I flew on an airplane for the first time in 30 years this week, which was a cool experience. Not only my first flight in 30 years but my first business trip as well as the first time that I have visited Detroit. Plus they are putting me up in the Embassy Suites, which is nice since this is also the first time I’ve been away from my wife for a week. (But not the first time since I’ve been away from our cat for a week.)
On the flight, I took some time to try and catch up on some of my reading. The first book I read was Momentum: How to Regain and Maintain Your Edge, which was a new book written by my friend and an Elder at my church, Scott Houston. It’s not only a new book by him but his first book. I highlighted quite a bit and ended up taking a screen shot from 2 pages, posting them to my Instagram and Facebook pages. It was a short book and a quick read.
After I finished that book, I finally got around to cracking open Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case by Frank Turek. I’ve read 2 of his other books: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (co-written with Norman Geisler) and Correct But Not Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone, as well as have heard Dr. Turek speak live twice, plus numerous podcasts and YouTube videos, so I knew that it would be good. And it has not disappointed. It even has a forward by Ravi Zacharias.
In the Introduction, titled ‘Is It A Wonderful Life?,’ one section, ‘Don’t Atheists Just Lack a Belief in God?,’ really jumped out to me. I’ve heard this line from atheists a couple of times myself, and while it can be an intellectual tongue twister, it always comes across as just a cop-out. And Dr. Turek’s answer really hit the nail on the head:
(Emphasis below are mine.)
It’s been fashionable lately for atheists to claim that they merely “lack a belief in God.” So when a theist comes along and says that atheists can’t support their worldview, some atheists will say something like, “Oh, we don’t really have a worldview. We just lack a belief in God. Since we’re not makin any positive claims about the world, we don’t have any burden of proof to support atheism. We just find the arguments for God to be lacking.”
What’s lacking are good reasons to believe this new definition.
First, if atheism is merely a lack of belief in God, then atheism is just a claim about the atheist’s state of mind, not a claim about God’s existence. The “atheist” is simply saying, “I’m not psychologically convinced that God exists.” So what? That offers no evidence for or against God. Most people lack a belief in unguided evolution, yet no atheist would say that shows that evolution is false.
Second, if atheism is merely a lack of belief in God, then rocks, trees, and outhouses are all “atheists” because they, too, lack a belief in God. It doesn’t take any brains to “lack a belief” in something. A true atheist believes that there is no God.
Third, if atheists merely “lack a belief in God,” they wouldn’t be constantly trying to explain the world by offering supposed alternatives to God. As we’ll see, atheists write book after book insisting that God is out of a job because of quantum theory, multiple universes, and evolution. While none of those atheistic arguments succeed in proving there is no God, they do prove that atheists don’t merely lack a belief in God – they believe in certain theories to explain reality without God.
They believe in those theories because atheism is a worldview with beliefs just as much as theism is a worldview with beliefs. (A “worldview” is a set of beliefs about the big questions in life, such as: What is ultimate reality? Who are we? What’s the meaning of life? How should we live? What’s our destiny? etc.) To claim that atheism is not a worldview is like saying anarchy is not really a political position. As Bo Jinn observes, “An anarchist might say that he simply ‘rejects politics,’ but he is still confronted with the inescapable problem of how human society is to organize itself, whether he likes the idea of someone being in charge or not.”
Likewise, atheists can say they just “reject God,” but they are still confronted with the inescapable problem of how to explain ultimate reality. Just as anarchists affirm the positive belief that anarchy is the best way to organize society, atheists affirm the positive belief that atheistic materialism is the best way to explain ultimate reality. Materialism is the dominant view among atheists today and the view this book is addressing.
In other words, atheists don’t “lack a belief” in materialism. They are not skeptical of materialism – they think it’s true! As Phillip Johnson said, “He who is a skeptic in one set of beliefs is a true believer in another set of beliefs.” Lacking a belief in God doesn’t automatically establish materialism any more than lacking a belief in atheism automatically establishes Christianity. No atheist would say that a Christian has made a good case because he “lacks a belief” in materialism.
Everyone has the burden of proof to support his or her position. Atheists must make a positive case that only material things exist. That’s why instead of debating “Does God exist?” I prefer to debate the question “What better explains reality: atheism or theism?” Then it’s obvious that both debaters have the burden of proof to support their position. Atheists can’t just justify what they think are deficiencies in theism. They must make a compelling case that everything has been caused by materials and consists only of materials, including
- The beginning of the universe
- The fine-tuning of the universe
- The laws of nature
- The laws of logic
- The laws of mathematics
- Information (genetic code)
- Mind and consciousness
- Free will
- Objective morality
It’s rare to find an atheist attempting to explain more than one or two of these things materially. How could they? How can laws be materials?…But the main point is that the new atheists must provide reasons to support their belief that materialism is true. Simply lacking a belief in God doesn’t prove their worldview.
Finally, the “I merely lack a belief in God” definition leads to a contradictory result. As Dr. Richard Howe points out, “This definition of atheism entails the quirky conclusion that atheism is logically compatible with theism.” Here’s why: If lackin a belief in God is the definition of “atheism” – and not “there is no God” – then “atheism” is true even if God really exists. How is that reasonable? If not “atheism,” what word should we use for the belief that there is no God?
We shouldn’t allow atheists to hide behind their lacking definition. A true atheist is someone who believes there is no God. And atheists have the burden of proof to show how materialism is true and reality can be explained without God.