The Zeal of Atheism Argues for Theism

This is an idea I’ve been stewing over for a few years now, not really knowing how to put my exact thoughts into words sufficient to convey my meaning. I was thrilled to come across some 100-year-old words this week that could not be more appropriate to my thoughts.

In my Essential Christian Doctrine class, I’ve been plowing through required reading from Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology. In a section concerned with the nature of theology as a science, Shedd says this:

No idea so impresses universal man as the idea of God. Neither space nor time, neither matter nor mind, neither life nor death, not sun, moon or stars, so influence the immediate consciousness of man in every clime, and in all his generations, as does that presence that in Wordsworth’s phrase “is not to be put by.” This idea of ideas overhangs human existence like the firmament, and though clouds and darkness obscure it in many zones, while in others it is crystalline and clear, all human beings must live beneath it and cannot possibly get from under its all-embracing arch. The very denial of divine existence evinces by its eagerness and effort the firmness with which the idea of God is entrenched in man’s constitution. A chimera or a nonentity would never evoke such a passionate antagonism as is expressed in the reasonings of atheism. Were there no God, absolute indifference toward the notion would be the mood of all mankind, and no arguments either for or against it would be constructed.

Amen.

6 thoughts on “The Zeal of Atheism Argues for Theism

  1. I think one of the major flaws in this line of thinking is that it far too conveniently equates the “entrenchment” of the idea of God with a de facto establishment of the existence of the same.

    Atheists, particularly of the “new” set, don’t argue against chimeras and other “non-entities” precisely because these notions are not entrenched in human consciousness. But even if they were, there would be no reason for an atheist to bring an argument, for these ideas of “nothingness” would have very little impact on human consciousness, behavior, or constitution.

    Rather, it is precisely because religion and the idea of God are so entrenched in the history of human consciousness that they bring the argument against the existence of God. If they can win the argument, their “win” would bring about a unprecedented change in the human species. After all, the notion of God against which they argue defines “everything,” most importantly how humans understand themselves and their place within the universe.

    But to say that their fervency is somehow a proof of the existence of God is way too much of an overstatement. All that it says, really, is that religion and the “idea of God” currently play an integral part in how the majority of human persons understand reality. Since atheists reject this perceived reality, it is not surprising that they would focus their efforts exclusively on the fundamental idea of God, and would never be bothered with arguing against chimeras or any other bit of mythology.

    1. I agree that it doesn’t prove anything, though I do believe that it is an argument in support of theism. I can’t imagine what kind of pragmatic benefit atheists would expect from the defeat of theism. They are zealous in their proselytizing; they file lawsuits if they spy even a tiny allusion to theism on public property. Their hatred of Christianity and the time and effort they devote to fighting it must be influenced by far more than worldview disagreement and any change they think would happen in a completely secularized world. There is obviously spiritual influence behind their passion, otherwise it is completely illogical, in my opinion. I have atheists that contact me through this blog for the simple purpose of personal attack, saying things like, “How pathetic that you’ll end up living your entire life believing a lie.” That kind of vitriol is not born of some imagined infringement upon their civil rights; it is thoroughly demonic.

  2. The pragmatic benefit that would accrue from the defeat of theism is pretty straightforward: atheists would be able to establish their hegemony over and against that which they feel is imposed upon them. This is a microcosm of the history of human thought, and is the driving motivation behind every shift in philosophical (and theological) systems.

    I would agree that their motivations are certainly demonic, although I wouldn’t necessarily attribute a spiritual force to it. Rather, their vitriol is of the same kind that has plagued every attempt throughout human history to exercise power of thought over another. There’s no need, in my mind, to spiritualize it; rather, it’s the manifestation of human self-will used in violence over and against the will of others.

    I do feel sorry that you have experienced this vitriol personally–there is never an excuse for it, although individuals on all sides of the argument will find justifications for their utilization of the same.

  3. Really enjoying your blog Melissa. Lots of good insights. Just wanted to throw out some words of encouragement. Will be visiting more frequently.

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