"This house believes in God"
Well what do you say to an atheist professor in a debate wherein you have five minutes?
Oxford-based Canon Michael Green prolific author, apologist, and Anglican evangelist offered up this exercise in apologetics.
It's not cool to believe in God at university. So why don't I go over to the professor's side and be an atheist?. It is fashionable. It makes no moral demands on me. Yes, I think I'll get rid of God.
But let's see what I'm letting myself in for. An unbeliever has to live by faith as well as a believer. I've got some problems to face
The problem of the world
We've thrown out the old-fashioned idea of a Creator, remember. So we'll have to do without one. Right, the world must have arisen by chance. Even more amazing is the emergence of life, apparently on this planet alone. That must be by chance, too, if there was no Creator. So impersonal matter, given masses of time and chance, produced personal life, did it? Well it didn't work that way when Pasteur tried it. But if there is no Creator the world is a fluke and the biggest of all flukes upon it is man. I don't much like that conclusion. It does not give a very flattering account of my intelligence. And it certainly does not explain why, in a random universe, the very opposite principle of cause and effect is everywhere apparent. How come that a random world is shot through with the consistent laws of nature? Ah well, can't win ' em all.
The problem of design
At least it looks like design, all round us. This world seems remarkably fashioned to support life, and human life in particular. Many scientists are recognising this so called anthropic principle. Had the constituents of our world been fractionally different there could have been no life on this planet. But this is taking us perilously near a Designer. We shall have to find another explanation for the radar of a bat, the focussing equipment of an eye, the incredible complexity of how we hear. The hibernation of a polar bear for 6 months, the migration of a bird over thousands of miles, well, I suppose it's all the product of chance and evolution, but it seems a bit lame
The problem of values
When I believed in God I had some explanation of the values we all prize. Beauty, goodness, truth, creativity, love, and reason, all sprang from God and were mute witnesses to his character. But now I've got problems. Truth is all relative. Beauty is just one manifestation of primal chaos. Goodness is impossible to define - there is no standard. Love is mere chemical attraction. And my reason, that makes these judgments, has no independent validity. It too is a complex mess of neurological pulp emerging from the mindless matter of the universe.
The problem of me
I'm an atheist, remember, and I must be rigorous in drawing the conclusions. HJ Blackman, once President of the Humanist Association, wrote 'On humanist assumptions life leads nowhere, and every pretence to the contrary is a cruel deceit' Nobel prize winner Jacques Monod 'Man must wake up to his fundamental isolation. Like a gypsy he lives on the boundary of an alien world that is as deaf to his music and as indifferent to his hopes and fears, as to his sufferings and crimes. Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game'
So what does this atheistic faith involve?
Emptiness of purpose - a life which believes in nothing, finds ultimate purpose in nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it would die
Collapse of ethics - There are no absolutes in morals. There is nothing except my preference to differentiate the behaviour of Jimmy Savile and Mother Theresa.
Onset of despair - 'Only on the foundation of unyielding despair can the soul's habitation safely be built' ( Russell) 'To man as man we can say Good riddance ' ( Skinner) 'Man is a disease on the skin of the earth' (Nietschze)
Trouble is we can't live that way. Jean-Paul Sartre, the atheist who consistently maintained that God is dead, and man a crumpled little piece of paper in the rain whose only liberation is death, began to see it differently at the end of his life. "I don't see myself as so much dust that has appeared in the world, but as a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth. In short, a being that could, it seems, come only from a Creator. And this recognition of a creative hand drives me back to God."
Well I would never have guessed that Sartre would have proposed tonight's motion.
You can watch Michael Green on Youtube CAN WE TRUST THE BIBLE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXK9p9bu2yE
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