The Desperation of the Atheists

I guess I never realized it, but our non-believing folk are quite excited about the idea of disproving the existence of God. Apparently, it will halt mankind from waging war, smoking, and feeling awkward about gay sex, while simultaneously leading to a brotherhood amongst men via increased time spent on the Holy Internet. But honestly – though these goals send shivers of warmth down my typing fingers – I would venture that the atheist is almost too excited, in that every new discovery – or old discovery given a new name – becomes the All in All, the Explanation for Religious Thought, The Lamb of Science Who Taketh Away the Ignorance of the World, and so on, and thus forth, until I can scarcely think of new ways to make fun of such presumptuous over-eagerness. This was made rather embarrassingly apparent throughout the 20th century, which witnessed rather brilliant physicists making very dumb claims about the origin of the universe, while evidence for the Big Bang simply sat and laughed at them. The reason we have science fiction on infinite universes, multiverses, infinite cycles of Bang and Crunch, Father/Child Universes, etc. etc. is because every time a scientist thought that they had gotten around that pesky Big Bang they – instead of checking whether their theories had any bearing on reality, or any evidence to back them – they wrote really cool books, which later became subject matter only tolerable by Douglas Adams – God rest his soul. Ah, but those were noble, heady days. Now we endure this:

(Original Video Removed by BBC)

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For those who would rather avoid ten minutes of unbelievably pretentious camera work, desperate attempts at evoking pathos, and that British Female Presenter voice that so inspires trust, here’s the gist: Scientist finds that electromagnetic waves can make you feel like someone is behind you. Calls this effect the Unseen Presence. Says to self, hey! Religious people are always yapping about a presence, therefore “most, if not ALL religious and spiritual experience can be explained away” by electromagnetism.

OK. Now I’ll rebut all that crap, although it seems unnecessary. These folks – dear Brights - have clearly never had a ‘religious experience’, and also don’t seem to know what one is. It’s not a long period of nervous fear and clammy hands followed by the feeling that some one is behind you, as described in the video. It’s being loved. But even if it were true, that God manifested himself to human beings by standing behind them and freaking them out, the massive leap of logic made to say “all religious experience is caused by electromagnetism” is laughably desperate. Because it only takes one exception to disprove a rule, and thus that scientist’s authoritative statement can be dismissed with evidence of ONE religious experience, before electricity, when the northern lights weren’t shining. Why would he back himself into a hole like that? (Answer: he’s stupid.) Besides, his leap of logic denies that most ‘religious experience’ is intentional. I go to my room, I pray, I feel God’s love. If what le scientist said was true, I should feel God’s love by merely walking into my room, for it is near a telephone wire, or electromagnetic clock. That, or somebody is outside with a well timed electromagnet. My point is that – if religious experience is the result of random electromagnetic bursts – why isn’t religious experience random? Why is it intentional?

As we all know, Paul’s experience was largely the
result of his mother being a babe.

But the real question, or at least the real observation, is that for all their stoic poises, the new atheist can’t seem to follow his own advice, to view everything skeptically, to loyally follow the scientific method without any leaps or assumptions. Thus religious experience has been Completely Explained Away! by electromagnetism, mob psychology, psychoanalysis, hypnosis, hallucination, suppressed sexual urges, wish-fulfillment, dopamine, serotonin, (and any other chemicals in the brain), evolutionary brain developments, the LACK of evolutionary brain developments, the Oedipus Complex, ancient, ingrained rituals of human sacrifice, hysteria, peer pressure, hormones, plain old delusion and goodness knows what else, each explanation – from Freud’s description of Eucharist as an outlet for ancient cannibal ritual to the God Helmet – expressed with all the weight of shattering fact, the confidence that this time, this time the world will know that they are fooled, they will buy our books, and religion will perish.

In fact, these ‘discoveries’ do exactly the opposite. (If you are an atheist, listen! I’m giving you secret, inside information; it will help you defeat us and be free of our iron grip on the public square!) As each new ‘Now We Know!’ shudders by and fades off into the distance, the Christian – at first alarmed by such vicious and desperate attacks on his Creed – is comforted. For when a thing is attacked at every angle, for reasons as contradicting as they are multitudinous, the thing is most likely true, and dangerously so. If anything, it is certainly not so ridiculously implausible that it does not merit the attack in the first place. Hitchens may think religion the most idiotic thing in the world, but he certainly spends a lot of time and effort revealing that. Dawkins may see it an obvious truth that there is no Creator, but his various speaking tours seem to indicate that it’s not so obvious after all. No, a thing is attacked because it is formidable. The Christian may be sure that Christ is worth believing in because of the immense effort atheists take in proving he is not.

Notice that there is no widespread and daring intellectual offensive against the palm-reading industry, nor any brilliant psychologist struggling to show the world that popular, wiccan witches are really just exploring suppressed sexual desire. (Thought Experiment: Search ‘God’ and then ‘Palm Reading’ on Google. Compare results.) Astrology, though it holds as much - if not more - sway over Americans as religion manages to, has no thorn in its side, no atheist attacking it devotedly, except perhaps in passing, mentioning it in sentences like, “Like astrology, Christianity is based on wish-fulfillment with no evidence.” And why not? Because no one strikes children. Men strike at that dangerous to them. If it is not true, it is certainly near enough to truth to fight with desperation, for men will grab whatever weapon is nearest to batter God away, even if it is a weapon as weak as Freud’s Future of an Illusion, or as ridiculous as the God Helmet, while the things they really know to be myths they, for the large part, leave alone.

Now then, were I an atheist, I would avoid claiming my most recent discovery or  really-good-idea-I-just-had as the explaination for EVERYTHING CHRISTIANS EVER THOUGHT! OMG!!! and instead attempt the – remarkably easy – task of uniting all the arguments into one. I imagine an essay entitled; It Could Be Just About Anything; But It Isn’t God. It’d have to be beautiful and flowing, the more arguments the greater chance of explaining every ‘religious experience’ ever recorded, something in the vein of 100 Authors Against Einstein, in which Einstein was berated for being wrong from just about every line of reasoning one can be wrong in. His response, unfortunately, will be the Christian’s: “If I was wrong” said Einstein, “one would be enough.”

Much peace, love and prayer directed at all readers!

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  • Elaine

    One of my favorite posts so far(I'm not just saying that)!I've never quite understood the claim that "if a thing is attacked from different sides, then it must be true", though. It seems just as–maybe more– reasonable to say "if a thing is attacked from different sides, at least one of the sides is wrong." but then maybe I'm not understanding the argument right.

  • Marc

    Naw, it's not that it 'must' be true. Just that it certainly seems likely that it is true

  • Manny

    Excellent post. You are right on the money. And witty too. :)

  • Practicing Mammal

    Dear Marc, I love you dearly, am a devoted reader, but your typos really take you down a peg. Please edit more vigorously, so the entire non Christian population can take you even more seriously. PM

  • Nicodemus

    Loved it!

  • Marc

    @Practicing MammalAaah, now i'm freaking out, because i read through my post very slowly and can't find what you're talking about! I need an editor…

  • Paul

    @marc"from Feud's description of Eucharist as an outlet"

  • J. Chase

    I really enjoyed the video, though I don't really see that it disproves the existence of God. As said, the timing of it is awful convenient. The fact that there may have been an earthquake that caused the Red Sea to part and let the Israelites cross ahead of Pharaoh's army doesn't mean that God doesn't exist. God works through nature, his creation. If he wants to trigger a part of my brain with an electromagnetic field during Adoration, I am perfectly ok with that. It doesn't make him any less God in my book.

  • Christina

    Your post reminded me of this quote from Chesterton (Orthodoxy Ch 6:"…It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. No sooner had one rationalist demonstrated that it was too far to the east than another demonstrated with equal clearness that it was much too far to the west. …Thus, for instance…They did prove to me in Chapter I. (to my complete satisfaction) that Christianity was too pessimistic; and then, in Chapter II., they began to prove to me that it was a great deal too optimistic. One accusation against Christianity was that it prevented men, by morbid tears and terrors, from seeking joy and liberty in the bosom of Nature. But another accusation was that it comforted men with a fictitious providence, and put them in a pink-and-white nursery."(or – I may just have Chesterton on my mind since today is the anniversary of his death.)

  • Marc

    I certainly have read that, having read Orthodoxy, but my inspiration actually came from a C.S Lewis quote of similar nature. great minds think alike?

  • Christina

    They were both great men. Perhaps great minds are closer to the Truth and thus more alike?

  • Anonymous

    Lewis had read Chesterton before his conversion. In Surprised By Joy, he says that he loved Chesterton 'despite his religion', and he was just one of the Christian writers who seemed to know more about what they were talking about than the trendies.

  • Sara

    What I don’t understand is how Paul always seems to lose his shirt at some point during his conversion.

  • billybagbom

    Mark Shea turned me on to you. I am forever grateful. Your work is coherent and edifying.

  • PoodleSheep

    Donated your brain to science before you’re done using it?