Atheism's Abysmal Record
"The facts, only the facts."
This was the opening declaration by David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, in his October 2011 debate in Philadelphia. Hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, the debate featured Mr. Silverman facing off against Christian apologist and author, Dinesh D'Souza.
I was amused (but not surprised) that Mr. Silverman would start the debate with a premise that would actually undermine his own beliefs. His request that only factual data be presented is atheist sleight of hand: in my opinion, it is predicated on the atheist's belief that Christians' adherence to the biblical record is small-minded, narrow, and built on wish-fulfillment, not empirical evidence.
Mr. Silverman then began the usual listing of atrocities supposedly done in the name of religion and God, and then declared, "Christianity is not only bad for America, it's just plain bad."
While Mr. D'Souza, President of The King's College in New York City, did a masterful job presenting the Christian worldview (click here to see the debate), I thought I would write here about what I consider to be atheism's abysmal record.
Atheists for too long have put the burden of proof on believers. They have forced the faithful to defend the existence of God, His benevolence, and the veracity of Scripture, while they seemingly have nothing to defend. If bad things are happening in our world, they say, oh well, random chance.
But like every incumbent running for re-election eventually discovers, it's far more difficult to retain office when an actual governing record can be analyzed. Does atheism have a record to defend? What are the real facts?
Having written about this topic previously from the vantage point of science, sociology, and theology, I thought I would restrict my argument this time to nations. While we recognize that nations are not religious per se, we also must not be naive to the fact that political ideology can either foster certain freedoms, or suppress them.
Probably the most obvious form of government to talk about is communism, since atheism and communism have never been strange bedfellows. Communism's founder, Karl Marx, declared that religion was the opium of the people, the drug the masses were addicted to. Take them off that drug, Mr. Marx declared, and utopia would arise.
Post-Tiananmen Square Explosion
First, let's look at China. Two writers from The Economist, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, collaborated on a recent book, God Is Back. This secular book chronicles an explosion in religious practice, and especially Christianity, in China since 1982.
There is no doubt that Mao Zedong, still China's national hero, hated capitalism, but religion was next on his list of societal evils. He killed religious leaders, drove out missionaries, and destroyed places of worship.
One wonders what his reaction would be to what the authors of God Is Back call "what may well be the biggest advance of Christianity ever." By conservative estimate, China has at least sixty-five million Protestants and twelve million Catholics – "more believers than there are members of the Communist Party." Some locals put the number of Christians at well over one hundred million.
China is by no means perfect, but the promised "Great Leap Forward" that Marxist orthodoxy "singularly failed to deliver," according to Micklethwait and Wooldridge, has been brought by open markets and a constitutional right to religious freedom.
The Desert Blooms
Let's look at another nation, Israel. Alone as an island of democracy in the Middle East, Israel is surrounded by Arab nations who not only have sworn to her demise, but have enjoyed past backing and present-day arming by such nations as Russia and North Korea. Despite this, Israel today boasts one of the most robust economies in the world. At a time when western economies are struggling, Israel's economy is growing at a staggering rate.
In his book, The Israel Test, George Gilder asserts that Israel went from 100 venture-capitalized start-ups in 1991 to 800 in 2000. During the same time period Israel's revenues in information technology rose from $1.6 billion to $12.5 billion. "With 70 percent of its growth attributable to high-tech ventures, by this measure, Israel went in twenty years from last among all industrial countries to lead the world," Gilder claims.
Not only is their economy thriving, they boast a modern high-tech infrastructure, world-class medical treatment, and a tactical and effective military. Limited in natural resources, Israel has relied on cutting-edge technology and ingenuity to thrive against all odds. All this from a nation that did not exist seventy years ago.
Where did all the brain power come from? While the factors may vary, how about from the 1.5 million Russian Jews escaping Soviet persecution? Or perhaps from the 800,000 Jews who driven out of neighboring Arab states in 1948, forced to leave behind an estimated $2.5 billion in personal property?
Suffice it to say, liberty, the rule of law, and the belief that God gives us the power to create wealth has allowed "the desert to bloom."
One People, Two Philosophies
For my graduating thesis in economics, I was given the task of analyzing a developing country. From the list of possibilities, I chose South Korea. My research led me to the conclusion that they were an emerging market and soon would become a major player on the world economic stage.
What has followed is a summer Olympics in Seoul, and our neighbors driving Hyundais and watching Samsung flat screens!
The back story is that South Korea has the highest per capita ratio of Christians among all nations. They boast the largest congregation in the world, a small group model (called cell groups) that is unsurpassed, and have seen a genuine twentieth-century revival.
Their communist neighbor? The North Koreans, virtually the same people group, share the sad plight of all those who have lived under communist regimes' zero-sum economic philosophies: lack of vital resources, cronyism, censored media, stalled economies, and bottom two-thirds ranking in almost every quality of life index. Soviet Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, East Germany, and pre-Tiananmen Square China all corroborate atheism's abysmal record.
Atheists will cry foul, saying these examples are unfair and anecdotal, but it would be difficult for them to sidestep the truth that communism's atheism has not brought Marx's promised heaven on earth.
To the contrary, these nations have been ravaged at the expense of military prowess and the ego of their megalomaniacal leaders. Dinesh D'Souza writes, "Ironically, the regimes that tried to completely eliminate evil and suffering became, and some of them continue to be, the most godforsaken outposts of the planet" (quoted from, Godforsaken: Bad Things Happen. Is there a God who cares? Yes. Here's proof).
Obviously, I'm not saying that individual atheists are devoid of compassion and good works toward their fellow man. What I am trying to say is that nations and governments – be they communistic, capitalistic, or anything in between – built upon an atheistic philosophy have been disasters.
Even more important, it must be remembered that no human government can save us nor provide all our needs. Only the Prince of Peace can do that. As Isaiah 9:7 says, "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end."
And that's a fact.