Someone pointed me toward conservative commentator and radio host Dennis Prager’s recent essay “Two Questions for Atheists.” I thought it might be interested to actually answer them. I’ll wait for you to go read his article.
Back so soon?
Mr. Prager has posed a couple of interesting questions, albeit ones that are overly broad and clearly designed to give the interrogator all kinds of maneuvering room regardless of the response. It’s a silly debate tactic rather than a serious attempt to arrive at the truth. Frankly, it offers more of a window into Mr. Prager’s mindset than any real challenge to atheist belief.
Nonetheless, let’s take a stab at his questions.
- Do you hope you are right or wrong?
Well, I hope I misread those last Powerball numbers, so maybe I should take another look. Also, I’m hoping I’m right to shift my support to Hillary now that Bernie’s chances at the nomination are essentially zero, but… Oh. That’s not what you meant? Perhaps you should be a bit clearer. Right or wrong about God? (If so, which God?) About my atheism? About what, exactly?
If you’re asking do I hope I’m right or wrong about disbelieving in the God of the Old Testament, the New Testament and/or the Quran, well, I hope I’m right. Such a vengeful, petty, cruel, capricious and nonsensical God would have tragic consequences indeed: the vast majority of humanity condemned to eternal torture while a tiny minority of fanatics live in bliss for eternity. And for what purpose? An omnipotent God could easily grant all his creatures Paradise–and without the need to die, while He’s at it. Maybe you should wish for a better God.
It would also be a shame if such manifestly self-contradictory holy books as the Bible and the Quran actually described reality. It would make a mockery of the knowledge and progress humanity has made over the last
6,000 two million years. Anyway, as far as the God of the Abrahamic religions is concerned, I think I’m on pretty solid ground in saying that His existence can be easily dismissed on lack of evidence for and on preponderance of evidence against.
As for any of the other infinitely possible gods that have not yet been described, I can’t say if I hope I’m right or wrong, since I don’t know whether they are cruel or kind gods, logical or illogical gods, gods who offer a pleasant afterlife, or gods who make the nightmares of Lovecraft look like the Teletubbies. I hope I’m wrong about any potential bad gods and right about any potential good gods, but either way I withhold judgment until I have had an opportunity to weigh all the evidence. Right now the simplest explanation for the available facts is that there is no God (of any sort), there is no afterlife, and you make your own meaning for your life where you can. As far as the implication that a universe without your God is not worth living… the consequences of the truth offer no support for the truth. If it turns out that a godless universe is just a nihilistic hellscape, then that’s the way it is. (I don’t agree, but let’s just say.) It doesn’t make the God of the Bible real, and it doesn’t make it right to believe in Him.
2. Do you ever doubt your atheism?
Again, if you mean my atheism toward any described version of the Abrahamic God, no. Not in a very long time. (And I don’t count as “doubt” the occasional emotional twinge in wishing I could live forever, or longing to see a deceased loved one, etc. Emotional states do not dictate reality.)
As far as a “universal atheism”–that is, a disbelief in any potential god or gods for whom evidence might be found in the future–show me the evidence. Then we’ll talk about doubt.
Okay, maybe those questions aren’t as interesting as I’d hoped they’d be. I’m sure Mr. Prager has gotten plenty of feedback on this, and if he reads the responses maybe he’ll learn that life is worth living, and living well, even without the promise of eternal bliss or the threat of eternal damnation. He’ll also learn that being an atheist is just one tiny aspect of a rational, science-minded, humanistic existence.