It was brought to my attention a few weeks ago that the notorious atheist Richard Dawkins may be changing his tune regarding the necessity of belief in God in human society (click or tap text to see the article). I do recall hearing winds of this change a couple of years ago when he seemed to make a distinction between the religions of Islam (threatening) and Christianity (benign). It seems that Dawkins recognizes that without the belief that people will be held responsible to a higher power, those people who are in power (the State) will push society further and further into harmful and devastating behaviors, but he recognizes the dangers of certain theistic religions. Dawkins seems concerned that without the (false on his view) belief that the Christian God exists, then society will crumble, yet with the (also false on his view) belief that the Islamic god exists, then society will be destroyed. Dawkins seems to be now telling people to not be concerned with what is true, but be concerned with what is pragmatic. Unfortunately, this is nothing new and seems to have been the strategy of many States for quite some time. Allow me to explain.
Theism vs. The State
If God is the source of all moral duties and obligations, then the State can not be. Thus if a State wishes to legislate moral obligations (such as that people who offer a service are morally obligated to act against their moral conscience) or freedoms (such as pedophilia), then State must eradicate God from the conscience of those it governs. With God still in the cultural picture, there is an Authority to which the government is subject and is obligated to align laws with. However, if no God exists (or a State’s citizens do not recognize that God exists), then the State has no one and nothing to challenge its authority or the laws it legislates. Without any external source (God) for the citizens to hold the State accountable to, the State’s authority and legal commands will be understood as absolute.
Such a view is encouraged by the State through the promises of the legalization of many people’s sinful desires. Everything from autonomous sexual freedom to drug use is dangled in front of the populace to entice them to rid their worldview of a God that is a “party pooper.” For the State knows that with the eviction of God from the cultural mindset to allow people to explore their wildest and most debauched fantasies also goes the God that would place limitations on the State to control the masses.
No God, No Legitimate Reformations
While many atheists would have no problem with (even a belief in) God having no part in government (“separation of Church and State” and all), there are some serious consequences that some atheists (including Dawkins) have detected and are warning against. For instance, the reformer has nothing to appeal to in order to demand change in the government. Great reformers, such as those who challenged the government’s permitting the owning of slaves, would ironically be standing in the wrong and would have no objective grounding on which to stand against the government. In such a world, the State is a god; no one has any grounds to challenge it; it maintains absolute authority. If there is no external source for morality to hold the government accountable to, then no reformation should ever take place. If such a world truly existed (one without God), then Africans could still be enslaved in America today.
No God, No Legitimate Changes at All
If the State already legislates, executes, and adjudicates according to an individual atheist’s ideas of “right” and “wrong,” then things are okay with that particular atheist. However, if the State does not align with the atheist’s ideas of “right” and “wrong” 100%, it would be wrong (on the view that there is not God- that government is the absolute moral authority) for the atheist to attempt to change the State’s position on anything, for submitting to the absolute authority of the State is legally (not “morally” since morality is not objective on this view) obligatory. If the State is the absolute authority for how its citizens should act, then if the State is Christianized (or becomes a theocracy), then the atheist is legally obligated to act according to the laws and not attempt reform government. Again, to attempt to reform would be a violation of the legal obligation to submit to the absolute moral authority of the State.
Ironically, when a naturalist stands against the State today, they are in violation of this legal obligation. If the State were to criminalize abortion, the atheist would be legally obligated to comply. In a socialist country, the capitalist would be the criminal for standing against socialism, and in a capitalist country, the socialist would be the criminal for standing against capitalism.
Yet Changes and Reformations Abound And More Are Attempted
This type of world is quite scary for both atheist and theist alike. Neither truly believes that the State is the ultimate authority of morality. This is evidenced by both sides’ reservation of the right to attempt to reform the State should a law be legislated that does not align with their idea of right or wrong. Ironically for the atheist (but consistent with the theist), God (as the objective standard of morality) must exist for the reservation of that right to be legitimately justified. I’m not saying that the atheist cannot exercise this right, but they have no foundation for it in their own worldview; they must borrow from the theistic worldview to justify any governmental change or reformation.
Politicians Are Already Steps Ahead of Us
We see almost daily how politicians throughout our government are working diligently to remove God from the culture. When they accomplish this, their citizens will have no choice but to submit and never attempt to change or reform the government.
This is nothing new. Politicians have been working at the grassroots level with our education system for decades. By trying to eradicate God, they not only take away any moral authority over the State, they also eliminate any ability to ground reasoning or to have knowledge. So, even if someone decided to challenge the State, they could never use reasoning or claim to have knowledge that the State’s position was objectively wrong. I go into more details of this in my post, “Is Education Overrated?“
An Even More Dangerous Game
With the destruction of reasoning and knowledge, we will see another devastating and logical implication of eliminating God- the destruction of the academy. Without knowledge even being possible, all knowledge disciplines are ultimately useless. If a would-be reformer were to use the knowledge disciplines to evidentially challenge the State, it would be pointless, for the reformer could not lay claim to having knowledge from any discipline. Further, without a grounding for logic, they could not even reason from the evidence to the guilt of the State and the need for change or reformation.
When I see politicians trying to remove God from America, I see them setting up their dictatorship in my back yard. This should not just concern theists, but it should (and does) concern atheists alike. We have to remember that there is no single “atheistic” ethic or belief, so the chances that the views of the one who is in charge aligning with that of any other atheist in this country are slim. Most atheists will desire reform, but they not only have a legal obligation not to challenge the State, they would not have any moral, evidential or logical grounds on which to do so.
With atheists such as Richard Dawkins now telling us that while theism is false, we cannot remove it from society, there is a great deal of irony and even absurdity. They recognize that atheism is not a livable worldview for society, and they recognize that in order to survive, we must believe something that is false (theism, on their view). If, in order to survive, we must believe what is false about the world we live in, then how can they claim that what they have come to believe, in order to survive, is true? If atheism is true, then knowledge is an absurd concept, and no one can claim to know anything true about our world, and worse off, we have reason to doubt everything that someone else tells us is true!
Ironically, Richard Dawkins, by his own recognition that God is not just a “useful fiction” but a “necessary fiction” for the very survival of society, has given us every reason to toss his entire life’s work (everything from his scientific research to his philosophy of atheism) into the garbage can! At this point, if Richard Dawkins wants to salvage any portion of his life’s work, he needs to recognize the existence of God (and not just any god but the Christian God) and do what he can to reconcile God’s existence with his work in biology and biochemistry (maybe recognize that nature appears and measures to be designed because it is designed); but his atheism is a failed hypothesis no matter which way he goes. Interestingly enough, Richard Dawkins is making the case against his own atheism using the immorality of modern culture. To understand this argument better, check out this video from Reasonable Faith and the links to books below:
Recommended resources related to the topic:
Reaching Atheists for Christ by Greg Koukl (Mp3)
Counter Culture Christian: Is There Truth in Religion? (DVD) by Frank Turek
Defending Absolutes in a Relativistic World (Mp3) by Frank Turek
Stealing From God by Dr. Frank Turek (Book)
Defending Creation vs. Evolution (mp3) by Richard Howe
Exposing Naturalistic Presuppositions of Evolution (mp3) by Phillip Johnson
Inroad into the Scientific Academic Community (mp3) by Phillip Johnson
Luke Nix holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and works as a Desktop Support Manager for a local precious metal exchange company in Oklahoma.
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Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.