[This is one of my favorite of my own papers, and perhaps exhibits some satirical influence of Malcolm Muggeridge. It was originally uploaded on 14 January 2002]
Atheists constantly tell us that "the knockout [scientific] proof of atheism just around the corner." We've heard this grandiose claim for almost 150 years, about, e.g., (1) the origin of life, (2) the origin of DNA, (3) all the missing links, and (4) extraterrestrial life. Now it is asserted that cosmology and the beginning of the universe will be soon explained comfortably under atheist assumptions, just like all the other things above have been (???).
Many counter-replies could be given, of course, such as: How did gravity and quantum mechanics and natural selection come to be in the first place? They still derive from the Big Bang. How did they evolve? And what remarkable potentialities were present in the Big Bang itself to make such a thing occur? What do "most nontheists" believe about how the universe came to be, and about its seeming "design"?
Well-known cosmologist Stephen Hawking feels "that the beginning of the universe should be governed by the same laws that held at other times." Well, he can have this predisposition all he wants, but that is not science; rather, it is the bias he brings to his science, and a mental process which has been much written-about by scientific observers / philosophers of science such as Steven Jay Gould and Thomas Kuhn.
When someone (even a scientist) says that "God caused the Big Bang," I agree that that is not a scientific statement, but by the same token, when Hawking and others want to apply uniformitarianism to the Big Bang, and even "before" it, with no empirical evidence whatever for such a claim, then they are not doing science either, but rather, expressing their arbitrary metaphysical preferences. Hawking's god, then, is uniformitarianism and the potentiality of matter to do anything and everything with no Ultimate Design superintending it. This is yet another axiom held in faith. It can't be proven to hold everywhere and at all times, before and after the Big Bang, etc.
Atheists are currently denying that what they believe about the actions of matter in a universe without God is "pure chance" or "randomly colliding atoms," as their earlier forebears might have boldly and proudly described it. Logical positivism is now decidedly out of fashion. But this is ultimately only semantics and avoidance of the relevant philosophical issues.
Natural "laws" (themselves metaphysical abstractions in a large sense, even though they have to do with matter) still have to attain their remarkable organizing abilities at some point. One either explains them by natural laws or by humbly bowing to divine teleology at some point as an explanation every bit as plausible as a scenario which boils down to materialism any way you cut the cake (everything is explained by material processes).
Matter becomes god in the atheist/materialist/naturalist view, as far as I am concerned, and this is patently obvious, because in the godless universe, matter has the inherent power to do everything by itself, which Christians believe God caused, by putting these potentialities and actual characteristics into matter and natural laws, being their ultimate Creator and even Ongoing Preserver and Sustainer.
Quite obviously, then, since all these marvels which we observe in the universe are attributed to matter, just as we attribute the same capacities and designs to God's creative power, from our perspective, matter is the atheist's god, in which he places extraordinary faith; more faith even than we place in God, because it is far more difficult to explain everything that god-matter does by science alone. Yet atheists manage to believe this anyway because they refuse to acknowledge a God behind all the Design. Indeed, this is faith of the most un-rational, childlike kind. It is quite humorous, then, to observe the constant charge that we Christians have the blind, childlike, gullible, fideistic faith, rather than "rational, intellectual, sophisticated" atheists who possess it in far greater measure.
Babylonian idols, c. 18th-16th century B.C.
trillions of gods of modern atheist idolatrous polytheism
Such belief is, in effect and in substance, closely-examined, a kind of poytheistic idolatry of the crudest, most primitive sort, which puts to shame the pagan worship and incredulities of the ancient Babylonians, Philistines, Aztecs, and other primitive groups. They believed that their silver amulets and wooden idols could make the sun shine or defeat an enemy or cause crops to flourish. The polytheistic materialist is far, far more religious than that: he thinks that trillions of his Atom-gods and their distant relatives, the Cell-gods, can make absolutely everything in the universe occur, of their own power, possessed eternally either in full or in inevitably-unfolding potentiality.
One might call this (to coin a phrase) Deo-Atomism ("belief that the Atom is God"). The omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, ubiquitous (if not omnipresent) Atom (especially trillions of them) can do absolutely everything that the Christian God can do, and for little or no reason which we can understand (i.e., why and how the Atom-God came to possess such powers in the first place). The Deo-Atomist worships his trillions of gods unreservedly, with the most perfect, trusting, non-rational faith imaginable. He is what sociologists call a "true believer."
Oh, and we mustn't forget the Time-goddess as well. She is often invoked in worshipful, reverential, awe-inspiring terms as the be-all, end-all explanation for things inexplicable, as if by magic her very incantation rises to an explanatory level sufficient to shut up any silly Christian, who is foolish enough to believe in one God rather than trillions. The Time-goddess might be said to be the highest in the ranks of the Deo-Atomist's wonderfully-varied hierarchy of gods, since she is one, rather than trillions (sort of the "Zeus" of Deo-Atomism). One might call this belief Deo-Temporalism.
Deo-Atomism is a strong, fortress-like faith. It is often said that it "must be" what it is. How is this at all different from monotheism, where certain things are taken for granted as basic beliefs? There is no epistemological difference. The atheist's and materialist's or positivist's or naturalist's religion is Deo-Atomism; mine is theistic Christianity. Matter is their god; a Creator Spirit God is mine. The Deo-Atomist simply reverses the error of the Gnostics. They thought spirit was great and that matter was evil. Deo-Atomists think matter is great (and god) and spirit is not only "evil" (metaphorically-speaking), but beyond that: non-existent.
In a certain remote sense, on one level, the Christian reacts to such profound religious belief with the thought, "Who am I to endanger by rational argument such a sublime fideism and Absolute Trust in a Teleological Argument vis-a-vis trillions of Atom-gods? I can only stand in awe of such Pure Faith."
Deo-Atomists may and do differ on secondary issues, just as the various ancient polytheistic cultures differed on quibbling details (which god could do what, which material made for a better idol, etc.), but despite all, they inevitably came out on the side of polytheistic idolatry, with crude material gods, and against spiritual monotheism.
Some Deo-Atomist utterances even have the "ring" of Scriptures, such as an appropriate humility urged in man's opinion of his own importance, because the universe is so large, and we are so small, as if material or spatial largeness itself is some sort of inherently God-like quality. One Deo-Atomist told me that "order is in the eye of the beholder." That reminded me of the biblical Proverbs (perhaps he was the Deo-Atomist equivalent of Solomon).
Of course, in Deo-Atomism, each person is gods too, because he is made up of trillions of Atom-gods and also lots of Cell-gods, so there are lots of gods there indeed! When you get trillions of gods all together in one place, it stands to reason that they can corporately perceive the order of which any one of them individually is capable of producing. So within the Deo-Atomist faith-paradigm, this make perfect sense. But for one outside their circle of religious faith, it may not (just to warn the devout, faithful Deo-Atomist that others of different faiths may not think such things as "obvious" as they do). The Deo-Atomist manages to believe any number of things, in faith, without mere explanation.
In other words, the "why" questions in the context of Deo-Atomism are in and of themselves "senseless." And the reason why that is (i.e., for the Deo-Atomist), is because the question impinges upon the Impenetrable Fortress of blind faith that the Deo-Atomist possesses. If the question of "Why does God exist?" is senseless, then it follows straightforwardly that likewise, the question, "Why do the Atom-gods and Cell-gods and the Time-goddess exist and eternally possess the extraordinary powers that they do?" is senseless, meaningless and oughtn't be put forth. One simply doesn't ask such questions. It is bad form, and impolite in mixed company. We know how sensitive overly-religious folk are.
Instead, we are asked to bow to the countless mysteries of Deo-Atomism in humble adoration and awed silence, dumbstruck, like the Magi at the baby Jesus' manger, offering our "scientific" and "philosophical" allegiance like they offered gold and frankincense and myrhh. The very inquiry is senseless and "intrusive." And so rational examination is precluded at and from the outset. It is, indeed, an ingenious, self-contained system: hopelessly irrational and self-defeating; ultimately incoherent, of course, but ingenious and admirable in its bold, brilliant intellectual audacity and innovation, if nothing else. In other words, it is an immensely enjoyable game to play, like much of modern philosophy-cum-religion.
Evolutionary mutations as Teleology offer a particular example of this particular religiosity; akin to the Christian Divine Providence. Occasionally, it is true, a mutation (99.999% of the time harmful) is beneficial to the organism. Thus, a mistake in a process that is almost always a mistake is the "stuff" and mechanism and cause of the "progress" of evolution. The entire spectrum of biological diversity and evolution begins in such a causal fashion. This is the Deo-Atomist teleology, and an amazing and faith-filled one it is, as always. Deo-Atomism might go by many names, but when the rubber meets the road, it is all pretty much the same: Boundless Faith in Matter-gods, Cell-gods, and the Time-Goddess.
As an example of a devout, pious Deo-Atomist believer, consider Stephen Hawking:
"It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics," he told an audience, which included Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees. "Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last 40 years and I'm happy if I have made a small contribution. I want to share my excitement and enthusiasm."Hawking's words constitute a fine statement of the pure faith of what I have been calling Deo-Atomism. But what is the cosmic analogy to water in his boiling water scenario? And if universes come from nothing, how is that not absurd and not unthinkable? What is his empirical proof for such a scenario? By what observation did he arrive at this?
He added: "Based on the no boundary proposal, I picture the origin of the universe as like the formation of bubbles of steam in boiling water. "Quantum fluctuations lead to the spontaneous creation of tiny universes out of nothing. Most of the universes collapse to nothing, but a few that reach a critical size will expand in an inflationary manner and will form galaxies and stars and maybe beings like us."
Hawking believes his bubble universe scenario with, admittedly, no direct scientific evidence (it is merely coherent with other of his beliefs), and no way to explain it step-by-step in any compelling matter. It is entirely tentative. So he is exercising the blind faith of Deo-Atomism. Christians don't claim to have exhaustive explanations for every process we believe in. But it ain't required because religious faith is not science.
I find it exceedingly humorous that many scientists and atheists (many, Deo-Atomists) are so concerned about separating religion and science (to the extent that science would literally die if a miracle were acknowledged by a scientist AS a scientist), yet when it comes to something clearly within the religious, theological, supernatural realm (a purported miracle), they continue to demand scientific explanation as if they have forgotten all about their strenuous, Chicken Little attempts to separate science from God and theology altogether!
I won't bow to this double standard. It is simply one more strain of the religion of scientism, which is a crucial component and aspect of Deo-Atomism. I don't worship science or the atom or my own brain. I worship God. And if God didn't possess some attributes I didn't fully understand or comprehend, I submit that He wouldn't be God. That would simply be an idol that I created, that I completely understand, as it is no higher than what I can conceive it to be: a "God" made in man's image, rather than vice versa.
If materialist scientists would like to take back their position on science vs. miracles (an absolute dichotomy), then we can (at least attempt to) offer scientific explanations of every miraculous occurrence, as Christianity and science would then comprise one grand, unified theory of nature.
Until then, Deo-Atomists ought to stop asking for scientific explanations in the name of theology, when they can't even give scientific explanations (pertaining to origins and teleology) in the name of naturalistic science for many of their beliefs, yet simultaneously claim that this is not merely a matter of religious or metaphysical belief, and that any other alternative religious/metaphysical belief (namely, theism and creation) is impermissible as unscientific. Take the beam out of thine own eye. Metaphysician; heal thyself . . .