According to Wikipedia, the Chinese water torture "is a process in which water is slowly dripped onto a person's forehead, allegedly driving the restrained victim insane".
Now, strictly speaking I have no personal experience in this matter. Strictly speaking. But I understand that it's not the first drop of water that wears a person down, or even the second, or third, of fourth. The key to the Chinese water torture is the cumulative effect on the 'torturee' of one drop coming after another, coming after another, coming after another, coming after another...
It's exactly the same with the kind of apologetics I've been describing in these lessons.
An Anvil in the Throat of Naturalism
We've begun in our last two lessons to illustrate our claim that we are an anvil in the throat of naturalism. The naturalist worldview simply chokes on the human person. We just won't "go down".
For instance, in The Parable of the Madman we looked at the issue of meaning. While our desire that there be ultimate meaning to life is explained and fulfilled by the Christian theistic worldview, it is contradicted by the naturalist worldview, which teaches us that the universe and everything in it (that includes you) is a material accident that has no meaning or purpose. (By the way, why would we evolve a desire for something that doesn't exist?)
In A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy we looked at the issue of value and noticed the same pattern. While our nearly universal intuitive belief in the intrinsic value of human beings is explained and fulfilled by the Christian theistic worldview, it is contradicted by the naturalist worldview.
If Christian theism is true, every person is an immortal spirit made in God's image and deserves to be treated as such. If atheistic naturalism is true, we are the accidental product of nature, amoeba upgraded to monkeys modified by random genetic mutation and natural selection. We possess no more inherent value or dignity than a rat or a cockroach, and the idea that everyone is "equal" is sentimental illusion that has no basis in the natural world. If you and I wish to treat everyone equally, fine. But naturalism provides no foundation for the moral requirement to do so.
If this is the universe in which we live, human life has no ultimate meaning or purpose and human lives have no inherent value. What about human rights? What happens to those?
The Myth of Unalienable Human Rights
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."
Well, rights that are "unalienable" would be rights that are inherent to us as persons, rights that belong to us and cannot be taken (alienated) from us. And notice how the Declaration of Independence makes an explicit connection between God and the unalienable rights we possess. It says we have been "created equal" and "endowed by our Creator" with these rights. It's precisely because our rights come to us from the Creator that they are inherent to us and cannot be taken from us.
These truths are said to be "self-evident".
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it like this:
The unalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin" (paragraph 2273).
Now, whether we are religious or not, these are precisely the sort of "rights" we all seem to believe in, cherish and insist on for ourselves and others.
In fact, many, many who would consider themselves secular to the core devote their entire lives to working for the recognition of human rights. They do this because they know in their heart of hearts that human beings possess unalienable rights.
The only problem is, on the basis of their worldview, they cannot account for them.
If atheism is true, unalienable rights simply have no existence. In a universe comprised of nothing but physical particles interacting with one another in accordance with strict and unbending physical laws, there is simply "no one" to bestow these kinds of rights, no one to "endow" you and me with rights that belong to us by nature and therefore cannot be taken away.
I've never yet met a person who believed that rights just "exist" on their own, free floating in the material universe along with matter and energy. I'm aware of no one who has attempted to argue that "rights" evolve over time, that they emerge from the swamp like fins and feet.
No, if there is no God to endow us with rights, then what rights we possess must be rights we're received from others. But rights that are granted to us by any person, group or power on earth can be taken away by that same person, group or power the moment it seems 'important' to do so.
These sorts of rights aren't "unalienable".
Shih Huang Ti, the first emperor of China had 460 scholars buried alive because they dared to tell him he was wrong about something. When facing delays in the building the Great Wall, a soothsayer told him that unless 10,000 people were buried in the wall, it would never be finished. Thankfully, he found a man whose name Wan meant 10,000, buried him alive in the rampart and the work continued.
This is the way it is when rights are not inherent and unalienable..
Even in a democratic form of government, rights that are granted by the "people" are not rights that one possesses by nature. Before 1973 Americans did not have the "right" to abort their unborn children. Now they do. And if Roe v Wade is at some point overturned, then that "right" will no longer exist.
Once again, God's existence makes sense of our intuitive belief that human beings possess rights that are inherent to them and cannot be taken away by any person or power on earth.
The naturalist worldview, once again, does not. And cannot.
Now, I'm aware that by drawing an analogy between Christian apologetics and torture I've painted myself into a somewhat awkward corner. After all, the words "Chinese water torture" may evoke some, shall we say, "negative" images in the minds of the more sensitive.
But hear me out. I'm not talking about this:
I'm not talking about drowning anyone in facts or immersing anyone in a tank of arguments and challenging them to get out if they can. And I'm not talking about the evangelistic equivalent of water-boarding. "Take that! And that! And that!"
In fact, in terms of the spirit with which we want to present our case for the truth of the Christian worldview, I'm actually talking about something a lot closer to this:
The spirit must be the spirit of Baptism, even if the procedure may be somewhat analogous to the aforementioned...uh, well... You know what I'm talking about.
You see, it's not as though your atheist friend is going to fall down and cry out "What must I do to be saved?" the instant you tell him that according to his worldview he needs to stop talking about unalienable human rights as though they existed. No, it's a matter of putting your finger on one point of tension. And then another point of tension. And then another. It isn't the first drop of water, or even the second, or even the third. It's the cumulative effect one coming after another.
"So, you're saying that as an atheist I must accept the idea that life has no ultimate meaning or purpose?" Drop. "That's a bummer. But then again, there are lots of good things to enjoy in this brief life. And in the meantime maybe I can even write a hit song about the ultimate meaninglessness of human existence. How's this sound? 'Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.'"
"You say I must accept the implication that human beings have no intrinsic value?". Drop, drop.
"You say that if I wish to be consistent with my worldview I have no right to think of my son or daughter as being better or higher or more valuable than a cockroach?" Drop, drop, drop.
"Obviously, this isn't a pleasant thought. But if it's the truth, I suppose I need to accept it and make the best of things. Maybe I'll join PETA and devote the rest of my meaningless and valueless life to saving the equally meaningless and valueless snail darter." Drop, drop, drop, drop.
"There's more? You say the idea of human beings having equal value and dignity has no basis in my naturalist worldview? That it's an illusion?" Drop, drop, drop, drop. "And now you say that the unalienable human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness only exist if God exists to endow us with those rights?" Drop, drop, drop, drop, drop...
But the difference between what I'm proposing and the analogy I've (stupidly) chosen to employ, can be seen not only in the spirit with which we proceed, but in our differing goals.
The goal of Chinese water torture is to drive the victim insane. Our goal is exactly the opposite. As these ideas hit, one after another, and the implications of the naturalist worldview begin to sink in, your hope is that your friend---who has a soul---will begin to see that something is wrong with a worldview that necessarily involves these kinds of implications. Your prayer is that he or she will slowly be nudged in the direction not of insanity but of sanity.
I suppose we could say that apologetics is the joyful work of driving your friends sane.