Three Atheists I Listen To
January 5, 2014 Leave a comment
Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ and an heir of the King and a fellow servant in the Kingdom of God began when I first believed that God existed. What followed was the understanding that God not only existed but that He is an Infinite-Personal God who, though having created the vast universe ex nihilo using the Big Bang and evolution, loves me.
Beyond my own personal encounters with God through my reason and through the testimony of others, there are the historical facts supporting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is also astounding supporting evidence in nature. God exists.
But there are some who say otherwise: “Atheism exists, this I know, for my reason tells me so.” These would be the angry atheists Richard Dawkins, the former Christopher Hitchens (Hitch) and others.
I have at one time or another heard these atheists give their arguments of disbelief and I have found their words wanting for any real substance. They often come across as superior and snobbish. And, their arguments are certainly unfettered by the factual account of the resurrection or of the fine tuning of the universe that makes life and thought and argument possible at all. Their anger exists.
There are three atheists I pay attention to. I tune in to them because what they often say through words or music reveals the truth about God in a way they may not even realize. The three atheists are Thomas Sowell, Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and Frederick Delius
“…writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing.”
Sowell is an economist, a common sense economist. You will get that sense as you read his books and articles. Of late, I have read The Thomas Sowell Reader (start with this book for short articles addressing current issues both economic and social) and A Conflict of Visions.
The Thomas Sowell Reader, a compilation of articles and essays written by Thomas Sowell, economist:
“From an early age, I have been convinced with trying to understand the social problems that abound in any society. First and foremost, this was an attempt to try to grasp some explanation of the puzzling and disturbing things going on around me. This was all for my own personal clarification, since I neither had political ambitions nor the political talents required for either elective or appointed office. But, one having achieved some sense of understanding of particular issues ~ a process that sometimes took years – I wanted to share that understanding with others. That is the reason for the things that appear in this book.”
A Conflict of Visions, also written by Thomas Sowell:
“What are the underlying assumptions behind the very different ideological visions of the world being contested in modern times? The purpose here will not be to determine which of these visions is more valid but rather to reveal the inherent logic behind each of these sets of views and the ramifications of the assumptions which lead not only to different conclusions on particular issues but also to wholly different meanings to such fundamental words as “justice,” “equality,” and “power.”
A sample article by Thomas Sowell: The Fallacy of Redistribution
Regarding Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and some of his recurring themes from books and articles note the following from his Wikipedia entry. I confirm these themes having read his book Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass:
-The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries ~ criminality, domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families ~ is the nihilistic, decadent, and/or self-destructive behavior of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behavior, and the lexicalization of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behavior, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently. (Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass)
-Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience. (‘The Uses of Metaphysical Skepticism’, in: In Praise of Prejudice. The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas, p. 6 (chapter 2).
-The decline of civilized behavior ~ self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment – ruins social and personal life. (Not with a Bang but a Whimper)
-The root cause of our contemporary cultural poverty is intellectual dishonesty. First, the intellectuals (more specifically, left-wing ones) have destroyed the foundation of culture, and second, they refuse to acknowledge it by resorting to the caves of political correctness.
Lastly, Frederick Delius. I don’t recall when I first heard his compositions. It may have been in my thirties at a Chicago Symphony concert. The first piece I remember is the symphonic poem The Song Of Summer. I was overwhelmed by its simple beauty.
From The Delius Collection, Vol. 2 CD liner notes:
“Many have written of Delius’ ‘moods’ or ‘feelings’, views which reflect only the ‘impression’ his music has made on the writers (read music critics).
Such Romantic or rather Impressionistic ~ notions of his art are only concerned with its surface appeal, as if that is all that is valuable in it, and ignore wholly his unique technical and structural mastery. In such ways, Delius is more of an anti-Romantic, for the sentimentality or self-projection of Romanticism are alien to his music. Delius hymned Nature, not himself as did Sebelius; such sentimentality as may condemn his art stems from a performing style wherein expressive beauty is stressed at the cost of his music’s intellectual power.” Robert Matthew-Walker
For starters I would recommend listening to Irmelin Prelude, Song of Summer, A Late Lark, the orchestral interlude A Walk to Paradise Garden from his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.
An avowed atheist, Delius embraced nature for his inspiration. He also embraced Nietzsche’s philosophy which produced Delius’ loud and unattractive A Mass of Life.
“A Mass of Life is an attack upon Christian doctrine and the Christian way of life as Nietzsche and Delius saw it. They both wanted to correct what they called the “slave morality” of Christianity. Their great emphasis was upon the will, not bowing to anyone, and living and dying fearlessly though death be total extinction.
Death, when it came to Delius, was terrible, and within a few months his steadfast wife was dead too.
In speaking about Delius, Eric Fenby (Delius’ composition scribe after Delius became blind) observes, “Given those great natural musical gifts and that nature of his, so full of feeling, and which at its finest inclined to that exalted end of man which is contemplation, there is no knowing to what sublime heights he would have risen had he chosen to look upwards to God instead of downward to man!” From the Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson, Crossway Books
What the first two atheists have in common is their ability to speak truth, wisdom and common sense ~ God’s law within each of us – simply. As Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate of physics said, “You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity.”
Both men, from their lifetime of experiences, have seen reality and tell us that there are values that a man must embrace to be civilized, to be ‘right side up’, so to speak. They tell us that Man must draw the line somewhere.
Now, I believe that it is the God of Creation who has created the line ~ the natural law written on our hearts ~ and He has exposed our crossing it. But, He did not leave us on our own, to remake ourselves as Nietzsche’s ideal human, the Übermensch, who would be able to channel passions creatively (but to what end?). He gave us the only way possible, through His Son, to regain our humanity.
Frederick Delius revealed truth through his music’s contemplative moments of rhapsodic beauty as inspired by God’s creation.
All three have seen things (even the eventually blind Delius) that others often willfully ignore. They are honest with themselves about what they see and they repeat it back. And, there is knowledge of reality in their words and works that can only find its genesis in God’s created order and His law written on our hearts.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11