Saturday, October 1, 2011

An analogy for the New Atheists

I'd like to start today's post with an analogy.

Imagine four students return to their dormitories after school one day. They notice that their yard and sidewalk have water all over it. Looking up, they see that the sky is overcast, full of rain clouds. They also see that a sprinkler is hooked up and laying out in the yard.

The first student sees the situation, looks at the pattern of water drops on the sidewalk, and says, "Someone did this on purpose - the sprinkler was turned on to water the lawn."

The second student sees the situation, looks at the rain clouds, understands the water cycle, and says, "This happened naturally - the rain came out of the clouds and covered the ground in water."

The third student sees the clouds and the sprinkler, shrugs his shoulders, and says, "We'll never know - could be either. I'm going inside for a beer."

The fourth student sees the clouds and the sprinkler, and says, "Since the clouds could have caused the rain, I refuse to believe that there even is a sprinkler."

Now this may seem a strange analogy--with a very odd answer by the fourth student--but I think it is quite representative of how different people view the world.

The creationist or Intelligent Design proponent is like the first student: he looks at the world around him, sees the pattern of drops, and believes the odds are too overwhelming for it to have been random; thus, someone must have purposefully used the sprinkler.

The naturalist or evolutionist gives 'default' credence to a natural explanation: if it could have happened by nature, then it probably did happen by nature. He may believe God exists, or that God could exist - so there is still room to have a good relationship with him, even if he and I disagree on the point of evolution.

The two that are frustrating to me as a Christian are the last two gentlemen.

First, the agnostic - who says that if we can't prove one over the other he's just going to go have a beer. I can't imagine someone having complete lack of curiosity about both the world and the spiritual life. Frankly, I don't think it's natural: I think there is something inside all of us which wants to understand our role in the universe, and someone who is shut off to investigating it is dealing with some emotional burden and hiding himself from his desires.

But the worst is the confirmed atheist--who says that if a natural path exists (rain) then the other path does not even exist (sprinkler). If this seems an extremely silly analogy, please note how apt it is: I have had many evolutionist atheists tell me exactly this; "Evolution could explain the fossil record, therefore I don't need to believe in God." As though the reality or un-reality of God is at all dependent upon whether you can come up with a hypothesis that does not include Him!

I hate to say this--I really do--but after years of debate, I believe that those who are the evangelical "New Atheists" should not be engaged with in discussions about science. Befriend them, show them kindness and love, take care of them...but don't throw your pearls before swine in their case. Those who are so angry at God that they will say, "If any option exists, I will simply deny His very existence" cannot be converted by reason alone; there is an emotional anger on his part that you should simply avoid.

After all...if you come home from school and a roommate tells you, "Well the water could have come from rain clouds, so that sprinkler over there doesn't exist"...what do you do? (You probably move out before he finishes losing his mind.)

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