It’s currently fashionable for atheists to deny that a universe without God is caused by “pure chance” or “randomly colliding atoms,” as their earlier forebears might have boldly and proudly described it.
Yet natural “laws” somehow attained their remarkable organizing abilities. One either explains them by natural laws or by humbly bowing to divine teleology at some point, as an explanation every bit as plausible as materialism (everything being supposedly “explained” by purely material processes).
Matter essentially “becomes god” in the atheist / materialist view; it has the inherent ability to do everything by itself: a power that Christians believe God caused, by putting these potentialities and actual characteristics into matter and natural laws, as their ultimate Creator and ongoing Preserver and Sustainer.
The atheist places extraordinary faith in matter – arguably far more faith than we place in God, because it is much more difficult to explain everything that god-matter does by science alone.
Indeed, this is a faith of the utmost non-rational, childlike kind. It is quite humorous, then, to observe the constant charge that we Christians are the ones who have a blind, “fairy tale,” gullible, faith, as opposed to self-described “rational, intellectual, sophisticated” atheists.
Atheist belief is a kind of polytheistic idolatry of the crudest, most primitive sort, putting to shame the colorful worship of the ancient Babylonians, Philistines, Aztecs, and other groups. They believed that their silver amulets and wooden idols could make the sun shine or defeat an enemy or cause crops to flourish.
The polytheistic materialist, on the other hand, is far more religious than that. He thinks that trillions of his atom-gods and their distant relatives, the cell-gods, can make absolutely everything in the universe occur, by their own power, possessed eternally either in full or (who knows how?) in inevitably unfolding potentiality.
One might call this (to coin a phrase) Atomism (“belief that the atom is God”). Trillions of omnipotent, omniscient atoms can do absolutely everything that the Christian God can do, and for little or no reason that anyone can understand (i.e., why and how the atom-god came to possess such powers in the first place). The Atomist openly and unreservedly worships his trillions of gods, with the most perfect, trusting, non-rational faith imaginable. He or she is what sociologists call a “true believer.”
Oh, and we mustn’t forget the time-goddess. She is often invoked in worshipful, reverential, awe-inspiring terms as the be-all, end-all explanation for things inexplicable, as if by magic her very incantation rises to an explanatory level sufficient to shut up any silly Christian, who is foolish enough to believe in one God rather than trillions. The time-goddess is the highest in the ranks of the Atomist’s wonderfully varied hierarchy of gods (sort of the “Zeus” of Atomism). One might call this belief Temporalism.
Atomism is a strong, fortress-like faith. It is often said that it “must be” what it is. The Atomist reverses the error of the Gnostic heretics. They thought spirit was great and that matter was evil. Atomists think matter is great (and god) and spirit is not only “evil” (metaphorically speaking), but beyond that: non-existent.
Atomists may and do differ on secondary issues, just as the various ancient polytheistic cultures differed on quibbling details (which god could do what, which material made for a better idol, etc.), but despite all, they inevitably came out on the side of polytheistic idolatry, with crude material gods, and against spiritual monotheism.
Some Atomist utterances even have the “ring” of Scriptures; for example, urgings of an appropriate humility regarding man’s opinion of his own importance, because the universe is so large, and we are so small, as if, somehow, largeness itself is some sort of inherently God-like quality. One Atomist informed me that “order is in the eye of the beholder.” That reminded me of the biblical Proverbs (perhaps he was the Atomist equivalent of Solomon).
Yet in Atomism, each person is gods too, because he is made up of trillions of atom-gods and cell-gods. When you get trillions of gods all together in one place, it stands to reason that they can corporately perceive the order of which any one of them individually is capable of producing.
Within the Atomist faith-paradigm, this make perfect sense. But for one outside their circle of religious faith, it may not (just to warn the devout, faithful Atomist that others of different, much more rational, faiths may not think such things as “obvious” as they do). The Atomist – ever-inventive and childlike – manages to believe any number of things, in faith, without the unnecessary addition of mere explanation.
“Why” questions in the context of Atomism are senseless, because they can’t overcome the Impenetrable Fortress of blind faith that the Atomist possesses. The question, “Why do the atom-gods and cell-gods and the time-goddess exist and possess the extraordinary powers that they do?” is meaningless and ought not be put forth. It’s bad form, and impolite. We know how sensitive overly religious folk are.
Instead, we are asked to bow to the countless mysteries of Atomism in dumbstruck adoration and awed silence, like the Magi at the baby Jesus’ manger, offering our unquestioning “scientific” and “philosophical” allegiance like they offered gold and frankincense and myrrh. The very inquiry is senseless and “intrusive.” Mere rational examination is precluded from the outset.
In a certain remote and limited sense, we Christians (since we ourselves possess and value faith) stand in awe of such Pure Faith, with its sublime fideism and Absolute Trust in Design via trillions of atom-gods. It is, indeed, an ingenious, self-contained, even elegant system, admirable in its bold, brilliant intellectual audacity and innovation, if nothing else.
It may be (at least for certain sorts of childlike minds) an immensely enjoyable game to play, but like much of modern philosophy, at bottom it is hopelessly irrational, self-defeating, and ultimately incoherent. For that reason, the Christian must reject it, since we believe (very unlike the Atomist) that irrational and non-rational beliefs are untrue and unworthy of anyone’s allegiance.
Yet we can’t help — almost despite ourselves — recalling with fondness the wonders and fancies and fairy-tales of childhood. Atomists seek very hard to maintain those marvels, and perhaps that’s not all bad. We must be tolerant and open-minded. Atomists are (we might say) the “adult children” among us: like Peter Pan!
Who can resist Peter Pan, after all? This (arguably) gives them their charm and appeal: evident in so many Christian discussion threads, where they suddenly enter and — seemingly oblivious to the existing discussion — start incongruously preaching their rather fantastic fideistic faith.
IMPORTANT: see my paper, Clarifications re: Atheist “Reductio” Paper, in which I carefully explain the mode of the argumentation above (reductio ad absurdum), exactly what I am trying to assert or argue, my point, my good faith towards atheists, how the above piece of satirical humor is not intended to be taken literally (though it has a definite serious point), etc. If you are an atheist and incensed right now over what you have just read (or anyone else who is puzzled by it), you’ll want to definitely read this follow-up, so as to avoid further misunderstandings, which have already been massive in the combox.