Making Sense of the Texas Church Massacre: What You Believe Matters-Part 1

Are we able to make sense of the Texas Church Massacre within an atheistic context? (images courtesy of pixabay.com)

Are we able to make sense of the Texas Church Massacre within an atheistic context? (images courtesy of pixabay.com)

The atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once made this comment: “No one can sit at the bedside of a dying child and still believe in God.”  Certainly, from the outset, this statement sounds really powerful.  How could I, a Bible-believing Christian, who claims to believe in a God that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, reconcile His existence when there is a young child dying in his bed from a terminal disease?

In the very same way, one could look at the recent shooting by Devin Kelley at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and ask a similar question as Russell asked: “How can one believe in a good, loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God that allows a man to go into a church and kill 26 people, including children?” How are we to make sense of such a senseless act?

In order to respond to the potent questions above, and to make sense of such a senseless and horrific act, we must look at the concept of “worldview.”  A worldview, basically, is how one views the world. Everyone, whether knowingly or unknowingly, views the world through a particular “lens,” and that “lens” colors how one interprets the events that happen within our world.

Objective Human Value is Lacking in Atheism

One way to make sense of the Texas massacre is simply to place yourself, for example, within the worldview of atheism. Atheism is the belief that there is no God and that the universe is comprised of only physical matter. There is no heaven, no hell, and no soul within atheism. I am not saying that atheists are not good, moral people as our society generally defines those terms. Neither am I saying that an atheist would, because he is an atheist, condone the shooting in Texas. What I want to show you is that, based upon the atheist’s own worldview, which is a world that tries to live as if God does not exist, the Texas massacre, as a tragedy, makes less sense than if one believes in the Christian worldview. When we hold up atheism, as a whole, as a worldview, and we look at the Texas shooting, it is clear that we cannot make sense of the pain, grief, and tragic nature of the event within the atheistic/materialistic context.

First, let us take the idea of humans and what they are and what their value is given the concept of worldview.  For example, when a Christian, looks at a human, based upon his worldview, he sees a person as valuable because he/she has been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When an atheist looks at a human, based upon his own worldview, he does not see a person as made in the image of God, therefore, whatever value he sees in a human, it must be based upon something else other than that human being made in the image of God. Transcendent value in humans is essentially lost when you lose the concept of humans being made in the image of God. This is how a worldview can and does affect the way one sees the world.

If atheism is true, then the slaughter of pigs & the slaughter of people are morally equal acts. Click To Tweet

Given a Christian’s worldview, those people who were slaughtered in Texas are valuable because humans are specially created in the image of God. What do atheists believe humans are? Based on an atheist’s worldview we are simply animals of a higher form with greater functioning capacities than most other animals. We are not, technically, greater than animals or above animals, but we are animals, and nothing more. We are, currently, the dominant species on this planet, but one day, within the evolutionary system, another species will come to dominate this planet other than humans. Humans, theoretically, will go extinct and will exist no more once a stronger species rises up. While no atheist would say this, if they are consistent with their worldview, they cannot attribute any transcendent, permanent value to any human that was killed in that Texas church.  William Lane Craig summarizes the fate and value of humans on the atheists’ worldview:

“Mankind is a doomed race in a dying universe. Because the human race will eventually cease to exist, it makes no ultimate difference whether it ever did exist. Mankind is thus no more significant than a swarm of mosquitos or a barnyard of pigs, for their end is all the same. The same blind cosmic process that coughed them up in the first place will eventually swallow them all again” (Source).

If humans are simply elevated animals, based on the atheist’s worldview, then why does it matter that a boy is dying at his bedside? If humans have no value beyond being mere space dust, then why do we look in horror at a shooting in a Texas church? Can atheism explain why we do not see the slaughter of humans and the slaughter of pigs as morally equal? The reason why we cannot even fathom to see a slaughter of humans on the same plane as a slaughter of pigs is because we know that humans are more valuable, and are different from pigs. However, if we want to live in a world where there is no God, then we must realize that we are not simply giving up the existence of God, but we are also giving up the inestimable value of human beings as well. If we want to live in a world where God does not exist, then, by that worldview, we must see the slaughter of those precious human lives in Texas as the same as the slaughter of any other livestock. Yet, to most, this is unthinkable. We want to believe that our loved ones matter. We want to believe that human lives are valuable. And we do show that we believe that humans lives ARE valuable, that is WHY this type of event is such a Shock to us and is even labeled a “tragedy.” We do not label the killing of pigs as a “tragedy,” since they will soon be bacon; we do, however, label the shooting in Texas as a tragedy because it is a tragedy that valuable human beings were murdered.

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Comforting Resources are Lacking in Atheism

Second, let us think about Russell’s response to being at the bedside of a dying child. Certainly, we must think carefully about what the Christian might say to the parents of a child dying in his bed, but we must turn the question on Russell and ask, “What are you, Bertrand Russell, able to say to the parents at the bedside of their dying child?” What comforting resources can atheism supply those that are going through extreme pain and difficulty? What would Bertrand Russell say at the funeral of those that lost their lives in Texas? Here is an extended quotation from Russell that, given his atheism, would give a possible response to these questions:

“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built” (Source).

Given atheism’s view of the world, what is this worldview able to supply those that are suffering? Let us take our cue from Russell above now. Maybe we could say that there’s comfort to be found that we are all “destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system…”? Are the parents at the bedside of a dying child, or are those friends and family members in Texas able to find hope in Russell’s “firm foundation of unyielding despair”? What are our dead friends and family members but “the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms,” on atheism’s stance? YET, who can Actually live satisfied with those responses?

What comforting words can atheism, as a worldview, offer when a tragedy strikes? Click To Tweet

True Justice is Lacking in Atheism

Third, atheism robs us of a sense of justice in a few ways. If atheism is true, then Kelley is not responsible for what he did for he was determined to do so and could not do otherwise since he is simply “dancing” to the layout of his DNA. Morally responsible individuals do not actually exist in a world where naturalistic materialism (the view that only physical objects exist in the universe and nothing non-physical) is true, therefore, neither was Kelley responsible for what he did.  But how can any of us actually live this way? We all have a sense of justice, yet atheism robs us of justice since responsibility doesn’t actually exist in this worldview.

Also, atheism robs us of a sense of justice because it has no way to know what is good or evil from its viewpoint. If there is no God, then what Kelley did in Texas was not a “bad” action, it was simply a brute, action that he did, and there is no way to attribute any value to his action. If morality is ultimately relativistic, then the action Kelley did had no more moral value to it than choosing between vanilla or chocolate ice cream. But who can really say that the action that Kelley did was not, actually and objectively, evil? Yet if atheism is true, then it was not an evil act, it was simply an act.

No justice will ultimately ever be served to Devin Kelley if hell does not exist Click To Tweet

Finally, atheism robs us of a sense of justice because it does not give credence to the idea of an afterlife, and, thus, no ultimate justice in Hell.  If there is no God, and if atheism is true, then Kelley, along with every other mass shooter, and every other dictatorial leader that has attempted to commit genocide and horrible atrocities throughout history, all get off, scot-free, by simply shooting themselves. No justice will ultimately ever be served to Devin Kelley if hell does not exist. If atheism is true, then he is not experience anything right now; he is simply dead with no conscious existence that he will ever experience again. We cry out for justice for our lost friends and family members. We cry out for justice against those that have done us wrong.  But if atheism is true, then justice does not actually exist and there is no ultimate punishment to be handed out to anyone.  Yet, who can live with such a view, ultimately? Who can live thinking that the actions of Hitler, Pol Pot, Mau, Stalin, Lenin, Devin Kelley, Issis, and others, are not actually and objectively wrong? Who can live, satisfied, knowing that justice for their loved ones will never be served for their murderers? Does atheism offer a satisfying, or even a coherent response, to senseless evil?  I would have to say, unequivocally, the answer is in the negative.

In my next post I will show what the Christian response is at the bedside of a dying child and will try to make better sense of the Texas slaughter within a Christian context rather than, for example, the atheistic context.

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