Available in paperback or Kindle here (or download the free chapter):
Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist
Cruising for a bruising? You have come to the right book. This delightful read hits the “new” atheists where it hurts. In the first chapter (below) new atheist Christopher Hitchens is sliced and diced and then put through the mincer as his circular and inconsistent thinking is exposed.
Introduction to Modern Atheism 101
BORDERS Book Store – N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, Ill.
In June 2007, I had just returned to the United States after having resided in Jerusalem for the previous fourteen years. Standing in a BORDERS book store was a brand new experience, as this particular icon of corporateAmerica had not yet reached Israel. As I looked around the store for the first time, something rather peculiar began to happen. Despite being an Orthodox Rabbi, I found myself gripped by an irresistible fascination with the seemingly endless parade of atheist manifestos displayed in strategic locations throughout: Books with titles such as The God Delusion, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, The End of Faith, and God: The Failed Hypothesis. I confess! When I saw these titles for the first time I experienced an anticipatory thrill.
The thrill that I felt was similar to the sensation that I imagine a WW I pilot (an era when there still was a sense of chivalry between warring opponents) in his Sopwith Camel biplane might have felt as he engaged a worthy opponent in a dogfight; relishing the opportunity to do battle with a skillful foe, yet brimming with confidence that he would emerge victorious. There are few things I enjoy more than a vigorous and honest battle of intellect versus intellect, worldview versus worldview, idea versus idea. I soon became acclimated to my new surroundings and thoroughly enjoyed the simple pleasure of sitting in a comfortable chair, drinking coffee, and reading and reading.
I have taught Jewish theology and philosophy for nearly 30 years and I lost track long ago of the countless hours I have spent with thousands of students of all ages; teaching, discussing, arguing, debating the existence (or non-existence) of God, spirituality, the ultimate purpose of our lives… From that day in June 2007, until mid-August of the same year, I spent day after day, hour after hour, wading through the combined onslaught of the 21st century’s most popular atheistic ideologues. However, my initial excitement quickly dissipated and finally faded away. To paraphrase the great blues singer B.B. King, “the thrill was gone.”
Was a little bit of intellectual honesty too much to hope for?
I had hoped to find in these manifestos at least a little bit of cutting-edge intellectual searching and honesty. I was sorely disappointed. While Richard Dawkins’ pronouncement in The God Delusion, that “the God of the Old Testament is…petty, unjust, vindictive, bloodthirsty, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal,etc.,” may, for some, have an irreverently bold and strident ring, it is more the proclamation of a stance than it is the outcome of intellectual inquiry. Can an intellectually honest and open minded person ignore the fact that this same deity commands the Israelites not to take revenge or bear a grudge, to view the use of inaccurate weights in business as an abomination, to view all human beings as created in the image of God, to open our hands wide to those in poverty, not to oppress the stranger who lives among us, to leave a portion of every field unharvested for the poor, never go to war against an enemy without first offering peace, that “justice, justice shall your pursue”, to “love your neighbor as yourself”?
Jewish Scripture is the single most influential piece of literature in the history of mankind. Is Dawkins obligated to agree with distinguished historian Paul Johnson who writes in his monumental historical treatise, A History of the Jews, “to them [the Jews and their Scripture], we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person; of the individual conscience and so of personal redemption…of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the moral furniture of the human mind”? Perhaps not; but even if Dawkins has decided to completely reject the biblical worldview, it stands to reason that a slightly more nuanced evaluation would have been in order. It’s clear to me that the chain of venomous one-dimensional invective cited above, offers us much more insight into the inner workings of the soul of Richard Dawkins than it offers us any meaningful insight into understanding the biblical narrative or the concept of the One God who is at the center of it all.
While I have never been particularly impressed by the intellectual firepower brought to bear by skeptics, atheists, and freethinkers in their attacks on belief in God, I have striven to respond seriously to their expressed views. I wish the same could be said for our new breed of militant skeptics. Bombastic titles like God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, (Everything?!), ranting about people who profess religious faith, (“When their beliefs are…common we call them “religious;” otherwise they are…called “mad,” “psychotic,” or “delusional.”), and the rehashing of philosophical parlor tricks like, “Can God create a stone that is too heavy for him to lift?,” do not, in my opinion, contribute to the expansion of our intellectual or spiritual horizons. Perhaps GREENPEACE activists could have been galvanized to stage one of their publicity-stunt protests; after all, entire forests were cut down to print these atheist books. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to reprint Bertrand Russell’s succinct essay, “Why I Am Not Theist,” ** and have been done with it?
It was clear to me that the gauntlet had been thrown down. I resolved on the spot to write a book in response; a book whose essential purpose would be to demonstrate the abject intellectual poverty of atheism and of its modern proponents.
About the title…
When I first mentioned to people the title I had chosen for this book, most were immediately curious from where I had picked the phrase “Nonsense of a High Order” and what was its specific connection to the ideology of atheism. It was a phrase coined by the late Sir Fred Hoyle, distinguished British mathematician, physicist, and astronomer. In an article that appeared in New Scientist, Nov. 1981, Hoyle writes:
“Imagine 10 to the 50th blind persons each with a scrambled Rubik’s cube, and try to conceive of the chance of them all simultaneously arriving at the solved form. You then have the chance of arriving by random shuffling, of just one of the many biopolymers on which life depends. The notion that not only the biopolymers but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.”
It was crystal clear to Hoyle – a world renowned scientist – that for life to emerge from non-life billions of years ago by means of some undirected process in a pre-biotic soup was a scientifically absurd proposition. I will show throughout this book that Hoyle’s pointed characterization of a random, undirected emergence of life as being “nonsense of a high order” applies equally to the rest of atheistic thought.
As a fitting introduction to our subject matter, consider making the acquaintance of one of the high clergy in the modern atheist hierarchy, a British gentleman by the name of Christopher Hitchens.
An Atheist “Sees the light”
Born in 1949 and educated at Baliol College, Oxford – Hitchens is a highly accomplished author and journalist. He has written books on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Henry Kissinger, and Bill Clinton, among others. His columns and articles have appeared in prestigious publications around the world and he is regularly interviewed on radio and television. In 2007 his atheistic magnum opus was published under the title, God is Not Great: HowReligion Poisons Everything. This work was followed swiftly by a compilation entitled, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer.
In a debate with the Rev. Al Sharpton shortly after the publication of God is Not Great, Hitchens recounted to the audience how even as a young boy he “saw the light” of atheism:
” I was nine when I thought I saw through it, when my biology teacher told me that God was so good as to have made vegetation green because it was the color most restful to our eyes. And I thought, Mrs. Watts, this is nonsense…I just knew she’d got everything all wrong.“
As Hitchens grew older he received a fine education and acquired an admirable command of the English language. Nevertheless, I suspect that a careful analysis of his views on such weighty issues as racism, morality, and democracy – considered through the prism of his staunch atheistic worldview – might in fact leave an honest thinker wondering if his intellectual progress in this particular area didn’t stall at the level of a nine year old boy daydreaming during Mrs. Watts’ science class.
On Racism, Morality, & Democracy: The Godless World of Christopher Hitchens
In a September 2007 lecture at Sewanee University in Tennessee peculiarly entitled, “The Moral Necessity of Atheism”, Hitchens expressed his loathing of the “primitive” concept of racism. He resolutely advanced the argument that atheism, with its implicit notion that human beings merely represent another evolutionary branch of the animal kingdom, deals a fatal intellectual blow to racism as a concept:
“Through the DNA we find that in some sense, some of Genesis is vindicated. We are in a way part of an animal creation and we share part of their material in our own make up. I as a mammal never kind of doubted that I had this relationship with ground worms and other creatures. It does make short work of racism. It means racism is no longer something we have to argue with…we may be some distance from being able to completely pronounce its utter defeat, but it’s over as an argument…racism is a primitive, stupid construct made out of literally nothing.”
In other words, if we accept the premise that our existence on the earth is only possible via the magic of Darwinian evolution; if we would remind ourselves, as non-believing paleontologist Stephen J. Gould has put it, that “we are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs,” if we would just reflect on our shared relationship to ground worms, our response would be to join hands and triumphantly break into a chorus of We Shall Overcome.
To be fair, if the atheist/Darwinian view is accurate, we are all brothers in the sense that we are equally related to ground worms. Astonishingly though, Hitchens – blinded by the brilliance of his third grade epiphany – has failed to realize the ultimate emptiness of such a statement.
All men are equal…equal to what?
Through the eyes of the atheist, being related to ground worms does not make all of mankind brothers in the sense that we are all equally valuable. It makes us brothers in the sense that we are equally void of allsignificance. A ground worm is insignificant. There nothing ennobling or inspiring in one’s being related or equated to a ground worm. Thus, the species Homo sapiens is also insignificant. In the atheistic worldview both are nothing more than infinitesimally small specks of “dust in the wind;” random, meaningless collections of molecules and chemicals spinning in space. But why should I bore the reader with my rendition of the atheist view of reality? Let’s let the atheists speak for themselves. Dr. Peter Walker, a space physicist at Rice Universityinforms us that:
“[humans] are carbon based bags of mostly water on a speck of iron-silicate dust revolving around a boring dwarf star in a minor galaxy in an underpopulated local group of galaxies in an unfashionable suburb of a supercluster.”
Similarly, the eminent astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington proclaims, “We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.“ The late astronomer, Carl Sagan, leaves very little to the imagination as far as his viewpoint of mankind’s place in the grand scheme of things, “The very scale of the universe…speaks to us of the inconsequentiality of human events in the cosmic context.“ In the world of the atheist, all life on earth drowns in an ocean of insignificance in relation to the countless billions of galaxies in our universe.
I fervently agree that racism is “stupid.” Other than that, Hitchens and I have nothing in common regarding our views on racism. For the believer, racism is “stupid” because all human beings are created in the image of God; all stand equal before their infinitely powerful Creator. The intrinsic value of a human being derives from his relationship to God and is not predicated on his physical and mental abilities and certainly not the color of his skin. For the atheist, however, racism is “stupid” not because of some noble notion of the brotherhood of all men, but because of the absolute insignificance of all men, no matter what their race or color. The distinguished evolutionary biologist George Gaylord Simpson has informed us that “Man is the result of a purposeless [evolutionary]…process.” H.L. Mencken put it a little more bluntly: Man is a “sick fly” spinning around in space on a “dizzy ride” to nowhere.
In the atheistic universe of Hitchens and his cohorts, man’s life is insignificant and his death is insignificant. His words and thoughts are insignificant and his endless collection of ideologies is insignificant. Not only is the skin color and racial type of a “sick fly” purposelessly “revolving around a boring dwarf star” not worth a moment’s thought, nothing about his existence is worth a moment’s thought.
The world according to Hitchens: Racism = “stupid”, American Democracy = “stupider”
Despite the undeniable non-value of human existence in the atheistic view of reality, Hitchens stubbornly persists in his puffed-up role as a noble man of reason by expressing not only his distaste for racism, but his enthusiastic support of democratic principles. In the same lecture at Sewanee University, Hitchens proclaimed his admiration for American democracy:
“The American Revolution is the only one still standing…the only one that has any merit or virtue left in it, and I think this confers upon us a certain responsibility…[It] should be a great deal better appreciated than it is, and a great deal more cherished, and a great deal more firmly upheld at home as well.”
Not surprisingly, he ignores a very inconvenient truth. If racism is “stupid” for the reasons that he advances, then the ideology of democracy must be even “stupider.” American Democracy is built on the premise (as stated in the Declaration of Independence) that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This makes perfect sense to me because I believe that all men are created in the image of God, and all men stand equal before their infinite Creator.
What would be the intellectually honest reaction of an atheist to this statement in the Declaration of Independence? Not only are men not created equal, they are not created at all. We are only here because, “one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs.” Not only are men not endowed with unalienable rights, there is no creator to endow them with any inherent rights whatsoever. In Darwinian terms, as described above, we are a kind of glorified tuna fish. What inherent rights does a tuna have? (The right to be picked by Star Kist?)
In his introduction to The Portable Atheist, Hitchens declares, “I am writing these words on July 4, 2007, the anniversary of the proclamation of the world’s first secular republic.” It is unmistakably clear from the Declaration of Independence itself that this statement is an outright lie. No one has ever stated the obvious truth about American Democracy with more crystal clear and penetrating incisiveness than the great writer and thinker, G.K. Chesterton:
“The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right, for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the Divine origin of man.” (Chapter 19, What I Saw in America, 1922)
To the atheist, the idea that all men are equal is clearly nonsense of a high order. In what way are they equal? Some are brilliantly intelligent and some are amazingly stupid. Some are highly competent and talented, some are completely inept. Some are robust and powerful, some are sickly and weak. Some are clearly born to lead and some seem born to follow. Most significantly, some are “fit to survive” and some are not so “fit to survive.” Thus, a perfectly sensible atheistic ideology would be the one that was advocated by such atheists as George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Havelock Ellis; that the sickly, the mentally ill, and deformed babies should be put to death so they don’t contaminate society with their inferior genes. (It is worth noting that they advocated murdering human misfits regardless of race and skin color, conclusive evidence for Hitchens’ assertion that atheism “makes short work of racism.”) To be fair, G.B. Shaw did say that they must be put to death “in a decent human way.”This will be discussed at length in a later chapter.
Prominent atheists proclaim: Life has no value and no meaning
One of the more egregious intellectual blunders of atheists like Hitchens is to espouse noble ideals (like democracy and equality) that only make sense if a transcendent God/Creator exists, and when no one is looking simply drop him out of the picture. They then hope nobody notices (including themselves) that removing God from the equation effectively destroys any possible rational foundation for the very ideal they are promoting. If Christopher Hitchens wants to assign a higher value to the upright walking primate called homo sapiens or to some particular dreamed-up ideology, he should at least display some intellectual courage and integrity (the reader is urged not to hold his or her breath while waiting for this to happen) and admit that from the viewpoint of the atheist it is an artificial construct “made out of literally nothing” that has no objective reality. In a letter to Marie Bonaparte in 1937, Sigmund Freud wrote,
Freud’s conclusions are echoed by another atheist, the Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Steven Weinberg: “The more we know of the cosmos, the more meaningless it appears.“ Professor Will Provine of Cornell University explains that atheism inescapably leads to the conclusion that, “There is no hope whatsoever of there being any deep meaning in human life…you’re here today and you’re gone tomorrow and that’s all there is to it.” If Freud, Weinberg, and Provine can state this simple, obvious truth that is part of the atheistic world view, why can’t Hitchens? As a matter of fact, he does. Later on in the same lecture Hitchens responds to a question from someone in the audience as follows:
“The question for me would rather be, this being the case, [that there is no purposeful creation], then why care, why do I bother? That’s a very good question. It also doesn’t have a conclusive answer.“
REALITY CHECK PLEASE
A successful and ostensibly intelligent author is lecturing to a group of students at a respected liberal arts university:
- He informs the audience that implicit in his worldview is the fact that in objective reality life has no meaning, purpose, or value. He has no answer to the questions: Why care? Why bother? (confirmed by Freud, Weinberg, and Provine).
- He finds inspiration for humanity in the fact that we are all related to ground worms.
- An inescapable implication of his atheistic worldview is that the two diametrically opposed ideologies of racism and democracy (and everything in between), are equally insignificant, “stupid”, and “made out of literally nothing” artificial constructs.
- The title of the lecture is “The Moral Necessity of Atheism”
- What’s wrong with this picture? Funny, the last time I looked, a meaningless existence, life having no objective value, being on the same qualitative level as an insect, and conjuring up ideologies from my imagination, were not on my list of things that created “The Moral Necessity” of anything at all.
The Real Deal of Atheism
If Hitchens had presented an honest and candid articulation of his world outlook as an atheist, it would have gone something like this:
MY FELLOW GROUND WORMS:
It is important for you to know that religion poisons everything! Imagine how beautiful life would be if only we would stop trying to treat our fellow man like he was created in the image of God, stop treating him as if the Creator endowed him with unalienable rights, stop pretending that all men stand equal before their Creator, and start treating him like a purposeless carbon based bag of water revolving around a boring dwarf star, like bits of stellar matter gone wrong, like a sick fly, like the ground worm that he is, like a tuna fish that sprouted legs…
Remember, it is religion that poisons everything! The only thing religious people do is to go around killing each other in the name of God. I ask you honestly, does any rational, logical, skeptical, atheistic, scientific minded person really think it’s necessary to believe in God if you want to go around killing people? Of course not! Don’t let those fanatics brainwash you. Stalin** and Pol-Pot murdered millions and I am proud to remind you that they were fellow atheists. Anything those religious people do, we can do much, much better.
Let’s be totally honest. As an atheist I assert that Adolf Hitler’s racist notion that the Aryan race is superior to all other races is a “stupid” construct “made out of literally nothing.” By the same token, Thomas Paine’s idea that all men are created equal is also a “stupid” construct “made out of literally nothing.” There is, however, an important difference between the two…Thomas Paine did not have that silly moustache.
On second thought, since as a result of Darwinian evolution species evolve to higher and higher levels of sophistication and intelligence, it actually is quite possible that one particular race, say for example the Aryan race, through the process of natural selection actually did evolve to a superior level and some of the other races actually are inferior. In other words, just like some types of monkeys and primates are smarter than others…..oops, better not go there, that line of reasoning could really get me in trouble…
In the final analysis I really don’t know what difference it makes anyway, since I have no conclusive reason to care one way or the other. However, please keep in mind that all of us atheists, including myself, Dr. Sigmund Freud, Dr. Steven Weinberg, Dr. Will Provine, etc., assert that there is no objective purpose or value to human life, and the universe is meaningless and pointless. This of course means there is no real point in me speaking to you, or for you to listen to me for that matter…which makes me wonder…why exactly do I keep speaking anyhow?…But even more important, why do you keep listening? The main thing to remember is this: Although I haven’t the faintest idea why, all these things are necessary for morality!
What causes atheists to advance ideas that are senseless?
The issue is certainly not lack of intelligence. Steven Weinberg and Will Provine are, to say the least, quite intelligent. When Christopher Hitchens discusses world politics, history, or literature he might very well make some astute observations (I hope that does not go to his head).
What then does lead the atheist to say things that can only be described as “nonsense of a high order?” As I will point out, the doctrine of atheism is so devoid of reason and logical consistency that in order to remain a non-believer the atheist must consistently disconnect from and ignore or distort certain obvious truths and realities. I call this phenomenon the “atheistic disconnect,” and I will point out numerous examples of it throughout this book. I admit that atheists are not the only ones who disconnect from certain truths and realities in order to maintain a belief in a particular world view; in all fairness they would most certainly accuse me of doing the same thing. In the final analysis though, I leave it to the reader to carefully weigh the evidence and make his or her own decision about this most crucial and fundamental of issues. However, before we go any further, it is imperative when dealing with a subject matter such as ours to set out some basic philosophical underpinnings and conceptual paradigms for our discussion. I call these…The Ground Rules.
** This was printed as an excerpt from Russell’s book, Why I Am Not a Christian.
**Joseph Stalin, tyrannical dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924-1953. Pol-Pot, Prime Minister of Kampuchea (Communist Cambodia) from 1976-1979.
Available in paperback or Kindle here (or download the free chapter):
Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist