Most ex-atheists who become deists turn to Buddhism, so I thought I'd be clear why they are all wrong (Robert Wright!). I'd like to thank Mencius Moldbug, Dierdre McCloskey, Mike Behe, Tim Keller (four names probably never listed in sequence ever), and hundreds more...Below are snippets (top and bottom) from my Christian apology: I came to Christ via rational inference, not a personal crisis. I haven't read an argument like mine for Christianity, though given everything written about Christianity, I probably haven't tried hard enough.
A Rational Argument for Christianity (pdf here, w/ footnotes)
· Something created us
· Created things have a purpose
· The New Testament’s consistency with economics and psychology work as if our creator wrote it
· ‘As if’ assumptions are often true
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was an eminent philosopher, mathematician, and logician, and an avowed atheist. In his History of Western Philosophy, he discusses many arguments for the existence of God—first cause, natural law—and finds them all logically defective, except the argument from design. This is the argument that there are things in the known world which cannot plausibly be explained as the product of blind natural forces, but are reasonably regarded as evidences of a purpose. He notes there is no formal logical defect, and the veracity of this hypothesis turns on ‘comparatively detailed considerations.’ He found the theory of evolution adequate to rebut this theory, but a lot has been discovered since then.
[Hereafter I denote the ‘argument from design’ aka ‘intelligent design,’ as ID, the theory that life, or the universe, did not arise by chance and was designed and created by some intelligent entity. ‘Evolution’ and ‘evolutionist’ the theory and those who believe in the theory, that all life on Earth descended from some primal organism(s) that arose at least 600 million years ago, via strictly natural processes of descent with modification, mutation, and natural selection.]
If you share Russell’s intellectual interests the theory of evolution is the most important argument for the existence of God. That could be any God, and many then rely on miracles, prophesy or historical records, but I am strictly looking at things more inferentially. The New Testament reads like an instruction manual by our creator in terms of its helpfulness in this world, consistency with healthful psychology, ethics, and economics. For these reasons, plus the belief in a creator, I find faith in Christ a purely rational decision.
Evolution Just Like Abiogenesis
Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus, speculated about spontaneous generation, that life may have arisen via some “living filament” imbued with “animality,” which subsequently continued to improve, generation after generation, and create myriad forms of life. In her 1831 introduction to Frankenstein, Mary Shelly wrote of him, “They talked of the experiments of Dr. Darwin…who preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion.” She went on to speculate that electricity was the extraordinary means, clearly influenced by Galvani’s 1780 experiments showing how frog muscles contract when stimulated with this new force of nature.
Charles Darwin was aware of Louis Pasteur’s recent work that showed that spontaneous generation of anything that looks like a modern living organism was impossible, such that from the beginning, evolutionary theorists conceded that the appearance of initial life forms had yet to be explained. Yet, at that time, the cell and simple life forms were considered trivial, as cells were simply filled with “protoplasm,” some sort of homogenous jelly. Ernst Haeckel, with whom Darwin corresponded and to whom he made reference in his Origin of Species, believed that the first life form was a kind of cell that would be “an entirely homogeneous and structureless substance, a living particle of albumin, capable of nourishment and reproduction.”
Later in Darwin’s life, scientists found something that appeared to be the first proto-cell, and gave it the official scientific name of Eozoon canadense. Darwin noted this as a candidate for the first life form in the fourth edition of the Origin of Species. When Darwin’s friend and advocate, Thomas Henry Huxley, discovered a seeming progenitor to this in oceanic mud, scientists spent several years collecting sea mud looking for evidence of early life. Alas, they soon discovered that one was merely a chemical precipitate of lime produced by the mixture of alcohol and seawater, while the other was a product of heat and pressure. Neither was remotely organic.
Just as his grandfather did, Darwin believed that the discovery of the first life form would occur soon. However, despite his initial enthusiasm, the problem of the origin of life has become much thornier. The more we learn about the minimum necessary components of life, the more complicated it gets. For something to be an organism, it needs to reproduce, metabolize energy, and create a cell wall. The most basic cell requires at least a hundred proteins, each of which has approximately 300 amino acids, and all need to be able to work with each other.
To reach this level of sophistication via chemical evolution defies explanation. The famous Miller-Urey experiments in 1953 created some of the amino acids found in all life forms, but this is a far cry from creating proteins. Such experiments do show you can create some of the basic building blocks of life: amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, yet outside the cell, these building blocks do not join or enforce a specific chirality. In the cell, amino acids and sugars are sequestered to prevent the most likely activity, as pre-biotic chemistry generates melanoids and karogen which would stop any process. The inevitable conclusion is that showing how a natural process can create a set of letters used in typesetting does not go far in showing how natural processes create words, let alone novels. The origin of life is one of those puzzles that has been right around the corner, for the past two centuries.
Interestingly, the thing that happened to abiogenesis happened to the theory of evolution itself: the process is always just around the corner from some obvious demonstration. Darwin wrote about the evolution of the first eye, and stated, “How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated.” Indeed, it did not concern early enthusiasts of evolution, and still does not. When one is unconstrained by knowledge of a process or mechanism, it is easy to imagine that it is simple, although we know now that a light-sensitive spot is as specifically arranged as the eye itself at the molecular level. Thus, the original stories about evolution simply assumed continual transformation. For example, when Darwin noted that black bears had been seen swimming with their mouths open for hours at a time on the surface of a lake, feeding on floating insects, he stated: “I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.” Imagining such a scenario is not a scientific argument, but simply speculation, and clearly a naive one.
Many present all evolution as similar to how wolves changed to sheepdogs, or the way in which bacteria develop resistance to penicillin, but such change will not create radically new protein complexes or new species. Evolution was accepted as true—Darwin was buried at Westminster Abbey near Isaac Newton—before any of its advocates had any idea how genetics constrains evolutionary pathways, and blind faith in the theory has continued to this day. The problem is that natural selection can explain the survival of the fittest, but not how novel tissues arose, or the way in which amazingly precise and complicated biological processes developed. Some mechanism must exist to take the original life form to all life on Earth, which involves millions of new nucleotides within DNA that create proteins working in concert. Currently, most evolutionists consider the diversity of life and the fossil record prove this, but that is an inference based on their assumption it is the only way it could happen; in real-time looking at many thousands of generations of fruit flies and bacteria, we see only a handful of minor mutations.
From Deism to Christianity
If evolution is untrue, it changes everything. Something truly awesome created us, and created things have purposes, they are made “for” something, the way we make hammers to pound nails. We do not create our purpose, we discover it. As an atheist most of my life, I never cared about religious arguments, because I considered anything built on a faulty premise not worth discussing (unlike today’s atheists, who methinks protest too much). However, after I accepted that a creator exists, through some serendipity, I found myself attending church, engaging in Bible study, and reading Christian authors. I experienced a strange consilience, as various facts all began to make much more sense. The unique Christian focus on the heart is genius, and the priorities proposed in the New Testament work as if they were an instruction book from our creator. Things that work as if they are true, are often really true.
To be a Christian, you need faith, yet this faith can be completely, totally, rational. The science behind evolution is essential to understand why it is rational to believe in a creator, and psychology, neurology, and economics tell us about human nature and workable social arrangements. History is important, because there is a dialectic in scientific opinion, and so prior ideas were tenable before we had data that refuted them. Many good Christian ideas are not unique to Christianity, but a couple of significant ones are.
In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins wrote that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, in that prior to Darwin, atheists had no idea how life could have arisen without a designer. The tables are now turned, as recent scientific findings now make it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled theist. A little knowledge led us away from God, and now a considerable amount of knowledge has led us back. There is no way a natural process created humans, and the habits of thought and action suggested in the New Testament are highly attuned to our natural instincts, fruitful character habits, and a prospering society.
Unlike what the atheists say about God turning one off to science, it engaged me, because it is much more exciting to search for patterns if you think they exist objectively, rather than something I merely might be able to convince someone is important. The mathematician, Paul Erdos, used to become excited about determining not just mathematical proofs, but ones that were beautiful: inevitable, concise, and unexpected; these were the ones he assumed were in “The Book” God keeps for each mathematical theorem. If an intelligent designer creates objective reality, it is more, not less, interesting.
Once one solves the basic problems of survival, the search for meaning is the essence of being human. In contrast, an animal’s goals are created by instincts, and thus, the Zen calmness of a resting dog does not reflect enlightenment, but simply that instincts restrict its purpose. Dogs, however, were bred from wolves to be human companions, and as a result, they now instinctively obey and love a good and loving human master, and respond to human cues in a way no other animals do. The serenity of a dog comes from following his purpose well.
Alas, this requires the dog to have a good master, as if he finds himself with a bad one, he will suffer. Humans are allowed to choose their master, the thing they love most they orient their lives around. This ability to choose our purpose gives us great potential, whatever our circumstances, but also a responsibility that generates great anxiety. If we worship the wrong thing, we are like a dog with a bad master, destined to suffer; if we worship the right thing, we are like the dog with a good master, content, happy, active: high stakes indeed.
Nietzsche wrote, “The why makes the how infinitely bearable,” in that we are primarily teleological beings. A strong purpose is calming, whereas no purpose generates angst, an uneasy fear of nothing in particular. People want to accomplish some good beyond themselves, and when we think our life connects us to something bigger than ourselves, something noble and beautiful and great that appreciates and returns our love, we are satisfied.
The greatest eulogies of all time, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and Pericles’s funeral oration, focused on showing how those who died did not do so in vain, as they helped create a prosperous and noble future that would be an example to the world. That gave those fallen soldiers’ lives meaning, as they were serving something bigger and nobler than themselves. We all wish to be eulogized in that way, as if our stay on this Earth was not in vain. We want something we esteem to appreciate us, not just now, but after we die. The existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called it a “God-shaped hole” in our heart.
…..15k words in pdf, but not here related to this argument...
The Christian Consilience
Once you accept that we were created, it becomes easier to understand our common drive to find meaning and purpose, because it is more likely that we have an objective purpose that gives our lives meaning. Love is the only end in itself, and the love of God is the key to any Christian purpose, the ultimate motivator because, as the creator of the universe, you can be sure that He will always be there. Profound truths should help you prosper, and to the extent that a worldview is based on an incorrect view of human nature or society, daily refutation generates angst. The most profound truth is that some being created us, and that created things have a purpose. Our purpose is hard-wired into our biology, and creates a longing to love something greater than ourselves, and following this simple purpose generates a social optimum via invisible hand. Having one grand objective is a greater virtue than having two, because it constitutes a greater rope to which one’s destiny can cling.
Aristotle taught that the purpose of the state was to encourage virtue among its citizens, which, in turn, would cause humans to flourish. Christianity is consistent with this, because its bottom-up focus encourages decentralized decision-making and individual liberty. Christianity neither legislates nor demands virtue; it merely encourages it as part of a loving relationship with God. By making people sublimate their will to that of Jesus Christ, who represents God on Earth, one becomes more humble, a better spouse, parent, colleague, and friend. The modesty that comes from Christianity is not weakness, but rather, a combination of honesty and intelligence.
The Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote, “A man’s greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examination, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right.” Epictetus (another Roman Stoic) noted that if you want to be good, assume you are bad, which is consistent with the Christian concept of original sin. Christianity in many ways represents Classical virtues with a radically different motive that actually is inspiring (it is not trivial that Nietzsche called Christianity “Platonism for the masses”).
All major faiths both sublimate the self to something external, but also concentrate on managing and disciplining the self. We have hard-wired emotional responses and we know that Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is useful in disciplining these deep drives. The focus is on repairing oneself, not others: changing unhelpful or inaccurate thinking, problematic behavior, and distressing emotional responses. This makes us prosperous and happy. While status is a function of talent, effort, and luck, for those of us in developed countries, a small amount of effort affords one more than enough food and shelter to live, and everything most valuable to us, our integrity, purpose, and relationships, are all free. If you and your friends judge each other according to the heart, and not cleverness or status, it is completely possible to have a wholly satisfying life, regardless of the luck or innate ability that we cannot control.
Only Christianity is motivated by love of a personal God, and achieving the right will is key to a good purpose. Jesus not only serves as a bridge for humans to achieve salvation, His personal nature makes it easier for humans to love Him—and thus, by extension, God—and His sacrifice highlights the fact that God loves us: if God paid no price for us, it would be difficult to believe that He cares. This esoteric aspect of what Jesus represents, functionally, is necessary when you are trying to appeal to a large group, as Christianity does. The righteous conduct God praises is consistent with the timeless virtues, including such perennials as to know thyself, the golden rule, and an appreciation of the moral equivalence of all men.
A Christian purpose aligns with our nature so well that it is useful to believe and behave “as if” it were true, and in the history of science, many assumptions that were chosen because they worked were later found to be true. Thus, assumptions often are used as contrivances, what Milton Friedman called “as if” assumptions that are not necessarily true, but just good working assumptions. For example, if you assume that individuals are self-interested you can explain many things that are otherwise difficult to explain. When Adam Smith introduced this in 1776, it seemed almost Machiavellian, but it turned out to be a better first-order approximation of individual motivation than any other. It is a miracle that Christianity promotes a societal arrangement as counterintuitive as the free market a couple thousand years before theory and data made this clear. Even in the 1950’s most educated economists thought socialism was more productive than capitalism.
When the positron and wave-particle duality were both introduced first via “as if” arguments, they emerged from the mathematics used to describe quantum events, “as if” they existed; later, they were found to exist. Scientists believe that dark matter exists because, as happens in our solar system, spiral galaxies move “as if” embedded in some form of translucent matter that keeps the innermost stars from moving much faster than the outermost stars. No one has seen dark matter, only its effects, but scientists are certain it exists because the cosmos move “as if” it does.
If you focus first on yourself, next on your family, and then on your neighbors and colleagues, your focus forms a concentric circle based on their proximity. If you focus first on the neediest, that causes your focus to leapfrog out of this concentric circle to groups external to your circle of friends and family. On a purely utilitarian basis, the latter approach seems to dominate because it provides more for those who need it most. Yet the leapfrogging focus demands one truly care about abstract people as much as people one knows intimately, which is counter to our human nature, as the neurotransmitters that underlie pair-bonding are activated by physical contact. You also need to understand these people, their motives, monitor them like a close friend, etc., all of which is simply impossible. Thus, big top-down programs to help some impoverished group merely increases their number and does not bring forth prosperity or gratitude. Focusing on those in your immediate circle, including yourself, has the advantage of working, though it requires a great deal of humility and faith that this focus is aligned with a greater good. It is the serenity prayer in action.
The very best thing that people can do for the whole world is to make the most of themselves and those close to them. This is why the Axial age religions have provided so many with good guidance, for example, focusing on mundane virtues, because a society prospers according to the virtues of its citizens, in which they take responsibility for themselves. Your attitude towards yourself is paramount because we really love our neighbor as ourselves; we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. Forgiveness, tolerance, sacrifice, if not practiced towards oneself, are just words. It should be remembered those without any self-interest find it much easier to be cruel when acting selflessly. If you don't value yourself highly, how can you value other selves highly (e.g., ants are selfless animals, yet they are also the most warlike and take slaves)?
The progressive inspired ‘positive’ rights for healthcare, food, education, and housing, are claims on the resources of others backed by coercive bureaucracies. Top-down charity is helpful in a pinch, but as a prolonged policy it is counterproductive and resented. That is, Ben Franklin noted that if you want someone to like you, ask them for a small favor, it shows you appreciate their talents; if you merely give them things, people find it patronizing (they think you are incapable) or a sign of guilt (which means, you probably took more than you are giving). Goods and services received without a struggle—and the sense of insecurity that motivates it—leads to resentment, and this leads to a vicious circle of hating the 1% even more; those most in need of help neglect the person who can help them most, themselves.
The Bible is prescient in orienting an individual’s focus in concentric circles from him/herself, to family, etc., all the while avoiding the emptiness of doing it merely for oneself. The first thing a Christian must do is fear, obey, and love God. As God does not speak directly to most people, this means making yourself a better person, not out of narcissism, but rather, in order to look better to someone beautiful who loves you. In contrast, Freudian psychoanalysis centers on fixing oneself for oneself by getting rid of unconscious repressions that often were attributed to religion. This kind of thinking failed because that focus did not soothe, but inflamed us, as the more we thought about ourselves, the more we thought about how others had wronged us. The motivation, the heart, is key.
Our relationship with God begins with fear, but this is only an introduction, in the same way you teach virtue to your children first by making them act polite (any great philosophy has to be esoteric; it has to work at multiple levels, both for the ignorant and the intense). In Christianity, the perfect is not the enemy of the good, because it assumes that all people are imperfect, that such is the crooked timber of humanity. A Christian does not expect heaven on Earth, in that people are base, fallen, yet God loves us anyway if we love Him. Compared to his incredible powers, we are incredibly dumb so our greatest objective achievements in science and art are relatively lame, but our moral sense, our ability to choose our purpose given a glimpse of His power, can generate a sublime achievement that He appreciates, why God is more interested in our faith and love than any other aspect of our character.
Dan Buettner found longevity hotspots around the globe, in small communities in places as diverse as Costa Rica, Japan, and Italy, and found a strong sense of purpose was common in all of these places. Victor Frankl wrote about how those who survived in concentration camps felt a strong sense of purpose, and this finding seemed to confirm that hypothesis. If you find a community of people with a shared sense of purpose, whose values inspire virtuous conduct, and whose relationships provide support, guidance, and encouragement, your life will be better. Thus it should come as no surprise people who attend religious services on a weekly basis are nearly twice as likely to describe themselves as “very happy” (45%) than are people who never attend (28%). It would seem obvious that it is beneficial to become religious if we judge ideas on what they make of men. Pascal’s wager would be amended from the focus on the afterlife, to one on the current life.
Poor areas tend to be more religious, not just across countries, but across counties in the US, whereas prosperous areas tend to be more educated and less religious (Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the US, has the most churches per capita). Relatively prosperous people are also happier, yet within these prosperous cohorts, religious people are happier. This creates a true paradox: at the margin, an increase in prosperity causes more happiness and more atheism, but given any level of prosperity, religion increases happiness. Educated people today choose atheism because religion seems logically absurd, as it was wrong on heliocentrism and now seems to contradict evolution. Among the academics who teach young people, the proportion of progressives increases the higher you go in those hierarchies. Progressives continue to argue, ever more angrily, that evolution is a fact, and actually ban ID from high school curricula. However, secular humanism is not rational because it does not understand how economics, psychology, and history show the dominance of the Christian-centered life over the progressive approach here on earth. The inconsistency of means to ends for progressives guarantees failure, just as the Soviet Union and Venezuela were guaranteed to fail.
In Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, he writes “the battle [for evolution] is part of a wider war, a war between rationality and superstition. What is at stake is nothing less than science itself and all the benefits it offers to society.” Wars, alas, are not known for their rationality, rather their propaganda to maintain popular support. In the 1930s the mathematical models of evolution thought single mutations across many genes could alter phenotypes in such a way that species were often moving their ‘fitness' via arbitrary changes to genetics. We now know mutations, as opposed to allele distribution changes, are almost always detrimental, and for a gene to acquire radical new function takes thousands of specific mutations. The mechanism to create novel protein complexes is a miracle, its mechanism unknown, whether God or evolution did it, as a century of fruit fly and E. coli experiments haven't generated anything close.
Science and rationality are tools of the will, and become more tendentious and tortured when those applying it assume by definition their views are objective, their opponents characterized by dogmatism and bias. Atheists are preoccupied with convincing people that evolution is a fact because they know that evolution is key to keeping progressive thought dominant. Their hegemony is more important than any other principle because their goal is to accelerate the arc of social justice, and that can only come from top-down state power, which is why American atheists have a more favorable view of Islam than Protestants, even though Islam is much more repressive on all the social positions it abhors in Christianity (Evangelical Christians, not Muslims, are blocking progressive policies in the USA currently).
Like all untrue foundational insights, the evolutionary mechanism becomes more complicated the more we see. As the appearance of design becomes stronger, expect greater division, because doubt breeds anger. That is, no one holds with fervor that 7 times 8 is 56, because it is known that this is the case; fervor is necessary only in commending an opinion which is doubtful. They have reason to be concerned, because as Bertrand Russel noted, evolution as a theory is strictly an empirical issue, looking at detailed considerations, and as with all bad theories, the more data we have, the convoluted the theory becomes (in contrast, true theories become clearer). The contempt and ridicule directed at intelligent design intimidates young people to concede evolution, which is merely expedient; however, given evolution as a fact, it is harder to believe anything in the Bible is true or even useful.
I was a secular humanist most of my life, contemptuous of Christianity because I thought it was not merely based on myth, but that it also mislabeled pride as a vice and humility as a virtue. Human science and art reflect our genius, and their successes were built upon bold individuals. Yet, after learning about the incredibly precise nano-machinery in the cell, and how microevolution does not imply macroevolution, and all the failed examples and predictions of evolution, I became convinced that something created us. It was only then that I decided to take seriously the arguments of Christians like Kierkegaard, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, and even the Bible itself, and was amazed at the wisdom in these writings. The idea that Christianity was dogma, a crutch for repressed or ignorant individuals, was not true, although that is what my secular humanist worldview told me.
The focus on the will over reason, classical liberalism, classical virtues, love as the primal motive, that humans are by nature base, shows that the New Testament is right on all the issues that really matter. At the personal level, and for creating a thriving society, Christianity works. The emphasis on the will, that love of God is more important than what you do, is uniquely Christian, and uniquely profound.
The key to Christianity is the heart, to love God, and therefore, to want to serve Him, and you can only love something you are sure loves you as well. The Corinthians 13 verse often read at weddings is not mawkish, rather foundational. True love, like my love for my daughter, is something about which I am certain—that I love, and am loved by, my daughter—and it gives me intense joy and purpose.
The New Testament argues that God is love and from an emotional standpoint, it is our strongest desire and need. When we feel love and express it through compassion, caring, empathy, serving, supporting, encouraging, and much more, the power of God’s love within us creates a sense of joy and fulfillment that goes beyond the definition of happiness. Loving relationships make us feel complete—in our Creator, spouses, children, friends, and even enemies. All the other ends people seek like status, power, wealth, and sex are preoccupations until acquired, then we think about everything else. Love is the only end not like that.
No non-human animal understands physical forces, not just animals that have no sense for light or magnetism, but no awareness of the strong nuclear forces in atomic nuclei. It seems likely that humans also do not perceive or understand the totality of forces at work in the universe. Nonetheless, we can infer transcendent forces indirectly, and most of our knowledge is inferential, not deductive. That is, we see a universal desire for purpose, the benefits in this world of living for the next by focusing on our own virtues and vices and the evidence of a creator; we believe further that it is most likely that a creator gave us our various instincts. It is our duty to recognize that there are things that we cannot understand; as Schopenhauer stated, “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world,” not recognizing that they do not see everything. It would be irrational to presume the universe is constrained to what atheist humans have figured out circa 2016 AD.
At some level, this requires faith, as something able to create life clearly is outside of anything for which I have direct evidence. Paradoxically, faith can be rational. There is evidence of a creator, and the Christian creator’s message works best in this life, as it gives one a profound motivation for adopting standard stoic virtues and bourgeois morality. If you estimate rationally, there is a sufficient probability (e.g., 73%) that Christianity is true, with this probability it makes sense to act as if Christianity has a 100% probability of being correct. This is because, in any strategy that takes persistence, once you make the choice to do it you should be “all in.” In the words of a famous short green deist, “Do, or do not, there is no try.”
Faith motivates us to use our will to navigate life’s challenges. It entails choosing to trust, cling to, and depend upon someone greater and more powerful than ourselves. In that sense, faith is primarily an act of will in which we choose not to allow events or circumstances to drag us down because we have a relationship with God and He is in our lives to help us. Faith strengthens us to face life’s obstacles, and this produces deep peace and inner happiness. Faith is essential for a happy life.
My previous attempts to create meaning within the secular humanist worldview were not failures because I did not try hard enough, but rather because you need a lot of luck to do this without God. That is, I have no doubt that there are many, millions in fact, who are happy and contented without God. If you are excellent at something and content in simple virtues, if your friends and family are stable and of good character, life can be very satisfying. In a world of 7 billion people, it should come as no surprise that some are able to find this without God, let alone Christ. The success various local demographics across the world highlight some groups can generate eudaimonia in this world just as well as any Christian community.
Their success comes from the fact they somehow got into a positive feedback loop where their community that supported them also championed classical virtues that made them better people, highlighting the importance of loving something beautiful, and a community of thriving, virtuous people who look after each other is that; it will make you a better person. Indeed, all the Axial age religions do a better job of focusing our priorities than does progressivism, and this tempts many who find them attractive to think they all are equally true. Any good practical objective should be robust, in that it should work fairly well if you approximate it.
While the Axial age religions, and many subsequent ones, offer a better purpose in life than trying to create one yourself, not all the major faiths can be true, as they are contradictory. They could all be untrue, just correct on, say, the importance of the golden rule. However, if there is a creator, Christianity may work best precisely because it actually is true. Christianity places unique emphasis on the heart, a motivation based on the love of God, and the gratitude generated by appreciating such a God leads to greater happiness in this world. I will not find my purpose by adopting the worldview of some village in Costa Rica. That would not work primarily because I have no social connections in such a village, and without those relationships, the whole thing does not work at all, even if it works for them. Further, if Christianity is true, those close substitutes will not work in the afterlife, which is more important than anything we experience here on Earth.
We were given a unique ability to choose our purpose, and that choice alone is important to God, which should make sense, because anything powerful enough to create us is unimpressed by our worldly achievements, which are technically trivial to such a being. Having the ability to understand life a little bit the way God does, yet subordinate our will to glorifying Him, pleases Him. Life is a test, and as Lincoln said, the best way to test a man’s character is to give him power. We all have the power to choose what to serve and to love, and most choose a secular focus out of pride, our greatest sin.
The purpose of life is to practice virtue inspired by the love of something transcendently beautiful. The object from which one is seeking esteem should be beautiful, in that it inspires healthful behavior in us—virtue—and we find satisfaction in its appreciation. It must be long-lived, because a beautiful thing that may end soon cannot sustain hope. Love, meanwhile, is the only end in itself that endures and is never sated, though it requires reciprocation, meaning, the transcendently beautiful love object needs to appreciate and reflect love. A good life is a synchronicity of behavior and thought motivated by love that advances something noble, in that achieving one’s higher destiny helps humans flourish. There’s no better example than loving the creator God described in the New Testament.
 They knew cells had other parts, like a nucleus, but did not know much about it, and believed that first life was simpler. That is, scientists had already seen how electricity causes frog legs to move (Galvani in the 1780s), and organic compounds could be synthesized (urea in 1828), so it seemed reasonable that life was not that complicated (e.g., why Frankenstein’s monster was not as crazy as it now seems).
 Gould, S.J. Bathybius and Eozoon. In The Panda’s Thumb. London: Norton, 1992, S. 236–244.
 This was the “oily red goo” Stanley Miller created, documented, and ignored in his initial experiment; no biopolymers were formed.
 Now scientists are focused on comets with amino acids that, via their impact, create polymers three amino acids long, or hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, and bacteria that survive deep in the earth’s crust.
 The theory of evolution, I am referring to the conventional theory of Matt Ridley, Richard Dawkins, Larry Moran, Sam Harris, Steve Pinker, PZ Myers. They disagree on particulars like group vs. individual selection, neutral drift vs. selection, but there is a gist.
 When light strikes the retina a photon is absorbed by an organic molecule called 11-cis-retinal, causing it to rearrange within picoseconds to trans-retinal. The altered protein can now interact with another protein called transducin. Before associating with rhodopsin, transducin binds tightly to a small organic molecule called GDP, but when it binds to rhodopsin, the GDP dissociates itself from transducin and a molecule called GTP, to which it is related closely, but is critically different from, GDP, which binds to transducin. Several other proteins then interact in a cascade, including an equilibrating mechanism to restore the initial state and enable the continued ability to process light. These proteins are hundreds of amino acids in length, and interact with each other in very specific ways. An initial light sensitive spot requires mutations to create this functionality incidentally, a staggeringly complex, but highly specific set of instructions within the DNA to create such proteins and put them next to each other.
 The change needed for even the smallest change involves many specific proteins, which need specific protein coding genes, promoters, and all the other parts needed to put such parts in place. For example, unlike other animals, in mammals the red blood cell is enucleated, ejecting its nucleus before entering the bloodstream. It takes place 2 million times per second, and involves an elaborate and highly choreographed process where the entire cytoplasmic machinery of the cell is reorganized in order to achieve the result. Some think the evolution of enucleated red blood cells is simple: a red blood cell once split and did not have a nucleus in one of the daughter cells, which gave rise to enucleated cells. Yet the earliest recognizable red blood cell undergoes four or five mitotic divisions to create the enucleated blood cells that humans use to transport oxygen. The shape differences between these cells as they turn into enucleated cells reflect progressive accumulation of hemoglobin and decrease in nucleus. The nucleus becomes dense because of chromosome condensation, and is isolated from the cytoplasm by a ring of cytoplasmic membranes and moves to one side of the cell. In the last step, the red-blood cell is partitioned into two daughter structures and the nucleated one is destroyed by the immune system. The protein mesh encases the cell into a rigid scaffolding framework which reduces cell deformability but ensures that during mitosis both nuclear and cytoplasmic contents are appropriately partitioned in the two daughter cells. The profound changes in structural membrane protein synthesis and loss of microfilament protein synthesis occurring during erythroid maturation destroy plasma-nucleus useful because red blood cells are very flexible, necessary function for travelling small capillaries. This involves enzymes that work in multiprotein complexes with transcription factors, and protein kinases. The several genes involved in this are not fully understood, but clearly involves the creation of thousands of specific nucleotides that create the process above; it is not as simple as a single accident.
 The subtitle of the Origin of Species is Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, and Darwin clearly thought this was relevant to humans, with Europeans at the top, and the uncivilized races at the bottom.
 I should note that I am not a young earth creationist, nor a fundamentalist. I think the Bible is filled with metaphors, exaggerations for emphasis, and was written by humans. For example, in the NIV, Galatians 5:22-23 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The KJV has patience and the ESV has longsuffering, instead of forbearance. As forbearance is a synonym of “self-control,” it seems the NIV authors were objectively wrong to include forbearance in a listing with self-control. Such errors, I find, are not important.
 Long, G. M. Aurelius Antoninus. (1862). Harvard Classics, Vol. 2, 1909.
 In contrast, the Epicurean tetrapharmakos is that we should not fear death because when it comes we will not know it, we will be dead.
 Matthew 7:12. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” 1 Tim. 2:1. “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” 2 Corinthians 13:5. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
 Prairie voles without receptors for vasopressin and oxytocin have sperm donor dads, those with the receptors hang around to raise the kids.
 Buettner, D. The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. National Geographic Books, 2012.
 Frankl, V.E. Man’s Search for Meaning. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
 Coyne, Jerry A. Why evolution is true. Penguin, 2009.
 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 James,W. Will to Believe, 1896.