The Atheist’s Guide to Worship

Another way to explain my purpose in creating this space is to say that I’m aiming at worship. The chords of truth and love were in the last post, but we may as well explicitly play them together, and that’s what I mean by worship. Maybe this will be clear by looking at its opposite.

I’m reading a book called The Atheist’s Guide to Reality by Alex Rosenberg, a professor of philosophy at Duke University. He’s setting out to provide answers to all of life’s biggest questions based on the foundation that all of life is made of fermions and bosons, thus physics is capable of explaining all of human experience. He calls the belief system he’s outlining Scientism. This paragraph stuck out to me:

Scientism means that we have to be nihilists about the purpose of things in general, about the purpose of biological life in particular, and the purpose of human life as well. In fact, wherever and whenever there is even the slightest appearance of purpose in the universe, the scientist’s task is to figure out natural selection’s sleight of hand…[T]here is still a lot more to learn about Mother Nature’s neat design-mimicking tricks. But we can be certain that natural selection is behind everything that seems to imply purpose, planning, goals, ends, and design. (92)

Because of his worldview, everything falls into place for Rosenberg. Even the things that don’t seem to fall into place most assuredly will because he trusts science won’t betray the belief system he’s built upon it. He takes it on faith that his assumptions are solid, then builds everything else on that faith.

I imagine we’ll spend plenty of time on atheism in the future, so I won’t dwell on trying to deconstruct what’s going on here now, but at its core, I see in this paragraph a man worshiping his god. And he’s doing it well. His “task,” as he calls it, is to draw up all his experiences and offer them to the god of Scientism. And in this way, he would say, he experiences the most of reality. The blinders are continually falling away as each event, each phenomena which seems to be meaningful has its meaning explained away by natural selection. Nevermind the inherent problems in saying that the purpose of a scientist is to see through all purpose–the urge to worship is, for him, stronger than consistency.

Whatever we’ll say later about the object of his worship, his method is right on. His god mocks him by undermining his conclusions in the very same sentence in which he states them, but he’s tracing what he sees in the world back to what he understands to be its source. This tracing is exactly what Christian worship is. It’s ascribing to God his glorious attributes and remembering with thanksgiving his actions in the past and remembering with thanksgiving his promises for the future–then seeking them out once they come about, and repeating the cycle. God seeks people to worship him in this way, in spirit and in truth.

For this reason, mildewed ideas left untested by those sympathetic to them and those antagonistic toward them do not honor God. If I’m meant to be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” to refuse to think through things to their foundations is to refuse to worship.


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