The Freedom From Religion Foundation has started a new ad campaign pushing atheism as the foundation for all of life. Of course, the ad campaign doesn’t say that a person should murder, rape, or steal, but there’s nothing within the context of “Enjoy Life Now” that says a person can’t given atheistic assumptions.
A Wisconsin man is funding the new billboard campaign as a “legacy for my grandchildren.” Some legacy if followed consistently.
The message on the 10-by-30 foot billboard is straight forward in its advocacy of atheism:
“Enjoy Life Now. There Is No Afterlife.”
I’m no atheist, but I’m enjoying life now. The existence of God does not mean a person can’t or doesn’t enjoy life. But without God and in a world where only matter matters, there is no basis for moral absolutes. At death, the most “moral” atheist is no better or worse than Adolf Hitler since there is no one to judge at death.
The Bible makes it clear that everything God created is good: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Gen. 1:31).
The New Testament says something similar: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4).
Things in and of themselves are not the problem. It’s what we do with them. The apostle Paul says as much:
“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)— in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Col. 2:20–23).
In addition to saying that everything God made is good, the Bible also says that the use of good things can be misused for evil purposes. Without God, there is no foundational premise to determine if some act is good or evil. One person’s enjoyment could be another person’s terror.
Life is meant to be enjoyed but with certain moral boundaries. Where are the boundaries for the atheist? What are the limits of “Enjoy life now”? Every thief, rapist, and murderer enjoys what he does. Adolf Hitler enjoyed life in the now. So does every tyrant.
Bryan Appleyard, in his review of Jonathan Glover’s book Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, comments:
“God died in the nineteenth century and Nietzsche danced on his grave. The foundation of the external moral law was destroyed and, in its place, was a vacuum, soon gleefully filled by the narcotics of Nazism and Communism. It may not be possible to say that the death of God led directly to the death ovens; but equally, nobody can ignore the fact that the cruelest era in history was also the first to deny the existence of an external moral force.” If this is true, “can we stop the long nightmare of the twentieth century from spilling over into the twenty-first?”1
Atheists don’t have any moral capital. It’s not that they don’t act in a moral way; it’s that they can’t account for morality given materialistic assumptions. Matter doesn’t have a moral foundation. There is no more morality in the stuff of humans than in the combined stuff of the periodic table.
John Polkinghorne writes the following in The Interaction of Science and Theology2:
“The reductionist programme in the end subverts itself. Ultimately it is suicidal. Not only does it relegate our experiences of beauty, moral obligation, and religious encounter to the epiphenomenal3 scrap-heap. It also destroys rationality. Thought is replaced by electro-chemical natural events. Two such events cannot confront each other in rational discourse. They are neither right nor wrong. They simply happen. If our mental life is nothing but the humming activity of an immensely complexly-connected computer-like brain, who is to say whether the programme running on the intricate machine is correct or not?”
An accused murderer, rapist, and thief could argue that he was only acting in terms of the “firing synapses” in his brain. How could an atheist argue against such a claim?
- Bryan Appleyard, review of Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century in The Sunday Times (December 1999). Quoted in Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Design: Life as he Intends it to Be (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 27. [↩]
- Princeton: Princeton University Press (1986) 92-93. [↩]
- Epiphenomenalism: mental phenomena are caused by physical processes in the brain [↩]