Let me begin by pointing out that some of my friends are atheists. I admire them, and respect their right to believe differently than me. Therefore, anything that I may hold contrary to atheism should not be seen as an indictment against people who are atheists. This article is about a system, not a people.
For the purpose of this short article, when I use the term “atheism,” I am referring to the traditional worldview system that holds that there is only a naturalistic explanation for the world around us. This atheism would reject the concept of a Mind, Being, or God that exists outside of the material universe, and, instead, favors a naturalistic worldview. It might be negatively defined as a lack of belief in a God, or it might be positively defined as an affirmation in a statement like, “God does not exist.”
I believe that a significant failure of atheism is its inability to offer reasonable justifications for some of the phenomena that are part of our everyday world. Not only does it fail to provide reasonable explanations, but I also believe it proves to be logically inconsistent with some observable data.
For the purpose of this article, I have selected three areas in which I believe atheism specifically fails.
Cosmology: For a long time, many scientists had held that our universe was eternal – that it had no beginning. However, this is no longer the case. Most scientists now believe that our universe had a beginning. This is referred to as “the big bang.” Cosmology is the study of the beginning of our universe. It is not just a study of what happened after the big bang. But, it studies events that may have caused the bang.
I believe that atheism fails to offer a reasonable cosmological explanation. Although some atheistic models have been theorized to explain the cause of our universe, as Dr. William Lane Craig explains, none of these models actually work.[i]
Obviously, “prior” to the origin of the universe there was no universe, or anything it is made of; no matter, no energy, no time, and no space. There was no vacuum. There were no natural laws, properties, or forces. There was no unbalanced state, because there was nothing to become unbalanced, nor was there any force or law that could have caused anything to be unbalanced. It was not just a “clean slate” because there was no slate, and there was no such thing as clean. There was nothing. Absolute nothing.
In my opinion, atheism fails to offer a reasonable explanation of how all matter, energy, time, and space could have come from absolute nothing without having been caused by a naturalistic something – especially since that “something” also did not exist. As well, atheism fails to explain why the universe came into being when it did. Why not a day before? A month? A year? A millennium? Why did it come into being at all? Atheism fails at this point.
Objective Moral Values: Many philosophers agree that objective moral values exist in our universe. What this means is that rational people agree that it is not just wrong, for example, to kidnap and torture innocent children, but that it is objectively wrong to do so. Meaning, that it would be wrong to do this even if everyone disagrees.
Let me explain it this way: the law of gravity is not a force that we can actually see. However, we can see how it affects the world around us. If you throw a ball into the air, you can see how gravity pulls it back down. Science can provide a good explanation for how gravity works, even though it is unseen. In a way, gravity is like an objective law. It works even if we do not believe in it or agree with it.
Objective moral values is like a law that cannot be seen, yet we recognize that there are some things which are objectively wrong. For example, if someone breaks into your house and takes your TV, you would feel offended because we all recognize that taking someone else’s belongings is wrong. If a child is kidnapped and tortured, we intuitively realize that this is wrong regardless of when or where it occurs, or if some may feel that it was okay. This is what is meant by objective.
But where could this law come from based on the atheistic worldview? Unlike the law of gravity, an atheist cannot find a natural explanation for why something is objectively wrong. One cannot calculate natural forces and come up with a formula explaining why some behavior is objectively wrong. If one insists that moral values were instilled in us through the evolutionary process, than they must follow their own logic and admit that nothing can be objectively wrong. For example, they must admit that rape is only something that they would prefer not to occur, but that it is not objectively wrong.
I have never heard an atheist provide a good explanation for why we have objective moral values. This is because there is no natural explanation for their existence. An atheist must either insist that there are no moral values which are truly objective, or become logically inconsistent in trying to explain why they are real. I believe atheism fails on this point.
The Problem of Evil:
Oftentimes, the problem of evil is seen as an argument against theism. It is often said that the evil in our world suggests that there can be no good God. Although I am happy to respond to that argument, I believe the atheist has a more incipient problem if he or she is going to make that statement.
The problem with evil for the atheist is very much like the problem of objective moral values. As soon as the atheist judges something as “evil,” then he or she is comparing it to a standard to which they believe exists. For example, if someone claims that a line is not straight, then he or she is comparing that line to a standard which they believe is straight. They believe that straight exists in reality, otherwise they could not say a line was crooked. If you drew a picture of a unicorn, I may disagree with your rendering, but I could not insist that unicorns do not look like what you’ve drawn since they do not exist in reality. There is no standard by which to judge.
Likewise, when someone claims something is evil, they are immediately comparing it to some type of standard that they believe exists in reality. Otherwise, they cannot say that something is truly evil.
But from where does this standard come? Has our universe produced a moral standard of behavior? If so, why has this standard come about, and how can that standard be scientifically explained?
If atheism claims there is evil, then the atheist should be able to explain how evil can be defined in an objective manner. Since, as I argue, atheism cannot provide a logical reason on how evil can be objectively defined, atheism fails to reasonably deal with this topic.
I have found that naturalistic atheism is not only ineffective to address these observable points, but that it must maintain a logically inconsistent position to deal with them.