Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or more true) Part IV--Why I'm Not an Atheist

If I continue approaching this topic in the spirit of honesty, I must confess a few things before I move on.

I, of course, am biased in my ponderings. I do think now an then, usually in the middle of the night in the middle of my bed with Denise fast asleep beside me, "What if God isn't there after all?" Those are casual, almost recreational thoughts.

There have been a few times that such contemplations were subsistence, meaning in this case, essential for my basic living.  These were times of crisis where I wrestled deeply with God, or more like wrestled with my thoughts about God . . . even the possibility of  Him not being there.

But to be really honest, it would be difficult for me to become an atheist on an emotional level. If I did, then I came out of the closet about it, I would be hated by all of the peers whose opinion of me matter. I guess another name for this is peer pressure.  I know that I've paid a significant price for leaving the Evangelical fold. I can't imagine the isolation of declaring myself to be an atheist. My own mother, not to speak of my wife, would be devastated.

There is, of course, the possibility of being a closet atheist and maybe that is what I really contemplated. But there is a built-in bias not to be an atheist since I'm from the Christian culture.  With that disclosure, I will move on to the more unbiased reasons that have not picked atheism as the most logical path.

My handicap in my ability to knit sentences or pick ripened words to express what I mean will show here. If only I were a poet . . . if only. God bless them who are.

First there is Alvy's problem (see the post about 12 posts ago . . . unless you are a fan of Annie Hall and remember Alvy's dilemma).  You have to lay in your bed tonight, in the dark, no TV, no music, just you and your thoughts to get your mind around this. But the problem is the universe, eternal past and eternal future.  First, you just about have to start with absolutely nothing.  It is magical thinking to think of the atoms or even the quarks always being here . . . and I mean, with capital lettering ALWAYS being here in an eternal static state.

So the first problem is having that prime mover. This has been the debate among philosophers for hundreds if not thousands of years.  Out of nothing, came something.  What was the trigger for that movement? What stirred that primordial soup of nothing, so that something came?   How did nothingness (and again I mean this with capitalizations) NOTHING give birth to something? You need to meditate on this for a while, but my words here serve only an introduction. I've spend hundreds of hours thinking through this and it always ends with a labyrinth at its center.

Next comes the significance of the being, meaning in the most general terms, of all that exist. But lets pick out a tiny, tiny part, for example the universe that we can see from earth. So, if the complete universe (meaning everything, time, space, dark matter and even that "universe" before the big bang) existed eternally past and eternally future what is the significance of this universe? I will pick up on this in a minute.

There are several atheistic models for the universe. Before Georges Lemaitre first theorized the concept of the "big bang" in 1927, the common atheistic view was a static universe. The fact that Lemaitre, while being an accomplished astrophysicist, was also a priest may have given him some personal bias towards a universe with a point of origin. But this was confirmed by observational cosmology through the  like s of Hubble. It is understood as a fact that the universe is expanding from a singularity point.

I've heard, years ago, the atheistic explanation of a pulsating universe. In this model, absolutely NOTHING, suddenly (and for no known reason, without prime mover) is suddenly ripped apart into matter and anti-matter.  Their view that in each cycle, lasting tens of billions of years, the universe expands, slows downs and then collapses back to the singularity point of nothing. After a short time, the cycle repeats itself.

In that model the cycle endured forever. But then a problem occurred.  Around 1998 it was discovered that the on the outer edges of the universe, things weren't slowing down, but speeding up.

Now we are back to Alvy's dilemma. If the universe is expanding and accelerating in that expansion, then it will inevitably grow cold and dead. It is not pulsating but one directional. All energy is a product of gravity and with atoms becoming more and more distant from one another, into all of eternity, then it is inevitable that it will go cold and die.

So my point here is about meaning. So, imagine the universe came out of eternity past, of nothingness, through the big bang. Next come the visible . . . this-side-of-the-big-bang . . . stuff that spreads and goes cold and dead. So, say the life of the entire universe is 30 billion years. Thirty billion years seems like a very long time, but when pressed between the pages of eternity past and eternity future, then the 30 billion year life of the universe is like a single sentence . . . actually like a single word . . . no actually like a single letter . . . actually smaller than a period in the entire Library of Congress (which has more than 34 million books). But even that is an exaggeration . . . actually an extreme exaggeration, maybe the most intense exaggeration ever suggested.  So, then to find meaning in a life of an individual, say 80 years, is infinity insignificant. If we were Gandhi a million times over, or a Hitler to the point that we gassed every man, woman and child on earth, yet those actions would be totally meaningless in the big picture of all that is. That's why I say to be an atheist you must be a nihilist . . . there is no other option.

But it is at this juncture that the atheists start their self-deception, just like the evangelicals do. They strive to give the impersonal, meaningless universe . . . meaning. Just listen to them. In place of God, love, purpose they have these existential concepts of the survival of the herd, the advancement of mankind, the enjoyment of the beauty of nature.  This is why the late Carl Sagan created a TV set that looked like a church and spoke like a TV evangelist when he said "billions and billions of stars, galaxies, or light years."  He admired the beauty of the nebulae as a meaningful substitute for the beauty of the creation with the emphasis on "creator."

So what is wrong with this meaning?  It is terribly dishonest.  It allows the atheists sanity and in the shadow of that sanity they can get up in the morning, put on their pants, kiss their wives and children, go off to work and pretend that it is real. But it can not be. There is no such thing as beauty. There is no such thing as love. It is all relativity, but even relativity is meaningless.  The universe doesn't give a damn if you succeed . . . or fail, if you love or hate or even if you survive. It doesn't give a damn if the herd survives or goes extinct.  Nothing, out of nothing.  Keep going in this direction, enter that dark labyrinth and you will drown in absurdity.

But, the reason to believe in God isn't simply as Marx's opium . . . to find comfort and meaning where there is none.  The reason that this is just one point of why I believe in God is that we, as humans, intrinsically scream of a longing for meaning.  For us to be the product of a meaningless universe is an inconsistency.  Francis Schaeffer described it as an evolutionary (speaking of the evolution of the human brain to the point of desiring meaning) failure. It would be like a fish in a water world, where there are no free gases, evolving lungs. It would totally inconsistent with their universe.

So, if we humans, by chance, evolved the sense of wanting meaning, but living in a universe where there are none . . . well, there would be no greater hellish nightmare.

I'm not done with my points about why I'm not an atheist but this is getting long. I will be back with at least two more points, the order of the universe and my greatest reason, the sense of consciousnesses or being a person, me living inside my head and how that is inconsistent with an impersonal universe.


Anonymous said...

There are several atheistic models for the universe. Before Georges Lemaitre first theorized the concept of the "big bang" in 1927, the common atheistic view was a static universe. The fact that Lemaitre, while being an accomplished astrophysicist, was also a priest may have given him some personal bias towards a universe with a point of origin.

Don't know about that, but I DO know he took a lot of flak for the "big bang" -- got piled on for trying to introduce Religion (TM) into Science(!)

I've heard, years ago, the atheistic explanation of a pulsating universe.

That is not atheistic so much as Hindu and/or Buddhist. (Brahma followed by Vishnu followed by Shiva followed by Brahma followed by Vishnu followed by Shiva...) I think the guy who first proposed it was actually a Buddhist.

And for that matter, the Steady State theory (the "static universe" mentioned above) bears a LOT of resemblance to Plato & Aristotle's idea of The Eternal Cosmos.

Headless Unicorn Guy

Jaimie said...

When I spent a lot of time on Reddit (atheist haven), I got super depressed. The meaninglessness was stifling. My atheist friend says there is meaning in the fact that he is alive. It's a miracle that he's alive. But I always think... no, it's not. It was a random, relative event just like everything else. It's not a miracle. It's an equation. Given the circumstances, of course he's alive.

Anonymous said...

So, if we humans, by chance, evolved the sense of wanting meaning, but living in a universe where there are none . . . well, there would be no greater hellish nightmare.

You know, that's an inversion and parallel of Young Earth Creationism's take on God -- zapping a cosmos into existence 6016 years ago with a completely-airtight false history, perfect in every detail. And if you actually believe that airtight physical evidence, God burns you in Hell for all Eternity. Wanting a history but living in a universe that has none.

Headless Unicorn Guy