Free Thinkers or Christians: Who are the Real “Idol Worshippers?”
by Bill Lockwood
According to Greg M. Epstein, humanist “chaplain” at Harvard University, those who believe in God worship idols. At least, this is the essence of his position. This must be the case since Epstein says that “belief in God is … a by-product—of two of the most important architectural features of our minds: archways of our brains that produce the spandrel of faith–what cognitive scientists call ‘causal reasoning’ and ‘theory of the mind.’” In other words, God is merely the product of our imagination.
This is consistently the atheist position. Humanist Manifesto II asserted that modern science “affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces” and that the “total personality is a function of biological organism.” The reason, per Secular Humanism, that “no deity will save us” is because there is no deity. And since idolatry is “to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25)—that which man has created—Christians must be the idol-worshippers for having “created” God in our minds! Thomas Altizer of Emory University popularized the “God is Dead” “theology” in the 1960’s in which he asserted the same in so many words. To Altizer all religion was the by-product of man’s imagination which was is nothing less than humanity “grasping for power.” Idolatry.
Richard Dawkins, who has sensationalized the theory of evolution, tries to get more creatively sophisticated with the entire scenario. Still committed to the belief that religion itself is the creation of the human mind, Dawkins suggests that “religious behavior may be a misfiring, an unfortunate by-product of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful” (The God Delusion). This would be, he proposes, like the analogue of steering by the light of the moon for a moth, which produces slavish gullibility. “Religion can be seen,” he concludes, “as a by-product of the misfiring of several of these modules …” of the brain, “equivalent of the moths’ celestial navigation, vulnerable to misfiring in the same kind of way …” (209).
Religion: A Creation of Man?
All of the above proposals are merely variations of the same concept: that religion and belief in God is the product of mechanical pressures in our minds. Two things must here be noted.
First, if all thought, including religious belief, is nothing more than matter in motion–mere mechanical functions– there can be no blame for any product of the mind. If “nature” is all there is, as Humanists maintain, then the thought processes of my brain are merely the haphazard product of purposeless impulses. What is blameworthy about any conclusion that it draws? Thinking itself would be the result of random energy. Dawkins may call it a “misfiring” of brain modules, but who is to be blamed for physical malfunction? There can be no responsibility where there is no free will. Yet, secular humanists refer to themselves as “free-thinkers!” They themselves are not even “free vibrators” if their position is right!
Is Dawkins controlling the “firing mechanisms” in his brain and I am not? This position empties itself of any possibility of value judgment. And how is “misfiring” of brain modules to be remedied? A good clunk on the head? Perhaps placing of chemicals into the cerebral system. An electric shock? Isn’t it strange how evolutionists from Epstein to Dawkins and beyond write books as if to educate and inform the mind while all the while insisting that beliefs are the result of physical electrical impulses of random energy.
Second, if, as the Humanist Manifesto II states, “the total personality is a function of the biological organism,” this must include any product that flows from my mind, including Secular Humanism itself! Upon what basis would “belief in God” be labeled as “idolatry” while atheism is proclaimed logical? Both positions are the result of random vibrations. Perhaps it is the Humanists and evolutionists who need a jolt or two of electricity. Or, in Dawkins’ terms, who is to say that religion and belief in God is not the proper firing of brain modules in the brain and evolution is the misfire? Interesting it is that humanists can never seem to apply with equal force criticisms against their own position. How can they level the charge of “idolatry” against anyone?
Idolatry is the worship of one’s own creation, yet if humanism be true, humanism itself is the creation of mankind. Or, in the words of Greg Epstein, “belief in Secular Humanism is the by-product of two of the most important architectural features of our minds: archways of our brains that produce the spandrel of faith—what cognitive scientists call ‘causal reasoning’ and ‘theory of the mind.’” Secular Humanism thus becomes idolatry.