6 Cracks in a Secular Worldview

When our friends hear the claims of Jesus, they wonder why we’d believe such fantastical things when there is a perfectly rational, coherent view of the world available to us. But if we look at the secular ground on which we supposedly all stand, we’ll realize it’s more like pack ice floating away from land.

 

“You think what I believe is crazy, right?” I said to a Jewish-atheist friend.

His girlfriend kindly intervened, “No, he doesn’t think that!”

“Yes he does,” I said. “I believe that the whole of human history hinges around a first-century Palestinian Jew who died on a cross and was raised from the dead. That’s crazy, right?” My atheist friend agreed. “But the problem is,” I responded, “I think you believe crazy things, too.”

When our friends hear the claims of Jesus, they wonder why we’d believe such fantastical things when there is a perfectly rational, coherent view of the world available to us. But if we look at the secular ground on which we supposedly all stand, we’ll realize it’s more like pack ice floating away from land.

And there are cracks in the ice. Here are six of them.

1. Lack of Foundation for Science and Existence

Belief in a personal Creator God may seem crazy, but it’s the foundation on which science was built. The scientific method was developed by Christians because they believed in a rational Creator who ran the universe according to rational principles. Princeton professor and world-class philosopher of science Hans Halvorson argues that science still rests best on a theistic foundation. Science can explain how the universe came to be, but the scientific method of seeking natural causes for natural phenomena can’t give us a first cause. Atheism struggles to explain why there is a universe at all or why the universe follows rational laws comprehensible to human minds. If the success of science points us anywhere, Halvorson argues, it’s to supernaturalist theism.

2. Lack of Grounding for Human Equality

My secular friends believe that the equal value of all humans is a self-evident truth. But if we embrace the materialist story that humans boil down to their physical parts, why should we be valued equally? Some try to ground equality in science, referencing evolutionary sources for altruism (a field led by Harvard professor and Catholic Martin Nowak). But evolution gives us plenty of evidence in the other direction, and as leading atheist psychologist Steven Pinker observes, examining how human morality emerged is different from the moral project of how humans ought to live.

Others look to ethical frameworks that transcend culture, often citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But the Declaration was penned by a disproportionately Christian committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt—a keen Christian—and is strongly informed by Judeo-Christian values. Indeed, in 1983 the Iranian representative to the UN called it “a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which could not be implemented by Muslims.”

Of course, secular philosophers can and do formulate ethical systems that uphold human equality. We can even observe that equality promotes flourishing. But if the universe is nothing more than what science can measure, we have no ultimate grounding for human value and equality. We’re only atoms, after all.

3. Tension Between Secular Values and Religious Diversity

My secular friends celebrate religious diversity and uphold the rights of religious minorities to practice their faith. This is a beautiful instinct. But what happens when religious beliefs clash with secular values? If we say to our Muslim friends, “We uphold your right to be a Muslim, so long as you embrace equal roles for men and women, the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, and the freedom of your teenagers to experiment sexually,” are we truly upholding their right to practice their faith?

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