Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Naturalism's Legacy

Last month Jesse Kilgore (pictured at right) walked into the woods near his New York home and killed himself. The 22-year old was attending college after a stint in the military and, according to his father, was prompted to read Richard Dawkins', The God Delusion by one of his professors. I have addressed Dawkins' book here before (and intend to do so again) but I bring this sad story up for three reasons directly related to the purpose of TrueHorizon and my invovlvement in the apologetics.

First, Jesse's dad has reportedly blamed his son's death on Dawkins, his book, and the college professor who challenged Jesse to read it. While I could never hope to understand the shock and trauma with which Jesse's dad is dealing, it seems unfair to blame the author of a book for any actions taken by someone who reads his work. So, while I can't blame Richard Dawkins for this tragedy, the story brings a relevant reality to light. College professors have an inordinate amount of influence over our children after they leave our homes. These people weild authority based on their position and their opinions carry the weight of academia behind every pronouncement they make. In this case, some reports claim that the professor in question regularly taunted Jesse or anyone else who shared his religious views. His challenge to Jesse to read The God Delusion was just a part of his personal atheistic evangelizing program.

While the fact that a professor can act like this is disgusting, the truth is that this kind of scene is far too common. Our kids need to be prepared to deal with it. It is directly attributable to The 75% Problem that CrossExamined.org is attempting to address.

Second, the fact that Jesse Kilgore was taken aback and his faith was shattered by Dawkins' book is sad -- but it was also completely avoidable. Listen to his relative's description of the impact the book had on Jesse:
"He mentioned the book he had been reading 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins and how it along with the science classes he had take[n] had eroded his faith. Jesse was always great about defending his beliefs, but somehow, the professors and the book had presented him information that he found to be irrefutable. He had not talked … about it because he was afraid of how you might react. ... and that he knew most of your defenses of Christianity because he himself used them often. Maybe he had used them against his professors and had the ideas shot down.
Listen, the arguments Dawkins uses in The God Delusion are weak and, in some cases, completely juvenile. As a scientist Dawkins speaks with an air of superiority based on his credentials but even a cursory analysis of his scientific claims renders them impotent. Ironically however, Dawkins book contains very little science! Instead it is loaded with presuppositions posing as arguments and philosophical assertions that disintegrate under scrutiny. Even if we grant that Dawkins is a brilliant scientist, his lack of credentials as a philosopher are blatantly obvious in the disjointed and unconvincing "arguments" he thinks he makes. It saddens me deeply that no one was able to point these deficiencies out to Jesse Kilgore.

Finally, this story exposes the complete emptiness of naturalism. Jesse's father was of the opinion that his son was well-grounded in Christian thought, but one of Jesse's relatives paints a different picture:
"He was pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong," the relative wrote. "I remember him telling me that he thought that murder wasn't wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences - that was all there was - just social consequences."
Here we see where atheism leads. Though atheists can be good, moral people, they have no way to explain the foundation of that goodness or morality. Whether they realize it or not, to act morally is to borrow from the theism they claim to reject. Sadly, not all of them are content with that fact and eventually come to realize that their worldview is vacuous in its ability to explain things like right and wrong, good and evil, pointless and meaningful. In a materialistic world where atoms banging into one another is the full explanation of reality, there cannot be things such as these. At some point the atheist either chooses to live with this dichotomy and ignore it, or is faced with the reality that his worldview renders his life meangingless.

Sadly, the consequences of the second choice can be eternally significant.

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