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May the Farce be with You
A Lighthearted Look at Why God Doesn't Exist
By Pamela Sutter
See Sharp PressCopyright © 2015 Pamela Sutter
All rights reserved.
A horrible accident took place in December 2000 in which an eight-months-pregnant woman was hurled through the windshield of a truck onto the pavement; the jack-knifing vehicle then sliced her body in half. This caused the expulsion of the baby, still attached by the umbilical cord and very much alive. The child's survival was hailed as a miracle by the woman's husband, the driver of the truck. "Something else must be at work here besides luck," he commented.
A miracle? It was a miracle that the mother died an ugly death by being cut in half by a truck? A miracle that the baby will grow up without his mother and, when old enough, will be saddened by the horrible way she died? A miracle that the baby was jettisoned onto cold asphalt as his father became a widower?
Sorry, there was no miracle here. The human trait of seeking comfort is a strong one. Notice that the father focused only on the good: the baby survived the freak accident. People look for reasons to maintain their faith in God, and they will convince themselves they've found it, no matter what.
Time and again folks overlook the negative and latch on to whatever is left. An infertile couple praises the Lord for the miracle He bestowed when the fertility drugs kicked in to give them septuplets. Why was the couple plagued by infertility to begin with? Why weren't they content with the destiny He chose for them? Maybe they were meant to adopt a special needs child instead? No. Truth be told, all "miracles" are miracles only in hindsight.
A tornado skips along a residential neighborhood, wiping out some houses, sparing others. Those with intact houses will praise the Lord, while the neighbor next door standing amidst rubble demands, "Why me?!" Random happenstance is assigned meaning by pattern-seeking humans. The result is a "miracle." No god need apply, for the human mind has filled the position.
A man has a near-fatal encounter with (insert your own mayhem). In an interview he humbly explains, "It wasn't my time." Has he forgotten about all the people who were snuffed out in the prime of life, and infants who never got to know life at all?
Watch what happens when trouble befalls a church. An earthquake in El Salvador destroyed the church in a small town, and also killed hundreds under a landslide of dirt and rubble. Survivors quickly declared, "God loves us, He left some of us alive to rebuild the church!" Huh?! God let people die horrible, claustrophobic deaths in order for the others to see themselves as "survivors"? This is a good thing? Why wasn't the church spared? Come to think of it, why did the quake occur at all? Was God busy curing someone's canker sore?
"God only knows why this happened" is another common utterance, often spoken in dismay. Indeed, He must be one sinister God to allow or to create a natural disaster. Or maybe He's a nice God, taking whole families up to Heaven at once so they can discuss his "acts of God."
"It's a miracle that more people weren't killed." Uh, it was a miracle that the earthquake killed a lot of people, but not everyone?
Miracles are in the eye of the beholder.
"Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die." What's the matter, do we have doubts? We should, for the concept of heaven is a nightmare.
Take free will, the decision-making capability that lets us make personal choices and gives us our sense of self. As nice as free will is, it has the potential to lead to crime, lying, cheating, and other unheavenly behavior. Will we retain our free will in the afterlife?
It's a Catch-22 situation. Without free will, we become sheep. Keep our free will, and heaven would have all the problems found on Earth. Either way, what's the point?
Perhaps spirits won't want to rebel? Ever hear of the fallen angel Satan? And look at Adam and Eve, the first humans given a shot at paradise; they blew it. Apparently God didn't even see that one coming.
Then there's the slew of sticky social situations. The murder victim who sees her "born again" attacker stroll through the Pearly Gates. Families waiting for their earthbound loved ones to die so they can all be reunited. Spouses sitting on a cloud "Family Circus" style who spy their mates remarrying or pawning heirlooms.
And boredom. With death out of the picture and without goals or purpose, we are going to be a restless bunch. Humans like to overcome obstacles. We thrive on new challenges and on the unexpected events of a physical world. An eternity is a very long time, and the prospect of forced immortality will have winged residents wishing they could hang themselves with their halos.
Some believers claim boredom will be unheard of, that our souls will be free to embark on any endeavor in the universe. Hmmm, as long as we're making it up, might as well make it sound good, right? But, given infinite time, anything would wear thin eventually.
What about the Bible's own easy way of achieving eternal life, by believing in Christ (John 3:16)? Under this premise, a repentant rapist/serial killer, who has "found religion" at the last moment, will get his own harp, while any of his victims who rejected Christ will be doomed to eternal torture in the fiery pit. It seems that God cares more about the flattery of His own ego than the unfairness of a killer getting into heaven while his victims do not.
Heaven is nothing more than invention, false hope to make the living feel better. "Frank Sinatra is now singing for a heavenly audience" sounds a lot better than "He's six feet under and never coming back," doesn't it?
Observe the contradiction when dealing with the death of a loved one. In between sobs, people state the deceased has gone to a better place, and that there was a reason he died in the manner in which he did. Then shouldn't we be happy? We'll see them again someday? Right?
Heaven has a way of making a mockery out of life. So what if Grandma died? She's with Jesus now. One little girl even stepped in front of a train to "join" her recently deceased mom up in heaven. If heaven is so great, you'd think "believers" would enthusiastically welcome death for themselves and everyone they know who is "saved."
To underline what a selfish, fabricated notion heaven is, consider those who believe their pets are "crossing over," too. Not former chicken nuggets or last year's Christmas ham, but Fluffy, Fido, and Polly. Just because they own it, the creature must be deserving of heaven. How convenient to overlook dinosaurs, gazelles, and every trout that ever lived. But by George, Poopsie will be there waiting for me. Hopefully not that mean pit bull next door, but Poopsie for sure. No doubt the owner of the pit bull is wishing the same thing for Fang.
Evolution and God: Incompatible? Yes!
Darwin's "dangerous idea" should have made atheists out of everyone. Yet the vast majority of students who learn about evolution in public schools still believe in God. Either they doubt what they are taught in biology class or are content keeping evolution and religion in separate parts of their brain, and never the two shall meet.
Many scientists say that science has nothing to do with belief in God, but let's be realistic. If God played no role in formation of the human species, then what else didn't He do? Attempts to reconcile facts with faith have led to fanciful conjectures filled with contradictions that paint believers into corners.
These attempts to reconcile religion with science include:
God put evolution into motion, knowing that its random path would produce humans someday. Why use a wasteful, indirect process when He could just as easily have zapped everything into place at once? This scenario means apes are our kin, a point many people find distasteful; gone would be the special creation of Man, starting with Adam and Eve and their "original sin."
God made each species separately, but in stages to prepare the earth for future epochs. This is a poor attempt at explaining the indisputable evidence of the fossil record that shows simple life preceded more complex life. There is no getting around the fact that trilobites came before fish, fish before birds, birds before mammoths, and dinosaurs before humans. In this scenario, God's first shot at creating life would have to have been something like blue-green algae. But why would God have needed to make such primitive life first? Did He need eons of practice to reach the level of mammals? Is He not powerful enough to make snails, flowers, reptiles, and birds all at once? God's supposed work parallels what fossil dating shows, which is well explained by the theory of evolution. So "God" as an explanation is entirely unnecessary.
An Intelligent Designer is responsible. This argument claims that an "Intelligence" of some sort made life, and that this "Intelligence" doesn't necessarily have to be God or even be supernatural. It opens up the farcical notion that there could be multiple Intelligent Designers, yet no one attempts to explain what made them. Presumably God stands by and merely watches the Designer(s) work animal-creating magic.
God created the illusion of evolution to throw scientists off. Then He is a manipulative, deceitful god who is not to be trusted.
Evolution explains the origin of all species except for Man, who was specially created in God's image, complete with eternal spirit. Then why did He use primates as a template? We look like chimps, our DNA is closer to chimps than chimp DNA is to orangutans, a chimp fetus is a spitting image of a human fetus, and we share many behaviors. In fact, chimps are so close to us that biologists have considered adding "homo" to their Latin scientific name.
Evolution is fact, but God exists too. For starters, the Bible says God created the world and all its creatures in six days (and, strangely for an omnipotent being, rested on the seventh). It doesn't say a mindless process is involved. To believe in God and to accept the fact of evolution is to invalidate an important part of the Bible. To acknowledge that life got a foothold on Earth all by itself is also to acknowledge that God is uninvolved, if not entirely absent. If God doesn't care enough to choose what life to seed a planet with, then He's surely not going to care about a hairless primate's cancer or hope for an afterlife. Such a God would be distant, not the personal savior so many people want to believe in. In all honesty, evolution voids the entire supernatural content of the Bible and its petty, intrusive God.
An alarming percentage of the general public remain ignorant of the theory of evolution. They find it hard to accept that such complex creatures as humans evolved from a chemical soup. Perhaps our ignoble beginnings foster a fear that we aren't so special after all.
Why do Christian fundamentalists focus on this field of science? They feel it is a threat to their faith. And they are right.
Ironically, lack of evidence is a reason that some people believe in God, for it automatically designates God as being supernatural, and hence no physical evidence is necessary. The trouble is, this logic leaves the door open for magical gnomes, invisible 12-dimensional sentient trees, and other figments of the imagination.
Much more convincing than lack of evidence is the fact that humans believed in gods long before the Bible was written. It is our nature to want to believe in something higher than ourselves. But why should the biblical God be any more credible than Zeus, Ra, or a volcano god?
Not surprisingly, theists have an answer. They claim their god is purely spiritual and not limited by superstitious beliefs based on ignorance of physical phenomena like erupting volcanos or the changing seasons. Show how a volcano works, and poof, there go the volcano gods. Show how species arose on their own and every god's existence is in danger; so it's no surprise that Muslims and Christians oppose evolution, though the supernatural status of God allows even people who accept evolution to maintain their faith.
Once a culture has concluded that some ultimate "higher power" must be "out there," a fear and reverence of this power, this God, naturally follows. Such a God is a product of believers' faith alone, which puts it conveniently out of reach of the physical world. This mental construct effectively makes various cultures' Supreme Being a single deity. Muslims, Jews, and Christians believe in the same single God, despite variations in doctrine, and Muslims openly acknowledge this. Such a God becomes by default, the Creator of the universe. Clearly, this points to God as being simply an end product of thinking about abstract "ultimates"; but is this is a rational basis for believing that God actually exists.
Another flaw involves circular reasoning. God exists through blind faith, but why is blind faith needed? To believe in God. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. How do we know? The Bible says so.
An episode of The Simpsons involves Homer becoming a genius. One of the feats he accomplishes with his enhanced brain is writing a proof showing that God does not exist. Alas, there can never be such a proof, because the supernatural is supposed to be beyond proof. God "exists" because He must be supernatural in order to be God. Such logic in effect says God must exist because He cannot be disproven. This demonstrates that God is a thought experiment, and nothing more.
Still, this doesn't stop us from believing. Lack of evidence has never been a hindrance to belief. When prayers aren't answered or when nothing happens, we think there must be a purpose to it. But what's the difference between "not intervening" and "there is no God to intervene"? God is a product of faith, faith is a product of the mind, the mind is a product of evolution, which in turn is a product of other non-divine physical processes.
Watering the Seeds of Doubt
Where did God come from?
If some people have a hard time accepting that simple life formed from non-life in a natural chemical process and diversified into species from there, imagine the giant leap one must make to suppose that a complex intelligence such as God arose ex nihilo, or that such an entity had no beginning at all! Some have shoved God back to the beginning of time and left Him there as a remote, non-personal Cosmic Cause, in an attempt to explain the origins of the universe. But this is not an explanation. Rather, it's the use of a convenient label ("God") as a means of evading explanation. While the circumstances "before" the universe existed are still unknown to science, ignorance is no excuse to invoke the supernatural.
Why is life unfair? Why is there evil in the world?
This seems a tricky spot for God to wriggle out of. If He made everything, then He made evil too, so how can he be "all good"? If He allows evil to continue, He's negligent. If He can't fully control evil, He's not omnipotent.
There really is no such thing as "evil" per se, just the undesirable choices of a species with free will. But it's hard to explain why millions were murdered during the Holocaust while God is credited with tiny "miracles" like putting a tumor into remission. Can the same God really allow children to starve to death in Third World countries and yet help someone in California find a missing wedding ring or win a golf tournament? Disturbingly, the "answer" is all too easy to fabricate: "We wouldn't understand." "God works in mysterious ways." "The meaning will be clear later." Yada Yada Yada.
Free will or sock puppet?
Monotheistic religions posit that an all-knowing, all-seeing, omnipotent God is everywhere and everywhen. If so, is our free will an illusion? A sham? Are we living a predestined lie? It would seem so if God knows our every action in advance. He must laugh at the deep thought we put into our puny daily decisions and presumptuous prayers. He's always known the outcome; He knew it trillions of years ago. An eternity ago.
We humans have always thought of ourselves as special. Since ancient times, we've assumed that the Earth was the center of the universe. When the ancients discovered other planets, they assumed that the Earth was at the center of the solar system, with the sun revolving around it. As recently as the early 20th century, we believed ours was the only galaxy. Now we know there are billions of galaxies, and that our solar system is in the outskirts of an arm of an average spiral galaxy. The evidence has continually dashed our hopes of being center stage.
Today, many people wrongly assume that evolution had us in mind as its ultimate goal, and some charts depict humans occupying the top branch of life's tree. We continue to be pompous by anthropomorphizing animals. We project ourselves onto other creatures in order to make them less like animals, and more like us, as if that somehow improves them.
And of course, we think ourselves the special creation of a single perfect God, who thought so much of us that he granted us an eternal soul which lives on in a glorious afterlife. This last bit of self-flattery cannot be disproven by science, but neither can believers prove it, and the burden of proof lies on those making assertions, not those denying them.
Excerpted from May the Farce be with You by Pamela Sutter. Copyright © 2015 Pamela Sutter. Excerpted by permission of See Sharp Press.
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Table of Contents
Evolution & God,
Watering the Seeds of Doubt,
To Err Is Divine,
But ... (Objections),