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Faith Is Unavoidable
And faith is more than belief
Some Christians say they don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. But skeptics say atheism is the lack of faith.
Most atheists, though, are materialists. That physical matter is the only thing that exists sounds scientific, but it’s an untestable belief.
Consider St. Thomas Aquinas’s argument that there can’t be an infinite regress of causation, so there must be a starting point, the uncaused cause, something that is self-existent.
If matter is all that exists, then matter is self-existent. But what scientific experiment can test this claim? Nor does the alleged multiverse solve the problem—there’s no way to observe alleged parallel universes. Besides, the multiverse still implies that matter is self-existent.
Believing that God is self-existent, then, is no more irrational than believing that matter is self-existent. Faith is unavoidable.
But Christians see faith as more than belief. Faith is trust. When I was an atheist, I used to say that I put my trust in science. But science can only describe how the forces of nature work. When scientists opine about why, and what it means, they are doing philosophy or theology.
As an atheist, I wanted certainty. After all, faith is risky—what if I’m wrong? Trust is vulnerability—how do I know God will come through? I realize now that really, I was putting trust in myself. And what's wrong with that? some people might ask.
Let’s consider the implications of materialism. If our universe exists randomly, then there is no inherent purpose or meaning to existence. Morality too is a social convention. As Spencer Klavan points out in How to Save the West, if evolution is only about survival and reproduction, then individual survival and reproduction are the greatest goods.
Morality, in this sense, would have evolved as a type of cooperation, but only as self-interest. Altruism is an illusion because individuals would have evolved to cooperate only when it benefits them.
Yet, we all believe that there are things more important than mere survival and reproduction. But this good must either be a random illusion—a happy but accidental byproduct of other evolved traits—or this good must be something that goes beyond the narrow confines of a random, purposeless universe.
Further, the view that truth must always be assessed empirically is an untestable presupposition that leads to subjectivism. If meaning can't be evaluated through scientific observation, then it must be a matter of personal taste. Atheists often insist that the desire for an inherent meaning to life is weak; and they, the enlightened few, make their own meaning.
Thus, meaning, goodness, and beauty are subjective. All you need to do, however, is question scientific objectivity—isn’t science prone to cultural biases, particularly white male biases?—and you’re heading for postmodernism.
Klavan, though, notes that in practice, postmodern-ish people see other people’s views as subjective and their own as factual. They have faith in themselves. “I don’t believe in Bible…I just believe in me, Yoko, and me, and that's reality,” John Lennon sang in his song “God.”
Morality too is subjective in a random world. I once commented on Facebook that without God, there's no objective morality. An atheist responded that no one needs to tell him that murder is wrong—it’s obvious. This is a popular atheist talking point.
I asked him to take it up a notch: a fetus is alive and genetically human, therefore a fetus is a human being. Taking a human life is obviously wrong, therefore abortion is obviously wrong.
But he said no, it stands to reason that a woman has the right to choose. When I pointed out that many people disagree with him, he said that Immanuel Kant showed that a rational person necessarily would be moral, thus there is objective morality without God.
I’m not sure if this guy was just yanking my chain or if he was serious. If the latter, does he think that he is the standard for reason, and thus of right and wrong?
The most serious atheist objection to God’s existence, however, is the problem of evil. God could stop evil, and He should—but He doesn’t. In the book of Job, God says, in effect, “the problem is you, not Me.” That God allows evil because free will is necessary for love is unsatisfying for many people. And most materialists seem to agree with Christians that without God, there is no free will anyway.
The Catholic position is that while right and wrong are objective, we as individuals have an imperfect understanding of morality. The individual cannot be trusted to decide right and wrong for himself.
Faith, then, requires me to surrender my will to something greater than myself. And that is the hardest leap of all. I rejected this when I was an atheist. I put my faith—my trust—in myself. And that is the dominant religious belief of the postmodern age.