Perspectives

The miracle of morality: Atheism’s (other) achilles heel

Last month I raised a lot of hackles by writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing what should be obvious by now: science increasingly makes the case for God’s existence. Whether we’re talking about the finely-tuned constants of our universe, or the simple logic that dictates the cosmos had a beginning and therefore a cause, all of the signposts are pointing in one direction: up.

Of course, that didn’t stop the objections from pouring in. Bloggers and academics from all over made arguments against my piece ranging from the scientific, to the philosophical, to the downright personal. But writers far more credentialed than I in the scientific community have done a fine job refuting these objections.

For now, let’s just say I’ve discovered firsthand how controversial it is to mention “science” and “God” in the same paragraph in a major American newspaper. But if you think writing what I did in the Wall Street Journal was brave, I’d like to introduce you to Pastor Rick Henderson. Last month this courageous soul dared to write a piece in the Huffington Post entitled: “Why There Is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist.” I hope he ducked.

Henderson preempted the predictable reactions by throwing down yet another gauntlet: “For those of you who are eager to pierce me with your wit and crush my pre-modern mind,” he writes, “allow me to issue a challenge. I contend that any response you make will only prove my case.”

And prove his case they did. The comment section and subsequent op-eds were a rerun of billboards that appeared around the U.K. a few years ago: there are, in fact, well-behaved atheists.

No argument there, either from Henderson or any other sensible Christian. But as apologist William Lane Craig has reminded atheists time and again, the real question isn’t “can you be good without believing in God?” but “can you be good without God?”

And as Henderson shows, the answer to that is a resounding “no.”

The fundamental tenets of atheism, he explains, make it impossible to believe in objective good or evil. If the universe arose randomly and is purely material, governed by discernible laws, both impersonal and unconscious, then universal morality is, “At best…the mass delusion shared by humanity, protecting us from the cold sting of despair.”

It’s the same argument C. S. Lewis made years ago in Mere Christianity when he wrote that his former atheism was “too simple.”  In order to object to God on the basis of how cruel and unjust the world is, Lewis realized he had to assume cruelty and injustice are wrong. But nothing in the material world provides a basis for that assumption. Only God can. Thus, Lewis reasoned, even atheists know more than they’re letting on.

If his argument sounds familiar, it’s because it’s not very new. Just open your Bible to Romans chapters 1 and 2 to see how the Apostle Paul used almost the same words to stop the mouths of unbelievers in his day.

But here’s why these arguments are still relevant and worth our time (and a few knocks from critics) to publish them: If Paul was right, even the most dedicated atheist looks at the stars, feels the prick of conscience, and knows there is a God. He may deny it. But the slightest sound—the whispers of intelligent design in the universe and in our consciences—will spook him.

Eric Metaxas— by Eric Metaxas

Metaxas is currently the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries

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