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Who Is The God That Stands Between The Theist & The Atheist?

August 7th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

I’m of the opinion that morality isn’t the domain of any particular segment of society…whether that be religiously inclined groups or those who don’t believe in God. Generally speaking, I suspect morality is an individual construct…albeit influenced by many factors including the individuals one chooses to associate with.

Regardless, there is an ongoing effort to suggest that disbelief (atheism) is the means by which the individual elects to abandon God…and therefore morality. This assertion is frequently connected with an acceptance of the theory of evolution. As such, the suggestion is that God and evolution are mutually exclusive…as are good and evil and right and wrong.

In the first of the following videos, one of the more lucid atheists on the internet, Potholer54 (a frequent YouTube contributor), offers a reasoned rebuttal to this contention. In this video, as he points out, more and more studies support the claim that the atheist’s sense of morality meets or exceeds that of those who embrace a belief in a divine being.

In the second video, Potholer54 simply offers his understanding of morality…a morality that isn’t exclusive to either group and needn’t be linked with a belief or disbelief in God…a morality that is mindful of the innate worth of that which surrounds us…humanity.

I’m fascinated by the fact that so many believers feel the need to impugn the values of atheists. It seems as if the validity of their beliefs is contingent upon invalidating the merits of disbelief…and therefore the morals of the disbeliever. I realize there is a natural tendency to mistrust those who don’t share similar beliefs, but the degree to which this particular divide has become a source of animosity between theists and atheists suggests other factors may be at play.

Two possible explanations come to mind. The first is premised upon the need to understand the meaning of our existence. For the believer, faith plays an integral part in defining purpose as well as providing a plausible explanation for the acceptance of death. Unfortunately, the structure of religion often makes our existence an either/ or equation. In other words, if you believe in God, death will be an enlightened transition; not an unequivocal ending. In this construct, it also means that a lack of belief will facilitate a fate worse than death…eternal damnation and suffering.

The nature of this first explanation provides the foundation for the second. Simply stated, the very existence of atheists can create an angst in the believer that serves to challenge the adherence to faith in the absence of evidence.

The believer’s approach is therefore a life constrained in hopes of achieving its extension…premised upon the flawed notion that in the absence of external pressure (thou shalt not restrictive mores), the individual will devolve into debauchery. The other avenue is the acceptance of an unbridled life…premised upon an understanding that a life well chosen is also a life well lived…which, in turn, establishes a system of experiential feedback and reward. In other words, human morality need not be an external construct. Rather, it should be an adventure of introspective awareness.

The former hinges upon denial and the latter is predicated upon discovery. The former is lived inside a narrowly defined room filled with doors that must never be opened as a matter of decreed doctrine. The latter is lived in the same room absent the fear that exploration will undermine the individual’s ability to preserve the chosen identity and the innate humanity. In the end, it’s the difference between a life lived in fear and a life lived deliberately.

In fact, I think one can relate it back to the Bible and the story of Adam and Eve. On the one hand, God provided his subjects with free will…presumably a decision by an all knowing being that must have been predicated upon some awareness of the likely outcome. On the other hand, he chose to present his subjects with a challenge that they mustn’t partake of the apple. Again, one would presume that he, having created his subjects, would be undeniably aware of their ability to adhere to this edict.

The plausible conclusions one can draw from this story are limited. One, God, all knowing though he may have been, must have miscalculated the likely actions of his creation…a conclusion which makes little sense if one actually accepts his omnipotence. At this juncture, one can make two assumptions. Either he knew mankind would fail before ever being presented the challenge or God’s all knowing capacities are questionable as would be his capacity to create.

If one prefers the former, one is left to question why an all knowing, all loving God chose to dupe the first humans he had ever created. Hence, we could still conclude that he is all knowing (though spiteful or twisted), but his bona fides as all loving must be called into question. If this is one’s conclusion, the justification for worshipping such a God might be suspect. In other words, is a God who toys with his subjects the kind of deity we humans should seek to engage and embrace? I don’t think so…unless one prefers to fearfully abdicate the free will he granted us…knowing full well his promise of an afterlife could be another ruse designed to amuse him.

If one prefers the latter, then it would be difficult to see God as all knowing, though he could still be viewed as a well-intentioned fellow who simply isn’t that capable. If this is one’s conclusion, it is difficult to imagine that he could have created such a complex world while also being unaware of the behavior his creations would exhibit.

In other words, does such an obvious miscalculation suggest that the God we know may well be fallible? If so, who is the all knowing and all loving God we speak of…and is he the God defined in the Bible or some other divine being unknown to us at this moment? If we can’t discern this answer, can we reasonably follow the Bible or the God described in it? Even if the God we know is an all loving being, isn’t it possible that he’s far more mortal than we presume? Should we fear or follow a God whose plan appears to have been a miscalculation from the outset?

With either possibility, the likely explanation is that God is nothing more than the creation of flawed and fallible humans seeking to make sense of our existence in the absence of enough knowledge to explain it or enough courage to accept it. Given the uncertainty of the meaning of our existence…coupled with the certainty that no individual has ever avoided its ending (death)…we can clearly see why our ancestors were motivation to create God. And so they did…by the hundreds.

Regardless, the presence or absence of a God has done little to alter the innate capacity of humans to act with empathy or to act with enmity. History is the record of individuals who have chosen one or the other…or some combination of both. Willful acts of goodness are no more dependent upon a deity than evil acts are the work of the devil.

Mankind has always had free will. What we so often lack is the willingness to embrace the responsibility free will imparts. We’re surrounded by catalysts for good and evil…yet our actions remain nothing more than the conscious choices we make. Perhaps that’s the true meaning of the parable of Adam and Eve. As such, abdicating one’s free will to fear can make us feel better but it doesn’t necessarily make us better people. God need not be a substitute for goodness. Wouldn’t we be better to have it here in this life than to envision it as some idyllic other world? Paradise is a choice. The choice is ours.

Atheists Are Immoral - Debunked

One Atheist’s Creed

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 4 Responses to “Who Is The God That Stands Between The Theist & The Atheist?”

  2. By Craig R. Harmon on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    I don’t impugn the morality of atheists. I just find it troubling that they so easily favor behaviors that slaughter, in goriest manner imaginable, human off-spring, albeit those off-spring who have not yet left the womb. This I find morally troubling. I choose not to impugn the morals of those who favor such behaviors but I will be damned if I will remain silent about such behaviors. Such opposition could, by definition and of necessity, be said to impugn the morals of those who favor and engage and enable such behavior but I simply cannot help that. Those who oppose war on the grounds that it kills innocent human beings also, by definition and of necessity, impugn the morals of those who favor, engage in and enable war.

    I think atheists, or maybe just human beings in general, are way too touchy about other people thinking their morals are not what they should be. We live in a society where those who govern do so at the pleasure of the governed. That is, where we, the people, are ultimately in charge of the rules by which our society is run. That makes it our civic duty to speak out when we see things happening that we oppose. Hell, that’s the civic duty that fuels BIO!, isn’t it?

    People here would no more stand for being told, “You must not impugn George W. Bush’s morals because that’s illiberal (in the sense of the classical liberal values of, say, J. S. Mill)” than I will be told, “I must tolerate abortion on demand of millions of innocent and defenseless members of the human species every year because one mustn’t impugn the morals of those who support said killings”.

    We also live in a society that values, perhaps above all, the exchange of ideas over violence as the means of resolving differences in the way different people think and act in the moral realm.

  3. By Chris Radulich on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    I just find it troubling that they so easily favor behaviors that slaughter, in goriest manner imaginable, human off-spring, albeit those off-spring who have not yet left the womb.

    I find it troubleing that religion offers the Inquisition, enslavement and slaught of the native mexicans, sucide bombers, Jihad, crusades, witch hunts,ect.

  4. By Craig R. Harmon on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply


    Not at all surprising. I find that troubling, too.

  5. By Liberal Jarhead on Aug 7, 2008 | Reply

    I agree that it’s vital that we live in a culture where the exchange of ideas, debate, is the way we’re expected to deal with disagreements and differences rather than using violence or coercion to try to force others to comply with our views.
    There’s a place for civil disobedience, but it’s not a violent place. When people violate that social compact - for example, when someone tries to trump the electoral process via assassination - they attack the whole fabric of our society, the fabric that separates us from anarchy, tyranny, and the stupid violence of mobs and fanatics.
    In terms of morality, that’s got to be very high on the priority ladder, because it has such a direct impact on every one of us.

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