In an opinion poll taken in Britain a few months ago, 38% of those interviewed said they were ‘not religious’. Other surveys show that about one-half of these would go further and say that they were atheists.
To some people atheism seems like a breath of fresh air. After all, if God does not exist, there is no need to worry about moral standards and behaviour. We are totally free to ‘do our own thing’.
Best of all, when we die we will not have to answer awkward questions or face the possibility of being punished for what we have thought, said or done. Sounds great!
But surely the important thing is not to tot up atheism’s fringe benefits, but to ask whether it is true?
For several years now, I have spent a lot of time studying this question, and have come to the conclusion that atheism cannot possibly be true. It simply raises too many problems. Let me outline a few of them.
To quote Douglas Adams: ‘Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly mind-boggling big it is. I mean, you may think it is a long way down the road to the dentist, but that’s just peanuts to space’.
The author of The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy was right. Try looking up at the stars on a clear night, and you will begin to see what I mean. If the earth was the size of a full stop in this article, the moon would be five-eighths of an inch away, the sun just over nineteen feet and the nearest star 1005 miles.
We would still be 23,380,000 miles from the Milky Way and 467,600,000 miles from the Andromeda Galaxy. This ‘mind-boggling big’ universe raises massive questions for the atheist.
How did it all get there? Why is it the way it is? Where did the laws of nature come from? Why is there such amazing order and design in the universe?
Talk of a ‘Big Bang’ gets us nowhere. Where did they get the material that is supposed to have gone ‘Bang!’?
And how did an explosion produce beauty, order and design?
The mystery of life
The existence of life is an even greater problem for the atheist. A famous scholar has said that life originating by chance is about as likely as getting a complete dictionary from an explosion in a printing factory!
Can we really believe that once upon a time there was nothing; that ‘something’ (a speck of dust?) then appeared; and that this eventually sprang to life all by itself? That the complex ‘language of the genes’ (the genetic code) just made itself up? That immensely complex biological systems like the human eye somehow just happened? Talk about fairy tales!
The miracle of man
Human beings are truly amazing. Laid out in ‘single file’, the DNA in any one of us would stretch to the sun and back more than 100 times! In an average lifetime, the human brain processes enough data to fill 7,142,857,142,860,000 computer discs!
We can think, speak, count, appreciate beauty and build personal relationships. We have a sense of right and wrong. We ask questions like: ‘Where did I come from? Why am I here?’ and ‘Where am I going?’
Above all, human beings have a deep-seated religious instinct, a sense that there is something (or someone) greater than ourselves. These things can be said of no other living creature – try asking a cat to read this article! Why should we be unique?
The atheist’s answer to the existence of the universe, the mystery of life, and the miracle of man is to say that they all came about by accident. But surely this makes no sense.
If our brains are accidents, then so are our thoughts. Why should we trust anything they tell us? How can we know the truth about anything?
If all of life is accidental, why should we bother about our behaviour? Why should we make any effort to be decent, honest or kind? Why should we care for the sick, help the poor, or comfort the dying?
If we are just flukes, mere evolutionary accidents, there is no reason why we should claim to have more dignity than pigs, mosquitoes or frogs. Yet we do! Why? What puts us in a different league?
Created by God
The Bible’s answer to these questions is that the wonderful universe in which we live was created by God. He also made man ‘in his own image’, distinct from all the rest of creation and capable of living in a personal relationship with his maker.
That relationship has been ruined by sin but, in his great mercy, God has come into the world in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has provided a way by which the relationship can be restored.
Elsewhere in this newspaper, you will read the stories of some for whom God has proved this to be true. Read them carefully. And ask God to do the same for you!