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Idolatrous Atheism

Many times I have seen forwarded message of “the shortest commencement speech of Peking University”. The speech was held in the highest esteem by Chinese, but I read it with some other feelings.

I know many of you may be offended by my thoughts. But I wrote down what I really felt in my heart anyway.

For some reason, these thoughts came out in English, probably because I felt in my gut that it was hard to express them clearly in Chinese, so I had to stay true to the source and hope to find another time to translate them into Chinese.

Proud self-centered humanism boosted by cleverness and eloquence. There is something great about the speech. But there’s also something profoundly sad about it.

535 words, more than 28 times “self” appeared, given to the idea of “self-respect”.

That, in itself, is not necessarily bad, because after all, “self-respect” is an important aspect of human values.

What is sad is that “self-respect” is merely and nakedly supported by “self” itself and nothing else, to an extent to take pride in proclaiming life as a mere physical and biological process obeying the second law in thermodynamics.

“在你所含全部原子再度按热力学第二定律回归自然之前…” (Translation: “Before all atoms contained in you return to the nature according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics…”)

English readers might think this was probably meant to be a lighthearted humor, but it was not.

The original speech was given in China where atheism and materialism do not just exist but are the governing thoughts of most people’s mind.  In its context, this statement was meant to be more than serious. It was meant to be intelligently and gloriously serious. (Here I use the word “thoughts” instead of ideologies or philosophies because they are more personally rooted than mere teachings, as a result of almost 70 years of brainwashing.)

I’ve never seen a speech that so artfully covers up profound sadness of eternal hopelessness, and takes pride in death, as a tribute to the idolized cycle of the nature.

This is what idolatrous atheism is.  Not mere atheism which pessimistically accepts eternal death as an unavoidable end despite an inner wish that there was eternity; but rather idolatrous atheism which proclaims death itself as the “self-glorified” meaning of life and takes pride in making such a proclamation.

But death was a consequence of the Great Fraud committed against Man by the Evil One, who is the enemy of the Creator.  Not knowing it or refusing to believe it does not change that state.

Adam was a deceived man, a sad truth that is not refuted but rather evidenced by the fact that his descendants are capable of promoting “self” and boasting about “death” with such vainglory.  This is the ultimate manifestation of man’s state of being deceived, that the autonomous man should be relentlessly unrepentant even unto the death.

That, is the spirit of this speech. It is not new. It just has a more clever way of expression.

About the Second Law in Thermodynamics, the Bible says,

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”  (Romans 8:20-22)

Promoting a glorified version of “self” in commencement speeches is common, but few would reach such level of idolatry.

But not all commencement speeches are like this. There are some that still that carry a basic element of humility. I recall a New York Times OP-ED opinion written by David Brooks about doing such in graduation speeches.  The Opinion, “It’s Not about You”, ended with this statement: “The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.”

The statement is a reflection of the words of Jesus Christ:

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”  John 12:25.

The words spoken by Jesus in John 12:25 mean, in the language we may understand better in today’s context, are: “One who would not let go of his old life will lose his life in the end, but one who rejects his old life with spite will find his life kept in a new and eternal one.”

The root of man’s problem is his “self” which became corrupt through Adam. In the words of Lance Lambert, “I is the problem.” God offers no remedy to that problem except for requiring us to give up on the “old self” and receive a new one from Christ.

Glorifying the “self” does not save the self.  On the contrary, it separates the soul further from the eternal solution offered by God.

May more souls discover the deception of the “self-glory” and come out of idolatrous atheism.