This is a scene from the movie, “King Kong” from 1976. Jeff Bridges’ and Jessica Lange’s characters are arguing with Charles Grodin’s character about capturing the large ape and taking him away from the island.
Grodin (to Lange’s character): “And before you cry a lot, you ought to ask the natives on that island what they thought of losing Kong.”
Bridges: “Actually, they’ll miss him a lot.”
Grodin: “Like leprosy.”
Bridges: “No, you’re dead wrong. He was the terror, the mystery of their lives, and the magic. A year from now, that’ll be an island of burnt out drunks. When we took Kong, we kidnapped their god.”
This, to me, sounds very Nietzschean, and very true. Nietzsche understood well what his atheism would do to society. He believed it was true anyway, but didn’t try to sell his idea with contradictory ideas of scientific moralities or attempting to argue that there was even more meaning to life in atheism than there is in a theistic world. That is the absurdity of neo-atheism, but Nietzsche wasn’t a neo-atheist. He understood that to take God out of life was like unchaining the earth from the sun. It would destroy any real meaning we once thought life had. Without God, we’re all just a bunch of burnt out drunks, filled with the toxin of our own narcissism, without meaning in life, morality, or thought. Steal God away, steal the world away too. Whether related or not to his outlook on life, Nietzsche eventually went mad.
But I don’t want to simply discuss philosophical atheism, because most people don’t live there. Philosophical atheism is for people who are overly credentialed (in their own minds) and undereducated (in reality). What I want to discuss instead is practical atheism, and how, even though that is where most of us live, it’s not a real option for us.
You see, you can’t just pick and choose between both worlds, the one born of atheistic assumptions and the one born of theistic ones. Either God exists and He is the ultimate purpose of everything, everything has its life and meaning in His presence, or He does not exist and nothing has meaning, and you can go about living life for you and those pets and playthings in life that give you the most pleasure. Either God has communicated to us through revelation what is true and what is good, so as to fill our daily pursuits with meaning, or there is no revelation from God, just the opinions of people seeking to dominate one another in the evolutionary struggle to be king of the hill, so that we can finally do whatever we wish. Freedom is either found in God or in us. There is no in between. I cannot sometimes find life and meaning in God and sometimes find it in a life lived apart from Him. I am switching back and forth between two worlds (one of which does not exist) rather than stop and ask myself which is true.
And maybe that’s it. Maybe, people don’t know what’s true. They’re confused by multiple voices, so that in case there is no God, they don’t want to miss out on the world, and in case there is, they don’t want to take Him out of life either. But all life choices boil down to a decision based upon one of those two worlds. All meaning or lack thereof is gained from one or the other. To dictate which world I wish to choose in the decisions I will make in life is to live a life of practical atheism already. It is to do this because, in a theistic world, God is the center of all things, not some things, nor is choosing whatever you want, and sometimes using God to do so, a theistic practice. It is a narcissistic practice, one that assumes atheism. The idea of God then is just something the individual is blindly toying with, simply because he doesn’t want to lose his backup, but he is, at all times, an atheist when he jumps in between worlds in accordance with his own desires, absent of consideration of the will of that God in whom he occasionally believes.
My point is simply this: If God exists then all meaning is in Him. His will ought to take precedent over every decision in life, not just some. If He doesn’t, there is no meaning or purpose to life. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.” But you’re not really swaying back and forth between the two, because to do so is really to evidence the adoption of the latter philosophy to the rejection of the former.
In other words, you’re either all in or all out. You can’t live your life the way you want to and bring God in the backdoor to give it meaning. Such is the stuff of the mixed, and mixed up, American religion, but it is not the stuff of reality/logical consistency. If God is to be taken out, then you are free to live your worthless life for whatever meaningless and illusory purpose you only perceive as fitting. If God exists, we have obligations to Him, to others, and to ourselves to fill up every part of our lives with Him without fail.
Bridges was right about one thing. We, through our adoption of practical atheism, through our allowing the culture to kidnap God from us, have become an island of burnt out drunks. All hope and meaning has been stolen from us. The transition is complete. We are the perfect consumers now. We can be dominated by more aggressive animals seeking to convince us of our purposelessness, so that we can then fill that void with the next great product. We can live as animals that have no cognitive purpose, only a drive, in their sexual appetites. We can just party until we’re finished and then put a bullet in our brains. You may have sympathy for those who do so, but your sympathy has no sense either. It’s only you empathizing with another human, but what are humans as opposed to fleas? Would you empathize with a flea?
Yet, to those who believe in a theistic world, where God has sent His Son to truly set us free from the enslavement of the narcissism of practical atheism, the world describe above is nothing short of a prison, a hell on earth. And we don’t want to live in hell. And I’ll bet that there is some still small voice that's faintly telling you that you don’t want to live there anymore either. So don’t. Get rid of the swing between two worlds and start moving toward the one that brings life and meaning and hope, not simply because you want to feel better, but because it’s true, and it presents itself as true through the fruit it produces in our lives and in our society. Don’t let God be kidnapped from your world any longer. Don’t let the terror and the mystery and the magic of His reality be diminished by some promise of greater freedom. Freedom and meaninglessness just don’t go together, so stop assuming two contradictory worldviews in your feeble attempt to combine them. You may think that you’re relieving yourself from a life of being dominated, but you’re only relieving yourself of being dominated by a good God that brings life and meaning in His dominion over you. Once you do remove Him, you will still be dominated, only by unreasoning animals who seek to use you for their own purposes and pleasure to the sacrifice of your soul. Better to be unshackled by God’s intimidating presence than to be imprisoned with the freedom of atheism—at least, that’s what all those burnt out drunks would tell you.