Filling God-Shaped Holes

On December 2, 2014 at the Lake Worth, Florida City Commission Meeting, self-proclaimed “activist,” Preston Smith, offered the following invocation:

Mother Earth, we gather today in your redeeming and glorious presence, to invoke your eternal guidance in the universe, the original Creator of all things. May the efforts of this council blend the righteousness of Allah with the all-knowing wisdom of Satan.

May Zeus, the great God of justice, grant us strength tonight. Jesus might forgive our shortcomings while Buddha enlightens us through His divine affection. We praise you, Krishna, for the sanguine sacrifice that freed us all. After all, if Almighty Thor is with us, who can ever be against us?

And finally, for the bounty of logic, reason, and science, we simply thank the atheists, agnostics, Humanists, who now account for 1 in 5 Americans, and [are] growing rapidly. In closing, let us, above all, love one another, not to obtain mythical rewards for ourselves now, hereafter, or based on superstitious threats of eternal damnation, but rather, embrace secular-based principles of morality — and do good for goodness’ sake.

And so we pray … So, what?!

Now I don’t know if this was simply a not-so-clever attempt to mock religious believers who pray before public meetings or a demonstration of Smith’s own deeply held personal beliefs but, either way, here’s the question … So what?!

Maybe Smith doesn’t actually believe his “prayer.” If so, he is apparently trying to demonstrate the equally ludicrous nature of all religious belief through sarcasm. There are two ways to respond to this possibility.

First, we could push back on the notion that all religious beliefs are equally absurd as an assertion that is easily tested by comparing the claims of the different religious systems Smith is mocking to see what evidence there is to support them. This would be a little time-consuming, but would easily show his relativistic view of religious belief to be false. Just about every aspect of every religion Smith cites in his “prayer” is contradictory and/or mutually exclusive. But Smith, and those who support his nonsense, never take the time to actually evaluate the claims. They think their clever mockery does it for them because they are so intellectually dishonest they don’t even realize that their position is itself a religious opinion that they have given no one any reason to take seriously.

Second, we could ask why the good people of Lake Worth, Florida would allow someone to waste their time at a publicly funded meeting just to show how hilariously sarcastic he can be? Can anyone show up at a Lake Worth City Council meeting and be given the floor to do a comedy act? Why did the City Council put up with such a thing? The answer is simple — intellectually dishonest folks hide behind the threat of lawsuits and political correctness that dare people to try to stop them. They are bullies who know the current politically correct climate will allow them to get away with it wherever and whenever they please.

Shame on the Lake Worth City Council for letting it be so.

There is also the possibility that Smith does believe his “prayer,” and this I find this to be a fascinating possibility. I’m afraid these “new atheist humanists” who keep mocking “religion” are not quite sure what that word means or how their attempts at mockery actually lend full support to the basic claims of theism.

Apparently, it’s the new thing among those who claim to have no beliefs to engage in behavior like Smith and to attend Godless Church Services that are popping up all over the place and growing exponentially among those who claim to “believe in nothing.” As Sanderson Jones puts it about his London “congregation” (his term):

The thing that we’ve got is that we’re the only non-religious service that works. Rationality is part of it, but we also have the emotional connection,” Jones said. “We are speaking to the whole human.” Sunday Assembly is already talking to an awful lot of humans. Jones wonders if they might manage to start 2015 congregations by 2015. “It might just be a little bit historical if it goes on like this. We could have a profound impact,” he said. “Throughout history there’s been these moments when an idea takes off: the Great Awakenings. We could suddenly create a great moment.

Or take this comment from an atheist blogger I have interacted with who is one of the nastiest, most profane, closed-minded individuals you could ever imagine.

I’ve taken [my humanism] to the next level so to speak. I’ve actively sought out and joined a local humanist group. We’ve got a following of about 300ish on Facebook but only about 1-2% of them show up for any kind of meeting or get together. But hey, better than nothing I guess, eh?

Why do those who mock the idea of religion or the reality of God simultaneously engage in projects that parallel those who do believe in Him? What would motivate them to go to such great lengths to replicate the actions of the faithful? After all, if they really believe their own proclamations, there is no standard by which their actions could be judged and no reasonable explanation for the need they seem to be filling.

Philosopher Peter Kreeft has formalized an explanation in his Argument From Desire:

Premise 1: Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.

Premise 2: But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.

Conclusion: Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.

Or, as C. S. Lewis so aptly put it, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists … If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” [Mere Christianity]

It turns out that what these “humanists” are actually doing is offering a sad demonstration of the reality of what has come to be known as Blaise Pascal‘s “God-shaped hole” in our hearts:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. [Pensées, Section I, X, 148]

Though most (like me) are more prone to get angry about stunts pulled by the likes of Preston Smith, anger should be the last emotion we feel. Instead, we should feel compassion for those whose sense of emptiness is so deep that they are compelled to respond with navel-gazing mockery toward the only reasonable way they could fill the God-shaped hole in their own hearts.

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