If we are simply the product, of chance and matter, why cry at a funeral weeping as if we are any different from the ants we kill with our feet, the beautiful intricate insects we crush on our windshields when we drive, or rats we kill with our mouse traps from Wal-Mart? If man has no essential transcendent worth, than why do we weep and hurt as if we do? The Christian has an answer for that. Does the atheist?
Why don’t we weep every time we kill that which, in the atheist’s mind, is equal to human beings? For example: cows every time we have a burger, plants every time we have a salad, air every time we breath - as we kill millions of microbes every day?
If we show up at the atheist’s funeral having lost a loved one why should we not ask out loud, “Why are you weeping?? I thought man is no different from the grasshopper I killed on my windshield on the why over here?”
Funerals have a universal transcendent quality about them, they tend to speak loud and clear about the essential worth of human beings. To illustrate this consider the following tale, Joe the atheist has a funeral to attend - it is his mother’s. You see, Joe has been raised in a Christian home his whole life, having gone to college and heard some things about coming from primordial soup that developed over millions and millions of years resulting in the primates that are now called humans.
Joe came to his mother one day with the unsettling news that contrary to his parent’s constant tutelage, Joe has come to the conclusion that there is no God. Joe has learned many valuable lessons from his mother and her presupposed worldview that there is a God without which she would have been incapable of teaching Joe anything meaningful about the basic make up of life and experience. Joe’s mother suffers a terrible wreck and dies. Joe has to go to the funeral and face some very fundamental questions. Is my mother truly valuable? If not, than why am I crying? If so, where does she derive the type of worth that has me sobbing all over my suit? Did evolution give her such worth? Did the fact that she was a good mother? If that is indeed the fact, then I must admit that her biblical worldview shaped her into the type of mother that I now value.
What’s the answer to all these questions? I know the scientific answers: she is a primate, nothing more than a primate like an ape, or a lizard, or a toad. But if I was raised by a pack of wolves, and my mother wolf died, would I go on for hours and days of remorse such as I find myself in now? I know that I am not willing to agree to what my mother believed, that all human’s are created in the image of God and have great and intrinsic worth. I know that I will not except that there are such things as absolute laws of morality, logic, and meaning but then why can’t I explain the death of my mother other than meaningfully if there is no ultimate meaning or dignity or purpose to life?
Joe has a very basic choice to make. He must either operate within the principles of the biblical worldview in order to assign the type of meaning to the death of his mother that he knows and even at this point feels to be true, or he must suppress those notions in search of other explanations.
One thing is for sure: his evolutionary, materialist, chance universe is not providing the type of solace that funerals demand. In fact, when sharing your faith with an atheist, the Christian should go on to argue that Joe’s worldview has not and cannot provide him with the ‘preconditions for intelligibility’. In other words, Joe’s worldview cannot be lived out consistently because it does not make sense out of life, death, and experience.
Sadly, even though the unbeliever is incapable of providing rational argumentation to substantiate their own worldview, they do tend to think they know for sure that Christianity is not true. Interesting.
Emilio Ramos is a preaching pastor of Sovereign Joy Community Church. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas/Fort Worth.