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« The Power of Context | Main | A Thanksgiving Message from Stand to Reason »

November 25, 2014


I think first I would point out that for Christians, worshipping is not about reading a book or looking up to the sky. You reflect what you worship. So another words, my attempt at worshipping God is to reflect him by becoming good. His view of "worship" is not very nuanced. If God does in fact exist, then this person actually worships himself/herself. You can't really NOT worship something, or put your life into something. With atheism, there are really only a couple of options: to worship humanity, or complete nihilism.

Second, I would point out that the real issue this person has is that they disagree that God exists. If God exists, then it wouldn't be a waste of time to worship God. There is good evidence that God exists, so this person would need to reconsider their viewpoint.

Truthfully the first thing I would say is I would be willing to discuss it with them when they are ready to talk like a grown-up. I've seen these kinds of conversations several times and they basically end up having some kind of arbitrary standard that needs to be met not realizing that the position they hold doesn't meet the same muster and when confronted with that tend to kick up the scorn, concocting various fables whose purpose is ridicule rather than an actual interest in examine the positions held by various participants.

By all means engage in these conversations but be prepared to bow out quickly lest you end up getting frustrated and say something you regret (it happened to a friend of mine). Almost any time you see this type of scorn they have poisoned the well and their only intention is to make you look stupid by being "unable to answer their most basic questions" which often tend to be solely based on opinion.

Welcome to the world of the chronological snob (C. S. Lewis' term for dealing with arguments by waving a calendar and insisting the "now" is the only relevant).

Honestly am glad to be alive in the much vaunted 21st century. But modern science needs the perspective of history. Most of our ideas are not innovative, but applications of age old technology. The concept of a "sixty" unit (seconds, minutes)is Babylonian. Plumbing and running water goes back to the early civilizations of India. Democracy is older than Christ, practiced by the Athenian Greeks. To bash ideas due to their antiquity is nonsense at best.

Moreover, there is a dark side to innovation. Josephus often spoke of the problems of innovators, not necessarily the workings of inventors, but of people who carelessly did not think through the consequences of their actions. Great ideas even will have bad outcomes over time if reduced to ideals to pursue. Liberte', egalite', et fraternite' soon degenerate into guillotine et Regne' de la Terreur.

I enjoy and benefit from all the technological marvels of our time, but I also believe that a good scientist needs to be a good historian, and realize that to maintain the notion "The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world," is vainglorious. Pain and suffering, too? I am sure that the challenger does not mean that fullness of life-experience, but such a thought must be held to make this statement consistent.

To be so wedded to the 21st century to believe that no other era need offer their insights is a type of foolish arrogance that needs to be addressed. It may prove, over time, to have been the mindset of a "weak minded and superstitious people."

I might question this claim: The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world.

Is he saying that there is a reason we have life?

Whose reason?

Did we make ourselves with the purpose of experiencing life?

Or is it, really, that there is no reason for us to have life in this world?

Is the only philosophically interesting question whether we shouldn't just commit suicide now?

Or did someone else makes us for a reason?

Let's define terms: "worship" is the thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions we have toward some object.

Everyone worships something or someone: the only way you can't worship something or someone is to be dead.

So those that would denigrate religion have merely not-so-invented a religion of their own, where they are the aforementioned "gods". They might just cloak it in more sophisticated terms like "science", or "humanity", or whatever else.

The bottom line is to ask the question: which god are you worshipping, and why not turn to true worship of the One True God and worship Him alone!

The challenger starts off with a handful of unproven assertions and condemns theists in general for worshiping an unprovable ("invisible") God (...or a god or gods - he doesn't specify the Christian God). So the challenger is guilty of what he accuses others of being. That said, let's look at his unproven assumptions:

"Worshipping gods is futile..." That's not the claim of people who worship "gods". It's certainly not the claim of Christians who worship the one true God. On what basis does he say this is futile? Certainly not a basis that any worshiping theist would agree with.

"Worshipping gods... is nothing more than an ancient primitive custom..." While it is true that gods and the true God have been worshiped from ancient times, they are still being worshiped today. Clearly, it's more than an ancient primitive custom.

"...practiced by weak minded... people." Many theists throughout history and today have very strong minds.

"...practiced by... superstitious people." It's true that some theists are superstitious. Oddly, many non-theists (in the sense that the challenger means) are superstitious, like Buddhists for example. But I know self-professing atheists that believe in luck.

But there's something else the challenger says: "The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world,..." Whose reason is that? Is it like the statement before, "It has no place in the 21st century," that is clearly an opinion? That is, does the reason belong to the challenger? Or is the challenger making an appeal to some unprovable authority greater than himself, "an invisible ruler in another realm" of his own device?

But the unspoken assumption is that the true God cannot be proven. In fact, however, his special revelation to us in the canon of holy scripture is self-authenticating. There is a wealth of apologetical material that not only demonstrates the veracity and authority of the scriptures, but also the Creator who gave them to us as well as our need of him. To claim otherwise is to completely ignore the immense body of material that says otherwise.

I would agree that worshipping "gods" is futile.

That the challenger uses the plural gives away that he sees the Christian God as just another mythical/pagan god from among the pantheon, and has no understanding of how Yahweh is a different concept altogether.

Thus, the assertion that worshipping Him is not convincing to us. He's arguing against a straw-god.

Further, "The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world" needs to be challenged. Where does the challenger get this sense of purpose for life? How does he know this? Who informed him of this? What makes him so sure that's what the purpose of life is?

The futility or utility of worship depends on the existence and nature of the god or gods being worshipped. Worship of a god that does not exist is, of course, futile.

I wonder who is the arguer’s audience? If this is an atheist addressing other atheists, then of course they will all agree that worship is futile, as they are already in agreement that there is no god. But if this argument is meant to be addressed to Christians (or any other theists), then of course they will be found to be begging foundational questions, and thus a conversation beginning with this claim, if ruled by logic and reason, must step back to the question of the existence and nature of the god or gods being worshipped. As usual I suspect that the intent of the arguer is not to make a cohesive argument or defense of his beliefs, but rather to grieve those who acknowledge that which is repugnant to them.

A more logical atheist might approach Christians by accepting, for argument’s sake, the existence of God, however challenging that the nature of God is such that worship of Him is futile. In fact, on the very day that I received revelation of who Christ is and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I was approached by an atheist while reading through Matthew for the first time. “God sure does like to be worshipped,” he said, as though to be worshipped was pleasing to His ego. I was not equipped to respond at the time, but now I would say, “neither do I worship such a god, and if he turns out so to be, I will join you in rejecting him.”

For the God that I worship is not proud, nor is His sense of self-worth dependent upon the affirmations of His creations. Instead, understand that the God that I worship is a lover of truth, so that if anything could exist that is greater than Him, He would create it and demand that we worship that instead.

But no, His nature is such that He cannot be bested, or topped, or improved upon: He is Goodness itself, that which is good and lovely and which demands to be enjoyed and worshipped.

And there’s the rub. To be enjoyed and worshipped. For though many may have the picture of Christians singing saccharine songs on command with feigned posture on Sunday morning service as their only image of worship, the truth is that worship is the consummation of enjoyment. Worship naturally follows enjoyment and completes it, just as laughter naturally follows a well-timed joke and completes it. In that sense, worship is exactly as futile as laughter. Worship brings together those who share, or who are capable of sharing the enjoyment of something. A lack of worship, then, is symptomatic of a lack of enjoyment, and with respect to any good thing, this is a state which ought not to continue.

There is another form in which worship has value which gives it place in the 21st or any other century: when worship is practiced in the absence of enjoyment. Life on earth is filled with trials and tribulations, for Christians and atheists alike. There are times when Christians feel far from the God that they long to enjoy. During these times, we worship in remembrance of His promises, specifically that He would never leave us or forsake us, that He is with us now, even in this storm of life. And besides the times of peace, when we enjoy His protection and love, and the times of trouble, when we enjoy the assurances of his salvation, many Christians go through dry times – not good or bad, not hot or cold, but lukewarm and stagnant. During these times, it is useful for Christians to worship in pretense, in the hope that the pretense might lead to reality. Bringing to remembrance the person of God, who He is, what He has done, and His desire for us, can and will reawaken the spark of passion, which may just motivate this stagnant Christian to seek help from a brother, reconcile with a friend, or just get out of his comfort zone enough that he can get caught up in the whirlwind of God’s love and power, so that once again he can sing in earnest, and no longer in pretense.

My question to the challenger would be the reason he gives for life. The Christian reason for life is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever" as the Westminster Shorter Catechism states (see question 1). His reason is to "experience life in this world." What is the basis of his conclusion? How is his reason any more valid than the Christian's?

There are plenty of arguments for the existence of God, and if God is really out there, then worshiping Him is hardly futile, but necessary and of utmost value. Life without God is futile and pointless. We are just a cosmic accident--molecules just bouncing around. That's the essence of futility.

One final thing, the object of our worship dictates whether or not it is futile. Worshiping anything other than the God of the Bible is futile.

WisdomLover and John McN have it right.

The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world

I have absolutely no idea where he gets this “reason” for life.

Does anyone else know?

Can any non-theist out there help this challenger?


It’s bogus. It's a bumper sticker. It may sound cool to some, but it’s meaningless.

Mike wrote:

Further, "The reason we have life in this world is to experience life in this world" needs to be challenged. Where does the challenger get this sense of purpose for life? How does he know this? Who informed him of this? What makes him so sure that's what the purpose of life is?

Nice, Mike.

From the author's website;

"What is the basic purpose of religion?
Religion is designed to focus the people's attention and energy on a single, unchanging, uncompromising and invisible supreme being who allegedly created an inferior human race just for some extra companionship and love for himself and then supposedly foisted a set of oppressive and in some cases arbitrary rules on them, which if broken would be met with unimaginable punishment."


This is a straw man argument and it would take a fool to engage him. If we should try to justify our reasons for worshiping a God based on his definition of God, he gets us twice.

This might be a god found in some pop-religious churches today, but certainly not the God of the Bible.

It's always good to define terms before making a response of any kind.

To me 'Worship' is about ascribing reverence and honour to the Creator of the universe.

If the challenger responds by saying that they don't believe in such a Creator, then you can point out that their challenge is merely a smokescreen for an entirely different challenge! Their problem isn't that the ancient people engaged in superstitious customs. Their problem is that they don't believe a supernatural Creator of the universe exists.

Hence, such a definition helps clarify the challenge at the onset.

However, if the challenger is happy with the definition, then you can proceed as follows.

The challenger is presuming that ALL forms of worship involves "ancient primitive custom practiced by weak minded and superstitious people".

Yes, that is true in some cases. But not in all cases.

Because a person can either be worshipping the true Creator, or they can be worshipping something that is masquerading as the Creator, or they can be ascribing Creator-hood to something illegitimately.

Therefore, one cannot simply classify all forms of worship as false, like the challenger seems to be doing. If due diligence is to be done, then one has to first evaluate the method of worship, or the object of worship to determine if the act of worship is true or false.

Hence blanket statements such as the one provided are unjustified and unsubstantiated.

I would ask him:

How did you get here?

Why are you here?

How do you plan to spend your time here?

Where are you going when you leave here?

You are telling me you don't know?

You are in the dark! I can share the answers with you.

The Way the Truth the Life (the Real Life)

Then, having heard, it's up to you isn't it?

You don't have to be a scholar to share God's love!

I would ask how do you define worship because the way he/she describes worship is not an accurate description of worship. Then, I would ask, "what do you worship?" For worship is not something that was only done in the ancient past but is true of everyone that has ever lived. We all worship but we don't all worship the same person or thing. I would then mention that worship is where we get our Identity, our significance and purpose from.
So, it is important we worship the One who is worthy of our worship, desires our worship and deserves our worship for who He is and what He has done in bringing us back to Him so we can happily worship Him forevermore.

Rejecting God is futile and nothing more than an ancient, primitive custom practiced by skeptical and selfish people who hate moral restrictions on their sex lives. It has no place in the 21st century. The reason we have life in this world is because God wants us to learn to be mature people who can love one another, not so we can spend our lives reading outdated, discredited Victorian "science" books, looking at the sky and missing the hand of the incredibly intelligent, artistic God who painted it such a perfect blue for us simply because we don't want to see it, lest it humble us enough to inspire us to bend our knees to something holier than ourselves.

"Atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the Light." John Lennox

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