Out of the carnage of 9/11 arose a phenomenon known as the New Atheists. Enraged by the carnage of the terror attack—all done in the name of God—these New Atheists declared intellectual war on all theistic faith and assumptions. For them, religion itself was “the great scourge” of human life, an irrational and dangerous force, and the sooner humanity shed it the better.
Of course, many, if not most, religious people around the world were as appalled by the 9/11 attacks as atheists, and condemned them just as severely. Most people who believe in God would never have done such a thing, especially in God’s name. Thus, attacking all religious faith because of 9/11 is equivalent to condemning all atheists because of the crimes committed in Joseph Stalin’s atheistic Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped the New Atheists. Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens have been the names most publicly associated with this New Atheism, a kind of full frontal assault on religion and the supernatural in general. “I am not attacking any particular version of God,” wrote Richard Dawkins, “I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, whenever or wherever they have been or will be invented.”
Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and writer, has become the most well-known voice and public figure of the New Atheists. He’s the author of numerous books including the international bestseller, The God Delusion, from which the above quote was taken. It’s a must-read for atheists today.
Nothing is really new or innovative about Dawkins’ book. It reiterates the same arguments that have been used for centuries. Dawkins simply puts them in a contemporary setting. For instance, things that religious people have sometimes said or done can make faith an easy target for critics. Dawkins used one example from the attempt to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981. The pope credited the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life from an assassin, saying that a “maternal hand” had guided the bullet. “One cannot help wondering,” Dawkins mused, “why she didn’t guide it to miss him altogether.” Though this account does raise fair questions about belief in saints, it adds nothing relevant to the debate over God’s existence.
The design argument
Dawkins spends part of his book on the various arguments for the existence of God and why, in his estimation, none work. One of the most powerful arguments in favour of God’s existence is the design that’s evident in nature. As we look around at the world, we see both stunning beauty and incredible complexity in even the simplest forms of life, and it’s certainly logical to conclude that they were designed. Everything, from the dazzling complexity of a fish cell to the amazing function of the human heart and brain, cries out, Design!
And design, of course, implies a Designer. The ancient sage said as much: “But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:7–10, NKJV).*
A fervent evolutionist, Dawkins argues that the question of design has been rendered moot, because Darwin’s theory of evolution explains it all without the need for God. Things that look designed, Dawkins assures us, really aren’t. “We can now safely say,” he wrote, “that the illusion of design in living creatures really is just that—an illusion.” The problem is that Dawkins presents us with that conclusion simply as his opinion, his belief.
Who made God?
Though many scientists are not as dogmatic as Dawkins about just how well the Darwinian theory actually explains design and the beauty behind it, Dawkins finally gets to one of his chief arguments behind the notion that God is a delusion. “A designer God,” he asserts, “cannot be used to explain organised complexity, because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right.”
In other words, if something is so complicated that only a conscious designer could explain it, then obviously God—who theists believe created the world and all that’s in it—must be very complicated as well. Thus, for the design argument to be consistent, something as complicated as God Himself also needed a designer.
In short, Dawkins’ argument can be boiled down to one question: Who made God?
But that argument misses the point. An eternal God, by definition, doesn’t have a creator. He is the Creator. Nothing created Him because He has always existed. Thus the question, “Who created the eternally existing Creator?” is like asking what’s north of the North Pole. An eternally existing Creator was never created; He always was.
A universe from nothing
These days most scientists believe that the universe has been created—that it once did not exist, but then it came into existence. Hence, the universe needs an explanation for how it got here to begin with. And, contrary to atheistic conclusions, a Creator God remains by far the most logical explanation, especially in contrast to the newest alternative to God as the Creator—that nothing created the universe.
Even if one believed in the atheists’ materialistic and atheistic evolutionary scenario, Darwinian evolution does not explain how matter itself came into existence. A lot of scientific investigation has gone into explaining how the universe, according to the big bang theory, suddenly exploded into existence. But the logical question is: Where did all the scientific laws and principles needed for the big bang to happen come from?
The answer that the New Atheists have suggested is that it all came from nothing. Dawkins is one of many who argue that, according to quantum physics, the universe did arise from nothing.
Atheist Bill Bryson wrote, “It seems impossible that you could get something from nothing, but the fact that once there was nothing but now there is a universe is evident proof that you can.”
Or, as Oxford professor Peter Atkins wrote, “If we are to be honest, then we have to accept that science will be able to claim complete success only if it achieves what many might think impossible: accounting for the emergence of everything from absolutely nothing.”
Thus, we see the two logical contenders for the existence of the universe: An eternally existing Creator-God—or nothing. But if God is a delusion, then the only option that remains is that the universe somehow inspired and created itself. But is that really more believable than the idea that the universe was designed and created by God?
Who believes a delusion? The one who thinks that an all-powerful, eternally existing God created the universe or the one who thinks that nothing did?
Illusion and delusion
Despite Dawkins’ certainty about his views, in his book The God Delusion he does hedge his bets a bit. He has a chapter titled “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God.” Almost certainly no God? Why almost?
For someone who seems to be so sure of his attack on “God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural,” he has given himself an “out” here.
The apostle Paul explained Dawkins’ slight uncertainty when he wrote that enough about God’s existence can be seen “by the things that are made” that people will be “without excuse” on judgement day (Romans 1:20).
In other words, Dawkins isn’t fully convinced of his position, because the witness from the things “that are made” is too powerful.
For all the certainty of Dawkins and other New Atheists, logic in fact does suggest that the real illusion is the delusion that God does not exist.