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Is belief in God "delusional"? A vocal number of militant atheists say so. Yet around the world, religion continues to grow in popularity. Why is this happening—and what does it mean for Bible prophecy?
What is the real significance of the current attack by militant atheists on God and religion? Where is it leading?
In the last several years, a handful of militant atheists have launched a frontal assault on God and religion—especially on Christianity and the Bible. Their deliberate attack on religious belief is remarkable because it ignores the lessons of history and the discoveries of modern science! Intentionally provocative books by Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins and American writer Sam Harris are clearly "no-holds-barred, anti-religion polemics that call for the eradication of all manifestations of faith" (Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 2007). Dawkins, a devoted disciple of Darwinian evolution, has been called the "high priest of modern atheism." In his own words, he says he is "attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, whatever and whenever they have been or will be invented" (The God Delusion, p. 36). Harris similarly asserts, "I have set out to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity" (Letter to a Christian Nation, p. ix).
Amazingly, even while these authors are frantically waving the banner of atheism and claiming that belief in materialism and evolution are the only rational conclusions any thinking person can hold, we are today witnessing a worldwide resurgence in religious interest and activity! The appearance of such deliberate attacks on the God of the Bible—at a time of increasing violence on the world scene, growing concerns over planetary climate change and the global resurgence of religious activity—is significant in ways that few realize. The Bible provides vital insights explaining what is behind the resurgence of religion and the skeptics' attacks on God, Christianity and the Bible—and where this is leading. Before you accept misleading ideas and arguments, you need to understand why these issues are erupting today!
Modern atheists like to promote the idea that their anti-religious views are scientific, intellectually mature and rest upon solid, irrefutable evidence. From such a premise, you would expect their books to be loaded with carefully assembled facts and unassailable information. Instead, readers are pelted with a steady stream of wild claims, unsubstantiated statements, false information, antiquated arguments, risky assumptions, open ridicule and erroneous conclusions. Echoing Sigmund Freud who viewed religion as an illusion, an infantile delusion and a form of mental illness, and Karl Marx who described religion as "the opiate of the people," Dawkins calls belief in a supernatural god "delusional," and labels religion "the most common form of superstition" and a "virus of the mind" (Dawkins, pp. 5, 15, 67, 186). Parents who teach their children about God, Dawkins says, are guilty of brainwashing and child abuse! Dawkins asserts, as do other aggressive atheists, "Those who believe in God are therefore dishonest, deluded, or stupid" because they follow an "idiotic medieval superstition."
Dawkins' book The God Delusion has been hailed as "smart… brave… refreshing… demolishes religious leaders' attempts to prove the existence of God." However, when examined closely and critically, the ammunition Dawkins uses against religion and belief in God turns out to be little more than "rubber bullets" fired by ivory-tower academics who have a poor grasp of the subject they are attacking. Perhaps the most audacious exercise in bad taste employed by this current atheist offensive is the "blasphemy challenge" directed at young people. An Internet group invites young people "to create videos in which they renounce belief in the 'sky God of Christianity' and upload it on the site" as "a way for people to show their non-belief and encouraging others to come out" (Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 2007).
Many critics have challenged the arguments and information presented by aggressively atheistic writers. Alister McGrath is Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University and a world-renowned theologian who also holds a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics. He writes: "To put it bluntly, Dawkins' engagement with theology is superficial and inaccurate, often amounting to little more than cheap point scoring" (Dawkins' God, p. 83). McGrath cites Dawkins' definition of faith as "blind trust, in the absence of evidence" as totally ludicrous in that it is merely "Dawkins' own definition, constructed with his own agenda in mind" (ibid., p. 85). Harris promotes similar ideas about the "stupidity" of religious faith. McGrath then provides a definition of faith accepted by theologians: "the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence" (ibid., p. 86). This resembles the biblical definition of faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Real faith is not blind faith—it is belief based on substantial evidence! McGrath critiques Dawkins as one "who, knowing nothing about Christian theology, rushes headlong into the field… There is a total failure on Dawkins' part to even begin to understand what Christian theology means by its language" (Dawkins' God, p. 99). This same criticism can apply to others who have launched the modern attack on God, religion and the Bible—they simply do not understand the subject they are trying to attack!
Dawkins frequently resorts to ridicule in his attempts to prove there is no God. He claims the existence of God is "no more probable than the tooth fairy" or a "Flying Spaghetti Monster" (Dawkins, pp. 52–53). In his intemperate and irreverent manner, Dawkins asserts, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser… homophobic, racist… malevolent bully… psychotic delinquent… the monster of the Bible" (ibid., pp. 31, 38, 45). This malicious diatribe, however, simply does not disprove the existence of God. In fact, it totally overlooks how the God of the Bible challenges people to prove that He exists (see Malachi 3:8–10). While Dawkins claims many traditional "proofs" of God are weak, his own arguments are often lacking in substance. Regrettably, many in our day accept or reject the idea of God without ever requiring or examining any evidence.
The atheistic attack on the Bible reveals a failure to understand Scripture and an ignorance of historical evidence. Harris labels as "false" and an "absurdity" the idea that the Bible is divinely inspired by God (Letter to a Christian Nation, pp. 5–8). He completely overlooks the evidence that the Bible is a totally unique text. Harris cites scriptural examples out of context and then claims the teachings of the Bible are "muddled and contradictory" (ibid., p. 11). He states that "the gospels contradict one another" (ibid., p. 58), yet he fails to mention that the gospels are complementary accounts of events written by different authors—in which we would expect some difference in details. He claims New Testament writers made the events of Jesus' life conform to Old Testament prophecies (ibid., p. 57), yet he fails to explain why thousands of Jews recognized Jesus as fulfilling prophecies—including being visibly resurrected from the dead—which had been in Scripture for hundreds of years (Acts 2:22–41).
Harris dismisses the idea of inspired prophecy because the Bible did not predict such innovations as electricity and computers (Letter to a Christian Nation, pp. 60–61), yet he fails to mention how the Bible describes prophetic promises that revealed the future of Abraham's descendants long before they arrived on the scene (for more on this vital topic, request our free booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy). Harris also neglects to mention that the health laws recorded by Moses were unique and far in advance of their time. Showing his ignorance of comparative religion, Harris lumps the Bible together with other religious books which "pretend to divine authorship" (Letter to a Christian Nation, p. 79), yet he fails to acknowledge how the Bible differs from other religious books. Harris simply does not know much about the subject he sets out to demolish!
Outspoken and combative, Dawkins makes similar outrageous and ill-founded claims contrary to existing evidence. He asserts that the gospels are "ancient fiction," no more credible than legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. He opines that the apostles almost certainly never met Jesus, that Jesus probably never lived and that David probably never existed (Dawkins, pp. 93–97). However, Dawkins fails to mention Peter's claim that he and the other apostles were "eyewitnesses" to the events they recorded about Jesus' life (2 Peter 1:16), or that historians in ancient Rome referred to Jesus (see Tacitus, The Annals, xv:44; Suetonius, Life of Claudius, xxv.4; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII.iii.3). Dawkins appears to be unaware of the discovery of a ninth century bc inscription about the "house of David" (Is the Bible True?, Sheler, p. 60). Dawkins asserts that "the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world" and that "all were written long after the death of Jesus" such that "huge uncertainty" surrounds the New Testament texts (Dawkins, pp. 92–95).
Dawkins, however, chooses to quote only liberal theologians who harbor doubts about the Bible. He fails to notice that people and places mentioned in Scripture have been dramatically confirmed by history and archaeology, that the books of the New Testament were written during the lifetimes of the apostles (Sheler, p. 33; Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Geisler, p. 520), and that manuscript evidence confirms that "in substance of the text the Bible is certain… This can be said of no other ancient book in the world" (Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell, pp. 44–45).
Aggressive atheists are often quick to attack religious beliefs like the idea of Purgatory, and the assumption that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Like Charles Darwin, today's atheists also recoil at the idea of a god who would devise the "damnable doctrine" of people burning forever in the fires of Hell (Dawkins' God, pp. 74–75). However, those "religious" ideas are not actually found in the Bible! While they correctly point out some weak spots in man-made religious doctrines, atheists fail to acknowledge serious flaws in their own "sacred" teaching—the theory of Darwinian evolution.
And there are many such flaws. Jonathan Wells, who holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of California at Berkeley, has written an informative book explaining how the major "proofs" put forward for evolution "in one way or another, misrepresent the truth." Wells points out that much of the "overwhelming evidence" for Darwin's theory of evolution turns out to be "false or misleading" (Icons of Evolution, pp. 7–8). He shows how supposed "origin of life" experiments were flawed and did not create anything resembling life. He notes that, contrary to evolutionary theory which asserts all life developed from simple to complex organisms, the actual fossils in the oldest Cambrian rocks show complex forms of life appearing suddenly, fully formed and without evolutionary ancestors—the so-called "Cambrian explosion" that even Darwin recognized was a problem for his theory (ibid., pp. 35–39).
Wells points out how Darwin's idea of a branching "tree of life," depicting how all life developed from a single ancestor, is now largely discredited. He shows how the variation in beak structure of Darwin's finches in the Galapagos Islands, and the coloration of peppered moths in England, are merely examples of variation within a species and do not prove evolution can produce new species. He reveals that paleontologists no longer regard Archaeopteryx—once called "the almost perfect link between reptiles and birds"—to be an ancestor of modern birds (ibid., pp. 112–114). Wells relates how another supposed "missing link" between reptiles and birds—Archaeoraptor, a fossil smuggled out of China—turned out to be a hoax, and that another possible "link" named Bambiraptor has been depicted with hair and feathers, "but nothing remotely resembling feathers was found with the fossil. The hair-like projections and the feathers are imaginary" (ibid., pp. 126–129). He quotes an ornithologist who predicts the dinosaur-to-bird theory will eventually be "the greatest embarrassment to paleontology of the 20th century" (ibid., p. 130).
Wells also points out that widely published drawings made by embryologist Ernst Haeckel in the 1890s—which Darwin took to be convincing evidence for his theory of evolution—were "doctored" by Haeckel to show similarities that do not exist, and have been exposed as "one of the most famous fakes in biology" (ibid., pp. 90–92). Wells concludes that the "icons" that supposedly provide the strongest evidence for evolution actually "misrepresent the evidence"—and that some have actually turned out to be fraudulent (ibid., p. 229).
Even so, atheists like Dawkins have latched onto Darwinian evolution because it is the only way they can explain why we are here without invoking any reference to God. True believers in Darwinism simply refuse to accept any other explanation for why the world is the way it is—regardless of the evidence, or lack of evidence. This is why Darwinism has been called "the greatest engine of atheism devised by man." Yet atheism, and Darwinian evolution upon which it rests, both reveal serious shortcomings to those who examine the evidence carefully.
Theological historian McGrath writes that one of Darwinism's major consequences is that "evolutionary theory leads to a godless, purposeless world" (The Twilight of Atheism, p. 108). In Dawkins' own words, "There is no need to believe in God after Darwin" and in a Darwinian world "there is… no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference" (Dawkins' God, pp. 50–51). Darwinism postulates that human beings are simply animals, accidents of the evolutionary process with no higher purpose than natural selection—survival of the fittest. McGrath observes, "If there is no God… then there are no absolute values and truths… no sins… no judgment on sins" and therefore no limits on human behavior and no accountability (ibid., pp. 151, 153). By claiming that human existence has no meaning or purpose and denying absolute values, atheists promote the idea of liberation from restrictive morality systems that interfere with sexual freedoms and give people license to decide for themselves what is good (ibid., p. 152). However, the sobering lesson of the last two hundred years of history is that "to remove God is to eliminate the final restraint on human brutality" (ibid., p. 149).
Contrary to the expectations of secular thinkers, the last half of the 20th century has witnessed the "twilight" of the rule of atheism. The godless ideas of Darwin, Marx and Freud—which Dawkins, Harris and other atheists are promoting—came under discrediting fire. Not only did "the great atheistic messianic ideology" of communism established by the Russian revolution collapse, but religion in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe refused to die (The Revenge of God, Kepler, p. 191). Today, we are seeing the rival of "re-Christianizing" movements sprouting from the ruins of communism—which has been a shock to secular intellectuals. Increasing numbers of people have become disenchanted with the bleak, purposeless, random, atheistically secular world of the 20th century, and are once again turning to religion to regain a sense of meaning, ethics and order (ibid., p. 47). As more than one scholar has noted, "People need to find meaning and purpose in life" (NewYork Times, November 21, 2006).
Many who study the Bible are aware that prophecies about the end of the age describe a time of increasing concerns about war, violence, natural disasters and global environmental crises—which certainly fit our world today (Matthew 24). However, end-time prophecies also foresaw the appearance of blasphemous attacks on God and the Bible, foretelling that in the last days, "perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves… boasters, proud, blasphemers… despisers of good… headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1–4). We can recognize this biblical description in Dawkins' references to God as a "tooth fairy… psychotic delinquent" and "the monster" of the Bible. Harris claims that we do not need moral guidelines from the Bible, and that "our own search for happiness" is sufficient guide for morality (Letter to a Christian Nation, pp. 23–25). The Apostle Peter warned that "scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?'" (2 Peter 3:3–4). Dawkins scoffs at the idea of God. Harris ridicules the idea of the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus and then makes the interesting observation, "If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers like myself" (Letter to a Christian Nation, p. 5). Today, in our "enlightened" and "intellectually sophisticated" world, many call homosexuality and same-sex marriages "good" and ridicule anyone who promotes or follows biblical morality. Yet the Bible warns, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil… Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes… because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people" (Isaiah 5:20–25). The Bible clearly reveals that a time of judgment is coming (Revelation 11:15–18)—Dawkins, Harris and their collaborators have reason to be concerned!
Numerous prophecies also speak of a revival of religious activity at the end of the age. The Apostle Paul foresaw the appearance of a prominent end-time religious figure who will deceive millions with miracles (2 Thessalonians 2). The prophet Isaiah predicted that this person would promote an ecumenical movement of "daughter" churches back to a mother church which claims to be the only true church (Isaiah 47:1–9). The book of Revelation indicates that this prominent religious figure will insert itself into world politics and promote the revival of a European power with roots that go back to the Roman Empire and that this revival will have global implications (Revelation 13; 17; 18). All these events will occur at a time when unbelievers are launching vicious attacks against God and the Bible. Dawkins dismisses the book of Revelation, of course, calling it "one of the weirdest books in the Bible" and asserting that the Apostle John wrote it while he was "on acid" (Dawkins, pp. 257–258). But the time is soon coming when Dawkins' attacks will be seen for what they are, and the Bible will be recognized as the source of truth that explains what is happening in our world and what will happen in our future. If you read your Bible, you will continue to see how true biblical religion is relevant and prophetically significant in ways that few realize today!