Atheists on the march
In early November, 2006, some of the world's leading atheists met in La Jolla, California, to discuss the disquieting rise of belief in God. Attending the conference were such notables as British atheist, Richard Dawkins, author of the recent bestseller, “The God Delusion”, and American atheist, Sam Harris, author of, “Letter to a Christian Nation”. Try as they may to convince all of the truth of their no-God gospel, and to replace religion with unbelief as the new opiate of the masses, atheists seem to be in retreat, as admitted in the program of the conference:
Just 40 years after a famous TIME magazine cover asked "Is God Dead?" the answer appears to be a resounding "No!" According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, "God is Winning"… After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? (Beyond Belief)
By and large, atheists are much less inclined than believers to seek any reconciliation of “faith and dogma” with “rational inquiry”. I say “by and large” because, as is well known, some believers treat reason and inquiry of any kind as devil's work — science is shot-through with error and should be held accountable for all the world's ills. Dawn to Dusk recoils from such views, and is dedicated to the conviction that scientific investigation, whether its agents realize it or not, declares the glory of God because it is dealing with the handiworks of God. Believers should delight in the pursuit of scientific knowledge (Ps. 111:2). Faith is strengthened by seeing the power and genius of God displayed in His endless works.
Many atheists, motivated by the creed that the real villain in the piece is religion, are spearheading a new, all-out push to convert the world to their gospel — the non-existence of God. George Johnson of the New York Times picked up on this new church-like feel of the movement, saying that the forum,
… began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told. Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister. She was not entirely kidding.
Whether or not the metaphor is well-chosen, it highlights a modern reality — atheists are stirring and uniting in their efforts to cast off the yoke of religious ignorance. I, for one,
wish them half success. May they succeed in exposing the deficiencies of religions. With them, I say, down with religion and up with the truth. Of course, one religion I hope to see exposed in all its nakedness in the struggle that is now frothing like an actively-fermenting wort is the anti-God delusion.
Atheists have a point: religion tends to be laced with superstition and ignorance. Hinduism's pantheon of deities needs to be knocked off its pedestal as decisively as Dagon was knocked off his (1 Sam. 5:4). Religion has brought terrible suffering to mankind: Muslims need to recognize that suicide-bombings and martyrdom of its youth fit Koranic teachings quite snugly, and Christians need to shamefacedly confess that churches have an appalling track record of violence of both the velvet kind and the literal kind against both their own dissenters and infidels. Martin Luther wrote,
If a Jew, not converted at heart, were to ask baptism at my hands, I would take him on to the bridge, tie a stone round his neck, and hurl him into the river; for these wretches are wont to make a jest of our religion (Anecdotes of Luther and the Reformation, circa 1883, Hodder and Stoughton, p. 64).
Though bedeviled by much disinformation, the fact remains that the centuries-long Inquisition brought misery and pain to millions of “heretics” and pagans. The words “convert or die” brought terror to untold numbers. The “Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism” in St. Petersburg, Russia, founded in 1932, used two major arguments against belief in God — evolution theory and the violent history of the church. This author remembers visiting the museum in 1971 and being moved by its depictions of torture chambers operated under the auspices of the medieval Church.
Yes, it's time believers began to question the very legitimacy of churches. We need to admit that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God and atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind, could not possibly be the head of any church that tortures or kills its opponents, literally or metaphorically. People like Richard Dawkins have a point.
But oh, may we not commit the unforgivable sin against logical reasoning and begin to assign guilt to God through His supposed association with religious establishments. He exists, but it was not Him who whispered into the ears of inquisitors such as Ximenes, Torquemada and Diaz, or anti-Semites such as Martin Luther. He did not write the Koran or dream up the Hindu pantheon. He designed and created the things that scientists love to investigate. He is goodness and truth to an infinite degree. He sent Jesus to die for us, to save the world and administer eternal life to men and women. He will succeed.