Over the past year popular atheist writer Christopher Hitchens (my personal fav of all the “new” atheists) has been debating Christian theologian Doug Wilson. This latest exchange, from the Huffington Post is one of Wilson’s best efforts. My apologies for the title but those are his words, not mine. I found them provocative enough to make me willing to take the heat from angry parents!
From the perspective of a Christian, the refusal of an atheist to be a Christian is dismaying but it is at least intelligible. But what is really disconcerting is the failure of atheists to be atheists. That is the thing that cries out for further exploration.
We can understand a cook who sets out to prepare a reduction sauce, having it simmer on the stove for three days. But what we shouldn’t get is the announcement afterwards that he has prepared us a souffle. The atheistic worldview is nothing if not inherently reductionistic, whether this is admitted or not. Everything that happens is a chance-driven rattle-jattle jumble in the great concourse of atoms that we call time. Time and chance acting on matter have brought about, in equally aimless fashion, the 1972 New York Yankees, yesterday’s foam on a New Jersey beach, Princess Di, the arrangement of pebbles on the back side of the moon, the music of John Cage, the Fourth Crusade, and the current gaggle representing us all in Congress.
If the universe actually is what the materialistic atheist claims it is, then certain things follow from that presupposition. The argument is simple to follow, and is frequently accepted by the sophomore presidents of atheist/ agnostic clubs at a university near you, but it is rare for a well-published atheistic leader to acknowledge the force of the argument. To acknowledge openly the corrosive relativism that atheism necessarily entails would do nothing bet get the chimps jumping in the red states. To swallow the reduction would present serious public relations problems, and drive Fox News ratings up even further. Who needs that?
So if the universe is what the atheist maintains it is, then this determines what sort of account we must give for the nature of everything–and this includes the atheist’s thought processes, ethical convictions, and aesthetic appreciations. If you were to shake up two bottles of pop and place them on a table to fizz over, you could not fill up an auditorium with people who came to watch them debate. This is because they are not debating; they are just fizzing. If you were to shake up one bottle of pop, and show it film footage of some genocidal atrocity, the reaction you would get is not moral outrage, but rather more fizzing. And if you were to shake it really hard by means of an art school, and place it in front of Michelangelo’s David, or the Rose Window of Chartres Cathedral, the results would not be atheistic appreciation, but more fizzing still.
If the atheist is right, then I am not a Christian because I have mistaken beliefs, but am rather a Christian because that is what these chemicals would always do in this arrangement and at this temperature. The problem is that this atheistic assumption does the very same thing to the atheist’s cause for atheism. The atheist gives us an account of all things which makes it impossible for us to believe that any account of all things could possibly be true. But no account of things can be tenable unless it provides us with the preconditions that make it possible for our “accounting” to represent genuine insight. Atheism fails to do this, and this failure is a spectacular one. Nor does atheism allow us to have any fixed ethical standard, or the possibility of beauty.
read it all here