Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
- John Lennon
“Robert Owen - who rejected all formal religious systems - was greatly influenced by millennial ideas. He famously (or notoriously) tried to set up a planned utopia in the New World. At times, Owen took on the mantle of Messiah himself, writing of being compelled ‘to proceed onward to complete a mission’ whereby ‘the earth will gradually be made a fit abode for superior men and women, under a New Dispensation, which will make the earth a paradise and its inhabitants angels.’”
- cited in Michael Ruse, The Evolution Creation Struggle, Harvard, 2005, p.124.
"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this word to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.”
- Ayn Rand as “John Galt” in Atlas Shrugged
Postmillennialism, as the name implies, holds that (1) Christ will return subsequent to the millennium, which (2) represents a period which will see growth and maturation of righteousness, peace, and prosperity for Christ’s kingdom on earth (visibly represented by the church) through the gradual conversion of the world to the gospel, as well as a period for the glory and vindication of the saints in heaven. …Finally then, (7) over the long range the world will experience a period of extraordinary righteousness and prosperity as the church triumphs in the preaching of the gospel and discipling the nations through the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit; however, the release of Satan at the very end of the age will bring apostasy from these blessed conditions.
- Greg Bahnsen, Christian Postmillennialist
FOR THE OPTIMISTIC atheist, the future looks bright. Through the preaching of science, unbelief will cover the face of the world, “like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” At some point in the future no more will a man tell his neighbor to unknow the Lord, for they will all unknow him, from the least to the greatest.
Man’s problem: lack of education. The preaching of the Word of the Lord will not change men, but the teaching of the Word of the Scientists will. Our future well-being is not dependant upon the substitutionary death of Christ and the regenerating work of the Spirit. “Our future well-being--the well-being of all of us on the planet--depends on the education of our descendants” (Daniel Dennett).
Through education, men will drop such ridiculous beliefs as belief in the three-in-one God of the Bible. The scientist is not alone, if Reason is for you, who can be against you? Within the one being of Reason exists three non-persons, Science, Skepticism, and Free thought. Three-non-persons in one non-personal essence.
No more will men do all things to the glory of God, they will do all things to the glory of evolutionary biology. And there’s hell to pay for exchanging the glory of the created for that of the creator. A “good man” once said that “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” “When these children grow up, in this Age of the Gene, they will want to know why you lied to them, why you hid the glories of evolutionary biology from them” (Dennett, ibid).
In the postmillennial golden age, believers will become like interesting cultural artifacts. And if it becomes necessary, “Safety demands that religions be put in cages” (Dennett, ibid). All sins are forgivable, except for the blasphemy of the Holy Mother. Thus Dennett, “Save the Baptists! Yes, of course, but not by all means. Not if it means tolerating the deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world” (Dennett, ibid).
This is the eschatology of victory, the bright hope of evolutionary postmillennialism.
Christians also hold eschatological beliefs. Though they’re a bit more internally rational (given that they do indeed see a telos, purpose, or goal to the universe) than their atheist counterparts. Given their views, that the world is headed somewhere is not a mere accident, pace Russell: “That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms…” (Russell, A Free Man’s Worship). Ultimately, the bright future of atheist postmillennialism is brought about by an accident. At best, people drop religious beliefs because holding non-religious beliefs has survival value, not because their cognitive faculties are aimed at producing (mostly) true beliefs. Thus Rorty,
"The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own uncreated prosperity but toward Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass--a conscience that swings free of both social history and individual luck." (Richard Rorty, "Untruth and Consequences," The New Republic, July 31, 1995, pp. 32-36.)
"Boiled down to its essentials, a nervous system that enables the organism to succeed in...feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle [sic] chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in their sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost." (Praticia Churchland, "Epistemology in the Age of Neuroscience," Journal of Philosophy 84 (October 1987): 548. Cited in, "C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea," Victor Reppert, IVP, 2002, pp. 76-77).
That Christians may be more internally rational does not mean that their beliefs are true, though. And some Christians have given reason for the mocking of Christian eschatology. Many Christians are embarrassed by the false prophets, never ceasing to predict the return of Christ. They see the “sign of the times” and then rush to such conclusions as: “See, Christ’s return is soon (where this means within our lifetime).” There also have been many predictions concerning Christ’s return. Ellen G. White is as good as any,
"I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the most Holy place was nearly finished, and that time cannot last but a very little longer. ... The sealing time is very short and soon will be over." (Experience & Views pp. 46-47)
Virtually any natural disaster brings Christians out in droves, proclaiming that Jesus’ return is weeks, months, and at most, a couple years away.
When Jerusalem became a state again in 1948, we heard claims like that of Darryl Young from Focus on Jerusalem: Prophecy Ministry,
"I believe that the 2nd coming of Jesus is very imminent. I believe that (since 1948) we are living in the terminal generation. Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation (generation born contemporary with Israel) shall not pass, (die out) till all these things be fulfilled."
Since the 70’s men like Hal Lindsey have claimed Jesus is coming very soon, Christians will rule for the millennium and unbelief will be stomped out. (Lindsey is not a postmillennialist, but there are some surface similarities here. Of course postmillennialism is light years ahead of premillennialism exegetically and hermeneutically, in my opinion.) Lindsey looks at the stats and declares,
"To the skeptic who says that Christ is not coming soon, I would ask him to put the book of Revelation in one hand, and the daily newspaper in the other, and then sincerely ask God to show him where we are on His prophetic time-clock." - Lindsey, There's a New World Coming
Obviously this has received much scorn from the non-religious,
"For years, end-time soothsayers have been trying to convince us that the end is near, whether in a pre-tribulational rapture, a Great Tribulation, or the Second Coming of Christ. Hal Lindsey's, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), was not the first book on Bible prophecy to assert that we are living in the last days. For centuries, Christian writers have used the Bible to predict that the end was "near." One would think that, with all the failed predictions, Christians would wise up and begin to scrutinize the interpretive methods used by so-called prophetic experts." -Anonymous
Or, Martin Gardner, writing for the Skeptical Inquirer,
“You would think that believers in the imminence of Christ's return would be bothered by the fact that, ever since the gospels were written, huge numbers of Christians have interpreted Biblical signs of the end as applying to their generation. The sad history of these failed prophecies makes no impression on the mind-sets of today's fundamentalists. Even Billy Graham, who should know better, has for decades preached and written about the impending return of Jesus. He grants that no one knows the exact year, but all signs indicate, he believes, that the great event is almost upon us.” -The Skeptical Inquirer, Jan/Feb 2,000 edition.
Even internet atheologians take shots at these Christians. For example, amateur atheologian, Aaron Kinney, calls Christians who believe that Jesus will return in 2007, retards.
And so it should be clear that this constant proclaiming that Jesus is returning soon is cause for ridicule. But do atheist have premillennial eschatologists in their own camp? Because of the providential workings of Reason - the three impersons in one impersonal being - unbelievers have thought the establishment of Reason, upon her unholy mountain, was immanent. At least soon. At least in their lifetime, or the life time of their children. But would one also think that unbelievers should be “bothered by the fact” that the claims they’ve made, for centuries, have not come true. Should they be thrown into the same camp as the fundamentalist?
First, do they really make such claims? Remember Hal Lindsey knew unbelief would die away, belief would reign, all because Jesus was coming soon and would be enthroned in Jerusalem, ruling, because he checked the Bible with the newspaper? Looking at the world around him, he could see the shift in tide. Take Aaron Kinney again. He also employs newspaper exegesis:
“As if the night wasn't great enough being able to dance to the intense house music of Donald Glaude, I got to see an atheist with an atheistic tattoo prominently displayed on his bicep. What a cool night!
Now, there have undoubtedly been atheists in America since America was founded. But what about proudly displaying that type of affiliation on one's arm? What I mean is that this young man is doing something that he could not have done a few generations ago without severe consequences. 200 years ago, this man would have been persecuted for that kind of display, even in America. 100 years ago, this man would have been blacklisted for such a display. Even 50 years ago this man would possibly have been blacklisted, and most likely ostracized from his community.
Nowadays, you can still find yourself in a bad light for this kind of display in certain rural parts of America, but even then, not to the degree that you would have found yourself in 50 years ago. And nowadays in most parts of America you can proudly show off these kinds of tattoos without fear of persecution or too much grief from your local community.
Attitudes are most definitely changing, and they are changing for the better. I bet that 50 or 100 years ago, there were no atheists in America with atheistic tattoos. But today there are very likely more tattooed atheists than just this one guy.
The afterlife is dying, one dance party at a time.” SOURCE
Reading the newspapers is a prophetic tool used by atheist and theist alike, thus Kinney (again):
“The year 2006 was a very bad year for the Kristian Kause. Two top dogs at The New Life Church were outed as queers, numerous Catholic Churches filed for bankruptcy, Jesus Camp closed, the Offspring Murder Club had a membership explosion, Kent Hovind got thrown in jail for tax evasion (for the record I think Hovind should be released), and theistic arguments have generally weakened.
Countless other blows were dealt to religion in 2006, including the release of a number of best-selling books written by prominent atheists and scientists, and studies that show that atheism is gaining much popularity in the developed world…. From the looks of things, 2007 will be an even better year for atheists.” SOURCE
And in the comments section of that same post, Kinney states,
“Yes, 2006 was a big year for atheists. We finally got a lobbying group in DC, many Christians and Chrristian empires fell/began their fall, etc, plus all the other stuff I mentioned.
Ann's book sold better. Fine. Even with that, I think I can pull up more examples than you can of my respective worldview making progress. In this comment section you only came up with a small few. I can bring up lots more if I dig a little deeper. The stuff I posted about was just off the top of my head.
Christianity is still in the majority in the US, but secularism and atheism in particular are gaining ground and winning battles, and the momentum is increasing, not decreasing. Thank God (LOL) for the internet.”
We find the same with amateur internet atheologian, John Loftus, who sees himself as an atheist Messiah of some sort: “I see myself as a liberator of superstitious and even dangerous delusionary thinking” (SOURCE) , and his followers at Debunking Christianity. Thus Daniel Morgan who posts excerpts from two articles from the National Secular Society. Why? Because “they filled me with hope for our future this morning,”
“Less than half Australia’s young people say they believe in a god, and many believe there is little truth in religion, a new study has found. The three-year national study, a joint project between Monash University, the Australian Catholic University and the Christian Research Association, found many young people live an entirely secular life.”
“A poll of 1,450 young people in Spain shows that most believe that religion is of little importance and has no place in schools. The survey of people aged 15 to 29 shows that attitudes have changed radically since the era of the dictator Franco. Then, homosexuality was banned. Now gay marriage is legal, with 80 percent of those who were asked agreeing with the change in the law.” SOURCE
But forget about contemporary amateur atheologians and contemporary skeptical newspapers, what about atheists through history? Is there something of the same thing we see coming from the Christians who claim Jesus is about to return? Can we find such predictive prophecy in the atheists of days-gone-by?
Voltaire is reputed to have proclaimed about the Bible, "In 100 years this book will be forgotten and eliminated..." Though this claim as not been substantiated, we can find substantiated claims as well:
"As an unbeliever, I ask leave to plead that humanity has been a real gainer from skepticism, and that the gradual and growing rejection of Christianity - like the rejection of faiths which preceded it - has in fact , added, and will add, to man’s happiness and well being." Charles Bradlaugh, Humanity’s Gain From Unbelief, 1889, cited in S.T. Joshi, Atheism: A Reader, p. 171, 2000.
As the good news of Science is preached from the lecterns, belief will fade away,
“To those who believe in the Uniformity of Nature, religion is impossible. - Robert G. Ingersoll, What Is Religion, 1899, cited in S.T. Joshi, Atheism: A Reader, p.86, 2000
And so Bertrand Russell likewise claimed, “Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence; it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.”
Indeed, we’re living in the last days (though we’ve been living in the last days for hundreds of years, apparently!):
"I do not believe that Christianity holds anything more of importance for the world. It is finished, played out. The only trouble lies in how to get rid of the body before it begins to smell too much..." - John Beevers, World Without Faith, 1935, cited in S.T. Joshi, Atheism: A Reader, 311, 2,000.
"The evolutionary future of religion is extinction. Belief in supernatural beings and in supernatural forces that affect nature without obeying nature’s laws will erode and become only an interesting historical memory. …[A]s a cultural trait, belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge … the process is inevitable." -Anthony F.C. Wallace, Religion: An Anthropological View (New York: Random House, 1966), cited in Warranted Christian Belief, Alvin Plantinga, p. 193, 2000
But modern day unbelievers continue to preach the return of Reason, that impersonal being in whom the three separate but equal non-persons, Free thought, Science, and Skepticism, reside. Thus Farrell Til,
“Information is religion's greatest enemy, and in an age when information is just a few keyboard strokes away from anyone with a computer, this is going to pose a greater threat to Christianity than anything it has yet 'survived.'"
The same claims made by their ancestors are made today,
"As humans get smarter, the old religions will fade. What will replace these religions is yet to be seen however it is reasonable to conclude that as people get smarter, that reality itself will become more prominent [sic]. One can't help but believe that smarter people will be interested in looking at the world the way it really is."- Church of Reality SOURCE
And fantastic tales of a great future life are told:
"The jig was up for religious leaders all over the world, and many decided to come clean. From Britain, the long-suppressed introduction to the King James Bible was released: "This is a booke of instructional tayles for children and the weak of minde, and not to be taken too seriously." Israeli archaeologists confessed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were a rather crude forgery which contained such glaring anachronisms as "toothpaste," "steam engine," and "Phil Silvers." And Chinese scholars admitted that the chubby smiling Buddha began life as a corporate logo for pickled eel in the third century; he was, in effect, the Bob's Big Boy of his time." SOURCE
And so like the orthodox and thoughtful theist must chastise those within his own camp, the orthodox and thoughtful atheist should clean up his own backyard before pointing out our mess. It appears as if the atheists have their own batch of “fundamentalists” to worry about. The rhetoric coming from many atheists today, e.g., Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, etc., can only serve to make atheism look more and more elitist, outlandish, and narrow-minded. These are the sorts of things the atheist community despise.
Maybe the orthodox atheists are more like Hume, who said:
"Look out for a people entirely void of religion, and if you find them at all, be assured that they are but a few degrees removed from the brutes.”
And they cannot live consistently with the unorthodox atheists, who seem to side with Darwin,
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”
The atheists must settle this for if Charles Darwin is correct, and if David Hume is correct, then atheists had better be on the look out because they may be "exterminated and replaced" because they are "savage brutes."
At present, though, if Christians have cause to be embarrassed, then so do atheists. Let’s be consistent with our eschatology. Christians can continue to proclaim that Jesus will win, and atheists can echo the eschatology of Bertrand Russell at the end of Free Man’s worship,
“Brief and powerless is Man's life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned to-day to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.”