ZacEndo 08-08-111 

The End of Reason

A Response to the New Atheists


Ravi Zacharias

Zondervan, 2008, 143 pp., ISBN 978-0-310-28251-8



A new more powerful atheism is showing itself through the writings of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.  It has a smooth appeal to a generation of skeptic Americans.  You may have seen The End of Faith or Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris prominently displayed in the new releases section at any major bookstore.  Alarmed at the cultural devastation wreaked by his kind of thinking, Zacharias felt compelled to respond. 


Ravi wrote this book to tell those who are asking the hard questions that atheism is bankrupt for answers and to bridge the chasm that separates hostile atheists from those who believe in the Scriptures.  (17-18)  


Everyone has a worldview, the way they answer four basic questions that relate to origin, meaning, morality, and hope that assures a destiny.  "These answers must be correspondingly true and, as a whole, coherent." (31)


Origin.  Big Bang cosmology implies a "beginning."  That there is something rather than nothing leaves science totally silent.  Atheists want to establish certainty by scientific laws that did not exist at the beginning.  According to these laws, something cannot "pop" into existence from nothing.  (32)


The authors claim that religious belief is the result of blind deterministic forces.  "Isn't it interesting that such determinism is the curse and the cause of religious belief but atheists are able to break outside the box of determinism and think for themselves?  Apparently they are not bound by the same restrictions that bind the rest of us.  After years in the academy I have learned a trade secret: If you know enough about a subject, you can confuse anybody by a selective use of the facts." (38)


Meaning.  "If life is random, then the inescapable consequence, first and foremost, is that there can be no ultimate meaning and purpose to existence." (39)


Morality.  "Not only does atheism's worldview lead to the death of meaning; it also leads to the death of moral reasoning." (46) 


"When Sam Harris asks what God was doing when Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans (Letter, 52) and why God does not prevent the rape, torture, and murder of children (Letter, 51), what is he really saying?  Is he saying that such things are evil, ought to be evil, or ought not to be allowed by a loving God?  In any of the three assertions he is at best saying, 'I do not see a moral order at work here.'  But if there is no God, who has the authority to say whether there is a moral order in operation?  Sam Harris?  Adolf Hitler? Who?" (50) [If there is no moral order, by what moral framework does he judge it evil?  dlm] 


Harris essentially says, "I can see no moral framework operating in the world, but what I do see is morally condemnable." (53)  "There is no way for Harris as an atheist to argue for moral preferences except by his own subjective means, that is, his personal preference or environment.  One cannot make absolute statements based on one's personal feelings on a matter." (53)


"Christianity teaches that every single life has ultimate value.  In secularism, while there is no ultimate value to a life, the atheist subjectively selects particular values to applaud.  The game is played every day by the relativist camp, while it refuses to allow the other side the benefit of playing by the same rules." (58) 


"Isn't it ironic that when Islam is in a position of power, Islamic beliefs are forced on everyone, and that when atheism has the upper hand, atheistic beliefs are enforced on everyone?  Only in Christianity is the privilege given both to believe and to disbelieve without any enforcement." (63)


"The worldview of the Christian faith is simple enough.  God has put enough into this world to make faith in him a most reasonable thing.  But he has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone." (75)


"Given a starting point of primordial slime, one is forced to live apart from a moral law, with no meaning, no real understanding of love, and no hope." (79)


Regarding the new atheists.  "Because of the ill-disguised hatred behind their arguments, some of their readers are beginning to worry whether we are seeing the new brand of intellectual supremacists masquerading as spokespersons for pure science.  We have been down this road before, and this fear is not without historical precedent." (102)


"Is the alphabet the same thing as a work of poetry by Tennyson?  Is paint and canvas the same things as a painting by Rembrandt?  This may be the central issue that divides us.  To Sam Harris, a self-described atheist, human beings can be nothing more than their reducible chemicals.  To believers in the person of Jesus, we are made in the image of God." (109)


"If Harris sees no difference between Islam and the Judeo-Christian bequest, I dare him to go to Saudi Arabia or Iran (or any Islamic country) and deliver his talks there.  If he wants empirical evidence for the difference between the two systems, let him go and test it out." (122)





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