THE BELIEF OF THE ATHEISTS by Leszek Figurski
It is important at the beginning of this essay to first define the meaning of some basic words used in it. So, we will first define the concepts of two radically opposed mental attitudes of modern man. The fundamental questions of our times still remains the same : are we alone in this universe or is there some transcendent reality which is not part of this universe but the first cause of it's existence. In other words we can say that the philosophical notion of the Transcendent Being is the philosophical foundation of what in most important of a living religion is called God. A believer in God we call a theist. However in our times there is a spreading and developing attitude of some people who are completely negative and they call themselves atheists. Atheism is a radical denial of any existence of any being beyond or above nature. All reality available to us is known only within the confines of so called experience of material reality of some kind. Many atheists believe that the future of human knowledge will be a final proof of their attitude. This essay will be an analysis of the nature and the grounds of atheism and an attempt to show that atheism is a belief and a mental dogmatic attitude. Of course there are many different kinds of atheism steming from various sources in individual persons. Every atheist has his or her "reasons" for rejecting belief in a Transcendent Creator of reality. Nature is totally, ontologically and existentially dependent on the Creator in it's existence and actions. So we have two worldviews radically opposed to each other. The question whether God exists or not is by no means outdated or old fashioned or as some would say obsolete. Any one who has at least some basic knowledge of this question must realize immediately that it is the very central problem embracing the whole existence of humanity, it's purpose or lack of it and any kind of meaning if such meaning exists. Why we exist, live, do things, some times suffer and finally die. For example if God exists and created the universe and humanity then this God has some plans for each human being and therefore each individual human has special personal destiny . A human being is within theistic belief a spirit in a body. This spirit is what in theistic religion is called a limited image of God. Death to which each person is subject is then not necessarily the absolute end : annihilation . Briefly saying there is an immortal principle in man and therefore the brief existence on earth is only a short growing of each person towards eternal destiny. Just to mention briefly one religion , Christianity. The whole center of Christian belief rests on incarnation of Christ into human life, His teaching , His death and most importantly His Resurrection . Every Christian has to become a second Christ, that is he/she has to imitate in thoughts and actions the example of God who is present in Christ. Within this perspective anything that happens in my life here on earth whether it is pleasant and good or perhaps the opposite that is difficult full of frustration and suffering is only a preliminary transition towards eternity and eternal life with God.
On the other hand atheists display a tremendous belief within the life here and now that is between birth and the grave. Therefore they must create their own meanings, their own beliefs and ideals and purpose within the context of a life without any relationship to anything transcendent.
For an atheist life is a simple product of the energies of matter, and humanity is unintended byproduct of the cosmic material tensions. Humanity within the context of the cosmos is an unimportant and accidental byproduct of biological evolution, which also is a part of the evolution of the whole cosmos from the moment of so called Big Bang . An individual person will always be busy to create his/her own idols or so called values without which no human would exist and live at all. The atheist must therefore be self made creator of him/herself . The problem for any thinking atheist is the meaning of his/her existence. He/she has no answer to the questions: Why I exist ? and What for do I exist at all?. Is there any permanent meaning of what I do and live through here or is this all a sheer accidental incident of impersonal matter and energy of the cosmos in it's blind movements. If someone is an honest atheist, he/she must, in order to go on living become a strong
believer in some reality or some value for which it is worth living, acting, believing. Most atheists will therefore say that they believe in science, that science is the only way of knowing , any other way to know is unreliable and science becomes a new kind of idolatry of the modern man. Science itself is a wonderful accomplishment of the human mind. It already changed in many ways human lives and holds many promises for improving the conditions of life. The atheists however who say that they respect science are making of science an atheistic credo and matter becomes the reality replacing God, the Creator.
The claim of the atheists is according at least to some of them (for example Richard Dawkins and his friends) is based on the belief that science is the only way to know reality and in this belief they would accept anything whatsoever even the most improbable tenets as long as they are labeled with the word "scientifically established." They absolutely reject any reality transcending the scientific method of investigation. Richard Dawkins especially shows a vigorous active attitude against any religious belief as based not on scientific grounds but on prejudice and therefore false. He believes religion to be the very source of the worst evil for mankind. His fundamental belief comes from the theory of evolution which according to his thinking explains completely and totally the history and nature of man and also by extrapolation the history of the whole universe. He believes also that mankind would be far happier without any religious belief which only diverts human interest and efforts towards an not existing phantom. When one reads his books one is amazed at the tremendous faith of this unbeliever. Let's examine whether the scientific theories accepted by most scientists today require less faith than the teaching of some religions.
" The modern mind is selectively skeptical. We have no problem believing the entire universe came out of a pinpoint. But if told that five thousand meals once came out of the small basket we exclaim: That's impossible!" ( from the play Abide for Me Many Days, Edmund Rose James, 1992)
Suppose you accept as I do the origin of the universe in the Big Bang model proposed by Alan Guth of Massachusetts Institute of Technology you believe that around fifteen billion years ago all material of the cosmos was contained in no more than a pinpoint. Time and space did not exist yet. Nothing was old or new because such words were not defined yet. You believe that the universe has been created virtually out of nothing, you believe that space itself was "inflating" many thousands of times faster than light, you also believe that during the early moments the material of creation was 100 trillion times denser than water. Next you believe that within few seconds after the initial explosion the particles began generating matter which immediately began to collide and annihilate themselves back into nonexistence, vanishing mysteriously the way they came.
The only reason our universe exists is that this process of annihilation was slightly uneven and it left a small amount of matter over antimatter by one part in 100 million.
Believing in a Big Bang is well founded because of heavily favored hypothesis compared with which statements about the origin of the universe which came from the Bible or Koran and not from Massachusetts Institute of Technology would be laughed out as obscure and absurd mythology. The rather recent "superstring" theory with at least ten dimensions somehow "folded" into probability structures millions of times smaller than atoms developed by Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton was glorified in the New York Times Magazine as an invention of a generation leading mind.
If a man believes in the miracles of Christ he must be mentally deficient, let few psychiatrists examine his brain. But if a scientist talks about several invisible dimensions in nature "folded " into probabilities give him a chair of professorship in an outstanding university! ( Eastebrook, Gregg, Beside Still Waters, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York 1998, chapter II, Spirit and Science)
Things will become clearer if we examine closely what is science. The intrinsic dynamism of a human mind is directed towards understanding of not only immediate phenomena, but also the ultimate questions providing intelligibility to the most urgent questions of man's condition , meaning of his/her existence, and also his/her destiny as a human being. Part of this dynamism towards intelligibility is what we understand by science . The scientific method has it's own limitations because it remains within the sphere of the measurable and tangible and also repeatable experimentations. The discovery of facts of nature are the material out of which the scientific hypotheses and theories are built. It is essential to remember that discovery of facts in themselves is necessary but not sufficient without interpretation. That is why a scientist uses universal concepts in which he/she transcends the here and now of the sense data. However scientific hypotheses and theories are provisional in nature and never give absolute truth, but are only strong approximations to what is.
It is important to remember that science does not exist by itself. It is made by individual scientists in different specified fields of knowledge. Scientists are of course human beings and they also have their preconceived attitudes to the question what is true , what is possible and what is false. Beneath every scientific problem there always remain the crucial element of values and meaning . None of those two is provided by the scientific method alone. Since the scientist is a human being he/she must have some personal vision of reality and consequently into the understanding of existence he/she puts his/her all human reality with possible deviations , prejudices and unexamined attitudes . Where science has done it's work and cannot do more there comes in philosophy and it's drive towards universal intelligibility available to the human mind.