Yesterday we discussed an article by atheist Michael Shermer in which he stated that as atheism replaces belief in God “we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.” (Scientific American, April 2018, page 77). At the same time Shermer’s article came out, we received a report on prison suicide rates.
NewLife Behavior Ministries issued a report of an increase in suicides in Texas prisons. The data came from the University of Texas Medical Branch saying that attempted suicides in Texas prisons jumped from 65 to 150 in the past four years. Statistics on suicides are very complicated, but every study we have seen has shown a huge increase in attempted suicides. The increase applies to all segments of the population, not just prison suicide rates but the general public as well.
The secular sources for morals and values that Shermer recommends would include people like atheists Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They advocate euthanasia for the “unfit” in society including Down Syndrome, mentally ill, and mentally deficient people. Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He advocates for infanticide to eliminate defective children and for animal rights. In his book Practical Ethics, he concedes that the question of why we should act morally “cannot be given an answer that will provide everyone with overwhelming reasons for acting morally.”
The biblical perspective is that all humans have value because they are created in the image of God. That is radically different from the secular view that we are just animals with no more value than any other animal. Suicide is directly connected to what we understand a human to be. The Christian view is that there is no such thing as “worthless human trash” or “unfit people.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018
How many atheists are there in America? This ministry has existed for 50 years, and throughout most of that time, Church members have told us that there is no such thing as an atheist. They have said that we are wasting our time trying to convince people that God does exist.
Atheists claim that as people become better educated they realize that “God” and religion are just products of ignorance. This ministry was begun by a man who came to faith in God through science and did so late in his scientific education. Because of that, our approach has been different from what most Christians can relate to and understand. That difference has its advantages, but it also makes us a lightning rod for some denominational leaders.
In the April 2018 issue of Scientific American (page 77), Michael Shermer devoted his regular column to the subject of how many atheists there are. He concludes that in America alone there are 64 million atheists. Shermer is an atheist himself, even though he graduated from Pepperdine University where he studied religion. We might be suspicious about his claims, but the article quotes a variety of valid data-gathering sources including a Harris Poll, a Pew Research Center poll, the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, and the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Shermer ends his article by saying that the number of atheists in America is:
“…a staggering number that no politician can afford to ignore… we should be thinking about the deeper implications for how people will find meaning as the traditional source of it wanes in influence. And we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.”
Some of us have already tried reason and science as a source of morals and values. It didn’t work and led us to realize that only Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). I would not wish that rough road of experience for anyone.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Perhaps the most influential atheist in America today is Michael Shermer, who expresses his views on the meaning of life. A graduate of Pepperdine University, Shermer has had some theological training. As an atheist, he publishes Skeptic magazine. He also has a regular column in Scientific American magazine through which he promotes his atheistic views and the various books he has written attacking believers in God. His most recent book is Heavens on Earth which he promotes heavily in his column in the February 2018 issue of Scientific American.
Atheists like Shermer view something that they don’t understand as impossible to understand. Shermer spells out a view of the future of the cosmos and the meaning of life–or lack thereof. Suggesting that the cosmos will end in total heat death with nothing but endless darkness, he then says: “In light of that end, it’s hard for me to understand how our moral choices have any sort of significance. There’s no moral accountability. The universe is neither better nor worse for what we do. Our more moral lives become vacuous because they don’t have that kind of cosmic significance.”
Shermer’s views are typical of atheist arguments on the meaning of life. Notice:
1) Heat death is not the only possible conclusion that one can come to as far as the demise of the physical cosmos is concerned.
2) The fact that it is hard for Shermer to understand does not mean that it cannot be understood. It is somewhat arrogant to argue that what I can understand is all that is possible.
3) Later Shermer states his belief that, “We live in the here and now, not in the hereafter.” That is a faith statement which is not backed up by empirical scientific data.
4) Shermer denigrates the attempts of Christians to help and serve others by saying that life choice has no cosmic significance. It may not benefit molecules and atoms, but it has huge significance on the future of humanity. The negative effects of humans upon planet Earth fill the pages of Scientific American, and that is not addressed by what Shermer claims is the purpose of our existence.
5) Shermer says, “our most basic purpose in life is to combat entropy by doing something “extropic,” in other words, expending energy to survive and flourish. Every demagogue who ever lived would agree with that statement–if they understood it.
The reality is that “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). That is also a faith statement, but it makes more sense to most of us than believing Shermer’s faith which says, “we are sentient beings designed by evolution to survive and flourish in the teeth of entropy and death.”
I am sure that the atheist community will rise in praise of Shermer’s new book. However, his subtitle of the Scientific American article “Science reveals our deepest purpose” is grossly inaccurate. In fact, we suggest that science doesn’t support his faith well at all.
–John N. Clayton © 2018