|A recent article published in USA Today, “How Easter and Christianity Undermine Atheism,” by Anthony DeStefano fails to live up to its intriguing title. He starts off on the wrong foot by stating what atheists believe.|
DeStefano’s argument is referred to as a Straw Man. A Straw Man is a logical fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. If the premise of the argument is false, there is no known way for the conclusion to be true, but that doesn’t stop DeStefano – he has god on his side.
Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that atheists believe in nothing. They do believe in something — the philosophical theory known as Materialism, which states that the only thing that exists is matter; that all substances and all phenomena in the universe are purely physical.
One cannot be certain that all atheists believe in Materialism, but I’ll give DeStefano a pass here because I happen to subscribe to Materialism. I believe this because this is what evidence based science suggests. If scientific evidence suggested that my thoughts where not manifestations of my brain, that this blog post in response to DeStefano’s article were driven by the divine, I would certainly need to rethink my current view of reality (and I’d also need to consider why the divine is not allowing me to have faith). But what DeStefano fails to realize is that the only thing that one can confidently proclaim about atheists is that they lack belief in god.
Back to Materialism –
The problem is that this really isn’t a theory at all. It’s a superstition; a myth that basically says that everything in life — our thoughts, our emotions, our hopes, our ambitions, our passions, our memories, our philosophies, our politics, our beliefs in God and salvation and damnation — that all of this is merely the result of biochemical reactions and the movement of molecules in our brain.
Pot. Meet Kettle. He’s black too.
Materialism is a “superstition”? DeStefano sprinkles that word three times throughout his article, but I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
|The idea that the creator of the universe also created Adam and Eve, told them not to eat from the tree of knowledge because that would be wrong, but failed to give them the ability to discern right from wrong, later drowned the entire population except for Noah’s family, dinosaurs, and animals, went on to impregnated a virgin who carried him to term with no objections from her husband, was born to sacrifice himself to provide salvation to a species that, historically, he just doesn’t seem to care for at all, dies, is resurrected, says he’s going to come back, but doesn’t say when, and allows priests|
to systematically rape children is absurd, repulsive, lacks morality, and will hopefully end up in the a mythology section of the library. These ideas also happen to be manifestations of archaic superstitions.
DeStefano continues –
Atheists, of course, claim that all of this is absurd. Christianity, especially, they say, with its belief in Easter and the Resurrection, is nothing but “wishful thinking” — the product of weak human psychology; a psychology that is so afraid of death that it must create “delusional fantasies” in order to make life on Earth bearable.
His first statement is spot on, but the following is where he presents his second Straw Man. I gave him a pass on his first assertion that all atheists are Materialists because that’s what I base reality on, but DeStefano’s second idea that all atheists support the notion that Christians “must create these ‘delusional fantasies’ in order to make life on Earth bearable” is not an idea I support.
Here is the explanation for “delusional fantasies,” as an atheist, that I advocate – the god that DeStefano refers to is a byproduct of man’s limited ability to make sense of the world in which he lived. It’s that simple. Man couldn’t explain things about the natural world, so the concept of god provided that explanation.
The last 400 years of evidence based science, also a concept created by man with its own imperfections, has allowed us to build on ideas that are supported by evidence. These ideas make predictions, and these ideas have provided a better standard of living for millions of people. In the last 400 years science has superseded the ideas once rooted in the divine and enlightened our perception of the natural world. As science has taken over the narrative of the natural world, Christianity has been pushed to the margins.
But before continuing in our analysis of DeStefano’s logical fallacies and ignorance, I’d like to specifically highlight another egregious misstep that doesn’t really contribute to DeStefano’s overall argument.
DeStefano thinks that Materialists only believe in things they can see and touch. He follows this erroneous idea to its illogical conclusion – Materialists stop asking questions, are devoid of wonder, and can no longer be overwhelmed by the natural world. To make matters worse he uses Einstein in an attempt to drive home this point.
No less a genius than Albert Einstein once said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience in life is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: for his eyes are closed.”
This statement made by Einstein, an agnostic who some contend was an atheist, was in fact a criticism aimed at those who would have us stop asking questions, continue following outdated dogma, and base our reality on the Bible.
It’s like DeStefano lives in an alternate universe – the same one where Bizzaro, Superman’s alter-ego lives, where planets are square and the Bizzaro Code is:
Us do opposite of all Earthly things!
Before moving on let’s recap – DeStefano thinks that to be an atheist is to believe in Materialism and to think that Christianity is a product of “wishful thinking” because Christians are afraid of death. Christianity is not a superstition, but Materialism is a superstition, a myth, and just plain nonsense.
But that’s not all. Forrest Gump once said that “stupid is as stupid does,” and DeStefano certainly keeps on “doing.” His next idea is a dozy! Try to follow along (it was difficult for me – why would a brain that’s driven by the divine not be more coherent?) I’ve read this a couple of times and I think that DeStefano’s next idea is an attempt at a logical proof for Christianity and god’s existence.
Is it wishful thinking to believe in hell, the devil and demons? Is it wishful thinking to believe we’re going to be judged and held accountable for every sin we’ve ever committed? Is it wishful thinking to believe the best way to live our life is to sacrifice our own desires for the sake of others? Is it wishful thinking to believe that we should discipline our natural bodily urges for the sake of some unseen “kingdom”?
And while we’re at it, is it wishful thinking to believe God wants us to love our enemies? For goodness sake, what kind of demand is that?
Not really feeling his love for atheists, but his idea is that Christianity is too complex and includes too many nasty and unpleasant things to be man-made. On the other hand, any man-made religion based on “wishful thinking” would make it much easier to go to heaven –
If human beings were going to invent a religion based on wishful thinking, they could come up with something a lot “easier” than Christianity. After all, why not wish for a religion that promised eternal life in heaven, but at the same time allowed promiscuous sex, encouraged gluttony, did away with all the commandments, and forbade anyone to ever mention the idea of judgment and punishment?
Let me summarize. No, that would take to long. Let me sum up.
Christianity is hard.
A man-made religion would be easy (and allow promiscuous sex).
Therefore Christianity is not a man-made religion, but the one true religion created by god – checkmate!
Why do I find it interesting that the first thing he includes in his definition of religion based on wishful thinking is a reference to promiscuous sex?
One would think that the USA Today would have at least one atheist editor on staff to help DeStefano clean up this mess of an article before it was published.
DeStafano wraps up his commentary by returning to his faulty premise, his Straw Man, and reinforcing it –
And yet, atheists persist in this ridiculous notion that human beings “invented” God merely because we’re afraid of death and want to see our dead relatives again. Amazing.