Going Nous-to-Nous with Atheism
It only adds to the irony that this particular atheist congratulates himself on being a sophisticated “renaissance man,” which connotes everything an obligatory atheist can never be--which is to say, someone with “broad intellectual interests,” in possession of “more than superficial knowledge of many different disciplines,” and who is “accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.” For true knowledge of any kind--let alone knowledge that is deep and broad--leads directly to the threshold of the Divine, something all wise men realize because men were made to realize it.
However, notice that I said “threshold,” for our natural reason can only lead to an honest confession of agnosticism unless one makes the conscious decision to take the next step over the threshold. If that weren’t the case, we would not be free to discover God--rather, we would be “theology machines,” which we are not, precisely.
Many in the west have been so poisoned by secularism that it is difficult for them to any longer perceive God. For that is a key point. The existence of God may be easily proved, but only to a generous intellect that is inclined to accept the evidence. To the intellect that so not so inclined, no evidence will ever suffice. But make no mistake--it is absurd for a wholly contingent being (which is how an atheist must regard himself) to make any absolute metaphysical claims about anything whatsoever.
To the extent that human beings may conceive of absolute truth it is because we participate in absolute truth. One such absolute truth is the metaphysical certainty that “God is the being that cannot not be.” Human beings, on the other hand, are much more difficult to account for--in fact, impossible for materialistic science to explain. Of this I am certain.
Perhaps an analogy will be useful. From the earliest age, I have always been passionate about music, and have regarded it as a primary need, no different than food, or knowledge, or beer, or baseball. However, there came a time that I reached “the end of the line,” so to speak, with the sort of popular music offered by our mass culture. So I decided to explore modern jazz, which is infinitely more complex (I won’t say “deep,” because aesthetic depth is an extraordinarily mysterious phenomenon that in itself leads to the threshold of God) than rock music--harmonically, rhythmically, melodically, and technically.
At first, much of it was impenetrable to my rock-trained ears, and it is fair to say that a lot of it sounded like “noise.” And yet, something compelled me to continue immersing myself in its world, until I was eventually able to “perceive” its depth and beauty. And once I was able to perceive this incredibly rich and complex world, contemporary popular music became even more offensive--even painful, for there is such a thing as aesthetic pain (more proof of higher senses). But if I were to approach the typical slack-jawed pop music fan and asked them how they are able to tolerate subjecting themselves to so much pain, they would have no idea what in the world I was talking about.
It is just so with atheism. One might well ask an obligatory atheist, “how can you tolerate a world view that is so painfully narrow and stupid?” Not only would they have no idea what I was talking about, but they would probably be offended at the blasphemy, for one of the curiosities about the atheist is that he is quite passionate about something that his philosophy denies at the outset, which is totalistic and certain metaphysical truth.
The atheist is literally metaphysically blind, for the gap between an animal and a being capable of knowing any truth--let alone total truth--is as great as the gap between nothing and the most inconsequential existing thing. The hiatus between even the smartest animal and the most benighted atheist is absolute. I have that much awe for the miracle of human consciousness. The mystery and majesty of man’s subjectivity is the sufficient reason for an immediate intuition of a source far greater, but only for a relatively uncorrupted intellect.
The intellect corrupted by secularism will nevertheless come up with its own substitute wisdom, such as this little neo-Marxist bon mot by our post-civilized visitor: “Reinvention is key to the progress of the individual.” Er, wrong. The key to the progress of the individual is not “reinvention,” if for no other reason than we are not invented to begin with--at least not by ourselves. Rather, the key to progress--both psychologically and spiritually--is self-discovery.
And where was that self before it was discovered? What is the ontological status of the “I” that exists in potential but awaits deployment in time? It is none other than the spark of divinity known as your soul. As one progresses spiritually, one becomes aware of the soul in the same manner that I became aware of the depth and beauty of modern jazz. It is not something you can ever discover empirically, for it is not a thing you can look at, but that through which you look. For as Meister Eckhart observed, “the eye with which we see God is the same eye with which God sees us.” Suffice it to say that this perfectly accurate statement makes no sense to the atheist, because he lacks (or is alienated from) the perceptual apparatus to understand it--that is, the intellect properly so-called.
Coincidentally, yesterday Dr. Sanity emailed me an editorial by Dinesh D’ Souza entitled God Knows Why Faith is Thriving. He writes,
“A group of leading atheists is puzzled by the continued existence and vitality of religion.
“As biologist Richard Dawkins puts it in his new book ‘The God Delusion,’ faith is a form of irrationality, what he terms a ‘virus of the mind.’ Philosopher Daniel Dennett compares belief in God to belief in the Easter Bunny. Sam Harris, author of ‘The End of Faith’... professes amazement that hundreds of millions of people worldwide profess religious beliefs when there is no rational evidence for any of those beliefs.”
It is a banality to point out that there are many ideas that are so stupid that only a highly educated person could ever believe them. Even on strictly Darwinian grounds, we can easily understand how religion is more adaptive than secularism: “Which of the two is more likely to survive, prosper and multiply? The religious tribe is made up of people who have an animating sense of purpose. The secular tribe is made up of people who are not sure why they exist at all. The religious tribe is composed of individuals who view their every thought and action as consequential. The secular tribe is made up of matter that cannot explain why it is able to think at all.”
D’Souza’s concludes that “it is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation. It seems perplexing why nature would breed a group of people who see no purpose to life or the universe, indeed whose only moral drive seems to be sneering at their fellow human beings who do have a sense of purpose. Here is where the biological expertise of Dawkins and his friends could prove illuminating. Maybe they can turn their Darwinian lens on themselves and help us understand how atheism, like the human tailbone and the panda's thumb, somehow survived as an evolutionary leftover of our primitive past.”
For that is the key: atheism is a post-civilized primitivism, pure and simple. The comparatively narrow realm of evolution explained by natural selection is embedded in the much grander vision of an evolutionary cosmos that deepens and reveals its own truth to itself through the mysterious vehicle of human consciousness. Even if materialistic scientists imgaine that they have “explained” consciousness, they will never, ever explain how this consciousness may know absolute truth. For as J.B.S. Haldane observed, "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."
Lowly Darwinian man, severed from his transcendent source, can no more draw on his own resources to bear witness to total truth "than a mayfly can expatiate on the alternation of the seasons” (Schuon). For in the grand scheme of things, we are indeed a “creature that is born at midnight and whose life will last but a day.” And yet, we have been warmed by the heat and seen the light of the morning sun. And that is more than enough proof that the sun exists.