Many atheists are notorious for arguing from desire. (Be ever careful of the So’s-Yer-Old-Man Fallacy.) God doesn’t exist, they say or imply, because He’s a big meanie, because His demands are onerous, or because the atheist would rather not follow some “ancient” or “medieval” rule.
Take as a mild for instance this snippet from a review of the book Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh, penned by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein:
The philosopher Sydney Morgenbesser, beloved by generations of Columbia University students (including me), was known for lines of wit that yielded nuggets of insight. He kept up his instructive shtick until the end, remarking to a colleague shortly before he died: ‘Why is God making me suffer so much? Just because I don’t believe in him?’ For Morgenbesser, nothing worth pondering, including disbelief, could be entirely de-paradoxed.
A more common form is this: “Why would I want to believe in a God that would send me to Hell for not believing in him?” Comedian Gilbert Gottfried built a (let us call it) joke which conforms to it which he calls “Jesus’s Theory”, and which goes like this: “I was talking to Jesus, and I said, ‘Jesus, I feel like no one will ever accept me.’ And Jesus looked at me and said, ‘You know what my theory is? Accept me or go to hell.'” I have seen him deliver a variant of this jest where he received not so much laughter, but a sturdy approving round of hoots and applause. This quip resonates—with just whom and why, we’ll see in a moment.
Another popular thrust is to directly disparage the notion of Hell. It’s easy to find examples. Hell, says one atheist, is one of the “cruelest of all concentration camps” and that it is “Certainly far worse than the ones created by the Nazis.” Conclusion? “[T]he existence of hell paints the Christian God as not fit for worshiping.”
Many know of atheism’s chief proselytizer Richard Dawkins’s antipathy. In the The God Delusion he said:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Therefore, implies Dawkins, God doesn’t exist.
The most popular version of all, used by non-serious atheists (agnostics, the uneducated, etc.), comprising the largest group of all, are variations on “I am a nice person.” Are you indeed. To the quarter- or non-trained atheist that he or she is “generally good” or kind or (the treacly) nice is proof enough that God doesn’t exist; or rather, is not worth thinking or worrying about.
Another name for this general argument for atheism is adolescent petulance, or, more formally, the Crybaby Fallacy. If God does not exist, there is no point—it is irrational—to (endlessly) say you don’t believe in Him because of what He does or doesn’t do or because of what He does or doesn’t require of His followers. Why? Because He doesn’t exist and therefore cannot require anything, least of all obedience! Nothing can demand nothing. And if God does exist, it is not merely silly, but asinine to go on and on about how aggrieved or burdened you are over the minimal, really the most trivial, and eminently rational, requirement to acknowledge His existence. It is rational because He exists. To not acknowledge His existence when He exists is the height (or really depth) of irrationality.
The Crybaby Fallacy is the same found in children the world over who rail and rant after being told “Because I said so” by their fathers. Many children think this reason insufficient justification for their tasks and therefore grumble, to themselves more than to anybody else, that the requirement is cruel or unnecessary because they cannot comprehend its necessity. They disbelieve in their fathers’ authority because they would prefer not to shoulder their burden. But even children don’t fall into the folly of saying, “My dad doesn’t exist because he wants me to take out the trash.” Or rather, only a minority of children think this way, wandering in the trenches of misery whether they were adopted.
The voracious god Quetzalcoatl, the Aztecs said, demanded human bodies for his supper. His priests saw to it that he was not stinted in his meals. The god Huitzilopochtli enjoyed having the beating hearts ripped out of his victims. And there are many more examples of such brutality from the world over and through history. Funny thing about these examples are their similarities. The Aztecs, for instance, “Before and during the killing, priests and audience (who gathered in the plaza below) stabbed, pierced and bled themselves as autosacrifice”. The bled their sacrificial victims, too, in the most gruesome manner. And we recall the story of how Elijah teased the priests of Baal, the god who could not, in the presence of Elijah, start a simple fire: “When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: `Call louder, for he is a god; he may be busy doing his business, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears according to their ritual until blood gushed over them.” Curious, no? Let that pass for now. These days, few people believe in the Aztec gods or Baal (those who do the systematic killing at Planned Parenthood may be an exception in the latter case). Why?
The reason is complex and beyond this small article, but basically it’s this: those that have abandoned the old gods believe in something else. They do this not because they have any proof of the non-existence of these minor deities, such proof being impossible in most cases to get, but because they have discovered their new belief to be superior and better supported. For instance, Our Lady of Guadalupe accounts for the flight from the gods to God in the case of the Aztecs, a move which did not so much take leave of the old gods, but gave them new explanations. Others more recently mistakenly worship (in the loosest possible sense of this word) Science, a system so weak that it can’t even explain itself.
It is not a conclusive argument against the existence of any god that he requires human sacrifice, nor is it sound argument against God that He requires acknowledgement (He actually only requires accepting a free, no-strings-attached, eternally rewarding gift). It is not a conclusive argument against the existence of any deity that what the deity requires is repugnant, strange, or even illogical or impossible. If the god does not exist, it cannot ask for anything. But if the god really does exist, what it asks for is what it asks for. If it asks for the illogical or impossible, it could just be that that this simple god has a poor sense of humor. He is a god, after all, and can do what he likes. The Greeks knew this well. And consider we do not say modern university professors do not exist because what many of them say or require is absurd (right, JH?).
How is the Crybaby normall rebutted? Well, it’s an obvious fallacy, so it doesn’t need rebutting, but words of a certain sort are usually found. In children, it’s the father telling the kid to suck it up, that life’s not fair, to do what they’re told and like it; that when the kid grows up, if it pays attention, it might understand. With God Himself, something stronger is called for. What do you say to a bratty adult who doesn’t want to believe because the adult can’t understand God’s simple rules? How about words like this, spoken by God to a man who suffered a hell of a lot more than any in our increasingly decadent, effeminate society?
Who is this who darkens counsel with words of ignorance? [Asked God to the man Job.] Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers!
Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its size? Surely you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves stop?
Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from it?
The earth is changed as clay by the seal, and dyed like a garment; but from the wicked their light is withheld, and the arm of pride is shattered. Have you entered into the sources of the sea, or walked about on the bottom of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness?
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell me, if you know it all…
Will one who argues with the Almighty be corrected? Let him who would instruct God give answer!
It’s at that point you either stop sniveling, act like a man, and take out the damned trash—or you descend into a narcissistic pit.
Stay tuned. So if the god truly doesn’t exist, who’s making the requests? That can’t be known unless you first have proof of the existence and the nature of the deity. More to come…