Atheism, Science & Christianity

July 20, 2009

In response to a note on Atheism by Sugar Tran, and her well thought out answers about Christianity.

From Wikipedia… “Atheism can be either the rejection of theism, or the assertion that deities do not exist. In the broadest sense, it is the absence of belief in the existence of deities.”

So atheism is not just a disbelief in our God, but a disbelief in all gods of any kind. So in a sense, all Christians are atheistic toward all but who we consider to be the true God of Israel. (This does not make us atheists).

Just as in any human situation, atheists are the result of their environment and upbringing. Most children born to an atheist household will become atheists and remain so later in life, just as Jews, Muslims and Christian households will produce Jewish, Muslim or Christian children. And just as people are converted to our faith, there are those who will be converted to atheism.

As in any group of people, there are good and bad people. Fortunately, the good far outnumber than bad. Unfortunately, the bad get all the press. (Check your newspaper, lots more stories about crime, abuse and bad deeds than of anything good.)

So there are atheists who are good people, who go about their lives helping others and doing good deeds. They work as doctors, firemen, police and in the military and they bother no one.

The writer of the article above was not one of the “Nice” people. He (or she) is apparently angry and uses pretty foul language and poorly written English to make the point, and in the end, fails to make a convincing argument for much of anything.

Just as there are radical Muslims who get all the press for suicide bombings and terrorist attacks, there have been radical, terrorist Christians doing ill deeds in the name of their religion. (The crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the KKK in our own recent history.) This does not make all Christians bad, just as those wrong doers in other religions do not make their entire faith bad.

Now, to the subject of Atheism vs Christianity and the proof or disproof of faith, religion or science. The interesting thing about the lack of proof theory used by atheists to discredit religion, is that a basic tenant of science is, a lack of proof does not prove the lack of existence. Scientific proof can prove the existence of something, but you cannot prove the non existence of something. Your cell phone has mass and weight in your hand. It has color and texture. You can hold it, touch it, manipulate it and be assured by all of those senses that it exists. You can make a call, or send text and pictures, and although you cannot see the radio waves being sent and received by it, there are instruments that can measure those transmissions and prove their existence. Besides, you receive the pictures, voice and text of your friends so you accept this as proof that cell phones exist and work.

On the other hand, if a person thinks of a thing but cannot find it in existence, and uses every scientific method known to man to detect it and cannot, you might assume that this is proof that the thing does not exist. But if that were the case, then your cell phone could not exist because there was a time in history where the concept of sending messages through the air was unknown and therefore did not exist. But many things eventually came together, the discovery of electricity, the discovery of radio waves, science fiction writers who wrote TV shows where future space travelers used little flip phone communicators to speak to their space ship and viola! Cell phones! When they first came out, all you could do is talk on them and they were as big as a brick, but they came to exist.

Can Faith and Science co-exist? Absolutely. The Catholic church recognizes the sciences as integral parts of our lives and existence. They did not always however, and they persecuted people like Copernicus and Galileo for the heresy that the earth was not the center of the universe. Unfortunately, those beliefs gave the church a bad name and we are still paying for it with those who choose to use the past as justification for their beliefs and attacks on the modern day church.

There are dozens of stories in the bible. Many are allegorical and are intended as guides to our behavior and faith, but many can be shown to have happened by archeological evidence, supported by… guess who? Scientists. We know that the pharos existed, and we know they existed by the names written in the bible. We know the Romans existed and ruled the lands where Jesus walked. We know the names of the Caesars, and the lesser kings of the regions, Herod reigned in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus and Pilot was the Roman Prefect in Jerusalem. There is archeological evidence outside of the bible for all of these facts.

No, we do not have proof of all the stories in the Bible, it all occurred from two thousand to five or six thousand years ago. So if it wasn’t made out of stone like the pyramids, it might be a little hard to find. But there is much evidence that the stories told did occur in history, and if they did, then who is to say that God wasn’t involved?

Six days or six million years? When Genesis was written down, sometime between 587 and 539 BCE, there was very little understanding of science as we know it in the world. There was basic metallurgy, pottery making, processing of food into bread, wine, and other man made products, there was weaving and sowing and all of the basic necessities of life in those times. The Pyramids had already been standing for several thousand years and the oral history of he world had been passed down by word of mouth by the village story tellers and the priests.

So with no understanding of higher science, the story of the creation was written down in this order:

1. Darkness (the earth was without form and void)

2. Light

3. Earth water and sky

4. Vegetation

5. Living creatures in the sea

6. Living creatures on land

7. Man

Scientists and evolutionists describe the creation of the universe in this order:

1. Darkness (nothing)

2. Light (the big bang,)

3. Earth water and sky (the forming of the planets from stellar debris, and the distilling of chemicals into the minerals, gasses and liquid that became earth water and atmosphere)

4. Vegetation, (early plant life, funguses and algae.)

5. Living creatures in the sea

6. Living creatures on land (evolved from sea creatures)

7. Man, (evolved from the land animals)

Science has good evidence of these facts, and it’s hard to dispute, (even though some areas of Darwin's theory are unravelling a bit...) So how did ancient man, telling a story by word of mouth for thousands of years and finally writing it down as told to them, with no understanding of astrophysics, evolution, microbiology, or geology get the order of creation exactly correct according to very advanced science?

We describe the Bible as the “inspired works of man”. All of the scriptures in the Jewish Torah, (our old testament) and all of our new testament were written by human beings, inspired by God to put their words to stone, clay tablet or papyrus for the guidance and spiritual well being of man. So whoever wrote Genesis, the first book of the Bible seems to have been inspired by God himself who created the universe and all that is in it in six days. Probably allegorical days, since there could be no measure of a day before the earth existed to rotate on it’s axis to measure the time of an earth day.

So, given all of that, what do we as Christians do, and how should we feel about this? How do you respond to someone that claims science disproves God? How do you react to someone who calls you names and uses foul language to make their point that is counter to your heart felt beliefs?

First, we need to dig deep in ourselves and find the Christ that lives in us and not be offended by what this person says (or a person of any other belief for that matter). We need to hold fast to our faith and know that we are right and justified in our beliefs. Then we must refrain from telling the other person that they are wrong, because an argument is not the way to convince someone of your faith, and will generally result in pushing them further away. People in general just love to be contrary.

What you must do is simply live your faith. Set an example of the good that your faith creates in you. Let people see that you are a living disciple of Christ. Show your antagonist that you love them, and care for them. Go away and pray for them, but don’t ask them to sit while you pray over them because that too will simply drive a wedge deeper between you. When they see that you are a shining example they will begin to change, perhaps slowly but in your every action and word with that person you must be the personification of Jesus himself. And most of all, whatever harm this person may do to you, you must forgive them. Don’t make a show of being better than they are. It’s like the rich man who loudly proclaimed all that he was giving to the temple, yet he gave much less than the widow who gave her last might, which was everything she had, you must give quietly, everything you have spiritually to your antagonist and pray for them to your God with all your might that they will be saved. Sooner or later, and sometimes it will be much later, they will come to your and ask a question. Answer it to the best of your ability. Then another and another and if you have been faithful, and honest and a shining example, you might just save one soul, and in so doing, your entire life of faith will have been fulfilled to the glory of God.

These are my own thoughts and experiences. I do not speak with authority for the Catholic Church, and I may have gotten a bit of the theology or doctrine wrong. If so, someone please point out my errors.

In the mean time, while I can’t prove that God exists, there is a lot of evidence to me that he does, and I’m certainly not willing to bet my life that he doesn’t.

Respectfully, in Christ

Michael Hager