“Don’t talk to me about religion or politics,” say many Facebook status updates. It’s interesting that many people express this desire to avoid talking about two topics which have the potential to affect their lives in a significant way. Last week I was at a shop and got talking to the man behind the desk about church and faith. He told me that he was very interested in religion and philosophy, but that he didn’t “do church”. I found his attitude quite refreshing! He wasn’t keen to attend church, but he was happy to initiate and continue a conversation with me about faith once he found out I was a minister.
There are far fewer atheists in the world than we’re led to believe. A Gallup poll in 2015 found that 22% of people said they were not religious, but only 11% of people said they were atheists. Throughout my school days, most of my classmates would have said that they were atheists. What they meant was probably that they weren’t Christians, or didn’t subscribe to any of the other world religions. Some of them probably were bonafide atheists, of course, but many would have labelled themselves as such because that was the word we used for someone who wasn’t ‘religious’.
A criticism which is often levelled at Christians is that we just believe what we’re told to believe, without question. This is in contrast to atheists, who observe the known world and draw conclusions from those observations – or so they claim. However, I believe that it takes far more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian.
“Science Has Disproved It All”
This claim was made in almost every classroom debate we had on religion vs. atheism. Writing it now, it clearly smacks of adolescent naivety. Those same peers of mine who accused me of unquestioning belief were guilty of the very same thing. Science has not disproved it all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a science-skeptic. I believe that science has brought us knowledge and understanding of our universe in myriad ways. It has enriched our society through countless vital discoveries. I have a deep appreciation (albeit not a deep understanding) of the merits of science. Nevertheless, it cannot be claimed that science has disproved God. In fact, many scientists would say the same, atheist or not. There just isn’t evidence to disprove God. As a good friend of mine often says, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
Those atheists who make this claim have far more faith than I do! It’s true that my initial belief in God was due to my parents and church telling me he was real, but that initial belief morphed into genuine faith as I grew up and had personal experiences of God. I was told in school that science had disproved God. Many of my classmates believed that statement because “scientists” said it. I haven’t seen their research papers or lab work indicating their own personal study into the subject; they accept it on faith.
“The Universe Was Created by the Big Bang”
I could probably write a whole post on this one, and perhaps I will one day. Let me start by saying that I actually have no problem with the premise of the Big Bang. As a theory to explain how all matter came to be, it is at the very least slightly plausible. The element which requires more faith than I have is the bit before the Big Bang.
We’re told that the universe began as a single, infinitely dense atom. This singularity was unable to contain its density and exploded outwards, flinging matter across the universe which became the seeds of all life known and unknown. Where this idea becomes implausible is the spontaneous grouping of subatomic particles in exactly the configuration required to support and sustain life. It takes far more faith than I possess to believe that everything in existence was brought about by a cosmic accident.
There are several theories which attempt to explain this phenomenon. Some scientists have suggested that our universe is one part of an infinite multiverse, in which some universes are not suitable for life and others are. There are a multiverse of straws being clutched at here.
Science has given us a great deal. There are things we understand about the universe now due to scientific research which only a few decades ago were mysteries. Nevertheless, it still takes a lot of faith to believe in even some of the most popular theories about our universe. Atheism is in itself a religious belief, much as many atheists would seek to deny that, and it requires far more faith than Christianity.