Some time ago I set about the brave, if not foolish, task of reading the virulent atheist book The God Delusion,1 written by Richard Dawkins. For those who don’t know him, Dawkins is an emeritus professor of evolutionary biology from Oxford University, holding the chair for “public understanding of science”.
It would be fair to say Dawkins is the world’s most acclaimed living atheist. He has used this fame (or infamy) to promote a string of best-selling books, culminating in The God Delusion, which sold more than two million copies and has been translated into 31 languages.2
It is all well and good for a wealthy British intellectual; however, it ultimately seems a hollow theory of life, especially in the face of so much injustice and suffering in the world.
Despite Dawkins’ best attempts to the contrary, I found The God Delusion actually affirmed my belief in God. In fact, Dawkins introduced me to several proofs for God I had never heard of, and the fact that he continues to disbelieve seemed itself the epitome of mental delusion. Four notable proofs are worth mentioning.
Scientific acceptance of “supernatural” events
First, if “supernatural” literally means “not able to be explained by the laws of nature”,3 then scientific orthodoxy accepts supernatural events. For example, the Big Bang theory says (for argument’s sake)4 there was originally nothing in existence, not even empty space or time, and that out of this nothing everything was created. As prominent atheist-scientist Stephen Hawking admits, “Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory and say that time began at the Big Bang.”5
So if time and space were created at the Big Bang, what existed before then? Dawkins suggests there might be an endless cycle of Big Bangs in an infinite number of parallel universes.6 However, that still doesn’t explain what got the cycle started and what caused the original Big Bang. Even Dawkins struggles without a first cause, which we Christians might call “God”. Therefore, by definition the creation of the universe was itself a supernatural event that cannot be explained by laws of nature, because laws of nature didn’t yet exist! Whilst I don’t necessarily accept these scientific theories personally, the important point is they demonstrate that even the most ardent of atheist scientists do accept supernatural events.
The anthropic principle
The second amazing proof for God is the “anthropic principle”. This is the observation that the laws of physics seem just right to allow life to exist. The God Delusion itself goes on to describe several such scientific coincidences in detail.7
For example, there is a perfect balance between: material in the universe; forces that bind atoms together; forces within an atom; and gravity with anti-gravity. If any of these features were even a tiny fraction out of balance the entire universe would have either crushed itself or expanded off into oblivion.
Similarly, scientists have observed planet earth is in a “Goldilocks zone”. A little bit closer to the sun and we’d be a lifeless fireball; a little bit farther away and we’d be a lifeless frozen world.
A recent discovery about the Higgs boson particle even suggests the universe shouldn’t exist!8 Dawkins says this is all just a coincidence, which doesn’t necessarily suggest a Creator. So who is the deluded one here?
The third proof for God is Pascal’s wager. This is based on the idea of Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century French mathematician and philosopher. In his work Pensées,9 Pascal suggests it is more logical to believe in God than not believe.
If God is real and believers are right, then they have everything to gain in the rewards of heaven. If God is not real and believers are wrong, then they have lost nothing, because they won’t know they were wrong—they will be dead.
However, if God is real and atheists are wrong, then they will lose eternity in hellfire. If God is not real and atheists are right, then they will never know it—they will be dead.
Dawkins’ rebuttal is that we can’t assume God would reward believers and punish atheists.10 However, he misses another primary point, which is that life here on earth is arguably better and more purposefully lived with the knowledge that God does exist.
The final proof is again from Pascal: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”11
Humanity has made several attempts to destroy religion and it has failed every time. Whether it was the Cult of Reason during the French Revolution, the Stalinist purges of the Soviet Union or today’s “secular orthodoxy”, human beings cannot be “educated” into lasting atheism.
Dawkins suggests this might be because belief is somehow hardwired into our brains.12 Even assuming that is true, it seems utter folly for this evolutionary biologist to think he can convince us to disbelieve—it’s hardwired into us! Dawkins might as well ask us to stop breathing.
Eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die
Dawkins’ solution to a life without God is to enjoy every day as it comes. Although partly true, this seems a very hedonistic attitude and is condemned by the Bible in Isaiah 22:13 and 1 Corinthians 15:32.
It is all well and good for a wealthy British intellectual; however, it ultimately seems a hollow theory of life, especially in the face of so much injustice and suffering in the world. As celebrity theologian Karen Armstrong said: “Science can give you a diagnosis of cancer. It can even cure your disease, but it cannot touch your grief and disappointment, nor can it help you to die well.”13
I’m reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I’d rather be a fool for Christ than an atheist professor with no hope and nothing to live for.
1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London; Bantam Press, 2006).
2. Richard Dawkins at <http://RichardDawkins.net>, 27 January 2010.
3. Oxford Dictionary (Oxford Uni Press: 2008), 665.
4. Although the Big Bang theory is not contrary to the Christian idea of creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing), and the official Adventist position does allow for an old universe, as opposed to and distinct from a recent creation of biological life on earth: Clifford Goldstein, “The Big Bang Theory”, Adventist Review (Vol. 188, No. 8, 2011); “Age of the Earth” and “Creation Week”, Frequently Asked Questions (Loma Linda CA: Geoscience Research Institute), <http://grisda.org>, retrieved 30 June 2014.
5. Stephen Hawking, “The Beginning of Time”, Stephen Hawking: The Official Website, 31 July 2013. <http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html>
6. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 145-6.
7. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 134-151.
8. “It’s okay. Nothing really matters. We don’t actually exist, anyway. Or so the Higgs boson particle suggests”, news.com, <http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/its-okay-nothing-really-matters-we-dont-actually-exist-anyway-or-so-the-higgs-boson-particle-suggests/story-fnjwlcze-1226968686254>, retrieved 27 June 2014.
9. Blaise Pascal, Pensees (1662).
10. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 103-5.
11. Blaise Pascal, Pensees (1662).
12. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 179-190.
13. Karen Armstrong, cited in “Karen Armstrong”, Wikiquote, <http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Karen_Armstrong>, retrieved 25 August 2015.
Stephen Ferguson is a lawyer from Perth, Western Australia, and a member of Livingston church.