“There is a God: How to Respond to Atheism in the Last Days”

Atheism and secularism threatens Latter-day Saints

Robert D. Hales observed, “We live when the darkness of secularism is deepening around us.  Belief in God is widely questioned, and even attacked in the name of political, social and even religious causes.” (“Seeking to Know God,” Ensign, Nov. 2009)

LDS Professor Hyrum Lewis declared: “Atheism has been on the rise in America… [T]he culture has become increasingly secular, and religious affiliation has declined among the population.  Unfortunately, Latter-day Saints haven’t been immune to this trend.  Many Mormons have concluded that God doesn’t exist and have left the Church ….” (“There is a God,” p. v)

Sadly, most of us know Latter-day Saints who now claim to be atheists. Dr. Lewis’s book, “There is a God: How to Respond to Atheism in the Last Days,” is a well-reasoned, well-written response. The book describes how LDS scriptures and doctrine answer the most difficult questions posed by atheists.

Dr. Hyrum Lewis is a professor of history at BYU-Idaho.  He is also a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) in history and philosophy.

The philosophy of materialist empiricism

Professor Lewis explains, “Underlying the New Atheism of today is the philosophy of materialist-empiricism.  The “materialist” part … says that only matter exists.  The “empiricism” part says that … only sensory experience can provide knowledge, i.e. ‘seeing is believing.’” (p. x)

In this philosophy God does not exist.  Likewise, “spirit,” “mind,” “free will,” “agency” do not exist either.

A world without free will/agency

For example, if there I no free will/agency, then we are not accountable for our conduct.  Our actions are merely the direct predictable response to stimuli.  We don’t deserve any credit or blame

Religion is essential for morality and well-being

Dr. Lewis argues that religion is central to morality and well-being. For example, the four icons of atheism, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx gave us Hitler, Stalin,  Mao, and Pol Pot.

The “war” between science and religion is exaggerated

Lewis explains that the “war” between science and religion is greatly exaggerated.  The data shows, “There are more scientists per capita among Mormons than any other religion, and religiosity among Latter-day Saints increases with science education while, in most other faiths, it declines. Mormons accept both science and religion and realize that, properly understood, there is no contradiction between the two.” (p. 92-93)

The problem of evil and suffering
Adversity is essential to our learning, experience and eternal growth

The most difficult philosophical and theological question is: “If God is all powerful, why is there evil and suffering?” Professor Lewis demonstrates that trials are crucial to our eternal growth.  Adversity is integral to our learning and experience.    

He uses the analogy of the professor and the final exam.  The professor could alleviate the students’ stress (suffering) by giving them the answers.  But without the “intense effort (even pain) in preparing for the test,” “there can be no learning, no intellectual accomplishment, and no joy in the achievement of a high grade.” (p. 6)

As the Lord taught Joseph Smith, struggles will give us experience and will be ultimately be for our own good.  We learn by our own experience the difference between good and evil.

Professor Lewis uses the analogy of vaccinating our children against disease.  Wise parents intentionally inflict the pain of inoculation on their children to prevent more serious problems in the future.

Dr. Lewis argues that God is “bound” by His own nature and universal law.  He is also “limited” by His respect for our free will/agency. And, our mistakes often cause ourselves and others to suffer.

Korihor made the same arguments as modern atheists

Professor Lewis observed that the modern attacks on God and religion are nothing new.  They are the same four arguments made by Korihor in the Book of Mormon.

First, Korihor argued, “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see.” (Al. 30:15) “Every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore, every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength.” (Al 30:17) These are the Darwinian arguments for materialist empiricism and survival of the fittest.

Second, Korihor insisted that faith and religion “is the effect of a frenzied [and deranged] mind.” This is the Freudian argument.

Third, Korihor asserted that “whatsoever a man did not was crime.” This is the philosophy of Nietzsche.

Fourth, Korihor claimed that religion and the belief in God were used by the ruling upper class to “usurp power and authority over them [the poor working class], to keep them in ignorance … and brought down.”  This is the theme of Marx.

Alma’s response to Korihor is still valid today

Prophet Alma gave a profound response that is still valid today.

 “Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when he have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” (Al. 30: 44)

The “signs” of the existence of God are the:

  • Testimony of the millions of believers
  • Testimony of ancient and modern prophets
  • Testimony of ancient and modern scriptures
  • Miracles of creation and nature

Atheists believe that truth comes only through our senses. “Seeing is believing.” Since we cannot see God, He does not exist.

Professor Lewis responds that most of the matter in the universe, 85%, is “dark matter.” Dark matter is an unknown form of matter that cannot be seen or observed. Yet, scientists have “faith” that it exists.

Likewise, the greatest source of energy in the universe, the force that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate, is “dark matter.”  This is an unknown form of energy that cannot be seen or observed. Yet, scientists have “faith” that it exists. 

The scientists may argue, “But we can observe the effects of dark matter and dark energy.” Similarly, we can observe the effects of God and His love.

Read the book; you will be glad you did.

This short (162 pages), inexpensive ($10.99), paper back is a must read. It uses logic and reason, combined with LDS doctrine, to answer the most difficult questions of the atheists. I highly recommend it.

(A word of caution. The book is not lite reading for the casual reader. It is not entertaining science fiction or romance. The target audience is primarily LDS adults who have serious questions about the existence of God. It is written at a college level. College students or graduates, thinkers, or philosophy fans will appreciated this book the most.)

(Other articles at: londonedition.home.blog or http://www.londonedition.net)

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