Renowned philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas believed and taught that God has left his imprint on life and on the world in which we live. I prefer to call these imprints signposts that point to God and that help us find our way. A signpost is a guide, a beacon, a signal to help one make a choice. It directs the traveler when he comes to a fork in the road.
Though we might encounter a number of these signposts over the course of our lives, there are several that are quite common to us all. In my next few blog posts, I plan to share a few of these signals that point to the reality of God’s presence in the universe.
The first signpost is the sacredness of human life. According to French skeptic Voltaire, We are tormented atoms in a bed of mud, devoured by death, a mockery of fate. Of course, if there is no God who stands behind our existence, Voltaire is correct. We are nothing but a collection of particles, and our human consciousness is merely a chemical reaction in our brains.
Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner viewed man as a machine that responds mechanically to stimuli. Skinner openly mocked the religious view that elevated the dignity of man. He said that he was glad to see the riddance of the sacredness of man, that his abolition has been long overdue. In his book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Skinner argues that there is no reason to regard human beings as anything other than a product of nature.
When you cut through all of Skinner’s rhetoric, what he is actually saying is that there is no qualitative difference between humans and rodents. If human life was not handed down from a higher source, then Skinner is correct: we are merely nature’s products.
However, as soon as we accept this position and reduce man to the stature of a machine or animal, all types of troubling issues emerge. For instance, why should an entrenched majority be criticized for exploiting a minority and treating them like dogs, when, in materialistic terms, humans are no different from dogs? Why shouldn’t we just allow the hungry multitudes of people in the world to starve to death and, thus, efficiently and pragmatically decrease the surplus population?
For that matter, why should any human being be given special treatment by any other human? In a godless universe the laws of nature must rule. As Charles Darwin objectively pointed out, nature is intrinsically violent. Whether we like it or not, nature is guided by natural selection, a constant struggle for survival where the strong prey upon the weak.
This was, in fact, the rationale behind Adolph Hitler’s grand plan, which he called the Final Solution. Hitler sought to incorporate the laws of nature into his plan for the glorious empire he intended to build. His vision was to create a master race – a race of people, a civilization superior to all other humans. In the process, however, he realized this would require eliminating the people whom he considered to be weak and inferior. Thus the rationale for the Holocaust, in which over six million Jews were brutally and senselessly slaughtered.
Though most people rightly see Hitler as the heartless evil man he was, he did not act alone. The Holocaust, which came from Hitler’s hands, was the inevitable result of the steady, day-to-day application of a godless philosophy shaped and passed down to the modern world by nineteenth century philosophers. Hitler’s regime represents the full blossoming of the philosophy of nihilism and the moral force of an individual’s will to power, established upon the premise that God does not exist and, consequently, human life has no intrinsic value.
However, we must ask – is this view of humanity congruent with what we actually experience in life? Are not all human beings unique in a way that cannot be explained by the idea that we are a sophisticated animal or an elaborate machine? Do our family members and all the people in our lives have a unique value, or can their apparent value be explained away as being nothing more than a chemical reaction in our brains?
The only way that human life can be extolled and held sacred is if God, in His divine wisdom, designed mankind as a reflection of Himself. All human beings have inherited His traits of intelligence and personality the ability to think, reason, and be creative, and ultimately to have meaningful, loving relationships.
Human life clearly has a value that transcends animal life. This is why protecting human rights, helping the poor, and standing against human cruelty and abuse is so vitally important. At every level and for every circumstance, we must hold human life sacred.
The sacredness of human life, which we experience as being real and true, serves, then, as a signpost that not only points to the existence of God but also explains why we believe all people are eternal beings. Our experience of the sacredness of life allows us to believe that every human being is designed in the image of God and is, therefore, endowed with an eternal soul.