*Posted by Joe Wooddell
This morning I had an interesting conversation with a self-professed atheist that most people would say is kind and considerate. We were talking about presuppositions or attitudes people have, and how those presuppositions or attitudes show up (or not) in our actions. We agreed that it’s one thing to say we believe something, it’s another thing to follow through and act on those professed beliefs. James 2:18 says “show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” The actions show what we really believe. I say I trust God, but then I worry. I say I believe I should be a good steward of God’s blessings, but then I waste money or time. I confessed to the atheist that I don’t always live out what I say I believe, but I’m constantly trying to improve. The atheist said she’s been impressed by religious people actually living out their faith. “It is impressive,” I replied, “but what’s interesting to me is that I typically don’t see atheists live out their views.”
As Dostoyevsky said a century-and-a-half ago, if God doesn’t exist all things are permissible. He’s right, of course. If there’s no God, then there are no immaterial, ethical absolutes. My atheist friend refers to herself as “spiritual,” but we didn’t have time to discuss what that means. Presumably it means something like we’re all part of ‘god,’ or kindness is a virtue, or there’s more to life than what we see. But if all this is true and there’s no personal God different from us, then whatever exists is all part of nature. Nature is all there is. There’s no super-natural, nothing outside the box of nature (to quote Ron Nash). But if nature is all there is (whether that nature is merely physical or also includes the ‘spiritual’), then there’s no significant difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ there’s no compelling reason to prefer one to the other, no way to tell whether ‘the dark side of the force’ is in any sense better than its alternative. So while my friend is impressed by religious people who live out their faith, I am eternally grateful that most atheists don’t live out their views consistently. If they did, there would be no telling what random weirdness and evil I might run into, much more than I currently experience. As it is, most atheists are not living what they say they believe. Thankfully, instead, they are living on residual ethics borrowed from the Judeo-Christian worldview.