Three Atheists I Listen To

Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, an heir of the King and a fellow servant in the Kingdom of God began when I first believed that God existed. What followed was the understanding that God not only existed but that He is an Infinite-Personal God who, though having created the vast universe ex nihilo using the Big Bang and evolution, loves me.

 Beyond my own personal encounters with God through my reason and through the testimony of others, there are the historical facts supporting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is also astounding supporting evidence in nature. God exists.

But there are some who say otherwise: “Atheism exists, this I know, for my reason tells me so.” These would be the angry atheists Richard Dawkins, the former Christopher Hitchens (Hitch) and others.

 I have at one time or another heard these atheists give their arguments of disbelief and I have found their words wanting for any real substance. They often come across as superior and snobbish.  And, their arguments are certainly unfettered by the factual account of the resurrection or of the fine tuning of the universe that makes life and thought and argument possible at all. Their anger exists.

 Now, there are three atheists I do pay attention to.  I tune in to them because what they often say through words or music reveals the truth about God in a way they may not even realize. The three atheists are Thomas Sowell, Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and Frederick Delius

Thomas SowellFirst, Thomas Sowell.  Start at his web page Thomas Sowell. And, here is a short bio from the Townhall.com web page: http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/

“…writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing.”

  Sowell is an economist, a common sense economist.  You will get that sense as you read his books and articles.  Of late, I have read The Thomas Sowell Reader (start with this book for short articles addressing current issues both economic and social) and A Conflict of Visions.

  The Thomas Sowell Reader, a compilation of articles and essays written by Thomas Sowell, economist:

 “From an early age, I have been convinced with trying to understand the social problems that abound in any society.  First and foremost, this was an attempt to try to grasp some explanation of the puzzling and disturbing things going on around me.  This was all for my own personal clarification, since I neither had political ambitions nor the political talents required for either elective or appointed office.  But, one having achieved some sense of understanding of particular issues ~ a process that sometimes took years – I wanted to share that understanding with others.  That is the reason for the things that appear in this book.”

 A Conflict of Visions, also written by Thomas Sowell:

 “What are the underlying assumptions behind the very different ideological visions of the world being contested in modern times?  The purpose here will not be to determine which of these visions is more valid but rather to reveal the inherent logic behind each of these sets of views and the ramifications of the assumptions which lead not only to different conclusions on particular issues but also to wholly different meanings to such fundamental words as “justice,” “equality,” and “power.”

 A sample article by Thomas Sowell:  The Fallacy of Redistribution

 519px-TheodoredalrympleRegarding Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and some of his recurring themes from books and articles note the following from his Wikipedia entry.  I confirm these themes having read his book Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass:

 -The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries ~ criminality, domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families ~ is the nihilistic, decadent, and/or self-destructive behavior of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behavior, and the lexicalization of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behavior, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently. (Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass)

-Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience. (‘The Uses of Metaphysical Skepticism’, in: In Praise of Prejudice. The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas, p. 6 (chapter 2).

-Multiculturalism and cultural relativism are at odds with common sense. (“Multiculturalism Starts Losing Its Luster”. City Journal. Retrieved 12 July 2009)

-The decline of civilized behavior ~ self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment – ruins social and personal life. (Not with a Bang but a Whimper)

-The root cause of our contemporary cultural poverty is intellectual dishonesty. First, the intellectuals (more specifically, left-wing ones) have destroyed the foundation of culture, and second, they refuse to acknowledge it by resorting to the caves of political correctness.

deliusLastly, Frederick Delius.  I don’t recall when I first heard his compositions. It may have been in my thirties at a Chicago Symphony concert.  The first piece I remember is the symphonic poem The Song Of Summer.  I was overwhelmed by its simple beauty.

 From The Delius Collection, Vol. 2 CD liner notes:

 “Many have written of Delius’ ‘moods’ or ‘feelings’, views which reflect only the ‘impression’ his music has made on the writers (read music critics).

Such Romantic or rather Impressionistic ~ notions of his art are only concerned with its surface appeal, as if that is all that is valuable in it, and ignore wholly his unique technical and structural mastery.  In such ways, Delius is more of an anti-Romantic, for the sentimentality or self-projection of Romanticism are alien to his music.  Delius hymned Nature, not himself as did Sebelius; such sentimentality as may condemn his art stems from a performing style wherein expressive beauty is stressed at the cost of his music’s intellectual power.” Robert Matthew-Walker

 For starters I would recommend listening to Irmelin Prelude, Song of Summer, A Late Lark, the orchestral interlude A Walk to Paradise Garden from his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.

 An avowed atheist, Delius embraced nature for his inspiration.  He also embraced Nietzsche’s philosophy which produced Delius’ loud and unattractive A Mass of Life.

 “A Mass of Life is an attack upon Christian doctrine and the Christian way of life as Nietzsche and Delius saw it. They both wanted to correct what they called the “slave morality” of Christianity.  Their great emphasis was upon the will, not bowing to anyone, and living and dying fearlessly though death be total extinction.

Death, when it came to Delius, was terrible, and within a few months his steadfast wife was dead too.

In speaking about Delius, Eric Fenby (Delius’ composition scribe after Delius became blind) observes, “Given those great natural musical gifts and that nature of his, so full of feeling, and which at its finest inclined to that exalted end of man which is contemplation, there is no knowing to what sublime heights he would have risen had he chosen to look upwards to God instead of downward to man!”  From the Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson, Crossway Books

 What the first two atheists have in common is their ability to speak truth, wisdom and common sense ~ God’s law within each of us – simply. As Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate of physics said, “You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity.”

 Both men, from their lifetime of experiences, have seen reality and tell us that there are values that a man must embrace to be civilized, to be ‘right side up’, so to speak.  They tell us that Man must draw the line somewhere. 

Now, I believe that it is the God of Creation who has created the line ~ the natural law written on our hearts ~ and He has exposed our crossing it. But, He did not leave us on our own, to remake ourselves as Nietzsche’s ideal human, the Übermensch, who would be able to channel passions creatively (but to what end?). He gave us the only way possible, through His Son, to regain our humanity.

 Frederick Delius revealed truth through his music’s contemplative moments of rhapsodic beauty as inspired by God’s creation.

 All three have seen things (even the eventually blind Delius) that others often willfully ignore. They are honest with themselves about what they see and they repeat it back.  And, there is knowledge of reality in their words and works that can only find its genesis in God’s created order and His law written on our hearts.

 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

8 thoughts on “Three Atheists I Listen To

  1. “And, their arguments are certainly unfettered by the factual account of the resurrection or of the fine tuning of the universe that makes life and thought and argument possible at all. ”

    Both points have been answered ad nauseam. It’s not anyone else’s problem if you aren’t interested in those answers but chose to ignore them.

    • Thanks for reading this post…and for making my point about “angry” atheists.

      I listed three atheists I listen to. Can you name three theists/Christians that you listen to?

      Being dismissive of factual history and of the extreme fine-tuning of the universe is certainly an ad nauseam attribute of the new “angry” atheists.

      It is interesting to note that atheism is a post-Christian phenomenon.

      Here are some videos which explore atheism and theism:

      • First of all: I was a Christian myself, so I listened to many of them. I still do, everyone get’s the benefit of doubt. But if someone starts with points that had been made and discussed again… and again… and again… as if they were still somehow valid, as if repeating them, ignoring everything that was said against them, makes them somehow valueable… Well, then, sorry, the benefit of the doubt doesn’t last forever.

        Technically, Atheism is older than Christianity. But, who would want to disturb you with facts?

        And no, I am not angry with you. I pity you. You want to play the game. You want to say something meaningful… But you only repeat old nonsense, like a child who found a 100 year old textbook on physics and now thinks it can make valuable input to a discussion about quantum theory.

      • My current library of physics books includes:

        Higgs Boson by Jim Baggott
        The Quantum Universe by Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw
        Quantum Physics for Poets and Beyond the God Particle by Leon M. Lederman
        Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Lisa Randall
        Once Upon Einstein by Thibault Damour
        Antimatter by Frank Close &
        Physics of the Future by Michio Kakku,
        as well as,
        Genome by Matt Ridley
        The Language of God by Francis Collins
        Periodic Tables by Hugh-Aldersey-Williams

        Which Christian/theists do you listen to now?

        I do not need your pity. Keep it for yourself. I will pray for you to return to Christ.
        And, no atheism is not older than Christianity – that is a lie from the Evil One.

      • Well, I was trying to listen to you, but unfortunately, that’s becoming too sad for me now. Sorry, I can’t turn of my pity. I simply feel it. But don’t worry, I don’t expect it to change anything. But if you feel better, I will not ask you to keep your prayers for yourself. Go on. Pray. It will not change anything, but if you feel better, why not? Of course, I could now tell you, that you are not really praying for me – you are praying to make yourself feel better. But, as with the rest, you will not listen. That’s part of why talking to you is so sad.

        I wish you happiness.

  2. Poor Atomic Mutant can’t respond to the challenge to name any Christian/theist that he currently follows. Following a blogger is certainly not the same as paying attention to Michael Behe, Alvin Plantinga, Dallas Willard, Stephen Meyer, William Lane Craig, Greg Koukl, Ravi Zacharias, Peter Kreeft, Craig Hazen, or any other Christian intellectual involved in some way with philosophy of science, scientific inquiry, or apologetics. I named all those guys off the top of my head without even consulting my bookshelf, and I only mentioned the guys who are living today. I could name so many other important Christian thinkers of the recent and distant past who are essential reading in the great conversation of history over these matters.

    I strongly doubt, Atomic Mutant, that you were ever a follower of Jesus, even if you believed at a time that you were a “Christian” of some sort. Like most atheists with a chip on their shoulder, it sounds like you were wounded by a Christian or a church that you trusted or became frustrated with a superficial semblance of “Christianity” practiced in your community that eschewed the values of literacy, education, and science that the genuinely Christian worldview used to transform the world. I would encourage you to doubt your skepticism; pick up a book from one of the guys I listed. Peter Kreeft has some very engaging Socratic dialogues, or consider CS Lewis’ argument in Miracles, or read up on Plantinga’s lectures about naturalism (http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/an_evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism.pdf), or dig deeper into the late Anthony Flew’s late rejection of atheism (http://antonyflew.com/presumption-of-atheism/46.htm). There’s so much out there! Shutting your eyes and ears and asserting that it has all been repudiated (because someone posted a video with the title “so-and-so atheist DESTROYS WLC’s credibility” or whatever on youtube?) is hurting no one but yourself!

  3. I am reminded of the parable of the Sower from Matthew’s eyewitness account, chapter 13:

    “As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

    • Jennifer, “Whoever has ears, let them hear” is such a profound and terrifying phrase that is at once an invitation and a condemnation. Invitation for those whose hearts are open, and condemnation for those who resist out of fear that the argument or the testimony will lead them to God.

      When it comes to these sorts of issues I think Romans 1:18-23 really applies as well:

      “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

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