|EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY - TRUTH||
LIFE AFTER DEATHChristianity's Hope & Challenge.
There is no God - or gods. Atheistic materialism
This material universe is what is really real. As Carl Sagan, astrophysicist and populariser of science puts it, "The cosmos is all that is or all that ever will be." The present scientific view of how the universe came into being, now taught in major universities worldwide, is that it all came into existence with a "big bang" some billions of years ago. The atheist would say this was initiated by some physical process as yet unknown.*
Human consciousness and intelligence developed from chemicals by a long process of chance evolution. Personality developed from impersonal hydrogen atoms. "God is the DNA code," says Timothy Leary. We are all the products of matter, time and chance alone.
How do we know things?
Knowledge is the result of physical processes in our brains. A problem here was well expressed by Professor Haldane as follows: "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true...and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms." If my self-awareness, intelligence and ability to make choices is something more than just the movement of atoms in my brain, then, according to the materialist view, this self-awareness has somehow come about only as the result of physical processes.
As there is no intelligent being who planned it all, life only has what meaning we humans choose to give it. Some would give it no meaning. Samuel Beckett's play Breath is a 35-second play that has no human actors. The props are a pile of rubbish on the stage, lit by a light which begins to dim, brightens (but never fully) and then recedes to dimness. There are no words, only a "recorded" cry opening the play, an inhaled breath, an exhaled breath and an identical "recorded" cry closing the play. For Beckett life is such a "breath".
Death is the end of our personal existence - blotto! "Human destiny," Ernest Nagel confesses in Naturalism Reconsidered, "[is] an episode between two oblivions."
Morality and values
Right and wrong are merely what we decide for ourselves as humans, either individually or in groups. Usually it is the majority decision that wins the day.
History has no ultimate purpose. We have to make the most of what we have got. In the end, this planet will certainly burn up or freeze and that will be the end of everything.
Atheism is a relative newcomer to the historical scene in any significant measure, but now appears to be in decline. Statistician David Barrett says that since 1970 the number of atheists has dropped from 4.6% of world population to 3.8% (222 million). He predicts continuing decline.
*For a look at the development of the Big Bang theory, and its implications for Christian beliefs, see my booklet The Complementary Nature of Science and Christianity.