The Bad Story that is Atheism

images-1We all love a good story. They awaken our longings for drama and connect us to a deeper reality that is true. Right? Wrong, according to the atheist philosopher Alex Rosenberg. We’ve been duped by stories. They make us feel better. They help us get along. But they do not guide us to the truth of what is. Nor do not awaken us to aspire to what ought to be.

Do you want the truth? Then don’t run to story. Run to science. Or better, scientism. According to Rosenberg, “scientism” is “the conviction that the methods of science are the only reliable way to secure knowledge of anything; that science’s description of the world is correct in its fundamentals.”[1] Religion, on the other hand, provides warm and fuzzy, but false, stories.

But if there is no over-arching story that is true, then why do we love and long for good story? Enter Mother Nature. We are hard-wired to look for stories—plots—to explain the motives of others so we can all get along. Otherwise we wouldn’t have survived. But Mother Nature over did it and we see plot everywhere—even when it isn’t there. We are all “conspiracy theorists.” All of us, that is, except those who embrace scientism.

Real science—“blueprints, recipes, formulas, wiring diagrams, systems of equations, and geometrical proof”[2]—beats stories. And what does real science tell us about reality? What are the answers to life’s persistent questions according to scientism? This is Rosenberg’s “Gettysburg Address” of Atheism:[3]

Is there a God? No.

What is the nature of Reality? What Physics says it is.

What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.

What is the meaning of life? Ditto.

What am I here? Just dumb luck.

Does prayer work? Of course not.

Is there a soul? Is it immortal? Are you kidding?

Is there free will? Not a chance.

What happens when we die? Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us.

What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them.

Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.

Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.

What is love, and how can I find it? Love is the solution to a strategic interaction problem. Don’t look for it; it will find you when you need it.

Does history have any meaning or purpose? It’s full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.

Does the human past have any lessons for our future? Fewer and fewer, if it ever had any to begin with.

There is much that can be said about this list, but I want to point out one thing in this post. Despite Rosenberg’s constant denials, atheism is a story itselfand a bad one at that. What is the storyline of atheism? It could be summarized as follows:


The universe (all matter, time, energy, and space) either came into being a finite time ago, out of nothing, and for nothing or it is eternal—it has always existed.

Either way, it is false that “science (better: scientism) beats stories.”[4] Scientism—and the atheism it implies—are a story, and a bad one at that! It is a story without God, without meaning, and without morality. If atheism is the true story of the world then we should follow Bertrand Russell and courageously build our lives on the firm foundation of despair … or, as Rosenberg suggests, take Prozac.

But don’t buy the story that we need to give up on story. Rather, ask yourself, which of all the competing stories possesses fidelity to reality and our longings? Which story of the world is true to the way things are and captures our aspirations for how things ought to be?

It will be no surprise to readers of this blog that I think that that story is Christianity. In the gospel we find everything we want in good story: unending love, victory snatched from the hands of defeat, a magical—supernatural even—world where death is cheated, and a happy ending. And in the person of Jesus, we find everything we need as well. In fact, Christianity is not only the best story ever told, but the best possible story ever told! Further, there are ample reasons for thinking it true (some I discuss here and here). I’ll take the Christian story over Prozac any day.


















[1] Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), 6.

[2] Ibid., 14-15.

[3] Ibid., 2-3.

[4] Ibid., 17.

7 Responses to The Bad Story that is Atheism

  1. Pingback: Does Jesus answer our biggest questions? | Paul Gould

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *