Skip to comments.Atheist Tracts. God, they're predictable.
Posted on 08/06/2007 5:21:00 AM PDT by .cnI redruM
As if we were back in eighteenth-century France, atheist tracts are abroad in our land, their flamboyant titles defiant. The God Delusion, God Is Not Great, Letter to a Christian Nation, Atheist Manifesto, Atheist Universe: These are not subtle insinuations against God, requiring inferences from readers, but open opposition inviting readers to join in thumbing their noses. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, newly published, offers comfort and scholarly reassurance, if not consolation, to atheists who might otherwise feel lonely--as, believing what they do, they surely must.
Atheism isn't what it was in the eighteenth century. Now, the focus of the attack is not the Church, which is no longer dominant, but religion itself. The disdain one used to hear for "organized religion" extends now to the individual believer's faith. Despite the change, politics is still the thrust of the attack. It's just that the delusion of religion is now allowed to be the responsibility of the believer, not of some group that is deluding him. A more direct approach is required.
In our time, religion, having lost its power to censor and dominate, still retains its ability, in America especially, to compete for adherents in our democracy of ideas. So to reduce the influence of religion, it is politically necessary to attack it in the private sphere as well as in the public square. This suggests that the distinction between public and private, dear to our common liberalism, is sometimes a challenge to maintain.
If religion, then, cannot be defended merely on the ground that it is private, what might be said in its behalf for the public good? We know from behavioral studies that, to the embarrassment of atheists, believers, or at least churchgoers, are better citizens--more active and law-abiding--than those who spend Sunday morning reading the New York Times. But why should this be so? And is it really true that atheists, with their newfound aggressiveness, are not public-spirited?
A person of faith might respond to the atheists that God's providence rules, but His mind is unknown to us. We might hope or guess or infer that God gives us freedom to make mistakes, to sin, to offend God, even to expound atheism--but we could not be sure of this. Our uncertainty as to God's intentions preserves the distance between man and God and prevents us from claiming imperiously that we know what God wants to happen. From this negative conclusion one might move to the positive inference that in leaving us free, God leaves us to choose and, to make choice effective, leaves us to choose not merely this or that detail of our lives, but a way of life comprehensively in politics.
But surely not just any politics, arbitrarily posited. We must have a politics that aims at justice. The atheists say that God is unjust because He allows injustice to exist, to thrive. Worse than that, God is complicit in injustice. The reason why "God is not great," in Christopher Hitchens's book title, is that God allows himself to be used, hence diminished, by His believers. Note that the atheist Hitchens, like a believer, wants God to be great. A God of limited powers is not God; God must be omnipotent to ensure that justice triumphs in the world. Hitchens doesn't believe in God, but that is because he does believe in justice. Justice must be realizable if the reproach to God is that He is unjust.
Now we must take a further step guided by human reason alone. Edmund Burke said, with a view to the atheism of the French Revolution, that we cannot live justly and happily unless we live under "a power out of ourselves." By this he meant a power above us, transcendent over our wills and our choices. We must choose to live under a power that limits our choices. In America we have a Constitution that limits our choices, not so much by forbidding things as by requiring us to make our choices through a political process of checks and balances, enforced by a separation of powers. But Burke means to argue that humanly contrived constitutional limits are not enough. Human government is not viable or sufficient without divine government above it in some unspecified relationship.
Is such a divine, transcendent power possible? The atheists say it is not. They say that man is by nature a tool-maker, not a religious being who yearns to worship God. In their view worship is nothing but a tool to get what we want; the power allegedly over us is "out of us" in the sense of originating in our selves. "Religion poisons everything," says Hitchens in the subtitle of his book, because every believer's private desires are given terrific force over others' desires without their consent. Religion makes believers into tyrants. The source of religious tyranny is therefore human, when men conceive of religion and convince themselves while fooling others that they deserve to have what they can get. Atheism uncovers the fact of human tyranny that uses religion as a mask.
Is there an atheist alternative to tyranny? Is there such a thing as a non religious principle, replacing God, that is truly transcendent and not a tool of our passions? One can think of such a principle, something like Kant's categorical imperative that requires each person, without appealing to God, to act only on a universal idea, not one that favors himself or promotes his own interest over others. But how does this work in practice? Has Germany, the country of Kant, been a paragon of justice in the world since Kant fashioned his theory? More pointedly, has not the atheist totalitarianism of the twentieth century, with its universal pretensions, proved to be the worst tyranny mankind has ever seen?
There was an Epicurean atheism in the ancient world quite different from ours today. That atheism also uncovered tyranny behind the mask of religion, but it was content to point out the power of injustice. Injustice in this view was the way of the world, and there was no remedy for it. The only recourse for a reasonable person was to stay out of politics and live a life of pleasure, seeking calm, watching storms of the sea from ashore, and suppressing one's indignation at injustice.
Today's atheism rejects this serene attitude and goes on the attack. In its criticisms of God it claims to be more moral than religion. But it cannot do this without becoming just as heated, thus just as susceptible to fanaticism, as religion. Today's atheism shows the power of our desire for justice, a fact underestimated by the Epicurean pleasure-lovers. But it ignores the power of injustice, which was the Epicurean insight. Atheists today angrily hold religion to a standard of justice that the most advanced thinkers of our time, the postmoderns, have declared to be impossible. Some of those postmoderns, indeed, are so disgusted with the optimism of atheism that, with a shrug of their shoulders, they propose returning to the relative sanity of religion.
It is not religion that makes men fanatics; it is the power of the human desire for justice, so often partisan and perverted. That fanatical desire can be found in both religion and atheism. In the contest between religion and atheism, the strength of religion is to recognize two apparently contrary forces in the human soul: the power of injustice and the power, nonetheless, of our desire for justice. The stubborn existence of injustice reminds us that man is not God, while the demand for justice reminds us that we wish for the divine. Religion tries to join these two forces together.
The weakness of atheism, however, is to take account of only one of them, the fact of injustice in the case of Epicurean atheism or the desire for justice in our Enlightenment atheism. I conclude that philosophy today--and science too--need not only to tolerate and respect religion, but also to learn from it.
Harvey Mansfield is professor of government at Harvard University and the author, most recently, of Manliness.
“The stubborn existence of injustice reminds us that man is not God, while the demand for justice reminds us that we wish for the divine.”
That’s quite a thought. I love condensed statements like this one, there is really no way to argue against it. Athiests would try to argue an individual man is capable of justice without God, and they might be in rare cases, but man as in mankind will never be just. That is one thing mankind has proven over the years. Man has never been able to govern himself long term.
I liked your comment too.
Atheism is its own religion, held to and promoted with the fervor of the most ardent religionists.
If religion is to blame for the woes of the world, I’d like to see an explanation of savagery and cruelty of the atheistic regimes of the recent years.
The question has so often been asked of why there’s evil in the world. The question I’d like to see answered is; “If there’s no God, what’s the source of good in the world?”
Thats quite a thought. I love condensed statements like this one, there is really no way to argue against it. Athiests would try to argue an individual man is capable of justice without God, and they might be in rare cases, but man as in mankind will never be just. That is one thing mankind has proven over the years. Man has never been able to govern himself long term.
LOL So if injustice reminds us that man is not God, doesn't that also remind us that God does not exist? Or do you expect more out of Man than God?
Justice would ban rakes like Hitchens from the public square. It is not fair to me to have him yammering from my TV.
No, it does not logically follow.
I believe that C.S. Lewis, in his book, MERE CHRISTIANITY, gave excellent answers to every atheistic point in this article. I recommend Lewis’ book.
“LOL So if injustice reminds us that man is not God, doesn’t that also remind us that God does not exist? Or do you expect more out of Man than God?”
No and no.
Athiests love to say man can be moral or just without God, that might be true in theory, but is that true in reality? I think that is what the author is trying to say. No matter what man thinks - collectively he has not been just. The worst things that have happened to men have been done to them by other men. Animals don’t treat each other the evil ways man has. Man’s evil doesn’t disprove God IMO, it proves God allows man free will and that man more often than not chooses evil.
What is your evidence that God is just?
If God isn’t just isn’t that a contradiction? What is your evidence that God is just?
Edmund Burke said, with a view to the atheism of the French Revolution, that we cannot live justly and happily unless we live under "a power out of ourselves." By this he meant a power above us, transcendent over our wills and our choices. We must choose to live under a power that limits our choices.
I <3 EDMUND BURKE
So this Omnipotent and Omniscient God allows evil men to kill, rape and plunder at will? If you let your dogs kill your neighbor aren't you just at guilty of murder as if you had done it yourself? Why should God not be guilty as well?
not only that, but the definition of “moral” and “just” becomes arbitrary. They are whatever I say they are because there is no standard higher than myself. Needless to say, that will lead to social chaos (as each person defends and pursues their personal definition of these concepts) or tyranny (when an individual or an elite decide that they will impose their definition on us). I vote for religion. As Voltaire said, if God did not exist we would have to invent him.
Atheists are fools.
So nothing can exist that isn't man? What is your point here?
I was paraphrasing the article that said that because Man isn't just he isn't God. I am glad that you disagree with that 'Logic' or lack of logic.
What complaint can a good atheist offer against evil, killing, raping and plundering? Why in the world would you expect a blind, indifferent, pitiless, godless universe to be moral and just? On your world view your accusations of injustice and evil make about as much sense as complaining about the value of the planck constant or the mass of an electron.
What is it that you are using to judge the brute facts of human behavior?
That's not much of an answer and it still leaves your original statement "So if injustice reminds us that man is not God, doesn't that also remind us that God does not exist?" hanging as a non sequitur.
Where you attempting to use men who commit injustice as proof of something?
He instructs men to follow another path but some reject that path as some others reject Him entirely. That men make such choices reveals nothing about His existence. It appears your argument is against God's giving us free will. Would you have preferred that He control us as a master does his dogs?
The Prisoners Dilemma. Read ejectejecteject.com for an example.
I am glad to see that you are no longer trying to defend that silly article.
By your own definition we are nothing more than wind up toys. Your Omniscient, Omnipotent God knows exactly what I am going to think at 9:31 AM next Tuesday. I am powerless to do otherwise in the face of an Omnipotent God. Freewill is an illusion if your God is Omnipotent and Omniscient.
I prefer to believe that you are mistaken about the nature of God. I do not believe in Allah.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a world famous French Mathematician, as well as a great Christian thinker. His contributions to the field of geometry in particular are well known today. Pascal developed many arguments in favor of the existence of God. Therefore he proposed what has come to be known as Pascal’s Wager. This is a common sense analysis of the benefits and consequences of belief or unbelief in the existence of GOD.
When it comes to God’s existence, there are two possibilities: either God exists or God does not exist. In terms of our response, there are also two possibilities: either we believe in God or we don’t. If God does not exist, and we wager that he does (by believing), then we lose nothing, since, presumably, there is no afterlife or eternal reward or punishment for belief or unbelief.
If God does exist, however, and offers us the free gift of eternal life, and we wager that he does not (by unbelief), then we risk losing everything by spending eternity separated from God. If God does exist, and we wager that he does, then we potentially gain eternal life and happiness.
So, said Pascal, a reasonable person who even considers the possibility that God exists to be about 50-50 should wager that he does, since that person stands to lose nothing and gain everything, whereas the person who wagers that God does not exist stands to gain nothing (if God does not exist), or lose everything (if God does exist).
It should be noted that Pascal also held that the possibility of God’s existence was much greater than 50-50.
While this is not a proof for God’s existence, it does demonstrate the seriousness of the consequences of either belief or unbelief which a reasonable person ought to carefully consider.
Received by email. This text is presented for religious and educational purposes only. No other use is intended or permitted.
Turborules also believes that 50/50 is the beginning of faith...over time we learn the true glory of the Father, and his true purpose for us...so if that makes me a mind numbed robot...I am happy in my naivete
You will be unable to point to my posting any such definition and I reject your argument that we are.
Your Omniscient, Omnipotent God knows exactly what I am going to think at 9:31 AM next Tuesday. I am powerless to do otherwise in the face of an Omnipotent God. Freewill is an illusion if your God is Omnipotent and Omniscient.
Geez, I wonder how many times such poor logic as this gets disproved in a basic Intro to Theology textbook.
God's knowledge of your actions does not determine those actions. If you know someone so well that you know precisely what they are about to say or do, does that knowledge of yours render them unable to do otherwise? No, of course not.
And it is the same with God. He has taught us justice and now leaves it to us to apply it, thereby moving closer to Him, or to reject it and move further from Him.
I am glad to see that you are no longer trying to defend that silly article.
Well, as my post before this one was my first on the thread, and as I did not address the substance of the article per se, but your accusations of moral perfidy against God, it's like you telling me that you're glad to see that I am no longer beating my wife.
Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving evidence of the fact. ~George Eliot, Impressions of Theophrastus Such, 1879
“Atheism isn’t what it was in the eighteenth century.”
A good read on atheism in the last couple of hundred years is found
in this book.
(IIRC, the author’s office at Oxford is only a few yards over from Dawkins)
The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief
in the Modern World
by Alister McGrath
Here is the exact quote.
"The stubborn existence of injustice reminds us that man is not God,"
So tell me, how is my paraphrasing a straw man?
Liberals don’t fear “God” so much as they fear MORAL JUDGEMENT of thier chosen “Lifestyles” and perversions by others.
If there is no God, then no one can question thier choices.
“Justice would ban rakes like Hitchens from the public square.
It is not fair to me to have him yammering from my TV.”
Yes, Christopher can be irritating.
BUT, if he was banned from TV, I’d have missed Tim Russert having
Hitchens and John Meacham (of Newsweek) facing off congenially in
an atheist-Christian dialogue.
It was GREAT fun to see Hitchens mumble and squirm when asked
(by Russert?) about all the religious institutions he and his family
have utilized over the years. IF I recall correctly, one of his marriages
was at a Greek Orthodox Church, the other at a Jewish temple.
And his children attend a school run by some religious body.
Let’s just put it this way: the usually nimble Hitchens couldn’t
talk his way out of those associations without sounding like an ingrate
availing himself of the good will of people he thinks are idiots.
I’ve only got dial-up so I can’t use YouTube.
But I suspect some parts of the interchange are available at this URL:
Besides, some of the face-offs Christopher has had with his much more
conservative, religious brother have been great TV as well.
Oddly I am not very worried about spending eternity in hell : )
I gave it a go, but it was so poorly argued I couldn't continue. For example, he says that because we compare moral systems, there must be some absolute, greatest moral system by which we judge them. Ridiculous and embarrasing. The fellow should have stuck to fiction.
What is the difference between your omnipotent, omniscient God and Michael Vick? He breeds his dogs and teaches them to kill. Those that don't, he kills.
The only difference that I can see between your God and Michael Vick is that your God controls your thoughts and actions. Vick is limited to just controlling his dogs actions.
Free will is nothing but an illusion if you believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient. You can do nothing except at its direction and control.
Except that I am not Omnipotent and Omniscient and I didn't create that other being. Obviously I am not God because I am continually amazed at what gullible people will believe and say. Freewill can only exist in the absence of omnipotence and omniscience.
And it is the same with God. He has taught us justice and now leaves it to us to apply it, thereby moving closer to Him, or to reject it and move further from Him.
You are less than a flip of a coin to your God. Heads you believe and tails you don't. Except that with a coin toss we can be surprised, God can't even be surprised at how you turn out. Why would he bother making you in the first place because your every thought and action was already predetermined when he created you?
1) God is in charge of justice. Us wanting him to take the thankless job doesn’t make it so.
2) Human being deserve to have someone extemporaneously impose utopia. I see complaints about God not giving people enough as a sad statement of individual dependency.
If you can imagine Hell and not Heaven? the Paradox escapes you on so many levels it begs the question...what you do believe?
However, if you see the paradox then you lie to yourself...
The point of these isn't to provide comfort to supposedly lonely atheists. It's to make it easier for atheists to come out of the closet, because Christian society, beginning with Constantine, tagged atheists as incompatible with society and worthy of government-imposed punishment. These books are designed to communicate with Christians, not atheists, just like abolitionist literature was designed to communicate with slaveholders.
In our time, religion, having lost its power to censor and dominate, still retains its ability, in America especially, to compete for adherents in our democracy of ideas
Hardly. Christianity is still powerful in America and it does exercise its powers to censor and dominate. Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court, for example, was only necessary because of that power.
We know from behavioral studies that, to the embarrassment of atheists, believers, or at least churchgoers, are better citizens--more active and law-abiding--than those who spend Sunday morning reading the New York Times.
Believers are more likely to be in prison than atheists (only 0.2% of prisoners are atheists vs. 83.8% for Jews and Christians, as of 1997-- 74,731 in the sample). Atheist nations like Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands have higher rates of life expectancy, adult literacy, female representation in the ranks of government, per-capita income, and educational attainment, and lower rates of infant mortality, homelessness, homicide, STD infection, sex discrimination, and poverty.
A person of faith might respond to the atheists that God's providence rules, but His mind is unknown to us. We might hope or guess or infer that God gives us freedom to make mistakes, to sin, to offend God, even to expound atheism--but we could not be sure of this. Our uncertainty as to God's intentions preserves the distance between man and God and prevents us from claiming imperiously that we know what God wants to happen.
Atheists think it says a lot that believers believe in a God who has promised eternal torture for not doing what God wants without making it clearly known what God wants (what's on his mind).
From this negative conclusion one might move to the positive inference that in leaving us free, God leaves us to choose and, to make choice effective, leaves us to choose not merely this or that detail of our lives, but a way of life comprehensively in politics.
If the punishment for exercising your free will is eternal torture, it's hardly free.
More pointedly, has not the atheist totalitarianism of the twentieth century, with its universal pretensions, proved to be the worst tyranny mankind has ever seen?
Religion and totalitarian regimes are quite similar-- an unquestionable authority. Authoritarianism involves an authority giving orders on how to think and behave (10 Commandments, etc.) and severe punishment for failure to do so (Hell) and doesn't allow the governed to have input in how they are governed (God is an absolute monarch). We have present day atheist societies in Japan and the Netherlands and in Sweden and Norway and those places are quite nice places to live.
Today's atheism rejects this serene attitude and goes on the attack. In its criticisms of God it claims to be more moral than religion. But it cannot do this without becoming just as heated, thus just as susceptible to fanaticism, as religion.
Not all fanaticism is created equal. You can be fanatical about not believing all you are told by authority figures and demand evidence for claims; about seeking knowledge and truth; about educating yourself about science and how the universe works; about leaving valuable contributions for future generations; about courage, honor, faithfulness, hospitality, industriousness; about treating others the way you would like to be treated, etc.
No comparison is even remotely relevant...with that analogy you have lost the arguments!
I am an American, I pray to my God and we go solve my problems. When we have forgotten God, we will pray to the Government to take care of us from the cradle to the grave.
There is zero evidence that God will permit people into heaven who believe in him based on Pascal's Wager. In fact, given that he refers to the narrow gate, the odds are probably very small. Pascal's Wager is pointless.
I see life here as this:
In the presence of God (or heaven), sin does not exist. God knows all from beginning to the end. He may not control all, but he knows all. He created Lucifer in heaven. He gave Lucifer and others great knowledge. Knowledge of all things, including sin. Lucifer gets curious and wants to experience sin. He tells the Father that he would rather rule in hell then serve in Heaven. The Father knew this and said so be it. The Father now creates a planet. On it, he puts a balance of good and evil. He puts his image on the planet and gives them free will (this is when he lets the repercussion of sin effect man). Now, when I have come to God, I have recognized that without Him we have disease, dishonor, war, distrust, and many other sicknesses. I say to him, that I have seen sin. I have tasted it, smelt it, and felt it. I would rather serve in Heaven then rule in Hell any day.
I think all people will come to this conclusion that they need God and the last being to do so, will be Lucifer. Why do I say this? My God tells me to forgive all. Forgive the devil himself. We all have fallen short, we all need forgiveness. We all will recognize that they need God. Be it here on earth or tempered by the fires of hell. (fires of hell is the absence of Love)
That is why I think we are here. We are here to be tempered by the fire and to make a choice. I choose a lawyer. He has never lost a case that he has defended with the blood of his life. It works great for me and I am happy.
I hope you have your happiness too.