Christian apologist claims God exists because the cosmos has the exact mass it needs to exist. Huh?
Conservative Christian writer Eric Metaxas’ self-serving exercise in apologetics—Is Atheism Dead? (2021)—begins with this florid flourish of biblical triumphalism in his introduction:
“We are living in unprecedentedly exciting times. But most of us don’t know it yet. That’s essentially the point of this book, to share the news that what many people have dreamt of—and others have believed could never happen—has happened, or at any rate is happening this very minute and has been happening for some time. By this I mean the emergence of inescapably compelling evidence for God’s existence.”
Wow. Science, he insists, has undeniably proven that an invisible, omnipotent divinity exists who created and now orchestrates every actuality in the universe, including us. The debate is over. Game, set, match.
Except … it isn’t.
The problem with “Is Atheism Dead?”
The problem with Is Atheism Dead? is not the objective rigor of its reporting on scientific facts, of which much is fascinating and even surprising. The problem is the subjective and unsubstantiated conclusion he arrives at in synthesizing all of it: God exists.
Metaxas expansively and successfully shows that the natural universe is indeed amazing and awe-inspiring but, alas, not that all its wonder and spectacularness proves anything other than what it naturally is.
His is a version of the hoary “Watchmaker’s Analogy” long used by believers in arguing for existent divinity. It goes something like this: If you come upon a wristwatch lying on the ground, you immediately know it is man-made, a creation of intelligence.
To be sure, the precision technology in watches, particularly complex analog ones, is truly astonishing. But rather than imply divinity, a watch—or any manmade technology—explicitly reveals human intelligence and inventive creative capacity.
Metaxas, however, is all in with the watchmaker ethos, writing on his book’s Amazon page,
“God who has made us in his image has created all of creation to point us to himself in every conceivable way. We are not incidental to what he has done. We are central to it. Which makes us see that his love for us is so impossibly and unimaginably great that it really is infinitely to much for us to bear. If he did not shield us from it in some way, it would really and truly undo us. It would destroy us.”
In other words, if God appears not to exist in the real world, it’s not because He doesn’t exist. Oh, no. It’s because He so doesn’t want to burden human beings with the truth that He makes His existence wholly and purposefully inaccessible to any objective investigation.
Well, of course. Not.
Popularity doesn’t equal truth
In fact, if you’re a nontheistic sort of person, God’s nonexistence makes way more sense in the real world than its opposite.
Not to Metaxas, a Yale English grad, popular conservative radio host, and multi-book New York Times bestseller. The vast popularity of his books and other media products proves that the slavish gullibility of many Christians to purveyors of exactly what they want to hear is far greater than their desire to learn rational truths that challenge their preconceptions.
A Publishers Weekly review of Is Atheism Dead? is dismissive, advising that readers searching for “an evenhanded treatment of the complex philosophical issues involved in echoing the existence of God” should “look elsewhere.”
“Metaxas’s argument boils down to three components: the ‘fine tuning’ theory (a glorified rehashing of intelligent design), archaeological facts as proof of the Christian Bible, and a consideration of what he believes to be the failings of atheism as a whole,” the Publishers Weekly reviewer explained.
“Metaxas does employ the proper awe at some of the scientific facts pointing to the existence of a God—namely the stunning fact that if it the universe were lighter or denser by the mass of a single dime, life on Earth (as we know it) wouldn’t be possible. However, there is an unfortunate righteousness in Metaxas’s approach which undercuts the strength of his arguments. … Even while posing a piquant question that yields abstract and profound answers, Metaxas is unable to get out of his own way.”
And his “own way” is “the way, the truth, and the light” of Jesus Christ, as proclaimed by the apostle John in Christian scripture, not the way of empirical science and common sense.
“Inescapably compelling evidence”
He insists that what he views as “inescapably compelling evidence for God’s existence” has been “accelerating” over decades.
“But we are generally still stuck in the secular narrative that reached its apogee in the 1966 Time magazine cover article with the infamous headline, ‘Is God Dead?’ That was essentially the high-water mark for evidence that God had never existed, and as a result of that cultural moment, most of us have carried on with that idea ever since. We have likely heard little to disprove it and have mostly assumed the question was settled.”
No matter. Metaxas aims to change the paradigm back again from secular doubt to unquestioning Christian devotion.
He believes belief is self-evident because of what science has revealed, not despite it.
“[B]ecause of scientific advances, we can look more closely at the nature of things and can see more clearly than ever that things in our universe and on this earth could not have emerged by chance, as we once so easily believed,” Metaxas writes in Is Atheism Dead?
Nonetheless, it’s still true that the crux of biological evolution is chance—the random (accidental, if you will) mutation of genes that, if beneficial to survival, perpetuate.
God “works in mysterious ways”
Of course, when believers are confronted with these kinds of paradoxes—random actualities of nature and in the divine’s supposedly all-purposeful cosmic project—they just use the default fall-back: God works in mysterious ways, don’t ya know, and we inferior beings can hardly be expected to understand ethereal machinations.
Game, set, match.
Except … it isn’t. In the real world, paradoxes and even run-of-the-mill logical inconsistencies tell us something. They tell us that something is wrong. That we are very likely, perhaps “inescapably,” mistaken.
Returning to science as the debate-ender regarding a supernatural realm, Metaxas wrote that the discipline has “matured to the point that,”
“[A]lmost every month someone uncovers another small or large piece to add to the jigsaw picture of the Bible as an historically accurate guidebook to the past. … Taken together, these things make it impossible for any serious person to continue to regard the Bible as a collection of folktales.”
Like the tale of 6,000-year-old Earth, or the one about the sun halting in its daily path across the sky?
Well, I think of myself as a serious person, and I’m convinced scripture is mainly fiction threaded through a quasi-historical framework. For instance, science has confirmed that our planet is actually more than 4 billion years old and that if the sun had halted in the ancient sky, we wouldn’t be here today.
Of course, what do I know?
Is Atheism Dead? has sat anchored for weeks and weeks atop the best-seller ranks in Amazon’s “Atheism” book category. Clearly, a lot of folks are interested in Metaxas’ dreamy take on reality.
Which, in its own way, is as alarming as the tens of millions of devout acolytes of twice-impeached, thrice-divorced, and now electorally defeated former U.S. President Donald Trump, who peddles similar charismatic inventions with great success to the masses.
Seems we’re simultaneously facing religious and political crises in America, because people appear to so emotionally prefer fantasy over the reality that they simply ignore the latter.
Which, of course, doesn’t prove any of it true.
So it should probably be no surprise that YouTube banned Metaxas’ radio show channel in 2021 for violating its community standards regarding “medical misinformation and presidential election integrity.” Metaxas oddly decried the standards as “Marxist” and “creepy.”
Yet, he remains a best-selling author and much-sought-after speaker and talk-show guest. Go figure.