Atheism Is Just Wishful Thinking for People Who Crave Less Meaning in Life

By John Zmirak Published on July 9, 2024

You might be surprised to find it there, but I put a long section in my new book on the Second Amendment dealing with Darwinism. Was I being undisciplined, maybe? Was my editor out to lunch, allowing me to rant about anything and everything, both on topic and off?

Not really. I lay out in the book how the decline of the Christian worldview degrades our picture of man. Instead of the image of God arrayed with intrinsic value, moral accountability, and an eternal destiny, we’ve learned to see ourselves as slightly brainier apes — featherless bipeds of no particular cosmic significance. Our origin isn’t the sinless Adam painted by Michaelangelo, but some crude, grunting caveman. Our destiny isn’t glory, but icy oblivion.

So maybe all those “inalienable rights” we thought we’d been “endowed” with by “the Creator” were useful fictions, slaveowner slogans, or just wishful thinking. No wonder regimes treating Darwinism as dogma such as Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and secularized U.S. blue states toss human rights like a match into Darwin’s toilet to drown. Suddenly it makes sense why leftists and other secularists have ceased to value freedom of speech, religious liberty, and the right of self-defense against both crime and criminal governments. They were fruits of a fantasy Tree of Life which our ancestors imagined. Hack it down, and they rot on the ground.

Faith Is for Silly Women and Weak-Minded Boys

As I document in No Second Amendment, No First, the most powerful effect of Darwinism on Christians was to convince us on some deep level that our faith doesn’t deal with facts. It cannot survive rational scrutiny, cold-eyed reflection, and modern research. Instead of moral realities derived from philosophical truths and the facts of divine revelation, our faith consists of “values,” of sentiments and fanciful hopes that emerge from our aspirations. Religion is for the heart, but science owns our heads. Faith is a thing for silly women, weak-minded boys, and the sweaty, unruly masses.

Even our churches are (mostly) convinced of this on some subconscious level. If we make a case for faith, we don’t base it on solid arguments. We’ve already silently conceded the realm of reason as lost. Instead, we argue that faith is helpful, even psychologically necessary. It helps keep people getting married and having children, even though that’s irrational. It gets them to join the Army and risk their lives as firemen, instead of sitting in safety to maximize their happy-moments quotients. Faith encourages people to act unselfishly and overcome racial prejudice, which helps reduce civil conflict and encourage efficiency.

Faith even helps us get through the unavoidable suffering entailed in our short, meaningless lives. So a society whose smart people have seen through faith’s illusions should tolerate the existence of religious institutions the same way they legalize other drugs: People just need their opiates.

Are Intellectuals Converting for the Wrong Reasons?

The above view of faith pervades a recent column by Alex O’Connor at the thoughtful online magazine Unherd. In it, he criticizes a new crop of converts and semi-converts to Christianity whom O’Connor calls “political Christians.” He means people like ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, historian Tom Holland, psychologist Jordan Peterson, and others who make the case that Christian culture is fundamentally better either than Islam or secular materialism. Better in that such a culture makes people happier, more compassionate, more artistically creative, and more suited to political freedom. He calls them

a class of thinkers who, unable to rationally assent to the actual truth of Christianity, and yet disillusioned with the politics of “new atheism,” and fearful of the various religious and pseudo-religious ideas that have filled the vacuum it created, find themselves in the tough spot of being hungry for the fruit but unable to believe in the existence of the tree.

Even atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins, as we observed here at The Stream, has started talking about the side benefits of Christianity compared to those worldviews rushing in to take its place. To this O’Connor responds, correctly:

Christianity is more than just an affinity for evensong, disappointment with secular architecture, and suspicion of Islam. St Paul wrote in no uncertain terms to the Corinthians that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

Atheism Requires Vast Leaps of “Faith”

Certainly we don’t want to encourage people to adopt Christianity-lite, or some quasi-Christian cultural stance, in order to get a free ride on the benefits of faith without in fact accepting the Gospel. But O’ Connor is missing something crucial here. So are most of the “political Christians” whom he talks about.

And that is: As Eric Metaxas argues at book length, the case for atheism and scientific materialism is collapsing all on its own. The confident claims that used to make Christianity seem like wishful thinking and fancy have themselves proven hollow, and failed the rational tests they set for themselves.

We are no closer now than we were 75 years ago to understanding how organic life emerged from the dead rocks of ancient earth. In fact, the problem has become more complex and insoluble the more science progresses.

The better we understand life and the intricate, supercomputer-level complexity of even single-celled amoebas, the less plausible it becomes that all those grains of sand just happened to form a working transistor chip. No more does alphabet soup ever randomly spell out its list of ingredients — not if you emptied cans into bowls for billions of years. (See my column from a few years back explaining to Cher that Mt. Rushmore is not a natural formation.) Nothing comes from nothing, and the amount of information that emerges from random chance is always and everywhere zero.

So atheist materialists are forced to make leaps of faith, and theorize that there’s “something” in the universe that generates life from non-life, the way ancient Greeks thought that rotting meat spontaneously generated maggots. Just as long as you don’t call it “God.”

Darwinism Goes Bankrupt

The more paleontologists dig to find the “missing links” which Darwin confidently predicted, the more they come up empty. Remember the elegant “tree of life” that once showed us how we all ascended by random mutation and survival of the fittest from single-celled organisms up through mammals and monkeys to man? The branches don’t connect to the trunk, and the whole thing has no roots. We’ve found huge gaps which scientists cannot bridge between early forms of life, and explosions of diverse, high-function organisms that occurred in events like the Cambrian Explosion. So Darwinists have to posit imaginary mechanisms that “explain” how random mutations form whole new organ systems in comically short periods of time: a god for the gaps.

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A disturbing number of physicists, especially cosmologists, are staggered by how unlikely it was that our universe should be the only one of our trillions of possible combinations of cosmic forces where life would even be possible. Those who wish to avoid the obvious implication — a Creator — instead posit billions of other universes with all those other combinations, so that ours is nothing special. We cannot ever find any evidence of such universes; instead we must take them on faith.

If more of the “political Christians” among us studied the arguments made by Intelligent Design thinkers such as Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Michael Behe, and others published by the Discovery Institute, they’d realize that at best, the atheists are no more grounded in empirically testable science than Christian believers.

At that point, the fact that Christian faith makes human life better than any alternative takes on a different meaning. Maybe faith “works” for the same reason that software works — because it fits with the hardware on which it’s designed to run. Atheism is some pirated program, a piece of malware that might provide certain shortcuts, but actually causes the machine itself to malfunction. If man is happier, kinder, and more creative in a Christian culture, that’s not because faith is a “noble lie” or useful fiction. It’s because it reflects, as through a glass darkly, what is real.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or coauthor of more than 10 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. His newest book is No Second Amendment, No First.

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