Okay, so two columns back I announced I wouldn't be posting any columns here in August because of the deadline for Dragonseed. But, yesterday I was doing my morning wake-up browse of the internet and stumbled onto an editorial by Dennis Prager, a talk show host. He's written an article arguing for the neccessity of God, as opposed to the existence of God. It's basically a list of 14 reasons why, if we assume there is a God, we are better off than if we assume there isn't.
You can read his whole article here. Unfortunately, the article didn't have a comment field beneath it. I don't want to violate any copyright by cutting and pasting his 14 point here to argue with them one by one.
Some of them, I don't argue. Some sound like pretty good arguments for atheism, starting with his first item:
Without God, there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil." This does not mean that an atheist cannot be a good person. Nor does it mean that all those who believe in God are good; there are good atheists and there are bad believers in God. It simply means that unless there is a moral authority that transcends humans from which emanates an objective right and wrong, "right" and "wrong" no more objectively exist than do "beautiful" and "ugly."
I'm perfectly comfortable with the notion that good and evil do not exist in some form that transcends humanity. Once I stopped attempting to divine the wishes of an invisible judge who will weigh the value of my life after I die, my life became a bit less stressful.
But, moving on, there was one point that was made that really made my eyes pop open:
Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God. We live, we suffer, we die – some horrifically, many prematurely – and there is only oblivion afterward.
I dislike the use of the word "tragic," but aside from that, I agree with the basic thrust. However, the alternative seems to be this: Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is a God. We live, we suffer, we die – some horrifically, many prematurely – and afterward all but a tiny handful will be punished with everlasting torment.
To me, the first statement seems far more acceptable than the second. We live, we suffer, we die--but at least God isn't eating popcorn while watching kids starving or getting abused or coming down with cancer. The human condition seems to me to be exactly the same level of suffering with or without God--only, if you do presume the existence of God, you're left wondering why he hates you and what you've done to deserve the tornado that just wiped out your house.
One last point that also got my goat: If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers. Only if there is a good God do Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler have different fates.
This was closely related to the moral argument that eventually drove me into atheism. Because, according to the teachings of my church, there was no path to God but through Jesus. So, being kind wouldn't save you. Being an innocent victim of torture or murder wouldn't save you. And, if a murderer repented on death row for killing and raping some Buddhist hippie, that murderer was going to heaven to live it up while the woman he killed was going to spend all of eternity in a pit of eternal flame suffering far worse agonies than mere rape. In my church, Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler did have the same fates--they were both going to hell, since Catholics weren't really Christians. Ghandi was going to hell. John Lennon, hell. Every native American born before Christians reached the America's... hell bound. Unborn babies aborted in China were heavenbound, since sin didn't pass on until you were born, but all their commie mommies and daddies... off to hell! God doesn't care if you're a good mother or an axe-murderer. If you aren't born again, you burn. And, he doesn't really grade the sins... Hitler is going to suffer in the same hell that Ted Kennedy is going to for voting against the Iraq war (or whatever).
Anyway, sorry to break the silence with a rant, but I just couldn't let these two arguments pass. Now, back to Dragonseed.