Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Challenges from Atheists: Is Religion Delusional or Dangerous?

One of the most vocal challenges coming from the "new" atheists and "Nones" (those who profess no religious beliefs or affiliations) is that religion is a delusion.  Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Rorty along with others have all at one time or another pontificated such a statement of some degree or another.  This assumption is also one that attacks and often persuades the impressionable first/second year "born again" college student, sitting in their first university science class being taught by one of 51% of the professors claiming to be an atheist or a hard boiled agnostic.

But is this claim that religion is delusional or dangerous really true?  What can be made of this claim and what should be an intelligent Christian response?

In this posting, I hope to answer these questions and show how a properly understood Christian belief is not delusional.  At the end of this posting, I will point out that the charge of religion being delusional can be turned back to the one making the charge toward the Christian.

Definition:  Delusion.

Many of the skeptics making this objection seem to have the definition correct.  Some will only give part of the definition to fit their rhetoric, almost bulldogging the definition to fit their lack of a defense for their atheism.  (Some atheists who read this post might not think I am being nice.  Really, if they want to push and be antagonistic toward Christianity, consider this my shoving back.)  To be fair to both sides of the belief line, a good definition should come from a reliable source, like a dictionary.  I will use entries 3 and 4 from the dictionary.com delusion entry as our foundation.  It states that a delusion is "a false belief or opinion: as in delusions of grandeur."  From the contextual framework of 'psychiatry', since most atheists make this claim of religious people from this context, a delusion is "a fixed belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact."  In summation of these two definitions, let's agree that a delusion is about "believing something to be true, despite evidence to the contrary."

What Are These Folks Saying?

Atheists, whether they want to agree with this definition or not, deny the existence of anything supernatural being called "God."  Richard Dawkins during his debate with John Lennox synchronized his atheism to deny that the Christian God exists and that it is unreasonable to believe such a Being exists.  Some of the "new atheists" will say that they do not believe in Zeus, Thor, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, pink unicorns et al.  Well neither do I; and those "deities" are not descriptive of the God that I believe in.  Those gods are created, and anyone that believes in those or believes that a Christian believes in a deity like those is delusional themselves.

The God that I believe in the God that is personal, in that He is a Person. God is infinite, moral, transcendent and yet near, infinitely powerful and at the same time infinitely loving.   This is hardly anything in comparison to the created gods that the "new atheists" and Nones think we believe in.  In fact it is quite laughable that they cannot separate these facts.

At any rate what they are saying is that anyone who believes in a supernatural deity, which cannot be proven by giving "factual" evidence, is delusional.

A Response.

First off, looking at the definition for the word delusion given earlier this challenge from atheists is already riddled with holes.  Let me remark on a few of those holes.

First off,  the objection of calling religious folks delusional is dishonest.  What do I mean?

Richard Dawkins, in his debate with David Quinn stated that "delusion means a falsehood which is widely believed, and I think that is true of religion."[1] Did you notice how Richard defined "delusion" in his statement?  He didnt give a thorough definition.  All he did was give part of the definition.  So let's work with that.

Let's grant that a delusion is "a falsehood which is widely believed." Atheism is growing in popularity.  I saw this at the Reason Rally this past March.  Why can't Richard's definition refer to all those 7000+ at the Rally professing to be non religious?  Why can't that also refer to atheism?   Who is to say that atheism is not a delusion with all the people coming to believe Richard and Co's "preaching."

Second off.  I have neither seen a debate, nor listened to a one, where both participants in the "existence of God debate" had claimed to have absolute certainty on God's existence or nonexistence. While  atheists like to argue as if they have indubitable certainty, they do not.  Christians, who are honest in this debate, are wiling to admit that we do not have absolute certainty.  At the same time, however we do have pretty strong convictions for the existence of God and for the authenticity and historical reliability of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  When it comes to the debate for God's existence, there are several lines of evidence.[2] 

To say that Christians are delusional for believing in God and the supernatural is not only ignorant but it is really a delusional statement itself.  As Christians we have several lines of evidence for the existence of God.  We have the fact that truth is knowable and can be proven to be absolute.  We have tons and tons of evidence for the reliability of the Bible from the context of history and not just its supernatural nature.  We have an historical crucified Savior who was resurrected from the dead three day and nights later that precedes any (let me say again ANY) record coming from the pagan sources.  We have reliable arguments for the beginning of the universe and its intricate design and fine tuning.  So much more could be said for the reasonable evidences for historical Christianity it isn't funny.

So.  If we have all this evidence that is reasonable; and neither of us on the side of belief can prove that God does or does not exist, but the evidence falls on the side of the positive, I just have one question.

Who is really the delusional one?  Who is ranting all the rhetoric for the non-existence of God?  Sounds to me like those of us on the side of believing God exists and He has made Himself know are not the delusional ones.  Could it be . . . those who are ranting and raving?  Could it be that it is those who have made a "moral" decision not to believe in the existence of God are the delusional ones?

That is why I don't have enough faith to be an atheist!  Just look at the history of the acts by atheist regimes over the last century. In fact, I think it is atheistic ideology that is dangerously delusional.

Notes*

[1] See http://catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0086.htm. 

[2] Here is a list of the major arguments:  The Argument from ChangeThe Argument from Efficient CausalityThe Argument from Time and ContingencyThe Argument from Degrees of PerfectionThe Design ArgumentThe Kalam ArgumentThe Argument from ContingencyThe Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole, The Argument from MiraclesThe Argument from ConsciousnessThe Argument from TruthThe Argument from the Origin of the Idea of GodThe Ontological ArgumentThe Moral ArgumentThe Argument from Conscience, The Argument from DesireThe Argument from Aesthetic Experience, The Argument from Religious ExperienceThe Common Consent ArgumentPascal's Wager

* While I am not Catholic, I do appreciate the resources from our friends on the side of Catholic apologetics, of the likes of Peter Kreeft and Paul Tacelli who have written their Handbook of Christian Apologetics. This is one of many great resources that have contributed to the defense of the historical Christian faith.

6 comments:

JC Lamont said...

There is a prevailing consensus that a natural explanation of physical evidence = science = fact, and that a supernatural explanation of physical evidence = religion = fiction (or in this case, delusion). The archaeological, historical, and scientific evidences that support the Bible are too numerous to be deemed coincidental or discounted as myth by people of sound mind.

JC Lamont said...

It basically comes down to worldview. Our presuppositions govern our ability to comprehend, interpret and cognitively assimilate various types of data. Thus, if one examines evidence with the presupposition that there is no God, they will interpret the evidence in such a way that supports that. I think conversion occurs(whether from atheism to Christianity, or Christianity to atheism) when the evidence so strongly supports the other side that it forces one to question and reevaluate their presuppositions. From anecdotal testimony, it seems that atheists convert when presented with scientific evidence, and Christians convert when presented with experiential evidence.

Rob Lundberg said...

Thanks J C for your thoughts. Your summations are great points and why I believe that one becomes an atheist not on the basis of intellectual reasons, but moral reasons.

Thesauros said...

Richard Dawkins may call those of us who believe in Creator God delusional, but this claim comes from a man who (according to his book "The God Delusion") refuses to categorically deny that real fairies live at the bottom of his garden.

No need to fear the likes of Mr. Dawkins

Thanks for the post. God Bless. See you there!

Dale Wickizer said...

After reading and listening to the new atheists for some time one gets the impression that their view might be summarized succinctly as follows: "There is no God and we HATE Him and his followers"

Rob Lundberg said...

So if there is no God in the mind of these "hate-theists", why do they hate what does not exist. Again, it is a delusion and hypocritical, let alone nonsensical.