Sunday, November 23, 2014

Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian square off on four qualifiers of a Worldview

Discussion and open dialogue are a wonderful aspect of a free society.  To that end, a friend and I have gotten together to address the topic of worldview.  Two worldviews will be examined, the Atheist perspective and the Christian perspective.

What makes up a worldview?  The prompt I suggested was on four central topics, the four qualifiers of a worldview made popular by Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a Christian philosopher and writer.  

The four areas were:
Origin - How does your worldview explain the origins of humanity?
Meaning - How is meaning described within your worldview?
Morality - What is the moral basis of your worldview? 
Destiny - What is the future of your worldview?

A good friend of mine by the name of Jennifer Sternitzky was kind and gracious enough to step out and explain her worldview by these qualifiers, upon my request.  Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Green Bay, with two degrees in Psychology and English.  Jennifer is a feminist and a well read atheist.  We've been friends for several years.

We decided upon approximately 750 words, one page, to describe the four points of worldview in a concise, direct manner.  Enjoy.

The Atheist Perspective:
Jennifer Sternitzky, University of Green Bay

Origin: I believe in evolution, human and social. I believe humans evolved from apes, and apes evolved from…whatever they evolved from. I don’t pretend to understand everything in science or how evolution works, but I don’t believe there is a God (Christian or otherwise) or in any higher power. I believe we are the product of a series of mutations, enabling the ‘fittest’ to survive, though I do not believe humans are the ultimate beings. I believe we are part of a larger ecosystem and no living creature is above the other, though people certainly act like humans are the dominant creature. I suspect that somewhere along the way we’ll find a way to destroy ourselves—maybe even our planet. If we destroy ourselves, I suspect vegetation and animal life will repopulate the earth; whether humans ever re-emerge again, who knows. 

Meaning: Plenty of people tell me that without God there is no meaning to life, and I disagree. Humanity is special, not because God created us all with a special purpose, but because we didn’t have to be. Through a series of mutations, humans evolved into what we are today, proving that we were better fit to navigate the world than previous humanlike primates. Still others ask if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys. And those people clearly don’t know how evolution works. It happens over millions of years, very slowly, mutating and branching off into new species. Other primates were equally good at surviving and so their species was sustained. The same with humans. But I digress. I believe humanity is special because we are sort of ‘happy accidents’; mortality makes it special too. We’re born with a certain, undesignated, amount of time to live and to create our own meaning. We find what means the most to us and strive to create a life around it. Most humans want to help others in some way—be it art, science, philosophy, psychology, civil service, etc. I believe humanity’s purpose is to look out for each other and to love each other and ensure the species’ survival. In the evolutionary sense at least. We find our own reasons to live and to make our difference in the world. 

Morality: I’ve also been told that without God there can be no morals, or that, as an atheist, I must have no morals. And I again disagree. I believe in love, hope, honor, loyalty, honesty, trust, respect, etc. Those things don’t come from God. They come from within and from human interaction. They are not imposed on us by some invisible spirit. To me, if you need God to tell you what’s wrong or right, and you can’t figure it out on your own, then you may be part of the problem. Also, I find that excessively religious people try to pass off their own opinions of morality as God’s will or God’s word or God speaking through them. It seems as if they’re trying to justify their own hatefulness. Also, basing morality off of an ancient text written by superstitious people who had vastly different values (slavery, women as reproductive beings only, myths about how crops appeared or weather changed, etc) seems absurd, as does picking and choosing the parts we agree with and want to practice. Do we still follow the Malleus Maleficarum? Of course not.  Because that’s of a time when people believed different things, superstitious, irrational things. They condemned things out of fear, because they didn’t understand it. I’m a firm believer in “Just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t mean God did it.” 

Destiny: To be honest, I don’t know that I believe in destiny. It’s a nice thought to believe that everything happens for a reason and we all have some special purpose, but that also defeats the idea of free will. It may be comforting to believe that there’s a special plan for each of us, but it’s illogical and superstitious, and doesn’t allow for people to take responsibility for their own lives.

The Christian Perspective:
Justin Steckbauer, Liberty University

Origin: The question of origin has puzzled man kind for centuries.  How did we get here?  Where did we come from?  How did life come to be?  For the Christian, the action and the process by which life came about, the length of years it took, the exact biological functions that brought about the complex human life form are less important than the first cause.  Micro evolution, small changes in species that provide for adaptation, is beyond dispute.  That is something science can measure and observe.  In fact, I love science.  However, macro evolution seems highly speculative, and the processes by which a puddle of amino acids could become a highly complex life form like a human are not observable.  Given chance, matter, and time, a puddle of amino acids will never, ever become a human being.  It is simply impossible, statistically.  For the atheist, the first cause is a vacuum, an unanswered question: Where did energy come from?  For the Christian, the first cause is a loving architect of the universe, a necessary first cause who over 10,000 years or 7 billion years, crafted the universe into existence.

Meaning:  The question of meaning in Christianity is simple: We are children of the loving biologist, chemist, artist, writer, and architect, the designer of the human soul, who we call Father God.  In that context, every human being has value, incredible value, so much that God would come, Jesus Christ, to offer himself as a path of redemption for his wayward people.  In addition meaning, for the Christian, is a stark reality: The Earth is a very troubled place, and the problem is not outside ourselves, but within ourselves, and the only treatment is the indwelling presence of Jesus.  In the context of meaning, we find a treasure trove in the Bible of meaning, and inherent worth. 

Morality: What is the perfect moral code?  Who had it?  What does each moral code look like when put it into practical application?  For atheism, we see Nazi Germany, with Nietzsche's idea of the superman put into practice.  Genocide.  Again in Russia, Stalin a former seminary student turned atheist, what do we find?  The writing of Karl Marx used for the purpose of subjugation.  Genocide.  And what about the Christian worldview?  The most prosperous countries on planet Earth, in contrast: Europe, and the United States.  Now we see in the 21st century as Europe and the United States drift into post-modernism and naturalism, corruption begins to grow like a cancer.  

The teaching of Jesus Christ is the perfection of morality described in powerfully simple terms: Love God and love others, as you love yourself.  Jesus Christ provides the model for a life of humble service to others, that will always bring about the most peaceable and prosperous paradise, when practiced in truth.

Destiny: What future does an atheist have, after 100 years have passed?  After 1000 years have gone by?  The atheist passes out of existence into the natural and biological cycles of the environment.  What future does the Christian have?  Unending life, in community with a loving God and fellow believers who have chosen to fly in the face of everything the world says, and do it the way God says.  Jesus Christ provides the way, he is the road, a personal savior present, willing to show you the hard truth about yourself, and offer a way of total redemption and a future unimaginably wonderful. 

 Thank you for reading.  An open and respectful dialogue is vital to the ongoing discussions and debates between Christians and atheists as we attempt to navigate and make sense of things in a difficult world.  Respect, love, and mutual admiration can go a long way to healing wounds and bringing otherwise diverse groups into reasonable social harmony.  Take care and God bless.   

Related Posts:
Secular Views vs. Christian Truth
The Power of Love in Western Culture
Outlook for a Revived American Christianity
Questions on Salvation and God 
Processing the Past and Being Restored