More Religious Hypocrisy
In this week’s Sunday Review Susan Jacoby issued all the usual hypocrisies. Religious believers enjoy the “comfort of their faith” but atheists like her are not religious. And that frees Jacoby and religion-free thinkers like her of the “theodicy problem.”
That was after Jacoby explained that she chose atheism because God wouldn’t allow so much suffering. Here is the money paragraph:
Now when students ask how I came to believe what I believe, I tell them that I trace my atheism to my first encounter, at age 7, with the scourge of polio. In 1952, a 9-year-old friend was stricken by the disease and clinging to life in an iron lung. After visiting him in the hospital, I asked my mother, “Why would God do that to a little boy?” She sighed in a way that telegraphed her lack of conviction and said: “I don’t know. The priest would say God must have his reasons, but I don’t know what they could be.”
Eight years later that little boy died but by that time Jacoby no longer had to ask the questions, for she was a committed atheist:
I do not have to ask, as all people of faith must, why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen.
It is true that theists are left with this question of why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen. But atheists such as Jacoby are left with questions of why such things ought not to happen in the first place. Such questions, as Whitehead so well observed, “appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming.”
And one of those things atheists are assuming is that God wouldn’t do it that way. As P.Z. Myers exclaimed to world he is:
pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.
Pretty certain God wouldn’t have made this world? While Myers criticizes others for their religious beliefs, Myers’ notion of how the universe would and would not look if such an all-powerful being created it is, itself, a religious belief.
Perhaps Myers’ certainty is at the 99% level. How did he arrive at such a value? You see whether Myer’s certainty is 99%, 98%, 90%, or whatever, does not matter. For in any case, it is a religious claim. There is no scientific experiment or evidence to back up Myers’ belief. There is no logic or rationale to which Myers could appeal.
Myers concludes with atheism, but his very atheism undermines his religious claim. If atheism were true, then no religious claims could be known to be true. One could claim there is a 99% chance God would or would not do this or that, but such a claim would be worthless.
Now Jacoby repeats this illogical exercise yet again. She claims freedom from theodicy not realizing she is a captive. Jacoby did not obviate religion as she imagines, she swallowed it. Jacoby no longer asks such questions not because they are no longer relevant to her, but rather because she has committed to them.
She has decided that God wouldn’t do that to a little boy and so, she concludes, there is no God. Not only is her premise a religious belief, but her conclusion makes it vacuous.
At this point atheists dig themselves even deeper with their standard, F6, response that they are “just testing your belief.” If that were the case then there would be no basis for their conclusion. For all that they would have proved is that people who believe that (i) God created this world and (ii) God would not create this world, are wrong.
When Myers states that God probably would not create this world and Jacoby says God would not do that to a little boy, they are expressing their religious beliefs. For atheists, it’s all about God. You Are the Man.