The excitable atheists are in town again. A big revival meeting of zealous atheists is just about to happen again in Melbourne. In this hyper religious service, the tambourines will be banging and the ‘praise the self’ crowd will be all over the place. It is a gathering of all the high priests of misotheism and their dedicated groupies.
The atheist convention is quite odd in many respects. They will insist that atheism is not a belief to be proved, but a non-belief. They will argue that they simply do not believe in God – so there is nothing to prove, nothing to argue for. Yet they will have a full three days celebrating this. They will be carrying on about nothing.
All this raises the obvious question: why bother? Why spend so much time, money and effort on, well, nothing? We recall that the hit TV show Seinfeld was “a show about nothing”. But these international atheist shindigs seem to be simply much bigger versions of shows about nothing.
So why go to all the effort to endorse, celebrate, and affirm nothing? Why get so worked up about nothing? I can see getting excited about something – but nothing? But I am not alone in my concerns and questions. Even non-believers are asking these sorts of questions. Consider a recent article by British journalist and atheist Brendan O’Neill. He is worth quoting at length:
“The central problem with the New Atheist movement is that it is based entirely on a lack of belief rather than on a belief. It is built on an absence, on a negative, on the fact that these people share a non-belief in God, rather than on any shared vision of the future. Some atheists now even wear t-shirts branded with what they call, in another nod to history, the ‘scarlet letter’ – that is, a big red ‘A’ for Atheist.
“This is a very new development. Of course, there have been non-believers for centuries, particularly following the Enlightenment. But they did not club together on the basis of their non-belief; they clubbed together on the basis of what they did believe in, whether it was liberalism, communism, fascism or whatever.
“Today’s cultivation of a movement that is merely atheistic, whose members are tied together only by what they lack, is pretty unprecedented. And it speaks profoundly to the emptying out of the big ideas and shared ideologies that once galvanised the intellectual classes – particularly liberalism and socialism – so that now all that these people can rally around is what they don’t have (faith in God) rather than what they do have (faith in man or the future).
“It is their creation of a movement based on negatives rather than positives which explains why the New Atheists are so screechy. Because bereft of anything substantial or ideological to cohere themselves around, they instead spend the whole time attacking their opposite number – those who do believe in what New Atheists do not: religious people, the thick, the unenlightened. Like electrons in an atom, the ‘negatives’ of the New Atheist clique are forever whizzing around the ‘positives’ of the God lobby.
“The hole at the heart of modern atheism was best summed up in what Time magazine last month described as ‘The Rise of the Nones’ – that is, the speedily growing group of Americans who now list their religious affiliation as ‘none’. That is fine, of course, but then to cultivate an entire identity, a whole life’s outlook, on the basis of that ‘none’? That is sad. Who wants to be a ‘none’? I’d rather be a nun. At least they still believe in something.”
Quite right Brendan. It is because Christians actually believe in something, rather than nothing, that they are worth listening to. They not only have positive beliefs, but these beliefs are translated into positive actions. That is why we have seen throughout the past 2000 years schools, hospitals, charitable works and other helpful social services established by Christians, but not by atheists.
It is hard for someone who believes in nothing to come up with anything which is socially redeeming or useful. A full-fledged commitment to nothing, or non-belief, will usually result in a whole lot of nothing. But those with positive beliefs in something positive will show all kinds of positive results.
And even some of the believers in nothing can see this. Consider this recent news item. An atheist in America is no longer an atheist, thanks to the positive beliefs and positive actions of a Christian. Here is how the story goes:
“Two months after he threatened to sue a Texas county for allowing a Nativity scene on public property, longtime atheist Patrick Greene has announced that he is not only converting to Christianity, but also plans to become a pastor, the Christian Post reports.
“Greene, an Air Force veteran from San Antonio who has a history of activism related to atheist causes, threatened in February to file a lawsuit against Henderson County, Texas, if they did not remove a Nativity scene in front of the courthouse, Malakoff News reported.
“But he was forced to drop the lawsuit after doctors told him that he had developed eye cataracts and was in danger of losing his vision, according to the Houston Chronicle. Shortly thereafter, Greene’s failing vision forced him to quit his job as a taxi driver and he was left with the challenge of supporting himself and his wife of 33 years.
“That’s when Jessica Crye, a Christian woman who read about Greene’s troubles in the paper, went to members of her church and asked if they would be willing to donate money to help Greene. They ended up raising $400 in donations for Greene, which left him ‘flabbergasted that Christians would help atheists’ the Athens Review reported at the time.”
There you have it folks. A belief in nothing is just not going to cut it in the long run. It takes a positive belief in a positive good, like a positive God, to produce positive goods in a needy world. A whole lot of nothing will do nothing for the poor, the needy, the hurting, the searching. Only a positive affirmation about a loving personal God that exists and cares greatly about us is going to make a difference in this world. Non-belief is just, well, non-belief. We need far more than that to make it through life.
Indeed, atheism is ultimately just a parasite belief system. It can’t even exist on its own. As G.K. Chesterton once rightly noted, “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” Or as C.S Lewis had to remind us, “To argue with God is to argue with the very power that makes it possible to argue at all.”
Quite so. Even nothing, it seems, needs something else to depend upon for its very existence – or is that non-existence?