by Amanda Judah
On September 21, Dr. Peter Kreeft packed Higgins Hall 300 with students and faculty in a lecture held by the St. Thomas More Society. Kreeft delivered a talk entitled, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist: Why I Believe God Exists,” drawing from his fifty years of experience as a theologian and philosopher at Boston College. His logical arguments were punctuated with jokes and anecdotes that allowed his audience to better process his main points. Afterwards, questions flew at the professor for almost an hour, proof that his words were certainly thought-provoking.
Kreeft started abruptly by putting on the “atheist hat,” selecting from a multitude of reasons why atheists might claim that they “don’t have enough faith to be a believer.” To atheists, Christians appear traitors to reason, science, nature, men, and history. Experience, scientific data, and logic are used to back up these claims.
The arguments of reason and science appear to be the backbone of atheist philosophy, and therefore Kreeft took care in exploring them. The professor did acknowledge that aspects of the Christian religion seem naturally irrational. However, he also called into question the reliability reason itself. For Kreeft, atheist dogma resides in envisioning a moral version of the self that can be reached through logic. However, a closer examination of human nature reveals that this is dangerous. Humans may “have the potential to become Hitler or Mother Theresa”: the full spectrum of positive and negative qualities is present in all of us. Additionally, truly rational thought is never guaranteed, and humans constantly fail morally, physically, and intellectually.
Kreeft postulated that atheists have made science into a god. From this perspective, control over modern science and technology should make us most enlightened and most fulfilled. However, Kreeft argued that while technology has improved over time, we have made small progress in human happiness. In fact, people have less time to answer life’s “big questions” and instead feel rushed and harried. Additionally, the professor claimed that mere scientific theories cannot explain the ordering of the universe. He also asserted that science cannot explain miracles, saying, “What [science] has never been able to do, likely, is something it never will be able to do.”
Kreeft then examined human nature for a second time, asserting that all humans long for a perfect happiness in their lives that is never realized. While animals have physical desires that can be satisfied by things in the natural world, humans long for a reality that does not exist. A lack of acceptance of suffering proves a natural desire for the divine. Kreeft remarked, “I think atheists believe in man more. …They think they can make themselves happy.”
The professor also addressed the “liar or lunatic” argument referenced by many apologetics, saying, “If Jesus wasn’t God, he was either the most insane person that ever lived…or the biggest liar.” He illustrated the differences between real-life modern cult leaders (“liars”) and patients with divinity complexes (“lunatics”), demonstrating that they act differently from Jesus. The “false Messiahs” were all self absorbed, unsuccessful, and refrained from engaging anyone else, the exact opposite of Jesus in the gospels.
Overall, Kreeft’s discussion enlightened and engaged his audience. While some of his arguments have been the foundation of apologetics for centuries, several others were presented in a unique format that led to further questions from his audience. Kreeft asserted that, ultimately, Jesus’s existence challenges each individual to ask themselves whether he is who he claims to be.