Go into any bookstore, and you will see shelves of books on the occult, the New Age, horoscopes, tarot card readings, and any number of superstitious beliefs. Newspapers still carry horoscopes.
Look at the number of TV shows about aliens, ghosts, and claims of the supernatural on cable channels.
Penn and Tell as well as the Amazing Randi have been in the debunking business for decades, following the likes of Harry Houdini (1874-1926), who wrote A Magician Among the Spirits (1924), and Reginald Scot (c. 1538–1599), author of The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584).
The New Atheists are all about the claim that non-believers are more rational than people who hold to certain religious beliefs. Hogwash, as a Gallup Organization survey found out:
“The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?
“The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.
“Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin’s former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.”
In fact, Christians have been on the front lines of exposing frauds who claim to be in tune with the supernatural.
In addition to Reginald Scot, Houdini, James Randi, and Penn and Teller, Christian magicians André Kole and Dan Korem have been relentless in exposing frauds. Kole has written Miracles or Magic?, Mind Games: Exposing Today’s Psychics, Frauds, and False Spiritual Phenomena, and Astrology and Psychic Phenomena. Dan Korem’s Powers: Testing the Psychic and Supernatural and The Fakers, written with Paul Meier, follow a similar methodology.
When people cease to believe in God, they don’t cease believing. Many of them end up believing in anything in order to fill the spiritual vacuum left behind.
“People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition. . . . It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense,” G. K. Chesterton’s fictional detective Father Brown says in “The Oracle of the Dog” in The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926).
Of course, atheists would claim that to believe in a God who can’t be seen or communicated with is the height of superstition. Atheists have never seen reason or logic, and yet they believe in them. In fact, they stake their worldview on them. The question is, What is the source of reason, logic, morality, and other invisible “things”? They do not arise naturally from matter.
Atheists are quick to believe in the formation of the intelligible life from chemicals that they have no empirical data to explain their origin.
Science has never shown that spontaneous generation is possible, and yet it’s necessary to believe in order to explain the evolutionary development of humans.
The precondition of unbelieving thought leads to irrationalism, intellectual schizophrenia, and nihilism. Without the basic assumptions of a Christian worldview, atheists could not reason and account for morality or meaning.
Some skeptics understand this. In order to give meaning and value to life, the skeptic must abandon his worldview and adopt elements of the Christian worldview to keep from going insane. In fact, religious philosopher and church-going but skeptical Lutheran Loyal Rue is calling for the development of a “‘noble lie’ to keep his valueless worldview from imploding. He sees the necessity of creating a “myth that links the moral teachings of religion with the scientific facts of life,” since, in his opinion, “science ‘has eroded the plausibility of the Judeo-Christian myths.’”
If the so-called “myths of religion” are dispelled, “all that is left is nihilism, which considers life and the universe meaningless. ‘Nihilism is not something that can be argued away,’ he said. ‘I assume it’s true. But it’s ultimately destructive,’ a ‘monstrous truth.’1 R. C. Sproul comments that “God’s existence is the chief element in constructing any worldview. To deny this chief premise is to set one’s sails for the island of nihilism. This is the darkest continent of the darkened mind — the ultimate paradise of the fool.”2
- George W. Cornell, “Philosopher says a ‘noble lie’ is needed,” The Huntsville (Alabama) Times (July 20, 1991), B3. [↩]
- R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 171. [↩]
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