There are times in life when the proverbial card deck of life seems inexorably stacked against any favorable outcome for an individual or a nation. One may successfully mask the pain of personal defeat with a good “poker face,” but that does not ease the impact of the crippling blow or the pain and suffering that comes with the onslaught of dire circumstances. No one in their right mind wants to lose the game. For some, pain avoidance takes precedence over preparing for, or bracing oneself against, the impending impact of tsunami-like difficulties.
Meanwhile others may panic or simply jump off the cliff of conditional surrender, taking their lives into their own hands by seeking a hasty retreat from the planet and the fear of impending doom appearing upon the horizon. They see nothing to live for, perhaps no hope of something greater; but such an assessment may not be a reality. In order to runaway from something unpleasant, it seems prudent to have something more favorable in which to run. If one assumes death is the final exit, where nothingness abounds, that might be preferable—but what if that assumption is completely wrong? What then?
Most folks simply try to make the best of a bad situation by resigning themselves to accept whatever comes. Who knows? Perhaps the shuffling of the deck may bring a better hand, come what may, with the next deal. In any event, we often expect something to happen sooner or later, even if it may seem like nothing ever will. And if we have faith, we hope and we wait, even when we ask God, “Why?”
Yet what is the underlying message of atheism? There is no God and nothing beyond the grave. Dead is dead and there is nothing more. Who can fully accept the fatalistic conclusion of that belief and have any real hope beyond now? By assuming there is nothing beyond this mortal existence, with nothing beyond death to look forward to, one can become positively negative and absolutely skeptical as an atheist. Like concrete weights chained to a swimmer’s wrists and ankles, there is no escaping the downward pull of atheism’s message. And plenty of folks, unfortunately, are foolishly swimming around and drowning in the fetid and troubled waters of atheism, while blissfully ignoring a different and probable outcome.
In being human, we are born into a general environment which holds varying degrees of specific hostility toward our bodies and minds. Potential dangers in nature and society abound, which disrupt our overall well-being: viruses and bacteria seek new hosts, diseases and illnesses spread through interaction with others, poverty and dysfunctional family dynamics hinder development, collisions and accidents may maim, random acts of nature shake our foundations, deliberate acts of violence shock and wound, declared acts of war tap our resources and strength—more and all are tempered by the inevitability of death. Add to that laundry list our emotional and psychological make-up, deficiencies, and handicaps, as well as our tentative relationships with others, the unavoidable, unforeseen, and self-inflicted hardships, personal tragedies, loss, and grief—and we see a general overview of life as most know it on planet Earth. It is amazing that the human race has survived for so long.
What can be said of our human condition? Shall we embrace the mindset of “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die?” Should we engage in revelry and debauchery, while never considering restraint, to our ultimate detriment? Is it possible to live a constructive co-existence with others while embarking upon a destructive course in life? Can one ever be an absolute winner in life by treating everyone else like total losers? Does the evolutionary model of “survival of the fittest” inculcated as a human mindset breed contempt for others? Doesn’t such thinking lead folks to subvert the Golden Rule? Instead of caring for the less fortunate, might the evolutionary model suggest to some that those human beings deemed inferior deserve to be treated accordingly? Why trifle with the weak and unfit? I’ve survived; I’ve got mine. Good for me, too bad for you. After all, it’s survival of the fittest, right?
Why conclude that one merely dies and there is nothing more beyond life? Life is something, not nothing. Life has an origin, but mankind may only speculate upon the mystery of it. For all of its long investment on this planet, somewhere ages ago life had a distinct starting point. But could it have come from nothing? No. Even a scientist cannot begin an empirical experiment without something to examine. And parents know for a certainty that, when their children tell them that they are doing “nothing” after a loud crash has been heard, something happened.
There is a gaping hole in the atheistic assertion of nothingness. If there is any room for doubt about the advent of atheistic nothingness, something will always fill the void and turn the argument on its head. “I don’t see it, therefore it can’t exist,” is a very different mindset from “I can’t say for sure.” Even science contends that life came from a source. We all live in, and come from, something. To conclude both human beings and life itself end in nothing is a bold claim indeed. Yet it eludes the notice of many atheists that abundant and thriving life surrounds them in very apparent something-ness. To conclude that all of this something-ness ends in nothingness leads only to hopelessness.
The conclusion of atheism hinges upon an expectation that nothing exists after life. I have never seen nothing, but I have observed plenty of something around me. That argument is constructed around negative conjecture demanding proof to the contrary. In other words, if you can’t prove God exists, then somehow that means God must not exist. Setting aside for the moment the incredible regenerative presence and nature of life on this planet, one might conclude that any Creator capable of sustaining such presence and nature on a particular planet, might not be amenable to proving His existence repeatedly for the purpose of a created being’s argument that said Creator does not exist.
If everything we see (or cannot see without the aid of something else) around us in life has a source, then life has a source as well (even if the empirical methods of science cannot determine what that source may be.) Whatever comes or becomes of one’s life is not defined by scientific standards, but by exponential belief. As human beings, we place our faith in many things—inventions, traffic signs, teachers, doctors, lawyers, science, constitutions, manufacturers, governments, heroes, warranties, bridges, vows and oaths, and the rule of law—all of which require a strong measure of reliance upon, belief and measured trust in, something beyond ourselves. And yet, have we no room for the probability of a Divine Creator or the possibility of life after death?
Certainly we know through experience that everything we interact with on this planet has a source, even if we cannot see that source directly. In simplest terms, if one chose to thoroughly investigate a bottle of water purchased from a local market, there would be a very complicated and exhaustive chain of custody. From the point of sale with your possession of that bottle of water—working backwards along the lengthy investigative chain—you would discover a sophisticated delivery system with an intricate network of connections along which the bottle traveled before being sold to you at the store.
Looking further still, you might discover the source of the bottle’s manufacture, perhaps a factory somewhere far away that you have never seen. And in that factory, machines were built by people long dead and handled by workers you might never meet. But that investigation would only take you to the source of the manufacture of the container, not necessarily the origin of the water. The water inside the bottle was what you really purchased, not the container.
From a spiritual or theological perspective, your body is merely the container that holds the essence of the person within; the essence of life driving the human body machine. From a scientific perspective, just as when you consumed the water from the bottle purchased at the store, the essence of the swallowed water transformed into something else—but it did not become nothing. So too, from a Christian perspective, the essence of your being now, will someday transform into something else after you leave your earthly container (your body) in this life.
Something is not nothing. Life is something. Christianity contends that life is a gift from God. And that is nothing to take lightly. Life is too short to ignore the obvious. If God has not positively gained your attention with His vast and abundant creation by now, then perhaps your negative disdain and contempt will grant you absolutely nothing from God forever.
Please gamble responsibly with eternity.
(copyright 2013, Gregory Allen Doyle)