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2.2.15

Challenging Atheism

There are many intriguing articles in the battle between religion and atheism. Anyone having faith in God, may find some of the arguments put forward by many religious folk easy to “shoot down”. In other words, though originating from a genuine faith and belief, many religious arguments fail to challenge the hardened atheist. The typical atheist is generally looking for genuine proof or sound logic pointing to the existence of God. Many people however opine that there is no conclusive scientific evidence on the existence of God, so the only way forward is to examine known facts and attempt to find meaning using reasonable logic. Indeed, this is far from the traditional approach to faith, but as said: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews and to those who follow the law I became like one under the law, so as to win those under the law”. So it is hoped that more and more believers start engaging atheists with not only scriptures, but also with scientific facts and principles.

Can a person come to know God through Science and logic? Not traditionally, but considering how the mind of an atheist works, this is the correct avenue to take. Moreover, a lot of atheists have placed their hope on science in order to explain our existence. So to challenge that mindset, we must start with the science behind their ‘faith’, or lack thereof. With this in mind, the typical starting point for any engagement with an atheist is to try and arrive at a common understanding on the possible origins of matter or energy.
The central question being that if energy cannot be created or destroyed, then where did everything we see around us come from? Some scientists have suggested that our universe originated from a previous universe that collapsed, but the question still remains, where did that original energy or universe come from? An alternate theory is that the energy has “always” existed. One view which is shared by many scientists is that before the universe(s) existed, something else must have existed. And from this "thing", the extremely large amount of energy needed to create our universe is somehow "created" or "generated".

This view suggests a possible violation of the law of conservation of energy in order to “create” matter or energy. That said, a lot of research has gone into trying to determine where all that energy might have come from, and one of the promising areas in this quest is the area of quantum fluctuations. These have been observed to "create" virtual particles without necessarily violating the law of conservation of energy. So there certainly is strong sentiment within the scientific community that the energy needed to drive the Big Bang originated from somewhere else.
Even if one assume that God did not create the energy, the energy could have easily come from another natural process altogether. So this cannot be viewed as conclusive evidence, but a view on the possible origins of matter or energy is essential going forward.

Moving away from this, a common argument often put across by atheists to challenge the possible existence of a creator is to present the problem of Infinite Regress. The argument being that if this universe was created by God, who then created God? Further to that, who then created God’s creator, and so on. This creates an endless chain of creators; each creator needing his or her own creator until “infinity”. [by definition God is uncreated, ever existent] This is a divergent problem thought to mean that God "cannot" exist or that he did not create the universe. One "logical" way this argument can be countered is by using an analogy to the Infinite Monkey Theorem. This theorem can be taken to mean that in a random system, and given a sufficiently large enough amount of time, anything that can happen has a good chance that it will eventually happen. This theorem has in some instances and in some variants been used in arguments to illustrate, but not prove the idea that life on Earth could have arisen through random interactions of matter over time. So if life on earth could have arisen through the random interactions of matter over billions of years, it is also possible that given a significantly large enough amount of time, an intelligent being, aka God, could also have possibly come into existence. So, “God” does not necessarily need a creator, much like the universe or life does not necessarily need a creator. Note; although religion considers God to be self-existent, the supposed creation of God or the universe discussed here implies they are both created from something already there. The other implication would be that once God came into existence, he then proceeds to intelligently create this universe, setting up all the natural laws of physics, and planting the seeds of life.

Again, a counter argument known as the Ultimate Boeing 747 Gambit, would be to say if God is complex or intelligent enough to create our universe and indeed time itself, then “God's” existence by whatever means would be infinitely less likely than the possibility of our universe spontaneously existing on its own. In other words, the possibility of a spontaneous universe is more likely than the possibility of the existence of a complex and intelligent God. To counter this, we only need to look at human scientific advancement over the past millennia. We currently have the technology to simulate star and planet formation, we can even clone living organisms. In say 100 000 years, who is to say we won’t be able to do what “God” can do? So if God needed to be created, then creating “God” does not necessarily need to be infinitely more complex or harder than our own supposed creation through random interactions and luck. The key trait behind “God” is intelligence, not necessarily complexity.

Going back to the problem of Infinite Regress, though atheists use this argument to discredit the possible existence of God, the reality is they also face the same problem in trying to explain the existence of our universe. Where did the universe come from? If it came from another universe or from something else, where did that universe or "other thing" come from, and so on until infinity. In spite of this apparent paradox, we exist. So whatever chain of events led to our existence; somehow Infinite Regress is not a problem for our universe, else we simply wouldn't be here. In my view, the only way this is possible is if something in the creation chain or hierarchy is somehow self-existent or self-creating, else our present reality collapses by virtue of Infinite Regress. In other words, through a chain of creation originating from a self-existent object or being, our universe is ultimately formed. All other creation “scenarios” succumb to Infinite Regress. So my conclusion is that we did not come from “nothing”, but from something already there. Self-existence is perhaps cemented by the fact that not a single scientific theory attempts to explain our existence from “nothing”.

How can anything exist without being created or formed from other things? I don't know. Does the idea of self-existence surprise me? Not at all, especially if you consider that a lot of what we call science today sounds very strange. For instance, aspects of Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics sound more like science fiction; we have discovered properties of matter and the universe that are far from intuitive. It appears the more we understand the universe, the stranger it gets. Its because of things like this that I feel self-existence is well within reason. And although this concept is frowned upon by both atheists and conventional science, it might in fact be the central one to our existence.

Logically our universe needs a self-existent or self-creating “being” to sustain its existence. This can be taken as evidence suggesting that God exists. It is cemented by pointing out that not a single scientific theory attempts to explain our existence from “nothing”. Even the Big Bang assumes that “something” had to be have been there at the “beginning”. A lot of the atheists who responded to these arguments fail to counter the logic, but resort to presenting several questions of their own that underpinned their lack of faith. It appears that, even when faced with reasonable logic suggesting God’s possible existence, many atheists still feel inclined to cling to their non-belief on account of perceived injustices or wrongs they see in the world. In other words, atheists would have expected a more ordered and just world if God really existed. Some of the questions which highlight this thinking includ; “Why are there so many contradictions in the bible?”, “If God exists, why doesn't he come forward and remove all doubt?”, and “If God exists, why does he allow all this suffering?”. I t is attempted to answer these questions.

In this quest for answers, one may came across something that Albert Einstein once said when asked a similar question. Most of us would probably agree that Einstein was arguably one of the most intelligent person that ever lived. In the later part of his life, Einstein would focus most of his energy on what he called the Unified Field Theory. He would ultimately fail, succumbing to death in 1955 before completing this significant task. In spite of having faced this and other complex physical and mathematical problems in his lifetime, when asked about the subject of God before his death, Einstein responded by saying; “Your question about God is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds”. So lets highlight the depth of difficulty in dealing with this topic.

Why are there so many contradictions in the bible? - The bible is considered the “word of God” by most Christian believers. Yet on “critical” inspection, it reveals several contradictions. This is simply because you cannot take the human aspect out of it. All the authors of the bible obviously had their biases on certain views and these biases worked their way into it’s writing. To Illustrate this point, if you were asked to write a biography on say President Robert Mugabe, obviously your portrayal of him would to a large part be shaped by your own personal view of him. Secondly, the concept of context comes in. Certain books in the bible were written for certain audiences, and were addressing particular issues unique to certain times. So something considered relevant in one period might not have been considered relevant a 100 years down the line. [So Bible is not the literal word of God, Quran claims to be]

Thirdly, some of the writers might not have been aware of other scriptures that contradicted their own views. Mind you, the bible only existed in its present compiled form long after these authors had died. So we can not assume that all the writers has access to the full body of writing when they wrote their books. In addition, the authors would most likely not have been trained “critical” writers. Most of the writers were ordinary citizens working as say fishermen and shepherds, and only took up writing part time. And this was over 2000 years ago. So judging their writing by todays post-renaissance standards almost seems unfair. You need to be aware of these things when reading the bible. But none of this implies that the authors did not have genuine “encounters” with God.

If God exists, why doesn't he come forward and remove all doubt? - The Christian view is that God came in human form as Jesus, and he revealed everything to us. The bible also mentions that God had spoken to humanity before that using other men and women of faith like Moses and Esther. So to the believer, God has already come forward, and many believe he still does. That said, not everyone subscribes to biblical or religious teachings. So casting biblical “evidence” aside, what reason might God exist and not reveal himself? Well, the only reason that I can think of is that perhaps God believes we can deal with our own problems as he can. In fact, Jesus himself calls us “gods” (John 10:34). If God’s existence had been more evident, would we have progressed scientifically thus far as a species? Probably not, so perhaps this is his way of encouraging us to advance as a species? It’s a difficult path, but perhaps this is the only way to our eventual full “enlightenment”.

If God exists, why does he allow all the suffering? - This question is in a way related to the previous one. If the bible is to be considered as a source of answers to this question, then the answer is that God’s original plan was that man live in “paradise”. According to Genesis, the “first” man and woman supposedly lived in a paradise, having everything they needed and were immune even to death. It’s only when “sin” or disobedience came in that everything fell apart.
If someone else “sinned”, then why should we pay the price today? Tough ask, I don’t know. And again, not everyone subscribes to biblical views. So why would God allow all this suffering if he really existed? I’m afraid I have to say it once more, I do know. I think I speak for most believers when I say I've encountered enough things that have made me question my faith. Having said that, many believe that human suffering is God’s way of moulding our character and getting the best out of us. Others say it’s a way to keep humanity humble. Who knows. [Read more click <<here>>]

One underlying explanation to all this is that a lot of people approach “God” on their own terms. So in their minds they have a mental picture of who they think God should be and how he should respond to them. When this doesn't happen, they get disheartened and move on. If you were “God”, would you allow your creation to set terms for you? This single point is the reason a lot of people do not have faith. Humility appears to be one of the keys in the path to knowing God, while human pride is portrayed as an obstacle. According to Andrew Murray; “Humility is our saviour… pride and humility are the two master powers that strive for the eternal possession of man”.

To sum this up, the world can indeed be a cruel place, and in many cases we struggle to find answers and meaning to our existence. As those deeper questions “how did we get here” and “why are we here” continue to resonate throughout human history without contentious explanation. It appears that religion is one half of humanities attempt to cope with life’s harsh realities and find meaning in the face of the genuine possibility that we are truly alone in this gargantuan Universe. Similarly, atheism appears to be the other half of humanities attempt at making sense of it all, and perhaps a “mental” escape from the genuine possibility that someone put us here, and that one day, we might have to give account.
Note: This is article is based upon 'Excerpts' with minor changess from the originnal article by Xfactor, m.news24.com
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