I was taught my whole life that the Christian Church was a bastion of unreason, not just a nursery where men believed in superstitions as rank as a belief in Santa Claus, but also a lunatic asylum where men believed three equaled one and dead men could live again. Hence, no surprise was greater to me than to discover that not only was the Church not illogical, but that atheism had a weaker claim to logic and reason than she did.
I am not here claiming the atheist model is illogical. Rather, I claim that the Christian story of the universe is a better story than any atheist story. More to the point, I claim it is also a better model than any atheist model, in that it explains more with more parsimony of assumption.
There are many brands of atheism, but they all have some points in common. First, one common point is that none have a rational explanation of the objectivity of moral rules.
Not all cultures agree on what priority to place on various moral rules, but one thing that is so obvious about moral rules is that they are objective. When guilt pricks us, it does not say we betray a matter of taste or opinion; the feeling of guilt is the feeling of having offended a law. When injustice rankles, we do not accuse those who trespass against us of having breached a matter of taste or opinion; we refer to a standard we expect the other to know and acknowledge. We cannot help it.
In all human experience, everything is open to doubt but this. No man with a working conscience can escape the knowledge. It is the one thing we cannot not know. And yet atheists are at a loss to explain it.
I do not call atheists immoral, but I note they cannot give a rational reason to account for morality.
In any atheist worldview, moral laws are an invention of man and serve his contingent purposes, or an imposition of Darwinian survival mechanisms that serve the contingent purposes of the Selfish Gene. Such purposes as the preservation of life or the pursuit of happiness are subjective, hence not laws at all. Whether selected by nature or by man, if moral maxims are selected merely as a means to an arbitrary end, they are merely expedient conveniences.
If I avoid murder and theft only because this decreases my odds in the lottery of reproduction, then when circumstances arise where murder and theft increase rather than decrease my odds, what reason can any man give me to avoid murder and theft? If I eschew lying only because it causes me self satisfaction to live with a sense of integrity, what reason can any man give me to eschew lying on the day when I discover lying satisfies me more?
A second common point is that no atheist of whatever school can account for the rationality of the universe: that is, none can account for the fact that the abstractions of math and the concrete things of physics so perfectly happen to match.
Atheists either must take rationality as a given, or assume that the processes of the universe evolved man to think in a procedure called logic. But if an unthinking Darwinian process formed our thinking process, we have no reason to assume the thinking process is truly rational, as opposed to a merely useful self-deception.
Again, atheism admits of no supernatural causes or effects or dimension to life, making philosophical questions about the nature of reality, the nature of truth, and the nature of logic all suspect. These things cannot be a product of a divine decision for the atheist; but neither can any natural process account for reality, truth, logic.
Nor can there be an account of the origin of the laws of nature, which, by definition, cannot be older than the Big Bang.
Nor is there a good reason not to be selfish. A Selfish Gene theory explains nothing: I am too selfish to listen to my selfish gene urge me to sacrifice myself half the time for my child and one fourth of the time for my uncle.
Nor is there any hope of life after death which alone makes acts of ultimate self-sacrifice, heroism, or martyrdom rational. I am not saying that an atheist caught in the grip of a powerful passion cannot lay down his life for a loved home or loved flag. I am saying it is a lapse of logic, a thing for which he cannot account.
Christianity provided the West with three glorious concepts the pagan world before Christendom, the heathen world outside Christendom, and the parasitical Postchristian world leaching from Christendom all lack: The first concept is that the world is rational, the second is that time is linear, the third is that truth is knowable.
Pagans think the world is ruled by the caprice of gods, and Postchristians that the world is not ruled at all, but is a blind and unthinking machine, orderly perhaps, but without purpose or meaning.
A rational world is not possible in either of these worldviews. The first requires endless propitiations of utterly arbitrary spirit beings, and the second proposes a nihilistic void where men are abandoned, each left to his own utterly arbitrary will.
Ancient Greeks as well as modern Hindu believe that time is a serpent eating its own tail, and that all events are endlessly repeated, without original, change, process, cease or escape. An infinite number of births before this birth are behind each man, and an infinite number of deaths beyond his death.
Of the pagan faiths, only Buddhism promises an escape from the wheel of ever-repeating time, into a state of desirelessness and selflessness called Nirvana, which is as near to oblivion as those who believe in circular time can imagine. This same Buddhism, and its modern epigones in the West – theosophy, the New Age movement, various forms of mysticism – all hold the world to be forever beyond human comprehension.
Mohammedans in the Thirteenth Century rejected the Thomist notion that God could and would grant an innate power of order and motion to creation. For them, all events occur by the will of an absolute and immediate Sovereign, who is not bound by honor nor logic to act tomorrow as He did today. Everything happens because Allah says so; which is to say, for no reason at all. The Thirteenth Century saw the end of Mohammedan confidence in reason, ergo also saw the end of Mohammedan contributions to the march of science, and ergo also saw the onset of the stagnation which chains them to this hour.
The postmodern world is likewise postrational. If the world is nothing but matter in motion, and our brains nothing but meat computers blindly forced to follow blind programming imposed by blind natural processes, there is no reason to believe that our brains conform to objective truth, indeed, nor that truth exists at all. To the postmodern, the human soul is a sand dune thrown together by a freakish quirk of the wind, and just so happens to have fallen into a self-aware combination more complex than a grandfather clock, but which a change of the wind will blow apart as blindly as it was blown together.
Far from being suppressed, reason triumphs where the Church is triumphant. The great civilizations of China, India and South America had no reason to eschew the use of magic, and so they never cleared away the underbrush of superstition needed to allow science to grow. The medieval Church, far from being the enemy of science, was its nursemaid; the Church was the enemy of witchcraft and astrology, and suppressed them.
And a glance at the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries shows that where Christianity retreats, science also ebbs. The French Revolution guillotined Lavoisier; the secular National Socialists of Germany criminalized skepticism toward state-mandated conclusion concerning the pseudoscience of Aryan eugenics just as Stalin did toward the pseudoscience of Lysenko, just as modern seculars are trying their damndest to do toward the pseudoscience of global warming.
The Christian worldview alone is where reason and science flourish without being strangled by superstition or corrupted by cults, political or otherwise.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.