Looking at Whitney Houston's Death through Atheist Eyes

By Robin Schumacher

The Christian Post recently published an article, which was an interview with Trevin Wax, who argued that the deaths of artists like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Whitney Houston were ultimately brought about via the involvement of Satan in their lives. In making his case, Wax wasn't saying that these celebrities were Satan worshippers or anything close, but rather that they had bought into and followed Satan's worldly system, and it was the enemy's poisons in that system which ultimately led to their premature deaths.

It wasn't Wax's argument that gave me pause, though, but rather one of the comments made by one of the hatetheist trolls that consistently man the comment boards of Christian Post. Predictably, the hatetheist mocked anyone who would dare to believe in a personal evil such as Satan, but he went on to say that the death of Houston was "tragic".

It was? From an atheist's perspective?

How so? Why would an atheist who takes the atheistic philosophy seriously say such a thing?

Now, I understand I may be upsetting some who embrace the atheist worldview with my questions, so let me explain why I think the guy's comment is simply not in keeping with his faith.

Tragedy in Atheism?

If someone wants to define Whitney Houston's death as "tragic", then they are going to need a couple of things. First, they'll need to show that she possessed some innate worth that was marred by the lifestyle that eventually took her life. Second, they must show that the way her life ended was in stark contrast to a far different standard, which instead describes how things ought to be.

Here's the thing: an atheist who takes his/her faith and philosophy seriously and drives it to its end conclusion will be at a loss to provide an answer for either.

For starters, the atheist cannot look to philosophy for help. The Greek philosopher Epicurus believed humanity was nothing more than atoms, and atoms have no meaning or moral worth.

His partner in crime, Protagoras, believed that man is the measure of all things, which led the famous skeptic Bertrand Russell to say: "This is interpreted as meaning that each man is the measure of all things, and that, when men differ, there is no objective truth in virtue of which one is right and the other wrong."[1] In other words, without a real set of immutable moral standards, you can't really say things like the way Houston died was "tragic".

But it gets worse. The atheist philosophers who know their craft will tell you that there is no meaning in life, period. Jean Paul Sartre famously remarked that "man's nothingness forms the foundation of existential thinking". Man, said Sartre, "is an empty bubble floating on a sea of nothingness".

With such nihilistic instruction, it's no surprise that Sartre's study partner, Albert Camus, begins the section "An Absurd Reasoning" in his work The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays with these words: "There is only one really serious philosophical question, and this is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amount so answering the fundamental question of philosophy."[2]

I could continue to give examples, but suffice it to say that purely naturalistic philosophy is no help in infusing Whitney Houston or anyone else with any moral value or purpose in life.

But maybe the atheistic scientists can help? Perhaps they can provide humanity with some innate worth or a standard by which to live?

Not if you listen to the top spokesman for atheist, biologist Richard Dawkins: "Humans have always wondered about the meaning of has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."[3]

Dawkins isn't alone in believing there is no purpose to life. Listen to atheistic scientist William Provine describe the naturalist worldview: "When Darwin deduced the theory of natural selection to explain the adaptations in which he had previously seen the handiwork of God, he knew that he was committing cultural murder. He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations, and evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and all that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will, life after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life"[4]

We could also listen to atheist biologist Eric Pianka tell us "We're no better than bacteria!"[5] or Stephen Jay Gould describe humans origins and their ultimate (non-existent) reference point: "We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a 'higher' answer — but none exists."[6]

Unfortunately, for the true-to-the-faith atheist, Whitney Houston's demise was not tragic. To classify it as such demands that she possessed intrinsic moral worth, and that there exists in life a way things ought to be. But making such claims implies design, and a creator-less universe has nothing in that department to offer.

The Christian Perspective

By contrast, the Christian worldview says that Ms. Houston possessed true moral worth and value because she, like all humans, was created in the image of a purposeful God. She is different than pure matter, animals, and every other created thing.

Further, the same God who created her established moral standards that were put in place to ensure that His creation could enjoy life to the fullest and avoid the consequences that come from deviating from those standards (i.e. sin). The writer of Proverbs puts it like this: "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death" (Proverbs 14:27).

Atheists instinctively know right from wrong and good from bad, because their nature contains the imprint of God and His moral law along with everyone else. This is why they (like the atheist on Christian Post) unconsciously remark that Whitney Houston's death was tragic, because deep down they believe humans have real moral worth and that there is a standard by which we should live. Of this fact, Dr. Norman Geisler writes, "In essence, much (if not all) of the value of humanism is derived from the Christian character of its premises or presuppositions. In this moral sense, Western humanisms are often in effect non-theistic Christian cults."[7]

Is Whitney Houston's death a tragedy? Absolutely. But only when it's viewed within the framework of the Christian worldview.

If the truth be told, everyone's death is tragic, whether they are murdered, die young from a drug overdose, or pass away in their sleep at age 100. The Bible calls death an enemy of humanity, but it's an enemy that Christ defeated in His resurrection. Personally, I'm so glad that the truth of Christianity proclaims not only Jesus' victory over death, but His followers triumph as well.

Paul states things this way: "The last enemy that will be abolished is death...But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:26, 5457).

I say "amen" to that.

1. Bertrand Russell
2. Albert Camus; The Myth of Sisyphus
3. Richard Dawkins
4. Owen Gingerich, "Dare A Scientist Believe in Design?" in Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover Creativity, ed. John Marks Templeton (New York: Continuum Press, 1994), 30
5. Deroy Murdock; "Eco Radicals want Better Living through Mass Death"
6. Stephen Jay Gould, quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt, by James A. Haught, Prometheus Books, 1996
7. Norman Geisler, Introduction to Philosophy, 366-7

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Published 2-21-12