Atheism#4 Losing Hope In Life

20 Oct

Once when Miss Roscoe was in his room, some of his infidel friends came to visit and in a loud, heartless manner said, “Tom Paine, it is said you are turning Christian, but we hope you will die as you have lived.” They then went away. Turning to Miss Roscoe, Paine said, “You see what miserable comforters they are.”

     Once he asked her if she had read any of his writings. She told him that she had begun The Age Of Reason, but it had made her so mad she had thrown it into the fire. “I wish all had done as you,” he said, “for if the Devil ever had any agency in any work, he had it in my writing that book.”

     When going to carry him refreshment, she repeatedly heard him uttering, “Lord! Lord God!” or, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me!” It was observed that during his illness he wrote a great deal. But, as nothing was ever heard of these writings, it was presumed that his infidel associates had destroyed them, finding them not in keeping with his former views. [1]

This article focuses upon a sobering fact – the death of our mortal bodies. Those who reject God are especially affected by death. It is Shakespeare’s Hamlett that offers a good illustration of this dilemma. In mulling over the question “to be or not to be,” the sleep of death is contemplated. “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come … Must give us pause.” Indeed such is true. If there is consciousness (dreams) after death, there is the sobering issue of immortality to answer. And such a possibility is the deathknell of Atheism!

Death is an ironic subject. It is oft thought but seldom discussed. It is called the last enemy, the unknown quantity, the thief of strength and opportunity. Modern technology has opened limitless vistas of knowledge. We can chronicle the beginning of life from the minuscule zygote to the birth of the baby. We can trace life from fetal development to gerontology. But even today we know as much about the moment after death as we have known for centuries!

All who reject Holy Scripture are ignorant about the nether world.  And ignorance spawns fear. It is at death that “atheism meets its nemesis. Any system that does not know the origin of man and cannot give his reason for being, certainly must remain silent of his destiny, or at best, argue for nothingness” [Zacharias, p. 93‑94].

The most frightening aspect of death to the worldling is that at the instant of death we leave everything we have and take everything we are! All the wealth amassed, achievements accumulated, and honors received are worth nothing for “there are no pockets in burial shrouds”!  

Death reveals Atheism’s flaws clearly. Atheism offers no comfort. Bertrund Russell observed, “All the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction … and the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.” Following this dark assessment Russell concluded that humans face only “the firm foundation of unyielding despair” [2]

Who, in rational thinking, wants a life like this?  And yet such is Atheism’s consequence.  Such a worldview leads to a preposterous view of man. This is humorously summarized by Zacharias, “In the end, the atheistic view reduces the botanist from studying daffodils to fertilizing them, the scientist from measuring the ‘big bang’ to becoming  a small fizzle, and the geologist from investigating the geological column to becoming embedded in one of its layers” [p. 95].

There is no greater doom than this fatalistic perspective about earthly life which Atheism invites man to accept.  Consider the stark contrast between life’s hopelessness offered by Atheism and life’s hopefulness offered by belief in Jehovah God.

Questions About Death Which ATHEISM Fails To Answer.

There is a failure to answer the finality of relationships ceasing. 

Nothing threatens life’s dreams, hopes, aspirations, and accomplishments like the death of a dearly loved one. Many grieve themselves to death because death has separated them. Why is the loss of a special relationship so critical to humans? Because humans were created dependent upon bonds of special relationships. Without these special relationships human existence is hollow and void. Genesis 2:18 verifies this fact. In the splendor of Eden’s bliss there was something about man’s existence that was “not good.” He lacked the bond of special relationships. Yet Atheism allows death to reduce this bond to cold extinction!  Atheism cannot explain the void which death causes. Atheism is unable to offer hope for a death severed union. The human heart yearns to meet departed loved ones again. Atheism does not destroy that longing.  Atheism does not silence the question “What about __________?  Where is s/he?”

Atheism fails to answer the apportionment of justice for evil and good. 

Even the atheist pursues justice ‑ his philosophy denies such, but he still pursues it! But Atheism holds no response for the nagging query of how justice can be meted for evil when the wicked is dead. Some atheistic beliefs have tried to resolve this problem by appealing to reincarnation. But such is insufficient. Atheism has no answer for the reign of evil!

Atheism fails to answer the futility of earthly labors.

This predicament is well summed up in Luke 12:20 when God asks the Fool what profit all his labors would be when death took him. According to Atheism all human efforts are ultimately useless! The atheistic position naturally leads one to uphold that all labor to benefit humanity is absurd.  Atheistic concern is purely self‑centered. The atheist advocates humanitarian projects is a hypocrite! Atheism holds no answer to those who ask, “Why should I work, sacrifice self‑pleasure, and aid humanity’s progress?”

Atheism fails to answer the “sense” of eternity which resides within every human heart. 

Honesty forces all to admit a sense of the eternal. We “know” that there is “something” beyond earthly existence. The savages sent their dead prepared for happy hunting. The Norseman set their dead sailing for Valhala to reign among the heros of the past. Even in their ignorance these brutes acknowledged what the “intellectual” atheist cannot accept! Solomon observed that God “has also set eternity in their heart” (Eccl 3:11). No matter how much materialism one finds, s/he is still empty until God is found! Atheism cannot explain this “sense” of the eternal.

Atheism cannot answer how “hope” is abandoned by its worldview. 

Having “killed God” Atheism is left without reason for existence, morality for guidance, meaning for life, and hope during and after life! The loss of hope is cancerous and destroys all possibility for joy in the present. “Hope” is the one indispensable factor essential for meaning in life.

These words of Percy Bysshe Shelly reflect the unanswerable plight of the atheistic philosophy :

        Alas! I have no hope, nor health, Nor peace within nor calm around,

        Nor that content, surpassing wealth, The sage in meditation found,

           And walked with inward glory crowned ‑‑ Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure.

           Others I see whom these surround ‑‑ Smiling they live, and call life pleasure;

        To me that cup has been dealt in another measure -Stanzas Written In Dejection Near Naples, 1818

To all who share P. B. Shelley’s atheistic outlook comes his forlorn hopelessness.

The loss of “hope” in earthly life has drastic consequences. Every endeavor survives because of hope. Without hope all is futile and morbid. Without hope despair strangles and overcomes our vision. It is this hopelessness that has fueled the modern society’s preoccupation with immoral sexuality, drug abuse, terrorism, and crime. Humans seek meaning and purpose in life. But with a society guided by atheistic principles there is no hope. Each heart will struggle to find hope/meaning via some avenue.

Our youth illustrate this desperate grasp. Young people, struggling to find hope, grasp at astrology, witchcraft, shallow sex, and anything else that offers promise of meaning. They live in a society that has rejected God and now they desperately search for something to give meaning to existence! Atheism has abandoned hope for the future. Atheism cannot offer any encouraging vision. It offers only a world  without hope; a fate of oblivion into “unyielding desperation;” a burial beneath the debris of a universe in chaotic ruin. What “reasonable” person desires this philosophy of life?

Questions About Death Which God FULLY Answers.

In dramatic contrast to Atheism’s emptiness are the complete and comforting answers of Jehovah God! Note carefully these answers which leads to hopeful living.

God says that while death severs earthly relationships there is the provision for such separation to be temporary!

At the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, two brothers were wounded at the same time. They were found by a friend, embraced in one another’s arms, talking of home, mother, and their love of God and country. They prayed for each other, for absent friends, and especially for mother. Soon the younger died. The elder, being blind from a wound, knew it not and continued to speak encouraging words to him. Hearing no reply he said, “Poor little Rob’s asleep.” It was his last sleep and in a few minutes more they joined company in that land where the sound of battle will never disturb! (Foster, Vol. 1, page 171). For the believer there is hope of reunion after death!  David spoke of this upon the death of his baby (2 Sa 12:23); Christ spoke of this at Heaven’s great feast (Mt 8:11). Other texts offer hope for separated relationships (cf Lk 20:34‑36; Mt 25:34; Col 1:12; 1 Ths 4:17; Hb 12:23; Rv 5:9).

God says that justice will be meted to both good and evil.

The answer simply says, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man” (Eccl 3:17; cf Eccl 11:9; 12:13,14; Ro 2:5‑9; 1 Co 3:8; Da 7:9,10; 12:2).

God says that all earthly labors have value here and hereafter.

The believer has hope because no effort is futile! Two soldiers were discussing the death of a comrade. “He got his discharge.” “Not quite.” “Well, if not discharged I’d like to know what he is?” “Only transferred.” “Transferred where?” “To the other department.” “What for?” “For duty.” “What duty?” “Don’t know, that depends on what he’s fit for.” (Foster, Vol. 1, p. 173). Believers are “fit for” reward “for their works follow with them” (Rv 14:13b; cf Eccl 3:12,13; 9:10; Mt 10:42; 25:35,36; Col 1:10; Hb 6:10; Rv 22:14).

God says that the “sense” of the eternal is present because there is the presence of an eternal soul within each human being!

The query, “What must I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Mt 19:16b) presses upon all hearts (cf Eccl 12:6,7; 2 Co 5:1). Only God answers this question.

God says that “hope” is reserved and encourages all to obey heaven’s will (Ro 8:24,25).

The “abundant life” can be realized here as well as hereafter (Jn 10:10)!

Concluding Thoughts 

The death factor has tremendous bearing upon the existence or void of “hope.” The fruits of Atheism are tragic – it offers no Mind for one’s origin, no law for morality, no meaning to enhance existence, and no hope to brighten its future. This dark existence is aptly addresses in Ephesians 2:11,12 as those without God are described.

However, faith in God’s existence offers complete victory in life here and hereafter! In this world he that is today the conqueror may tomorrow be the defeated.  Pompey is eclipsed by Caesar, and then he falls at the hands of conspirators; Napoleon conquered nearly all of Europe and was then himself conquered. But the Christian’s conquest of death is absolute. The result is final. The believer has vanquished the last enemy and has no more battles to fight! Let all saints join with Moses and call for our society to choose God and thus choose life! (Dt 30:19‑20). [3]

[1]  Elon Foster, New Cyclopedia Of Prose Illustrations, Vol. 1. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, Co., 1870, p. 174.

[2] Bertrund Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship.” Mysticism And Logic And Other Essays. London: Allen & Unwin, 1963, p.41. 

[3] Sources Used And Suggested For Additional Study

Dr. Robert Gange, Origins And Destiny, chapter 15, “Why does physical reality terminate in man?” Dallas: Word Publishing, 1986..

John L. Kachelman, Jr., Studies In Judges, chapter 4, “An Erring Philosophy,” Quality Publications.

Ravi Zacharias, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face Of Atheism, Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers, Inc., 1990

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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Article


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