who watched it objectively would have to conclude.

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