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Evangelical atheists

Published:Friday | August 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Peter Espeut

The massive public demonstration on June 29 last against repealing Jamaica's buggery laws has produced the expected backlash against the Jamaican faith community.

On June 28 - the day before the 25,000-strong crowd took to Half-Way Tree Square - gay-rights activist Lloyd D'Aguilar announced the irrelevance and approaching demise of the Church. In a published release titled 'Homosexuality and the death agony of the Church', he wrote: "Now is therefore not the time to flinch in front of clerical irrelevance. God is dead. He seems to have died a long time ago".

Atheists once were happy to be silent, pitying the masses for their futile faith. Now, they have become positively evangelical in spreading their gospel of 'no news'.

Friend Lloyd is not the first to declare that God is dead. More than 130 years ago (in 1882) in a famous book titled The Gay Science, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put these words into the mouth of a madman: "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him."

At the time Nietzsche wrote, shared belief in Christianity, which had been the bedrock of European society and culture, was waning. God had stood alone at the centre of knowledge, meaning and daily life; but science, art, and politics were all moving beyond the religiosity of the past. A cacophony of voices pushed God aside. For many, God was gone entirely.

But far from replacing God, that cacophony of voices merely created a void. They did not unite, and did not offer the same certainty and solace that God once managed to provide. This created not simply a crisis of faith, but also a crisis of culture. Without the rule of God that gave order to society and meaning to life, Nietzsche wrote, society will move into an age of nihilism, plunging the world into chaos. As science, philosophy and politics treated God as irrelevant, humanity would become the measure of all things; but very few seemed prepared to accept the value of that sort of standard.

Rumours of the death of God

The rumours of the death of God proved to be greatly exaggerated, and Nietzsche's predictions of the demise of religion fell short of reality. In the 20th Century, traditional Christianity reinvented itself, and new evangelical and Pentecostal forms have emerged.

But nihilism has finally arrived on our shores, and we have worthy practitioners. On Wednesday, July 30, Gleaner online columnist Keiran King wrote a piece titled: 'There's no deeper meaning to life - deal with it'. Keiran writes:

"The truth is, we are nothing more or less than rearranged stardust, a cosmic hiccup, the arbitrary result of billions of years of evolution, with an assist from a handful of meteors. ... We're here by chance, but not fortune; what we are is fixed, but what we become is not."

Humanity has no more value than dogs or donkeys, and there is no cosmic order, no right or wrong; 'I' becomes the only standard, and what 'I' want now becomes 'right for me'. Life is nothing more than the quest for personal pleasure, wealth and power. How empty it all sounds!

This son of Campion writes: "Despite studies proving that prayer doesn't work, two million of us ask God for guidance." I believe Keiran is being autobiographical here, for one of the first principles of logic and epistemology is that it is impossible to prove a negative.

There are many who lack faith, and that is OK. There is still time. But claiming that some study can prove a negative is blatant ignorance, and leads to the conclusion that Keiran's musings have no solid foundation. Neither science nor philosophy can prove the existence of God (otherwise faith would become redundant); but epistemologically, neither can they disprove God's existence. Keiran takes evangelical atheism into logical impossibility.

And truth is not democratic. I'm sure the gay lobby will agree that truth and validity do not depend on the number of people who support it - or not.

Last Wednesday, The Gleaner treated us to the musings of another nihilist, medical doctor Ethon Lowe:

"Human existence is a result of nothing but randomness and survival of the fittest. There is no meaning, no purpose. We are simply the merging of one egg and one sperm from several hundred million sperms ... .

"Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and atheist, is fond of saying, 'The Universe is entirely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.'

"We are apes that evolved from non-human precursors. We have traces of our physical, psychological, moral and sexual characteristics of lower animals (yes, even homosexuality. Fifteen hundred species of animals are known to practise homosexuality so far)."

So in this campaign to normalise homosexuality, God, religion and the Church must die. Or so the gay lobby would wish.

Peter Espeut is a sociologist, philosopher and theologian. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.