The obvious problem is that there are some religious and philosophical systems that mandate war and violence as a basic part of their heritage and beliefs. I remember a missionary telling the story one time of being in Africa and teaching a primitive tribe in the jungle somewhere about the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When the betrayal by Judas was told, the natives applauded. In that culture treachery and betrayal was considered to be a virtue, and one who succeeded in destroying someone else was held up as a person of great strength and wisdom. I cannot verify that there was or is such a culture, but it is certainly possible. The point is that such a system cannot be held up as equally valid with what most Americans would feel to be a value system by which people should live.
It is the position of the Does God Exist? work that the Christian system as taught in the Bible is the only way to live successfully. It is not our job to judge others or to decide how God will handle those who do not conform to the system of living and worship that He has given us. However, we do maintain that there is a right way to live and conduct one's self, and that the New Testament tells us how to do that. We believe the evidence supports Jesus' statement that He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). We want to emphasize from the start that we are talking about what the system teaches, not what people do. There are atheists who live wonderful, self-sacrificing, constructive lives in spite of the fact that this might logically violate some of the principles that classical atheism teaches. There are some who claim to be Christians but who practice violence, immorality, and war to enhance their religious or political organization--in direct opposition to everything Jesus Christ taught. The question is not what people do because people of all persuasions do incredibly selfish destructive things. The question is, "What does the system actually teach, and does following that system bring positive or negative results?"
Sexual Conduct and Pornography. One area of concern in our society is the question of sexual conduct and issues like pornography. What is the logical viewpoint of sex, marriage, and pornography from an atheistic standpoint? If this life is all we have and we answer to no one but ourselves, we decide for ourselves what is right or wrong. If our makeup is controlled by evolution and the principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest, then any sexual conduct a person wishes to engage in that promotes our well-being and pleasure is acceptable. One of the things that attracts people to atheism is the freedom from moral restrictions, and the opportunity to engage in any sexual practice with any other consenting adult. In our day of contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, the old negative consequences of illicit sexual activity have been minimized. While safe sex is never completely safe, the risk factor can be significantly reduced.
Logically, anything that can contribute in a positive way to sexual experience can be justified. Pornography that does not exploit another human and which enhances a person's sexual experience can be condoned. Even prostitution would be acceptable if it is conducted in such a way that sexually transmitted diseases are controlled, and which provides an income for sex workers who engage in their activities willingly. If our sexual drives are controlled by our biology and are rooted in survival of the fittest and natural selection then any sexual act that contributes positively to our survival and well being is acceptable. Few atheists would sanction the exploitation of another human, but most would argue that the violence and abuse associated with pornography and prostitution is due to financial issues and is not inherently a product of these enterprises. The famous atheist Aldous Huxley said it well: "The person who sees no meaning in the world is concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he should not do what he wants to. For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation--sexual and political."
The teachings of Jesus Christ are a radical departure from what we have just discussed. Jesus made it clear that sexual relationships and conduct are to be consummated only in marriage. Christ even told His followers to be careful about what they did in their thinking: Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:28). The Christian system is one man and one woman in a committed relationship not allowing one to go for a period of time without sexual relationships. In 1 Corinthians 7:4-5 Christians are told not to separate from one another for a long period of time to avoid becoming vulnerable to sexual temptation from the outside. Sex is narrowly defined and singularly executed in a monogamous, committed, life-long relationship.
Atheists are prone to suggest that the Christian system is unrealistic. One partner for life is considered to be in violation of natural biological drives which encourage a male to impregnate as many females as possible to ensure that the strongest survive in numbers guaranteeing the continuance of the species. If man is viewed as solely a product of his evolutionary, biological past, then everything we see in the animal kingdom would apply to humans. Just as a bighorn ram butts heads with competing males and then accumulates a harem in which he fathers all of the babies, so too the alpha male human will enjoy mating with as many females as possible
The question is "what works?" What brings the greatest pleasure, the greatest fulfillment, the greatest stability, the greatest satisfaction, and the most healthy sexual experience? Humans are not sheep. Sex is not just a device to produce babies and bring a few moments of pleasure. The biblical perspective of sex which started in Genesis 2:24 is that sex brings a unique bond between a man and his wife. The Old Testament referred to "one flesh" and Jesus referred to it in Matthew 19:4-6 when He answered the Pharisees' questions about marriage. In Ephesians 5:25 husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church and to have such a deep love and commitment that they would be willing to die for their wives. In the same passage (verses 22-23) wives are told to honor and respect their husbands. That kind of relationship is not available to the atheist who maintains women as a ram maintains a herd of ewes. In the Christian system sexual relationships are an expression of love, oneness, and commitment--not just physical release.
Not only is the purpose and promise of sex an issue, but the way of having the greatest pleasure in sex is an issue. It is interesting that our magazines these days are full of advertisements for devices, drugs, and chemicals that will enhance sexual experience. The problem is that promiscuity has robbed people of the best of what sex has to offer. Meaningful sex happens when you know what your partner likes and what he or she does not like--what turns them on and turns them off. It happens a number of years into a marriage and is enriched by the unity that a man and a woman have. The mechanical efforts of our society to make sex better is a reflection of the consequences of not conducting sex in the kind of relationship God calls us to. In the Christian system there is no comparison of one partner's sexual performance, because there is no one to compare it to. There is no need for pornography to arouse someone, because the relationship with one's partner provides a beautiful arousal of love and commitment.
The prevailing unhappiness with sex, and the desperate attempts of people to find a way to get better sexual experiences is a demonstration of the fact that only the Christian system provides what we all want in sexual experiences. Other religious systems that teach polygamy or polyandry also fail for the very same reason that atheism fails. It is sad that so many people on this planet have bought into alternatives to God's plan for man and woman. They have lost the most beautiful sexual experiences that they could ever have had. Complete sex is not functional in a relativistic belief system. God's way as revealed in the New Testament works.
Benevolence and Charity. All philosophies and religions do charity work, including many atheists. There is a need that everyone has to help others through such things as homeless shelters, care facilities, and a variety of relief organizations. However, the numbers are very clear that in every study that has been done the bulk of benevolence and charity work is done as a unique characteristic of Christianity. In John 13:3-17 Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and told them that they were to do the same. Over and over Christ emphasized giving and caring for others. In judgment scenes Jesus showed people who visited the sick, cared for the homeless, fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, and visited prisons as those who were in favor with God while those who did not were denied by God (see Matthew 25:31-46).
Many atheists do some giving, but the question that has to be raised is why? If survival of the fittest is the mantra by which we live, then why would we do anything that would negatively contribute to our existence. If you are less fit you do not survive, and why should an atheist do anything that would jeopardize his own well being by helping others who are less fit? I remember one time asking my father, who was an atheist, why he gave money to the United Way. He thought about it for a while and finally said, "I guess it was the way I was raised." My father was raised in a religious home in which giving was practiced as a Christian virtue. United Way caused friction between my mother and father. In my mother's mind the only reason to give to United Way was to have your name on the list of givers published and distributed among her associates and friends. My father went beyond that in his thinking, but it was based on his religious indoctrination as a child. Our culture has had the Christian concept of giving imbedded in it, and many of us have functioned in it without necessarily believing in the Christian concept. The fact is that a purely atheistic approach would deny benevolence and charity, and the numbers support that. We made the point several issues back in this journal that atheist giving was very marginal (see March/April 2008, page 29).
To be able to find joy in giving, and to be able to develop a life style that is built around giving and sharing, there must be a belief system that denies that we ourselves are the most important thing in the creation. Religious systems that espouse building magnificent edifices and structures for their own religious pleasure and use, similarly violate the teachings of Jesus. Jesus said (James 1:27) "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction ... ." This is where the joy of giving is found, and only the teachings of Jesus Christ bring us to that blessing.
Animal and Human Rights. If we buy 100 percent into the concept of evolution and naturalism, then man is just an animal with no special makeup and nothing unique, except perhaps his brain. Such a belief system would maintain that all animal life is equally valid (relativism again) and that the life of a pig is just as valuable as the life of a human. We do in fact have extremists in the animal rights groups today that maintain exactly that--man is nothing special and all animal life is equally precious and has equal rights. We now have people protesting the use of animals for food. There are even laws being proposed in many countries which would make killing an animal an act equal to killing a human (see January/February 2006, page 15).
From Genesis 1 on, the Bible has maintained that man is unique. Man is presented as the only form of life on Earth which is created in the image of God. God's original command to man was to subdue the earth, have dominion of the fish, the fowl and the beasts of the earth." Man was also told to take care of the Garden, dress it and keep it (Genesis 2:15), and we certainly need to do a better job of that. Cruelty to animals is inexcusable and not our point here.
Death and Quality of Life. I am personally at a time in my life when I have experienced the death of many people who are close to me--my wife, my parents, and a number of friends. One of the major issues that I have observed as I have watched these people die is how they approached death. My wife spent her last weeks of life laughing, smiling, and telling doctors not to use extreme measures to extend her life. Seeing her grandchildren and her brother one last time was a high priority for her, and we traveled to do that. Her last words to me, her husband of 49 years were words of comfort and encouragement. My wife milked every drop of goodness and happiness available in a life that was full of chronic sickness from 60 years of insulin-dependent diabetes. I have seen similar responses in close Christian friends. My last day with Tom Love, a dear friend who had worked with me in a variety of Christian projects was a time of laughter and good memories. In all of these cases the view of the future was positive. These people knew that all of the things that were afflicting them and bringing their lives to an end would soon be gone, and the future was brighter than the past had ever been. One of my favorite stories of the death of my wife was when I told our mentally-retarded foster son Tim that his mother was dead. He sat there for a moment and then he said "I guess God will have to give her the insulin shots from now on ... oh no, (smiling) she won't have to take those shots any more, will she?" In Tim's case there were no tears or pain, because death to him as a Christian was a positive natural thing and his mom was free of what hurt her in the past. All of this boosted his and my quality of life. We did not have a funeral for my wife. We had a memorial service in which we celebrated her life. We shared funny and positive stories about what she accomplished, happy memories of how she blessed her children, her husband, her friends, and this ministry. (By the way, written copies of the service are available upon request.)
Coming from an atheist family, and having many atheist friends and associates, I have seen some bizarre and unfortunate reactions to death. If this life is all there is, and after this life there is nothing at all then hanging on to this life at all costs is a very high priority. Death is the ultimate tragedy and all resources and energy must be devoted to avoiding it. There is nothing to look forward to because in the atheist belief system there is no future once death occurs. My parents tried to shield me from the subject of death. I never went to a funeral as a child and never had the subject of death discussed. When I was taken to a visitation of the father of one of my high school classmates at the age of 17, my mother was incensed and reacted angrily to the lady who took me. When my father's mother was near death's door from cancer, extreme measures were taken to prolong her life using up all of her financial resources. This was in spite of the fact that she begged not to have anything more done. The best atheists can do is to portray death as a natural product of life, something that must be tolerated because it is unavoidable. They can never portray it as something to look forward to.
I recently had an atheist take me to task for my portrayal of the Christian view of death as a positive thing. His statement was "If I believed what you believe I would commit suicide on the spot--then I could have this wonderful death experience you talk about." My response was that if he in fact took his own life and had his mental faculties working when he did so (which I seriously doubt is possible) then he would not have the blessings God promises after our lives are over. The reason is that our lives according to God are designed with a purpose. Atheists view life as an accident, but Christians view life as a conscious creation with a deep and intense purpose. Ephesians 6:12; 3:9-10; and Job 1 and 2 all clearly show that we are created to do something, and that the struggle between good and evil involves us in a very personal way. We have life to accomplish what God has given us to do. Each of us has a talent given to us which is oriented toward that purpose. We want to live life to the fullest. My wife's last day on this earth was spent talking with people about life, and sharing with people how she had found joy and happiness in life. I had taken her some small New Testaments with a programmed learning guide to scriptures leading the reader to an obedience in God. When I picked up her things after she died, there was not one left, and several of the nurses and one doctor told me she had given them one of those testaments.
This is the Christian approach to life and death. Right up to our last breath we have purpose, love, direction, and hope. My wife is no longer walking by faith. She is walking by sight with her God and with Jesus. She had that hope and walked by faith while she was alive. Now in death she walks by sight. The atheist tries to walk by sight in life. The only hope he has is that when he dies he never resumes consciousness, because if he does it will be in condemnation by God because he was wrong. The atheist will say "but what if you are wrong?" My response is "We will never know we were wrong. If the atheist is right, we will never awaken and thus never know we were mistaken, but we will still have experienced great hope and joy and purpose in life." But we are not wrong, and the evidence grows daily of the great hope we have. That great hope fills life with meaning, direction, joy, and purpose.
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