If you haven’t read the recent Daily Mail piece by A.N. Wilson, I would recommend you do so to follow along with what I am about to go on about. Some of you might already be familiar with his emotional appeal drivel for Christ and might be able to save yourself the agony of reading more of his blatantly misleading depictions of atheism.
With that said, he likes to akin atheists belief that there is no soul to that of us believing we are “animated pieces of meat”. Sigh. I know what you are thinking, and what is brilliant about his work is that he actually proves that theistic beliefs in a deity being responsible for emotions and empathy would be considered “animated pieces of meat”. His article is essentially proving why it is a good thing to NOT believe in such things as divinely programmed morality and empathy.
Now, let’s tackle the article. From the get go, after his long rant about Easter, his emotional appeal for Christ based on his own “anger at being conned into believing that story”, and a hateful secular government that is ruining Britain, he decides atheists, well more specifically “material atheists”, have decided that humans are only composed of chemicals, and that does not explain emotion. So, I am going to assume that in this article Wilson has decided to toss all of neuroscience and biology out the window and put “God dunnit” in place instead?
I cannot accept the somewhat generalized view of material atheism. In all honesty, I think most atheists would be considered materialists, so I really do not understand why he would bother isolating such a specific word. We do not generally believe in souls or spirits. We do not believe in after lives. Overall, the atheist community accepts the idea that we are of our brains. Still, his framing of the atheist as being so detached from humanity is ridiculous. I think he is trying to distract his readers from what the heart of the issue really is, and it is at the center of a religion’s belief system, not that of the atheist.
We are not saying we are just animated pieces of meat. That is a very unfair analogy. Why not ask why it is such a terrible thing to believe that our emotions and reactions come from stimulus of our very complex system of senses, nerves, neurons, and chemicals produced by our bodies? I will tell you why, because this FACT of how our bodies works means is even more less likely that a higher power is in control.
Let’s take this even further. To say human emotion is derived from an idol and not from the complex workings of nerves, hormones and neurons is truly sad and insulting to the individual.By saying a higher power is the one making such experiences possible, then one is relegating a human being to something akin to an automaton.
We are apparently programmed ahead of time to react to certain things in a way God deemed fitting, after all, we are all individual. So He decided Mary will feel fear when she sees a spider, and William will feel immense distress if he has lost sight of his son in a crowd at the local mall? How is that different than an animated piece of meat? You have no control over how God programmed you to react because you are programmed. I would think that is the very definition of such a thing in all honesty.
At least with the scientific understandings of body signals and chemicals we can lend a more independent response to the world around us and not some programmed soul that risks damnation for not believing in a Holy Spirit. I respect A.N. Wilson’s choice to reconvert to Christianity and I would like to know what it is like deciding that he is now simply an animated piece of flesh only operating on the software God installed long before he was ever conceived of.