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If only matter exists, then you and I are mere arrangements of mud.
(Alexey Savrasov. Sea of Mud. Source)
Why should politicians bother with Atheism? Shouldn't politicians just leave religion and God to the Priests?
Let me start answering that question with a metaphor. Imagine a soccer league for little girls. Should the referees of that league worry about a strange group of girls who claim that winning is everything, even if you have to break the legs of the other team's best scorer with a baseball bat? Should the referees just let these strange girls try to convince all the other players in the league? Of course not! The referees are responsible for the Common Good of that soccer league. They must deal with this problem.
Does this metaphor really apply to Atheists in our society? I'm now going to try to answer that question. The following text is a bit long, so brace yourselves. Also, remember that the whole question of Atheism is very complex, and in this short essay, I'll just scratch the surface. For a serious discussion, please consult real philosophers and theologians.
Gradual restricting of the meaning of a word.
I must also explain how this article is organized. I start with the word "Atheist", with all of its meanings. Then run those meanings through a series of "inverted funnels". In other words, I gradually eliminate all loose meanings of the word "Atheist", to end up with the strict meaning.
An Atheist is commonly defined as a man who denies that God exists. The first problem with this definition is that we have to specify what we mean by "God". One of the first observations, when having discussions with some so-called "Atheists" is that the "god" they deny is quite thoroughly diabolical!
A "god" who is nasty, evil, crazy and tyrannical is not God. I claim that the existence of evil in the world doesn't prove the inexistence of God, but rather the existence of the Devil! And even if we decide not to talk about Satan, we must still take into account the stupidity and malevolence of men. Either way, the "atheism" that rejects the numerous false gods running around must be strongly encouraged and praised. Of course, we also have to explain to these people that in their case, they should replace the word "Atheist" with the expression common sense!
If God exists, how can evil exist? First, let's remember that entire books have been written on this topic. To make a long story short: evil exists (we can observe it with evidence), therefore if God exists and He is really God, then the evil we observe can't be as evil as we might think. In other words, God would permit some evils for the sake of greater goods.
What does that mean, practically speaking? I can't speak for other religions, but Christianity has always claimed that God was, in a way, absent from our world. In other words, Christians partially agree with the argument of Atheists who claim that the existence of God is incompatible with the existence of evil. For a Christian, God is "fully present" in Heaven, where there is no evil, whereas in this world, He is somehow "gone away on a trip" [Lc 19:12].
To try to understand this assertion about God's "absence", you could imagine for a moment that you're the richest person in the world. What would you do, if you wanted to invite all the men of good will to a big party? Obviously, if you just put an ad in the paper, all the creeps would rush in to come and drink and eat on your dime! To avoid that, you might secretly hire professional actors, and tell them to dress up as hobos, widows, sick persons, orphans, etc. [Mt 25:34]. These actors would then go into the society to ask for help, and write down the names and addresses of men of good will who would take care of them. Bingo! You could then come up with your list of good guests.
If God exists, does He do this? The goal of this philosophical essay is not to explore that question. All I'm trying to say here is that God's existence isn't necessarily incompatible with the existence of certain evils in this world.
We've just seen that some types of "Atheism" were in fact simple manifestations of common sense. Now, we have to examine the case of "Atheists" who firmly believe that God exists.
In order to do so, you have to make a few experiments with people who claim to be "Atheists". Often these people claim that God doesn't exists, to then say (a few sentences later) that life is "sacred", or that Nature must be respected "religiously", etc. When you call to their attention that if God doesn't exist, there is nothing sacred or divine, these people normally stop talking or change the topic of the conversation. The effect is even funnier if you catch these people (when a happy even occurs in their lives) saying things like: "Thank God!"
Every man is a unique and irreplaceable case, so we mustn't over-generalize, but it seems to me that many "Atheists" are simply people who are ashamed to admit they believe in God. Of course, as if by magic, these people often have aspects of their personal lives which are incompatible with Christian morality. Calling themselves "Atheists" lets them deny their sin. On the other hand, God quickly returns through the back door when they need Him!
After the "atheisms" which are synonymous with "common sense" and "shameful belief in God", there is the real but inconsiderate Atheism of people who suck up whatever stupidity is currently fashionable.
I'll always remember a conversation I had overheard at the Faculty of Philosophy of Laval University, many years ago. A young student in his second semester, who seemed especially frail and unintelligent, was ecstatically explaining how he had borrowed books by Nietzsche during the Christmas holidays, and how that had changed his whole perception of life. Of course, to better understand the silliness of the situation, you have to know that the Faculty (at least in those days) was a cesspool of Ethical Relativism and Idealistic Scepticism. Already in those days I would almost start a riot when I'd claim that my hand really had five fingers! To make a long story short, this poor sucker had gobbled up one of the many fish hooks that the university would systematically dangle in front of its student's mouths.
Are all simpletons guilty? I am neither all-knowing, nor endowed with the necessary infinite rectitude of will to be the impartial judge of this. On the other hand, in my opinion, these people would profit from an examination of the proofs of God's existence, while they still have time.
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating that human psychology is very complicated. It's not because some simpleton has gobbled up Atheism that everything that simpleton will do will automatically be bad. It's one of the characteristics of human souls that they can "lack unity", that contradictory things can coexist in the same unwise person.
We've all seen examples of inconsistencies in people's lives, like tree-hugging vegetarians who started driving hours to go buy large portions of meat, just because they had purchased shares in a store that had a butcher shop. Or the apparently true stories of Nazis who worked all day in concentration camps, killing people like there was no tomorrow, then coming home to play with their children, and to listen to delicate classical music, etc.
Bad ideas don't necessarily fully contaminate someone's soul, instantly. This process can take time. The history of Philosophy is larded with examples of philosophers who made serious errors, but who didn't suffer as many negative consequences as their disciples who "took the idea to its logical conclusion".
What? You know Atheists who have moral principles and who respect the Law? So do I. What would you think if I pulled a goldfish out of the aquarium and said: "Amazing! This one is wet!" You'd laugh at me! It's the same thing for many Atheists, since we are bathed in a civilization which for a long time was Christian.
Don't be fooled by Atheists who look nice. Go and examine what Atheism is, in itself, and where its "intellectual center of gravity" will draw people, eventually.
"Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe."
[William Shakespeare. King Richard III, Act 5, Scene 3]
It's fashionable these days to claim that Christianity is "intolerant". I claim the opposite. I claim that it's Atheism that is horrible and that threatens our whole society. I claim that true Atheists are a public menace, that they should not be permitted to teach in schools or work in the media, that they should not be permitted to testify in court, and so on.
Notice I'm not saying this because of my religious beliefs. I'm not asserting these things because "my God says we must reject these people", or because these people don't have the same religous beliefs I do. I assert these things based on the conclusion of my reflexions.
To decide whether I'm right or wrong, you have to do something few people these days have the intelligence or the courage to do. You have to think through the logical consequences of Atheism. We can summarize these consequences in three successive phases:
7.1) No divine intentions, hence no human nature. If God doesn't exist, there can't be any divine intentions. In other words, if God doesn't exist, we are nothing but the result of a random, purpose-less evolution. It's a bit like taking a stack of playing cards and throwing them up in the air. The cards will come down on the table in one way or another. We can decide to call such a grouping "Wayne" or "Julia", but this is totally arbitrary and conventional. Yes, we can with our mouths claim that such a grouping of cards has a great "dignity", but the word "dignity" itself is nothing more than a momentary disruption of the surrounding air, a sound which propagates itself and will die off in the distance.
7.2) No human nature, hence no morality. If there isn't a human nature, strictly speaking, we can't assert that this or that is "appropriate" or "not appropriate" to this human nature. Between picking your ear with your finger, or sodomizing a total stranger, there is no essential difference. (See also "What is morality?")
7.3) No morality, hence no laws. If there is no morality, strictly speaking, all we can have are conventions. If the majority of voters decide that rape is legal, then rape becomes legal. If the majority of voters decide that Jews are sub-human, then we can exterminate Jews in concentration camps. Might becomes right. (See also "Bill C-666")
After having read these last paragraphs, Atheists will certainly gnash their teeth and vociferate. Their howls will revolve around the false definitions of Atheism we've already discussed (see #2, #4 and #5 here above), and the usual attacks against the Church (see "Slander Soup").
It has been known for a long time that if God doesn't exist, nothing is forbidden. On the other hand, there is one thing that real Atheists forbid: a real public debate about the logical consequences of Atheism!
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