‘Nones’ is a recent term for those who espouse no religious affiliation at all. Many of those who have left the church in the last two decades fall into this category.
In a book entitled ‘Return of the God Hypothesis’, Stephen Meyer observes that the rise of the nones corresponds roughly with the increased popularity and pervasive influence that the ‘new atheists’ have had on our children’s generation. They are indoctrinated with Neo-Darwinism starting in grade-school and it is the only view given the ‘time of day’ in university. Not surprisingly, it has become the consensus view of their peers. Faced with a kind of social peer pressure that has the appearance of intellectual superiority, many have joined the ranks of ‘unbelievers’ and no longer have room for God in their lives.
Poaching the young takes advantage of a generational gap that has existed in most every age. Each new generation thinks that it is smarter and better informed than the previous one.
- That their grasp of reality is better.
- That their insights into the problems of the world are deeper and wider.
- And that they will leave the world in much better shape than it was handed to them.
It is an attitude that applies to everything, especially the ‘faith of their fathers’. It is a visible pattern throughout the Bible. Generations of believers are almost always followed by those who do not believe and are sure that this is the better choice.
Faith in the God of the Bible is hard and never has been inherited. It must be acquired. It can only be had when the right information is combined with the right kind of thinking in a good and honest heart. Biblical apologists are quick to point out that from a scientific point of view, we all begin or ought to begin with the same information. What one does with that information makes a big difference.
What Meyers does in his most recent book is to begin with three commonly accepted scientific discoveries and then reason to the logically necessary conclusion. Those discoveries include:
(1) Evidence from cosmology suggesting that the material universe had a beginning
(2) Evidence from physics showing that from the beginning the universe has been “finely tuned” to allow for the possibility of life.
(3) And evidence from biology establishing that since the beginning large amounts of new functional genetic information has arisen in our biosphere to make new forms of life possible.
Each of these discoveries and all of them together imply the activity of a designing intelligence.
The “new atheists” attempt an ‘end run’ to evade these facts, preferring philosophy over science, claiming:
- That while the material universe had a beginning, it could have been and most likely was preceded by a multiverse.
- That ‘fine-tuning’ is accidentally fortuitous to life but not intelligent ‘tuning’ at all.
- And that the rise of new functional DNA resulting in new life-forms is somehow both a feature of matter that nevertheless has no inherent purpose or direction.
In response we might observe that:
- An infinite number of hypothetical universes does not explain the real one that exists. It is like saying… “If we had eggs we could have eggs and ham, if we had ham”.
- In every other area of scholarly investigation and especially the forensic sciences, evidence of design is evidence of a designer. Evidence of planning, foresight and intent – distinguish first degree murder from lesser charges. And when the evidence is clear, the jury is not ‘out’ for very long.
- The kind of ‘evolution’ (Micro evolution) which we do see…is limited to physical traits that are hereditary. Macro evolution (which we have never seen) demands what micro evolution has never delivered. Darwin’s theory imagines that everything that we know about adaptation within the limitations of inherited traits has been repeatedly overcome or set aside to create new and novel species. But imagination is not reality.
Real science does not support the philosophy of Atheistic Materialism nor does it provide evidence for the imaginary world necessary for Darwin’s theory to work. At the moment, atheistic materialism is taking a free ride on that back of scientific success for which it would like to take credit while cutting its foundation at the root. No science at all may proceed upon the assumption that randomness and chaos are the source and state of both the perceiving mind and the subject(s) under investigation.
Christians would do well to re-read Romans 1:18-32 where the apostle Paul reviews a process of self-deception that is as new as it is old. He reminds us that God has provided a set of facts for us to consider. Some are inherent within, some are built into the design of creation, while others have been revealed in God’s word.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (ESV)
Paul points out that the eternal power of God is the only adequate explanation for the contingent nature of the cosmos . Likewise, the eternal nature of God is our only source of absolute moral standards that apply all the time and in every place. These truths are implicit within the things that God created and made explicit in God’s word which also records the words and deeds of God for all to know. The result is, that unbelievers are ‘without excuse’.
The new atheists have not added anything new. They deify the cosmos (as pantheists have always done) or some feature within God’s created order (like the laws of physics or chemical equations) as has every idolater before them. Everything old is new again – to the degree that each generation is ignorant of the past.
What they offer has been recycled:
- It is a world without God, where Man is god and the gods are made in his image.
- It is a world without right or wrong, where anything goes. Therefore, that which is, is also that which ought to be.
- A life without purpose in an accidental world must create its own purpose (if only accidentally) or have none at all.
- Yet accidental minds must rise above accidental thinking. They must be relied upon to formulate complex arguments proving that no one designed them and that they ought not to be trusted.
The apostle Paul calls such thinking darkened and futile and on it’s own, irredeemable. When foolishness passes for wisdom, appetites take over. Children dishonour their parents, families fall apart, human life is cheap and chaos ensues. Its a world of greed and spite, envy and murder. It celebrates homosexuality and lesbianism, inventing new forms of evil in a world where there is never enough.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a 19th century atheist who admitted the consequences of disbelief in God.
He wrote “when one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right of Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident…Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands.1
Novelist and atheist Llewelyn Powys makes a similar point:
“ (The atheist) must be bold to weave a bower of ‘endless night’ upon the very edge of the abyss of abysses. This precarious cat’s-cradle he must make his intellectual habitation. It is not only belief in God that must be abandoned, not only all hope of life after death, but all trust in an ordained moral order… We must be prepared to take our bearings without a compass and with the slippery deck of our life-vessel sliding away under our feet. Dogmatic nihilists, skeptical of all good, we are put to our resources like shipwrecked seamen. We have no sense of direction and recognize without dispute that all beyond the margin of our own scant moment is lost”.2
The apostle Paul said it better than Nietzsche or Llewelyn. All is lost for those why deny God.
The wrath of God is not just something that begins in the life to come, for in the meantime, we must live in the world of our own making. Nazi Germany took it’s cue from men like Nietzsche. History records the inevitable collapse of all pagan societies. This is perhaps especially true for those who were once godly and are burning the bridges of repentance.
What should we do?
We must be prepared to give substantive content to the faith of our children and school them in the discipline of logical thinking. Faith in God is both reasonable and factually supported. We must make our youth fully aware of the most recent atheistic theories, while pointing out obvious flaws. We must show how faith in God is in agreement with science and provides the more reasonable view of the world. And we should do this while they are surrounded by believers whose faith has been tested and who can account for it in today’s language. If our children hear only one side of an argument, they will be misinformed and unprepared. If they hear only one line of reasoning, they may not be prepared for another. And if they must stand alone among unbelieving peers, the likelihood of holding onto faith in God is greatly diminished.
To those who were once among us and now are ‘nones’, may we appeal for sober second thought. There is a difference between unanswered arguments and unanswerable ones. Let us provide these for those still willing to listen.
Suggested reading List.
Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C Meyer
Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stpehen C. Meyer
The Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries Revealing the Mind Behind the Universe by Stephen C. Meyer
Reasonable Response by William Lane Craig
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig
The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day
- Why God Won’t Go Away: Engaging with the New Atheism, London, SPCK, 2011
- Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, Oxford, Lion, 2011
- God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Oxford, Lion, 2009
- God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? Oxford, Lion, 2011
- The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities
- No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence
- Being as Communion
- Intelligence Metrics: Measuring the Degree of Intelligence in Design
Evolutionary Informatics Lab. www.evoinfo.org
C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, rev. edn. (1960; reprinted San Francisco, Calif.: HarperCollins, 2001), ch. 3, titled “The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism.”
Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), ch. 10, titled “The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.”
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Emotional Sense, London, Faber and Faber, 2013
F. Lagard Smith, Social Justice, the Big Bang and the Meaning of Life, Cotswold Publishing (August 10, 2023)
1 Twilight of the Idols: or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer, 1888
2 The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist, Andy Bannister, page 40