What is the challenge? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
As I started this book, Humphrys seemed to write with some kindness. I thought this might be different. It’s confessions of a failed atheist so maybe he would bring forth the best of both sides. As I have gone through this book, and I am still going through it, that is not the case.
The first part before chapter 1 is called the challenge, and it is not one. Right off the bat, we see where Humphrys is coming from.
I’ll tell you what’s easy. Atheism for a start. Anyone with the enquiring mind of a bright child can see that the case made for God by the three great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – is riddled with holes. Christopher Hitchens rumbled God when he was nine – or so he tells us in his book on atheism, God Is Not Great. His teacher, Mrs Watts, had demonstrated to the class how powerful and generous God was by pointing out that he had made the trees and the grass green – exactly the colour that is most restful to our eyes – instead of something ghastly like purple.
So look people, if you don’t see that the case for monotheism is false, then you don’t even have the enquiring mind of a bright child. Unfortunately, Humphrys here doesn’t tell us what these holes are. Later on, he will produce what he thinks is a great stumper for us. Spoiler alert: It isn’t.
But as for the above, Hitchens goes on to say according to Humphrys that he knew that our eyes had become attuned to nature and not the other way around. If this did turn Hitchens into a fierce opponent of religion, then it more demonstrates childishness on the part of Hitchens. As for me, my answer is perhaps a bit of both. Does it really matter?
Humphrys does say that when it comes to the question of why is there something rather than nothing, this is hard question for atheists. Believers have an easy time. God made it all. Of course, this will get to our stumper later, though some of you can probably see where this is going.
I do not argue for intelligent design, but he says that belief in intelligent design is based on faith, hope, and a large dollop of wishful thinking. Evolution is based on reason and science. Whatever one might think about ID, they do at least present what they consider scientific data, and on some level, it is quite respectable, such as the idea of a Goldilocks zone or the anthropic principle. One could even say God intelligent designed through evolution.
In the very next paragraph, Humphrys tells us about how each cell in our body has a nucleus with two sets of the human genome and each genome contains enough information to fill 5,000 books. That’s something that is meant by ID. Does that mean it’s faith and hope with wishful thinking thrown in?
He also says for a believer, that whatever is happening right now is because God willed it and it is good. This might be for an extreme hyper-Calvinist, but I know several theists and I don’t know anyone who would hold to this. Humphrys doesn’t show us any examples either. We can say that all that God wills is good, but that not all that happens is because God directly wills it.
He talks about arguing with a well-known evangelical and asking if he would abandon belief in God if all his arguments were disproven. He said no. He would always believe in God and if it could be proved, it would not be faith. Assuming this account is accurate, I can also say that that is not at all what is meant by faith.
He then talks about the ferocity of the campaign of the enemies of faith, and with this he has in mind the New Atheists. Are they fierce? Yes, but at the same time I recall a neighbor once who had a little teacup poodle that I could hold in my hand easily and that one would turn fierce many times, and be licking my face the next. We all know of little dogs who think they are big dogs. Fierce? Yes, but that does not mean formidable, and the New Atheists are certainly not formidable.
Daniel Dennett, Lewis Wolpert, A. C. Grayling, Sam Smith, Christopher Hitchens, Michel Onfray. They are the masters of many disciplines – you could paper the walls of an aircraft hangar with their degrees and qualifications – admired and envied throughout academia and journalism for their knowledge and intellect. They argue their case, as you would expect, with skill, wit and passion. But ultimately they fail – at least for me.
Wit and passion can be granted, definitely passion. Skill? Not so much.
He goes on to say that it’s hard to not be impressed by the arguments of the atheists. Logic and science are on their side. Well, there you go! If you disagree with them, you are obviously not on the side of logic and science. Never mind that there are plenty of people on the other side who know logic and science as well. Humphrys has accepted his conclusion already.
He goes on to say the good thing about science is that it can be proved. This is simply a false statement. Science cannot be proven. It is inductive. Does this mean we doubt it? No. It cannot be proven any more than it can be proven that George Washington was the first president of the United States. You cannot prove that, but there is not enough evidence anywhere near needed to overturn that.
What is science in one generation can be disproven by the next and should always be open to that. Many of the harder truths we know are not from science. I can easily anticipate that many of our beliefs about diet and health and other such matters could be shown to be false. I cannot anticipate that we will ever find evidence that it is okay to rape someone.
He then says the atheist demands proof while the theist turns to mystery. That might work for your average Christian in the pew, but the Christians I interact with in this field would never say that. Humphrys puts his opponents in the worst light and his allies in the best light.
He also says what the New Atheists have done is like a blitzkrieg and compares it to a boxing match where he wants to say at one point “Enough! Your opponent is down! You can stop hitting him!” You can search this blog for where I have reviewed New Atheist literature. It is not a blitzkrieg. It is barely even a spark.
He then describes how belief in God was going down and then the twentieth century was a real test of faith in a God of peace. Why? Yes, he is right that we killed and maimed each other more than ever before, but seems to ignore that perhaps this is because we did abandon that God of peace and He has no obligation to save us from ourselves. This was not a test for theism. This was a test for atheism, and atheism failed.
One final thing he says is that he doesn’t think people are stupid if they believe in God. No. He just says you don’t have the intellect of an enquiring bright child and you aren’t on the side of logic and science. But hey, you’re not stupid. He has already cut off that branch. Excuse me if I question the fruit he says comes from it.
We will continue next time.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)