Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
— Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
You can’t identify an atheist simply by looking at them and in fact, your group of friends probably includes at least one atheist in their number. Even though belief in some sort of supernatural being is the dominant philosophy in the Western World, atheism still persists. Why? This book specifically addresses these questions, and many more;
- What, precisely, is atheism, and why is it misunderstood so thoroughly?
- Do atheists believe that human beings evolved through blind accident from lifeless matter?
- Can atheists prove that God does NOT exist?
- Does the fact that energy cannot be destroyed lend credibility to a belief in eternal life?
- Without God, can there be a valid system of ethics or an objective “right” and “wrong”?
- What is the meaning of life without God?
- When we die, are we simply dead like dogs?
- Even if you believe that all life evolved from a single cell, how could complex cellular life originate without a Creator?
- Is atheism a totally negative philosophy, leading only to cynicism and despair?
- Was America really founded upon Christian principles by Christian believers?
If you want to better understand the conflict between science and religion, you must read Atheist Universe: Why God Didn’t Have A Thing To Do With It Amazon by David Mills (2003, Xlibris). This deceptively compact book (243 pages, including 35 pages devoted to an introduction, references and an index), is a powerhouse of detailed and useful information that will appeal to all freethinkers, whether they are christian, agnostic or atheist. Mills’ argument is developed logically in clear prose and the book is conveniently formatted so this information is easily and quickly accessed.
Besides this book’s lively and readable style, Mills demonstrates a good understanding of prevailing scientific thought regarding the origins of the universe, a reasonable grasp of our current understanding of the evolutionary process, and a keen awareness of the conflicts between science and religion, particularly between evolutionary biology and christianity.
The book quickly engages the reader by starting with a chapter of pithy quotes by famous people who also happened to be atheists. Mills then quickly moves on to the next chapter, which sets the stage for topics discussed throughout the remainder of the book. This particular chapter is a large and readable essay combined from transcripts from three live radio interviews and presented in a conversational tone.
Now that Mills has his reader’s attention, he then proceeds to tackle in more detail each of the main topics raised in this interview-essay. He begins by providing the scientific definition of scientific “Laws” and “Theories”. For example, he defines Physical Laws as
human descriptions of how the universe consistently behaves .. as based on human observation …
… rather than universal truths, so these laws are therefore subject to revision when new observations warrant (p. 88-89).
Having defined his terminology, Mills then argues that the universe could not be created from nothing at the Big Bang. Instead, he invokes the Laws of Thermodynamics (conservation of mass and energy) to show that the universe always existed in one form or another.
In the next chapter, Mills develops a very insightful and important analysis that he refers to as “The God of the Gaps”. Basically, this argument observes that humans have always created a “God of the Gaps” to fill an intellectual vacuum. For example,
A mother, unaware of the existence of viruses and microorganisms, would ascribe her daughter’s illness to the wrath of God (or perhaps the devil). .. Unaware of biological evolution, medievil man considered the complexity of his own anatomy to be evidence of Divine Creation. The wider the gaps in scientific understanding, the greater the historical need for a miracle-working “God of the Gaps.” (p. 102)
This argument is especially useful with regards to perceived “gaps” in the fossil record because creationists/IDists will always claim gaps in the fossil record regardless of how many missing links and transitional fossils are discovered. This “God of the Gaps” argument appears again and again throughout the remainder of the book.
In this book, Mills also raises a number of interesting Biblical conflicts in an almost casual way including, for example, the observation that the genealogies in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke present detailed but contradictory male lineages for Jesus from Joseph back to King David. According to the Biblical account, Jesus was the result of a virgin birth, without any blood relationship to his father, Joseph, so why wasn’t Jesus’ lineage to King David instead traced through his mother, Mary?
Predictably, I especially enjoyed reading Mills’ chapter entitled Answering Creationist Objections to Evolution. This chapter is lucid and well-developed in a direct question-and-answer approach, and each point is clearly presented. Everyone should read this chapter, if for no other reason than to more clearly understand the sharp differences between science and religion, especially with regards to current ongoing battles over teaching “ID” in science classrooms.
Throughout this book, Mills contrasts the rationality of science with the Bible’s lack of veracity, noting at one point that, as far as accuracy is concerned, “the Bible is a non-prophet organization.” Unlike some books that I have read in this genre, Mills never reconciles science and religion. As an unfortunate result, many religious people will probably throw this book into the trash before finishing it, without thinking deeply about the arguments presented. But I hope that a few of them will come to appreciate Mills’ logic as they come to a clearer understanding of what atheism is and is not, and will realize why atheism is a rational position for anyone to hold.
I highly recommend this insightful little book to everyone who is seeking to understand other ways of thinking and who wish to further define their own personal philosophies, whether they are atheists, agnostics or christians.