In Part 1, I tried to give you my frame of mind when I was an atheist and why I left my faith and the church. In this post, I'll share how my atheism broke down and ultimately failed me and how I discovered that what I was really frustrated with, was religion and the Church.
My initial reaction was to write a long, voluminous diatribe trying to explain, in explicit detail, every possible angle to this post as I know many atheists will attack me, these post and my stance. But in the interest of the reader and not dredging up the same debates, I decided to keep it short and leave a lot out. That being said, I know atheists will attack my rational in this post but this is further evidence of exactly the point I'm trying to make. When I was an atheist, I believed that religion is irrational and dangerous and therefore took the approach that anyone who believed in religion needed to be discredited by any means. This meant mocking religious believers and leaders, proclaiming their religious institutions as irrational, and seeking to discredit the Bible by any means. All civility was tossed out the window in order to debate that my point of view was superior.
My atheism worked well for me in my controlled environment but my sole reliance on logic, science, and reason began to break down when I utilized it in human relations with other people in a not-so-logical world, especially in relationships where emotions like love were involved. In hindsight, I now know from neuroscience that although logic, facts, and science are helpful - ultimately the human species makes decisions based on emotions not logic and I found that trying to apply logical and scientific reasoning to the thousand or so decisions I needed to make everyday was not only futile but ludicrous to try. Inevitably, we use "thin slicing" in our decisions and it's difficult, if not impossible, to always remain logical and unbiased.
As previously stated, I also experienced that my atheism made me more confrontational if not militant towards my fellow mankind, specifically those who believed in God and faith. Rather than just living my life (happy in my logic and science) I felt the need to attack, belittle, and debate those who did not share my views. I wanted to prove them wrong thus making myself feel intellectual superior and elevate myself above their irrationality, when in reality, most people perceived me as intellectually arrogant and egotistical.
My atheism ethos often challenged believers to prove the existence of God which I would then debate incessantly in the form of disqualifying all their claims based on the grounds that they could not be proven using modern scientific principles and laws and thus were irrational. But as an atheist, I now realize that I simply replaced my beliefs and faith in God - to belief in science, logic and reason which in itself was making a bold intellectual commitment of faith about the nature of the universe, and I made this "leap of faith" while denying, in science, the same type of insufficient data. As Bill Maher once said on Real Time, “many atheists trade faith in a deity for faith in secularism.”
Ask yourself this question: Throughout human history, has science ever been wrong?
A PhD in Zoology and Professor of Biology for over 30 years at a leading liberal university told me, "Science is what we know about the natural world, given the amount of data available at that time in our human history. Scientific advances in the past have proven everything we know and thought to be fact at the time...wrong. We could make a scientific discovery next week that proves all of our textbooks and theories to be dead wrong." This professor, despite studying evolution for over 30 years, is a Christian.
Plus, there has been more than one study that has shown that even science is incapable of research bias. Most scientific research gets skewed by researchers because of their need for career advancement, funding for research programs, and competitiveness for staff and research facilities.
So putting my faith in science, logic, and reason was really not empirically true and free of outside bias. As Bill Maher alluded to, I simply traded religious mysticism for scientific mysticism.
A Freethinking Society Would Advance Humankind?
I often hear, and thought myself at one time, that if we could rid ourselves of religion and God, our society would be free to advance and evolve based purely on science, logic and reasoning.
In studying countries and societies who were atheist, the exact opposite happened.
Peter Hitchens, brother of outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens, spent a lot of time in the Soviet Union towards it's end. “Godless society was sobering." He wrote of the riots that broke out when the vodka ration was cancelled one week; the bribes required to obtain anesthetics at the dentist or antibiotics at the hospital; the frightening levels of divorce and abortion under their atheist rules. It was not Utopia. Mankind did not advance. Government sponsored killing and human rights violations escalated. In fact, China (a supposedly atheist society) despite being a technological powerhouse in the world, is year after year #1 on the list of government sponsored deaths and human rights violations.
Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stated it this way "But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened"
What's Love Got To Do With It?
Furthermore, my atheism ran into challenges of the heart. As a atheist, I had to prescribe to the idea that humans have no soul, and we are merely evolutionary advanced animals, so love is nothing more than instinct or hormones.
When a mother, father, husband or wife feels love and says, “I love you,” the atheist says they are not expressing anything metaphysical or spiritual. In fact, the atheist believes, they are just verbalizing their instinct to preserve their species or having increased hormones. Wouldn't that sound great on a Hallmark Card?
If we have no soul, then there is only the bubbling of the brain. Love is only a response to stimuli and hormones. Tell that to your wife or girlfriend!
The problem for atheists, is that majority of humans claim that they do feel love in mystical and spiritual ways. Anyone who has ever been in love can attest to this and our sometimes irrational thinking because of it. Christians believe that is because our love is connected to our soul and our soul is a metaphysical reality that assumes the existence of God, or at least the supernatural and points us back to our connection with God, our creator.
I've yet to find someone who has been alive more than a few decades who has not had at least one metaphysical, spiritual or supernatural event in their lives that cannot be explained using the laws of science, logic and reason. Despite what you or I have felt or experienced, my atheists friends claim this is just a momentary lapse of irrationality or that millions of people are just psychological delusional.
I Can't Change, Even If I Tried.
What I found profoundly fascinating (yet its not talked about in atheist and many scientific circles) is that science itself is actually seeing more and more evidence of God and Intelligent Design, specifically in chemistry and in the study of DNA. British philosopher, Dr. Antony Flew, was once a leading spokesperson for atheism and actively involved in debate after debate. However, recent scientific discoveries in the genome project have lead him and many others to question their atheism. Although Flew did not become a Christian or accept Jesus, he did admit he believed in a God. Researchers today are learning that DNA is so complex and contains such a specific, written code that if one mistake was made, we'd be a different mutated species altogether. Our DNA code is compared to the most complex computer program ever written, and in science and technology, a complex computer code has never existed unless it was designed, programmed or coded with an intelligent mind behind it.
Cognitive scientists are also becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in the human psyche, that it cannot be expunged. While this idea may seem outlandish to my atheist friends —after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several scientific disciplines indicate that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone. This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”
Hmm...God is so deeply engrained into our being that no matter how hard we try, we still feel his presence despite all our logical thought processes?
"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?" - Psalm 139:7
"No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." - 1 John 4:12
"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:13
In the Part 1, I explained that these posts were not meant to be an apologetics study or debate of atheism versus faith but my own personal journey. Although I've spent some time researching a lot of the arguments for and against the authenticity of the Bible, the existence of Jesus, and if he really was the Christ or Messiah - There's a lot of evidence, historical writings, anthropological digs, etc. that we could spend hours debating, but I think one of the most compelling arguments for myself and my own faith, has been the early church and the disciples of Christ.
I often hear and believed myself that the Bible we have today and ultimately religion was developed by man in order to control and wrest power from the masses. We could argue that in the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine envisioned a way to garner the support and conformity of the people and put the Bible together, along with other pagan rituals, in order to accomplish this. But none of this stands up to scrutiny or makes logical sense when you go back to the original disciples of Christ.
We now have evidence and fragments of the New Testament dating to within 30-50 years of the death of Christ, some 200 years before Constantine and the Council of Nicea. The writers of the New Testament (through scribes) were the original followers of Christ, the disciples, and they spent the rest of their lives in poverty, persecution, humiliation and were ultimately tortured and killed for professing what they had witnessed with and through Jesus Christ. In the case with Saul/Paul of Tarsus, he went from hunting and killing Christians, to becoming one of it’s biggest spokespeople after Christ had been killed and resurrected. In the same vein, James the brother of Jesus, did not believe until after Christ was resurrected. If Jesus resurrection was fake, why did these men change their beliefs entirely after Jesus was killed and go one to spend lives in persecution and ridicule?
If Jesus or his divinity was conjured up, as some claim, what did these early followers gain? Why would these eyewitness observers be tortured and die for fiction, with seemingly noting to gain?
The early disciples' prolific writings exist as a historical source. These writers also took the subversive actions of writing to women and slaves rather than pandering only to men, which would hardly have made their writings popular according to the culture of the time. Yet we still have these writings preserved and available as well as outside accounts of Jesus from other historical sources. The early disciples did almost everything wrong, according to the culture of the time, in trying to create a following or movement.
So if it was all made up, what did they gain?
These early disciples were pursued and hunted by the religious and government leaders of their day. Yet their lives, actions, writings and ultimately deaths gives us further evidence of their quest for truth and accuracy in proclaiming what they witnessed rather than creating popularity, control, power or a large following.
In Part 3, I finish my story by explaining how I discovered that what I really was frustrated with, was religion and the Church and how despite the early disciples and churches best efforts to keep religion out, eventually the old Temple Model crept back into Christianity and caused a lot of bad things to happen in the name of God and religion.
I'll leave you with one finally thought. If Jesus was not the son of God and even more God in human form and was just some guy killed 2000 years ago by the Romans. If this was the biggest lie ever sold, why hasn't it faded into history? Why are we still talking and debating him today? Why do more people attest positive life changes and supernatural events occurring from reading His book and experiencing His presence in our lives?
"But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin:.......38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5: 34-35, 38-39