SAN DIEGO, March 22, 2013 ― The Belgian playwright and poet Emile Cammaerts once wrote, “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything” (The Laughing Prophets, Page 211, 1937).
The nuttier our times become, the more profound Cammaerts starts to sound.
Naturally Cammaerts was making a general comment. There are exceptions to the rule. It does not necessarily follow that a person who does not believe one thing will automatically accept a goofier idea. Still, there are some very interesting trends today and it is quite ironic when those who claim the intellectual high ground for rejecting God go on to list some of the things they do believe.
Cammaerts was also espousing a very specific view of God. He was aware of the many contradictory concepts of deity. As a result, theists will take different positions on moral and social issues. Cammaerts was referring to the God of the Bible, not some notion that rocks and trees are also God. He meant the Creator of the universe, the one who gave us a conscience, the one who holds us accountable for the way we live.
I believe in God. To those who find that idea absurd, to those who think the word “intelligent” is reserved only for people who do not accept a Creator, let me offer a list of things I do not believe:
I do not believe we can get something out of nothing. Something had to always exist. In that vein, I do not believe personality sprang from nothingness. Neither do I believe personality came from an impersonal universe. Rocks and stars do not think. Sentience must have an origin. I believe personality comes from personality. This leads us to an interesting conclusion: If something always existed, and if personality must come from personality, then some kind of eternal personality must exist.
I do not believe the acceptance of miracles is anti-intellectual, but rather intellectual humility. An open mind ought not to assume that miracles are impossible. After all, when the Bible talks of miracles, it is not assuming that God waved his hands like a magician and threw natural law out the window. God, as the author of life, is also the author of all natural law.
If science has taught us one lesson over the ages, it is that humankind frequently learns to do things previous generations would have thought impossible. Imagine somebody in 70 AD looking at a television set, or a cell phone, or a computer. Imagine their expressions if they could watch a rocket blast off and land on the moon or if they could see a jet touch down on a runway. To them, such technology would appear miraculous indeed. To us, these are not miracles but rather a harnessing of scientific knowledge previous generations had not yet discovered.
Likewise, it is easy to assume that human beings, one thousand years in the future (or even one hundred years in the future when we see how fast recent technology has developed), will be able to do things which would absolutely boggle our minds. If it is so easy to believe that people will be able to do that someday, why is it so hard to imagine that God can do those things now? A true open mind will not assume that miracles are impossible because the testimony of science has actually provided evidence to the contrary. “Miracle” is merely a descriptive word for something science currently cannot explain.
Inasmuch as my view of God affects my larger view of life itself, let us move on to other rejected beliefs:
I do not believe that the lives of chickens are as important as the lives of people. This places me in serious odds with PETA, who created a display at UCLA in 2003 that included a picture of Jewish Holocaust prisoners in a cage next to chickens in a cage. The exhibit was entitled, “Holocaust on a Plate.” Frankly, my feelings about the Holocaust are a little more emotional than my feelings about a bucket of KFC Extra Crispy. Ditto for Original Recipe.
I do not believe that those who want to protect the rights of unborn human babies are fascists.
I do not believe that those who refused to rally behind candidate Obama in 2008 because the man embraced infanticide by voting against the Illinois Infant Protection Act were acting out of racist motives.
I do not believe that terrorists who cut off people’s heads can be compared to freedom fighters like George Washington.
I do not believe the government has a right to steal money from one person and give it to another.
I do not believe it makes sense to cut the budget of our own military and give money to Egypt in the hopes of a more stable Middle East when their very own president, Mohamad Morsi was caught on video claiming Jews are “bloodsuckers” and “descendents of apes and pigs.”
I do not believe people are filled with hate simply because they want to have borders on their own country.
I do not believe people are filled with hate simply because they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.
I do not believe voluntary prayer in the public school is going to turn our country into a Gestapo style dictatorship.
No, I do not accept any of those ideas, but many do, because (if I may paraphrase a great writer from the past) “When people stop believing in God, they’ll start believing in anything.”
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
- When distinguishing God as the God of the Bible, further clarification is still in order. After all, many who verbally support a Biblical lifestyle tend to cherry pick, rejecting portions of scripture they do not like. But when the Bible is believed and embraced, when this same Bible is read in context, the powers and standards of God trump mere opinion about God and adjust our perception of the world around us
-The noted Christian apologist, G.K. Chesterton is often credited as saying ““When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing. They then become capable of believing in anything.”
Actually, there is debate about whether or not Chesterton actually said that. Emile Cammaerts, in his book The Laughing Prophets (1937, Page 211) quotes a different phrase coined by Chesterton, and then offers his own logical conclusion of Chesterton’s words. The quote of Chesterton (taken by Cammaerts from The Oracle of the Dog, 1925) actually says, “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.”
Cammaerts then adds his own words, “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything”
No doubt, Chesterton would have agreed with that statement.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Bob sometimes selects reader’s comments and responds to them on his radio show. Readers are free to call in and challenge Bob’s response over the air. Details of his program can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.
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