Thursday, March 19, 2015

Video Lecture by John Lennox Explains why Atheism is a Delusion Incompatible with Science.

"Is God a Delusion?" Lecture by John Lennox

In this post:

Atheism is a delusion

In this video of a lecture given by John Lennox Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, Lennox refutes the assertion that belief in God is a harmful delusion, and he makes the case that it is atheism that is a harmful delusion. Lennox reviews the evidence that belief in religion and spirituality is beneficial to the individual, that Christianity has made an enormous positive contribution to civilization, and that atheism has been responsible for enormous harm. (A post on the benefits of spirituality and religion can be found here and links to several posts on the harm caused by pseudo-skepticism (atheism) can be found here.)

Lennox also makes the case that science and theology are not in conflict. Science and theology provide different kinds of explanations. You can explain a car by describing an internal combustion engine, and you can explain a car as a product of the company founded by Henry Ford. Both explanations are true, but they are different kinds of explanations. Many Nobel Prize winning scientists believe in God. Lennox says, "We owe modern science to Christianity directly. All the early pioneers Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Clerk Maxwell were all Christians." He says Christian faith is based on evidence and the faith modern scientists have that nature is orderly and subject to natural laws originated from religious beliefs about God. Science is man's attempt to understand the universe created by God. God is not a god of the gaps who's role is diminished with every scientific discovery. That misconception arises when you believe there is only one kind of explanation. God is the creator of the natural laws scientists are trying to discover.

The conflict is between atheism and theism. Lennox sides with the theists and concludes that it is atheism that is incompatible with science. A brain that arose through natural evolution, that was selected for survival not truth, would not be a reliable tool for understanding nature. [More here.] Atheism undermines the belief that we can understand the natural world, it undermines the foundations of science. [In Promissory materialism isn't even plausible, it is contradicted by the history of science I also point out that the multiverse theory, which atheists cling to as a non-theistic explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe to support life, also undermines science because the theory is unfalsifiable and when there are an infinite number of universes, anything can be explained by chance rather than by natural law. A third way materialism undermines science is that it makes a priori metaphysical assumptions in favor of naturalism that artificially limit the scope of science.]

Outline of the Lecture

  • Lennox explains what atheists are saying about belief in God.
  • During the lecture he provides evidence that belief in religion and spirituality is beneficial to the individual. He also discusses:
    • Atheists say belief in God is wishful thinking but if there is a God, then it is atheism that is wishful thinking.
    • Religious conflicts exist but Jesus repudiated the use of violence to defend himself or his message.
    • Religion is not the same as Christianity.
    • The Romans found Jesus innocent of inciting violence.
  • The positive contribution to civilization by Christianity has been enormous.
  • Atheism has been responsible for enormous harm.
  • Atheists have spread the false notion that Christian faith is blind faith.
  • Christian faith is based on evidence.
  • Atheists have faith that the universe is intelligible.
  • Atheism undermines itself: a brain produced by natural evolution is not a reliable instrument for discerning truth.
    • Science and belief in God do not conflict it is science and atheism that conflict.
    • We owe modern science to Christianity
    • More on how atheism undermines itself
  • Scientific explanations do not rule out explanations at other levels.
  • The Christian God is not a "God of the gaps" used to explain anything science cannot explain. The Christian God created the natural laws that scientists are attempting to understand.
  • Lennox concludes that atheism is a delusion.

Quotes from the Lecture

Atheists say belief in God is a harmful delusion.

Steven Weinberg

I think the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief; and anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.

Richard Dawkins author of The God delusion writes that a delusion is

a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence

Belief in religion and spirituality is beneficial.

Andrew Sims

Andrew Sims, past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists, has said: "The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land (from Is Faith Delusion)."
In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.
Not in the video, but apropos:

Knowledge of the afterlife deters suicide. Lessons From the Light by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser p.257-258:

As far as I know, the first clinician to make use of NDE material in this context was a New York psychologist named John McDonagh. In 1979, he presented a paper at a psychological convention that described his success with several suicidal patients using a device he called "NDE bibliotherapy." His "technique" was actually little more than having his patients read some relevant passages from Raymond Moody's book, Reflections on Life after Life, after which the therapist and his patient would discuss its implicatins for the latter's own situation. McDonagh reports that such an approach was generally quite successful not only in reducing suicidal thoughts but also in preventing the deed altogether.


Since McDonagh's pioneering efforts, other clinicians knowledgeable about the NDE who have had the opportunity to counsel suicidal patients have also reported similar success. Perhaps the most notable of these therapists is Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist now at the University of Virginia, whose specialty as a clinician has been suicidology. He is also the author of a classic paper on NDEs and suicide which the specialist may wish to consult for tis therapeutic implications. (14)

Quite apart form the clinicians who have developed this form of what we migh call "NDE-assisted therapy," I can draw upon my own personal experience here to provide additional evidence of how the NDE has helped to deter suicide. The following case


For more information on research that shows the benefits of religious and spiritual beliefs scroll down to the References section at Skepticism, The Big Lie. Activist Skeptics and Atheists are a Danger to the Health and Well Being of Believers.

The positive contribution to civilization by Christianity has been enormous.

Jürgen Habermas
For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.[37][38][39][40]
From the video:
Behind the European Declaration of Human Rights lies Christianity, behind universities, hospices, hospitals, lies Christianity, behind the abolition of slavery lies Christianity. It is a delusion that Christianity has done no good what so ever.

Not in the video but apropos:

Richard Feynman

Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it — the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics — the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual — the humility of the spirit.
- Remarks (2 May 1956) at a Caltech YMCA lunch forum

Not in the video but apropos:

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn't exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.
Various pagan authors describe children as being more like plants than human beings. And this had concrete consequences.
Children were rudely brought up, and very strong beatings were a normal part of education. In Rome, a child's father had the right to kill him for whatever reason until he came of age.
One of the most notorious ancient practices that Christianity rebelled against was the frequent practice of expositio, basically the abandonment of unwanted infants.
Another notorious practice in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children.
But really, Christianity's invention of children — that is, its invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings — was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of God. If the God who made heaven and Earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a slave punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status.

Not in the video but apropos:

Nancy Pearcey

Westerners pride themselves on holding noble ideals such as equality and universal human rights. Yet the dominant worldview of our day -- evolutionary materialism -- denies the reality of human freedom and gives no basis for moral ideals such as human rights.

So where did the idea of equal rights come from?

The 19th-century political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville said it came from Christianity. "The most profound geniuses of Rome and Greece" never came up with the idea of equal rights, he wrote. "Jesus Christ had to come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal."

The 19th-century atheist Friedrich Nietzsche agreed: "Another Christian concept ... has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the 'equality of souls before God.' This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights."

Contemporary atheist Luc Ferry says the same thing. We tend to take the concept of equality for granted; yet it was Christianity that overthrew ancient social hierarchies between rich and poor, masters and slaves. "According to Christianity, we were all 'brothers,' on the same level as creatures of God," Ferry writes. "Christianity is the first universalist ethos."


A few intrepid atheists admit outright that they have to borrow the ideal of human rights from Christianity. Philosopher Richard Rorty was a committed Darwinist, and in the Darwinian struggle for existence, the strong prevail while the weak are left behind. So evolution cannot be the source of universal human rights. Instead, Rorty says, the concept came from "religious claims that human beings are made in the image of God." He cheerfully admits that he reaches over and borrows the concept of universal rights from Christianity. He even called himself a "freeloading" atheist: "This Jewish and Christian element in our tradition is gratefully invoked by freeloading atheists like myself."


Atheists often denounce the Bible as harsh and negative. But in reality it offers a much more positive view of the human person than any competing religion or worldview. It is so appealing that adherents of other worldviews keep freeloading the parts they like best.

Not in the video but apropos:

James Hannam in

"... the "scientific revolution" was a continuation of developments that started deep in the Middle Ages among people whose scientific work expressed their religious belief. ... Given the advantages Christianity provided, it is hardly surprising that modern science developed only in the West, within a Christian civilization."

Exploding the persistant myth that Christianity impeded the growth of science.


Back in 1978, Carl Sagan included a time line of scientific progress in his book Cosmos, showing that nothing at all happened between a.d. 415 and a.d. 1543. This barren period, he implied, was caused by the thousand-year dominance of Christianity. The “conflict thesis” of science and religion was born in the salons of ancien régime France, where philosophes like Voltaire and d’Alembert used it as a weapon against the Catholic Church. It was further developed in Victorian England by T. H. Huxley in his battle to diminish the influence of the clergy in London’s Royal Society. And it was perfected in American universities by the likes of Andrew Dickson White, the first president of Cornell University, who provided the theory with intellectual ballast in his heavily annotated A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology at the end of the nineteenth century. It has been promoted in countless articles in popular magazines and elementary-school textbooks.


... the "scientific revolution" was a continuation of developments that started deep in the Middle Ages among people whose scientific work expressed their religious belief. The conflict thesis, in other words, is a myth.


As it happens, much of the evidence marshaled in favor of the conflict thesis turns out to be bogus.


It is remarkable that authors who consider themselves skeptics can swallow some of these stories whole.


Historians have been debunking these legends for over a century now, but each new generation of popular writers continues to recycle them.


Modern science stands as one of the great achievements of Western civilization—not of Islam, China, or even ancient Greece. Many historians of science are still reluctant to admit this. They praise ancient Greek and Arabic sciences as successful on their own terms but have lost sight of the fact that the theories advanced by early science were largely false.


Aristotle started from the passive observation of nature and then built up a system based on rational argument. This had two enormous disadvantages: Compared to controlled experiments, passive observation is usually misleading, and not even Aristotle’s powers of reason could prevent blunders in his arguments.


Aristotle’s faulty method was struck down by the Catholic Church, allowing previously forbidden ideas to flourish. The Church also made natural philosophy a compulsory part of the courses it required trainee theologians to follow. So, science held a central place in Christian centers of learning that it did not hold in Islamic madrassas. And Christianity itself provided a worldview especially compatible with experimental science.


Christianity made science a theologically justified and even righteous path to pursue. Since God created the world, exploring how it works honors its Creator.


Christians realized it was impossible to work out the laws of nature through rational analysis alone. The only way to discover his plan was to go out and look.


Given the advantages Christianity provided, it is hardly surprising that modern science developed only in the West, within a Christian civilization. Although other religious traditions could have provided a similarly fertile metaphysical ground for the study of nature, none actually did so. Christianity was a crucial cause of the unique development of Western science, the only science that has consistently produced true theories of nature.?

Not in the video but apropos:

Caitlin McDermott-Murphy of Harvard University in

The Christian church's restrictions on marriages within families is another factor in why Western society became the most advanced in the world. Weakening family ties resulted in unique psychological changes among Westerners that did not occur to people in other regions.

If you're from a Western society, chances are you value individuality, independence, analytical thinking, and an openness to strangers and new ideas.

And the surprising reason for all that may very well have to do with the early Roman Catholic Church and its campaign against marriage within families, according to new research published in Science by Joseph Henrich, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, and a team of collaborators.


"There's good evidence that Europe's kinship structure was not much different from the rest of the world," said Jonathan Schulz, an assistant professor of economics at George Mason University and another author of the paper. But then, from the Middle Ages to 1500 A.D., the Western Church (later known as the Roman Catholic Church) started banning marriages to cousins, step-relatives, in-laws, and even spiritual-kin, better known as godparents.


Atheism, the absence of religion, has been responsible for enormous harm.

John Gray

The totalitarian regimes of the last century embodied some of the Enlightenment's boldest dreams. Some of their worst crimes were done in the service of progressive ideals, while even regimes that viewed themselves as enemies of Enlightenment values attempted a project of transforming humanity by using the powers of science, whose origins are in Enlightenment thinking.

This full quote not in the lecture but it is referenced:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.”

This quote is not from the video. I am including it here because it is on the same subject: Layman’s Reflections on Evolution and Creation. An Insider’s View of the Academy

Viktor Frankl (, a former Auschwitz inmate wrote in The Doctor and the Soul, that the source for much of the 20th Century’s inhumanity has come from the very origins being discussed here.
“If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.

“I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers [emphasis added].”

If Frankl is correct, God help us.

Atheists have spread the false notion that Christian faith is blind faith.

Chistian faith is not blind faith, it is belief based on evidence.
Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The Purpose of John's Gospel

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Atheists have faith that the universe is intelligible.

Paul Davies
"the right scientific attitude is essentially theological, science can only proceed if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a law-like order in nature that is, at least in part, comprehensible to us."

Albert Einstein

Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot imagine a scientist without that profound faith.

Atheism undermines itself: a brain produced by natural evolution is not a reliable instrument for discerning truth.

Charles Darwin

...with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

Science and belief in God do not conflict it is science and atheism that conflict.

We owe modern science to Christianity

C. S. Lewis

‘Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.

More ways atheism undermines itself

John Gray

Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth - and so be free. But if Darwin's theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals.

Francis Crick

You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons.

John Polkinghorne

If Crick's thesis is true we could never know it. For, not only does it relegate our experiences of beauty, moral obligation, and religious encounter to the epiphenomenal scrap-heap. It also destroys rationality. Thought is replaced by electro-chemical neural events. Two such events cannot confront each other in rational discourse. They are neither right nor wrong. The simply happen ... The very assertions of the reductionist himself are nothing but blips in the neural network of his brain. The world of rational discourse dissolves into the absurd chatter of firing synapses. Quite frankly, that cannot be right and none of us believes it to be so. "

Alvin Plantinga

If Dawkins is right, and we are the product of mindless unguided natural processes, then he has given us strong reason to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties and therefore inevitably to doubt the validity of any belief that they produce—including Dawkins’ own science and his atheism.

Thomas Nagel from Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

If the mental is not itself merely physical, it cannot be fully explained by physical science.

Scientific explanations do not rule out explanations at other levels.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

... at the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena.

Atheists incorrectly portray God as a god of the Gaps.

Not in the video but apropos:

Richard Feynman

God was always invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God; you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don't believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time — life and death — stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand.

Atheism is a delusion

From the video:

To sum up ... there are two world views that collide. When it comes to ultimate reality the naturalistic world view thinks the ultimate reality is either the multiverse or mass/energy or something like that. And everything else is derivative including life, consciousness, mind, and the idea of God because there isn't a God he's a delusion. The other world view starts:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him. And without him nothing came to be that came to be.
Do you see the difference? One starts with mass/energy, the particles and ends up with mind the other starts with mind ends up with mass energy. And every scientific instinct I've got parallells the insights of scripture.

Is God a delusion? No. I'm afraid ladies and gentlemen that if you define a delusion to be a persistent false belief held in the face of strong countervailing evidence I would want to suggest to my many atheist friends that their atheism qualifies for that definition.

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