Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A thought that I don't have time to flesh out

In re atheism, I just ran across an old note that I intended to expand upon and never did...
  • It’s a commonplace that you can’t understand what something means if you take it out of context.
  • You can’t understand what accurately what somebody is telling you, if you take it out of context.
  • You can’t pass judgment on the morality of somebody’s actions, if you take them out of context.
  • You can’t pass judgment on what somebody’s actions say about their relationship with some other person, if you take those actions out of context.


The second devastating flaw in atheism is simply that atheism makes enormous assumptions about the context in which the human story takes place. For after all, the fundamental question about the universe is not, “Does this machine have a Designer?” The fundamental question is, “Does this story have an Author?”
Present-day note: I presume that the first devastating flaw in atheism I had in mind is the gob-smacking hubris it takes to say, with a straight face, that because the world is "evil" (by the atheist's personal standards), therefore either God doesn't exist or else He deserves the atheist's scorn and hatred. To that point I repeat something I wrote almost twenty years ago in meditating on what the book of Job has to say to atheists resorting to this argument, which I labelled the "Crappy World" argument:
My point is not that Mr. Crappy World is setting himself up as the ultimate holier-than-thou person, looking at God and saying, "God, if you exist, I'm more moral than you are." True, he is setting himself up as God's boss, and we could legitimately complain about rebellion. But there's no need. Why bother to prove Mr. Crappy World rebellious when he is manifestly silly? Most of God's arguments against Job don't even try to prove that Job is an evil rebel. They prove that Job is a jackass. Here is a human being who has lived for less than a hundred years in a corner of an unimaginably large, billion-year-old universe that is on the Biblical view a temporary — indeed a short-term (!) — arrangement, and he thinks that if the universe doesn't appear to be made to his personal specifications, God has plainly screwed up. (I am reminded of G. K. Chesterton's observation that "while [skeptical philosophers] were pessimists about everything else they were optimists about their own opinions: they might be living in the worst of all possible worlds, but they were the best of all possible judges of it.") In comparison to Job and other Crappy World-ers, a four-year-old who takes it upon himself to criticize Roe v. Wade is a calm and humble reasoner to whom we should pay close and reverent attention.

Each of us, then, faces a choice. If we insist on our right to be angry with God, there is no point in going further. For if we can't face up to the patent absurdity involved in declaring ourselves Arbiter of Justice for All Possible Reality, Temporal and Eternal, we certainly never will face honestly the more intellectually demanding arguments detailing the specific fallacies in Crappy World. If there is no eternal moral law, then we have no grounds for condemning God's behavior. If there is, then the only person capable of passing judgment on super-cosmic decisions is somebody who himself is built on the super-cosmic scale, and whoever that may be, it certainly isn't us. If a person can't see that, there's really nothing we can do for him except go home, come back tomorrow, and hope that he has acquired an open mind overnight.

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