In April 1999, fifteen students were tragically shot in a high school near Denver, Colorado by two crazy gunmen who then killed themselves. One of the students was Rachel Scott, a young girl who was a Christian. She was apparently asked by one of the gunmen if she believed in God, to which she replied, “Yes”. She was then shot dead. Was she courageous or was she deluded? Many people would say she was courageous, joining thousands of others who through the centuries have been willing to even give their lives for their faith in God. Other people would say that he was deluded. That includes Richard Dawkins.
Richard Dawkins is the author of a best-selling book published in 2006 called The God Delusion. He is a British biologist who lectures at Oxford University. He is also a popular science writer and a high profile atheist. As of November 2007, the English version of The God Delusion had sold over 1.5 million copies and had been translated to 31 languages. It was been on the non-fiction best-seller list since its publication. In this book, Dawkins proposes that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a god qualifies as a delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. Dawkins is encouraging atheists to ‘come out of the closet’ and to embrace their atheism. He declares that it’s the 21st century where science and technology rule, so let’s get rid of old fashioned religion.
So what do we do with all of this? Well, let’s remember that attack on faith is nothing new. In fact, Christianity has been under attack for 2000 years. Yet, it has survived and it is still growing. However, the spiritual battle is heating up. There is a new aggression and greater animosity. Dawkins intention for his book is clear - “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”
Despite Dawkins passionate attack, I don’t think there is much for believers to be worried about. If these are the best arguments against belief in God, then let’s have a look at them. After all, all beliefs are to be discussed and even debated. Let’s focus on the central issue of whether God is a delusion or not. None of us are in a position or have the ability to present ‘absolute proof’ about whether God does or doesn’t exist. By nature, God is a spirit being and he can’t be measured through material means or via the scientific method. However, there is quite a bit of evidence that we can look at when considering the question.Evidence for the Existence of God
- The World that Exists. The first piece of evidence for the existence of God is the world that exists (see Isaiah 40:26). The world is here. We see that some things actually exist (trees, clouds, mountains, planets, stars, universes, etc). How did these things come to be and why do these things exist? Something or someone must have caused it to come into existence. Suppose that nothing exists. Nothingness wouldn’t require an explanation. The moment that something exists, there has to be a reason or a cause. Every effect has a cause.
How do we explain the world that exists? Either nothingness exploded by random chance and resulted in everything that we see OR it came into existence by a creator God (see Gen.1:1. 1 Chron.16:26). For many centuries, thousands of people have wrestled with this cosmological argument for the existence of God. Many have concluded that it is a compelling argument.
- The Design in the World. The second piece of evidence for the existence of God is the design in the world. Not only does the universe exist, there is an order, a beauty, as well as a sense of harmony and purpose to everything. Who or what is responsible for this? The incredible design in the world seems to point to the existence of a designer. A random chance explanation is highly unlikely. It doesn’t pass the standard test of reason. Whenever, wherever there is purpose, order, design and structure, reasonable people know that someone was responsible for it. Unless we can demonstrate that the world is capable of creating itself in all of its intricate design, then God must exist. Based on what we know today, I truly believe that atheism (not believing in any kind of god) is a much bigger ‘leap of faith’ than theism (believing that God exists).
- Morality and Ethics. Another argument for the existence of God comes from the observation that in human nature world-wide, there exists a kind of moral code stamped on the hearts of human beings that provides an inner sense of ‘right and wrong’, as well as a sense of responsibility to adhere to the right and avoid the wrong. Where does this come from? Reasonable people would say that this indicates the existence of a lawgiver and judge who built into mankind this sense of responsibility for doing what’s right.
If we simply evolved from chemical gases, grown up germs or recent improvements of the apes, how do we account that in almost every culture in the world there is a preference for love over hate, truthfulness over lying, kindness over violence, and justice over injustice. What accounts for this? Are gases, germs or genes capable of creating a moral code of values in people worldwide, one that is remarkably consistent even though billions of people have existed on different continents? Do morality and ethics have a Darwinian explanation (altruistic genes selected through the process of evolution giving people natural empathy) or are they evidence for God?
- Human Experience. Hundreds of millions of intelligent people all over the world from all walks of life claim that they have experienced the love or forgiveness of God, the peace of God, or the comfort of God. Many could testify about the nearness of God. This cannot or should not be taken lightly. Every human being seems to have a God-shaped hole inside of them that causes them to search for God. It’s a search for meaning, for transcendence, for eternity, and even immortality (see Ecc.3:11). Is this just ‘wish projection’, as Dawkins would have us believe, a projection of human longings? Is God an invention dreamt up by human beings? Human thirst points to the existence of water that will satisfy that desire. Maybe atheism is wish fulfilment too. People want to be free to do their own thing.
- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christian story is founded on an empty tomb. If the tomb was not empty, then the Christian movement would have been snuffed out just by someone going and getting the body of Jesus. There are four main theories to explain how the tomb became empty. Firstly, maybe the Jewish or Roman authorities stole Jesus’ body, and the disciples mistakenly assumed he had been raised, inventing stories of appearances afterwards. The reason that this is so clearly wrong is that the authorities were trying to stop the Christian movement from growing, and if they had stolen his body they would simply have produced it. Secondly, maybe Jesus did not really die, but fell into some sort of unconscious state, then revived in the tomb, and moved the stone himself. This is even more ridiculous, if you know anything about Roman crucifixion. Soldiers executed hundreds of people a year, they knew exactly what they were doing, and no-one could survive it, far less roll away a two-ton stone and then take out two guards. Thirdly, maybe the disciples stole the body and then imagined or pretended they had seen him alive afterwards. But consider the high improbability of multiple near-identical hallucinations that would have been needed and the fact that many of the witnesses were tortured and killed for their proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection, which you would be unlikely to undergo if you had made it up. This only leaves option four – that God really did raise Jesus from the dead. Surprisingly, Dawkins never discusses this.
When considering whether God exists, place all the evidence on the scale and watch which way it tips. None of these things proves God’s existence, but if you’re reasonable, I think you’ll see it leaning in favour for the existence of God. How will you respond (Heb.11:6)?Sample Discussion Questions
- Discuss atheism. Were you ever an atheist? Do you know any atheists? What are some of the main reasons given for not believing in God?
- Have you heard of Richard Dawkins and/or his book The God Delusion? What do you know about him and/or his book? How much do you think he is influencing people’s beliefs today?
- When did you first start to believe in God for yourself? What were some of the factors that led you to this belief?
- Discuss the five evidences for the existence of God mentioned above. Which one is the most convincing for you personally? Can you think of any others not mentioned?
- What are some practical ways we can reach out to atheists with God’s love?