|God(feel free to substitute George Burns or Morgan Freeman)|
When making the case for atheism, many atheists use logical, scientifically based arguments. Things like displaying the science of carbon dating and fossils to prove evolution, or the history of world religions to point out that belief in all powerful beings are not new to the human race can be persuasive to some, but faith, by its very definition, is not based on reason or logic, and therefore can often resist such arguments with ease. I once heard a Christian fundamentalist say that fossils were put in place by satan in order to make humans question creationism; while this statement seems laughable to me, it perfectly shows the lengths that the faithful will go to defend their beliefs and how difficult it is to counter against such beliefs when they are so strongly held.
So why not make arguments against god that are based not on reason or science, but that instead play on emotion? Here are some I like to make: the concept of heaven and hell as reward or punishment is one that runs through the Christian faith. On the surface, it seems like an understandable and even pleasant idea: why shouldn't good people be rewarded by going to a perfect place forever, and why shouldn't the Adolf Hitlers and Joseph Stalins of the world get what's coming to them?
But the idea of human life being a test, one in which we are freely allowed to choose between the moral and the immoral and are duly rewarded or punished, falls apart when one examines the realities of the world. For heaven and hell to really work, every person would have be born into a similar life situation, and share a similar life span. That would be the only way for there to be a just judgmental system applied to every person in the world. But that just isn't the case: every year, all around the world, millions of children are born into lives of poverty and hardship through no fault of their own. Many of those children will grow up and violate the laws of their country and human morality in general as a means to get out of that poverty. Are they completely at fault and deserved of eternal damnation? Many of them would never have broken the law if they were born to a family of reasonable means, so how can their lives be seen as test when the odds of them passing it have been stacked against them? And then there are children who are born to a family that provides for them reasonably, but who are horribly abused as children. Sexual or physical abuse can leave life long scars on them. If a boy is born into a family where violent behavior and abuse are the norm, can he really be blamed for growing up to be a violent person? How much free will does such a person have?
And then there's the question of geography; many Christians maintain that eternal paradise can only be achieved through being Christian or converting to it. But what if you are born into a part of the world with a completely different faith? There are around nine hundred million Hindus in the world today; if a person is born into a community of Hindus, lives his entire life as a Hindu and never converts to Christianity, why would a just and fair god punish that person with eternal damnation? What if he led a good and moral life? What if he never even heard about Christianity? Would a murderer who embraces the Christian faith in jail be allowed into heaven before a Hindu who led a good honest life?
|And let's face it, their gods look cooler|
And then there's the tricky question of lifespan. To lead a moral life, one has to live long enough to be able to consciously make moral choices. And the sad fact of the matter is that every year, all around the world, millions of children die before reaching the age of five through starvation, dehydration, disease and other factors. None of these children led a long enough life to make moral decisions, so how can they possibly be judged?
Even worse, why does god allow so many innocent children to die in the first place? God is supposed to be loving and caring, and yet where is god in the face of sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS), a condition that causes thousands of tiny babies all around the world to just stop breathing? Here are completely blameless children who have never even had the chance to commit a sin; why would a benevolent god let them just die needlessly? If god truly has control over everyone and everything in the world, and has deep love for all the people in it, why can't it prevent those innocent babies from dying? If a supreme being can't be bothered to save the lives of newborn babies, then what good is it? Is that a god worth praying to? At the risk of being noble, I would gladly trade my middle aged life to save the life of just one of those babies dying from SIDS. But I can't. Why not?
I have personally used this last point about SIDS when debating the existence of god with religious people I know, and I have yet to receive an answer that is satisfactory to me. One person said that all those babies were going to grow up to be the next Adolf Hitler, but that raises more questions than it answers (If god intervenes to stop the next Hitler from growing up, why didn't it stop the first Hitler? And how could thousands of babies grow up to be the next Hitler? How many Hitlers can there be?). Most just shake there heads and admit that it's a tough question, and indeed the concept of god allowing the suffering of the innocent is one that theologians have grappled with for years. To me the answer is simple: the idea that there is a wise, caring and loving all powerful being that guides us, listens and responds to our prayers and that wisely judges us is an attractive one on the face of it, but, when one honestly looks at the deep, unfair inequities of the world, the likelihood of such a being actually existing becomes minuscule. That is, of course, entirely my own opinion.