Summer Controversy and Debates: God, Books, and Atheism

A Little Rock, Arkansas colleague e-mailed me this article by Peter Berkowitz which was published in The Wall Street Journal back in July. This article emerged when I told Bryan that I was very curious about the debates surrounding Chris Hitchens’ book “God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” I have been reading articles and blogs all summer about this topic, but I am not sure I will have time to look at it with classes starting and a few other small assignments I need to finish.

“There is nothing new under the sun,” proclaims the Book of Ecclesiastes. The rise of the new new atheism confirms this ancient biblical wisdom.

Of course the famous words of Ecclesiastes should not be taken in a slavishly literal sense, a technique that is all-too-common among those who think they can refute belief in God by showing that the Bible abounds in demonstrably false and self-contradictory statements. But one stunning new development under the sun is that promulgating atheism has become a lucrative business. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, in less than 12 months atheism’s newest champions have sold close to a million books. Some 500,000 hardcover copies are in print of Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” (2006); 296,000 copies of Christopher Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” (2007); 185,000 copies of Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” (2006); 64,100 copies of Daniel C. Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon”; and 60,000 copies of Victor J. Stenger’s “God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does not Exist” (2007).

Profitability is not the only feature distinguishing today’s fashionable disbelief from the varieties of atheism that have arisen over the millennia. Unlike the classical atheism of Epicurus and Lucretius, which rejected belief in the gods in the name of pleasure and tranquility, the new new atheism rejects God in the name of natural science, individual freedom and human equality. Unlike the Enlightenment atheism of the 18th century, which arose in a still predominantly religious society and which frequently went to some effort to disguise or mute its disbelief, the new new atheism proclaims its hatred of God and organized religion loudly and proudly from the rooftops. And unlike the anti-modern atheism of Nietzsche and Heidegger, which regarded the death of God as a catastrophe for the human spirit, the new new atheism sees the loss of religious faith in the modern world as an unqualified good, lamenting only the perverse and widespread resistance to shedding once and for all the hopelessly backward belief in a divine presence in history.

So Messrs. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the rest have some fair claim to novelty. But not where it really counts. They contend that from the vantage point of the 21st century, and thanks to the moral progress of mankind and the achievements of natural science, we can now know, with finality and certainty, that God does not exist and organized religion is a fraud. The disproportion between the bluster and bravado of their rhetoric and the limitations of their major arguments is astonishing. The case for the new new atheism has been restated most recently and most forcefully and wittily in “God Is Not Great” by my friend Mr. Hitchens. It must be said that Mr. Hitchens is simply incapable of uttering or writing a dull sentence. And it should be added that only a very daring or very foolish person would throw down the gauntlet on an issue so close to Mr. Hitchens’s heart.

But his arguments do not come close to disproving God’s existence or demonstrating that religion is irredeemably evil. Consider Mr. Hitchens’s contention, elaborated at length and with gusto, that religion by its very nature compels people to behave cruelly and violently. According to Mr. Hitchens, religion educates children to hate nonbelievers, encourages grown-ups to engage in slaughter and conquest for God’s greater glory, and obliges the “true believer” to restlessly circle the globe subduing peoples and nations until “the whole world bows the knee.”

The bloody history of oppression and war undertaken on behalf of the gods and God, from time immemorial, makes all decent people shudder. But Mr. Hitchens knows perfectly well that human beings are not born in Rousseauian purity and freedom, and then made savage by the imposition of the chains of religion. Therefore, he should have asked whether and to what extent the varieties of religion have inflamed or rather disciplined humanity’s powerful built-in propensity, attested to by social science, to fight and kill. But he didn’t. Such a question opens intriguing possibilities. Mr. Hitchens mocks the crudity of the biblical principle known in Latin as lex talionis, or an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot.” But suppose, as Jewish teaching suggests, that the biblical principle put an end to the practice of taking a leg for a foot and a life for an eye, and in its place established a principle that, though differently interpreted today, remains a cornerstone of our notion of justice–that the punishment should fit the crime.

Similarly, Mr. Hitchens heaps scorn on the biblical story of Abraham’s binding of Isaac, in which, at the last moment, an angel stays Abraham’s hand. What kind of barbarian, wonders Mr. Hitchens, would prepare to sacrifice his son at God’s command, and what kind of morally stunted individuals would honor such a man, or the deity who made the demand? Yet Mr. Hitchens’s categorical claim that religion poisons everything is undermined by the common interpretation according to which God’s testing of Abraham taught, among other things, that the then widespread practice of child-sacrifice was contrary to God’s will, and must be put to an end forever.

At the same time, Mr. Hitchens has next to nothing to say about the historical role of religion, particularly Christianity, particularly in America, in nourishing the soil in which our widely and deeply shared beliefs in liberty, democracy and equality took root and grew strong–a subject dealt with perceptively by Yale professor of computer science David Gelernter in his recent book “Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion.”Mr. Hitchens anticipates that critics will point to those crimes against humanity, dwarfing religion’s sins, committed in the name of secular ideas in the 20th century. He attempts to deflect the challenge with sophistry: “It is interesting to find that people of faith now seek defensively to say that they are no worse than fascists or Nazis or Stalinists.” But who is behaving defensively here? Mr. Hitchens is the one who unequivocally insists that religion poisons everything, and it is Mr. Hitchens who holds out the utopian hope that eradicating it will subdue humanity’s evil propensities and resolve its enduring questions.

Nor is his case bolstered by his observation that 20th-century totalitarianism took on many features of religion. That only brings home the need to distinguish, as Mr. Hitchens resolutely refuses to do, between authentic and corrupt, and just and unjust, religious teachings. And it begs the question of why the 20th-century embrace of secularism unleashed human depravity of unprecedented proportions. Even were he to concede that religion doesn’t poison everything, Mr. Hitchens presumably still would cling to his claim that the findings of modern science prove that God does not exist. Thanks to the knowledge we have attained of how the natural order actually operates–in particular the discoveries of Charles Darwin and modern physics–he concludes that “all attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule.”

This conclusion, however, contradicts that of the late Stephen Jay Gould, to whom Mr. Hitchens himself refers as a “great paleontologist” and whose authority he invokes in support of the proposition that randomness is an essential feature of evolution. Noting surveys that showed that half of all scientists are religious, Gould commented amusingly that “Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs–and equally compatible with atheism.” These lines are quoted in “The Dawkins Delusion,” by Alistair McGrath, who holds a doctorate in molecular biology from Oxford, where he is now professor of historical theology, and by his wife Joanna Collicutt McGrath, who studied experimental psychology at Oxford and is currently a lecturer in the psychology of religion at the University of London. According to the McGraths, Gould was correct to think that both conventional religious belief and atheism are compatible with natural science, in part because “there are many questions that by their very nature must be recognized to lie beyond the legitimate scope of the scientific method.” Such questions–toward which the mind naturally wanders, though it is susceptible to ambush by the crude scientism of which Mr. Hitchens occasionally avails himself–include: Where did the universe come from, and is it governed by purpose?

As for his claim that the Bible abounds in falsehood and contradiction, Mr. Hitchens makes great sport with an old straw man. Yes, traditions teach that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, yet the Pentateuch refers to Moses in the third person and tells the story of his death. Yes, Matthew and Luke disagree on the Virgin Birth and the genealogy of Jesus. And so on. The literalness of Mr. Hitchens’s readings would put many a fundamentalist to shame. However, isolating the supposed religious significance of the Bible from the communities and interpretive traditions that have elaborated its teaching is invalid. It is like deriving the meaning of the Constitution today by reading its provisions without reference to “The Federalist Papers,” which provides authoritative commentary on its principles; without reference to the two centuries of cases and controversies through which the Supreme Court has sought to construe its meaning; and without reference to the two centuries of experience through which the American people have sought to put the institutional framework it outlines into practice.

In making his case that reason must regard faith as an enemy to be wiped out, Mr. Hitchens declares Socrates’s teaching that knowledge consists in knowing one’s ignorance to be “the definition of an educated person.” And yet Mr. Hitchens shows no awareness that his atheism, far from resulting from skeptical inquiry, is the rigidly dogmatic premise from which his inquiries proceed, and that it colors all his observations and determines his conclusions. Mr. Hitchens is by far the most erudite and entertaining of the new new atheists. But his errors and his excesses are shared by the whole lot. And these errors and excesses have pernicious political consequences, amplifying invidious distinctions among fellow citizens and obscuring crucial differences among believers world wide. Playing into the anger and enmities that debase our politics today, the new new atheism blurs the deep commitment to the freedom and equality of individuals that binds atheists and believers in America. At the same time, by treating all religion as one great evil pathology, today’s bestselling atheists suppress crucial distinctions between the forms of faith embraced by the vast majority of American citizens and the militant Islam that at this very moment is pledged to America’s destruction.

Like philosophy, religion, rightly understood, has a beginning in wonder. The most wonderful of creatures are human beings themselves. Of all the Bible’s sublime and sustaining teachings, none is more so than the teaching that explains that humanity is set apart because all human beings–woman as well as man the Bible emphasizes–are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That a teaching is sublime and sustaining does not make it true. But that, along with its service in laying the moral foundations in the Western world for the belief in the dignity of all men and women–a belief that our new new atheists take for granted and for which they provide no compelling alternative foundation–is reason enough to give the variety of religions a fair hearing. And it is reason enough to respect believers as decent human beings struggling to make sense of a mysterious world.

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17 thoughts on “Summer Controversy and Debates: God, Books, and Atheism

  1. There is room for both sides; Hitchens seems bitter. This is a very balanced article, though it leans more towards believers than non believers

  2. Eddie, thanks for all of your info. in this post. It helps me keep in touch with what’s going on in the political and religious realms! You know that a part of me loves to sit down and intellectually discuss all of this stuff, but as for the existence of God…in the end what proves his existence and character and activity to me is all the ways He’s transformed me and worked through me and in spite of me. He’s continually renewing me and amazing me. I can not help but believe in him and believe his word. It’s what he’s done for me and to me personally that leaves my heart without a doubt of who and what he is. Logic can’t wrap around that and every logical and highly intelligent mind in the world is still just looking for fulfillment at the end of the day. As for me, I’ve looked in many places and still try to at times, but the ache is never gone until I’ve surrendered my soul to the huge delight found in the Lord. He’s big enough to handle all of our doubts of him and exclamations that he doesn’t exist. He’ll still be there at the end of the day.

  3. Becky,

    Thanks for the wonderful thoughts. Your faith seems to be getting stronger and stronger since you and David arrived in Togo. Seeing God from Africa must be a very unique experience. I am like you in that I want to know what believers and non believers are thinking and writing when it comes to faith. Hitchens’ book will be the first book I have read on the debate of God’s existence since a Stephen Gould book I read in graduate school — which, by the way, had nothing to do with my academic work. I am enjoying your blog though I know it is difficult to post a lot when they are charging you so much to use it.

  4. The thrust of your first piece, I think, is misguided at best. Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and the rest certainly do not say that they’ve proven God doesn’t exist. In fact, all of them insert the caveat that such a thing is fundamentally impossible.

    Dawkins, for instance, argues that God’s existence is a matter of probability. Could the atoms of a statue happen to move in such a way as to make the statue appear to wave? Probabilistically, it’s possible. But the odds against it are so staggeringly overwhelming that it most likely will not happen. If such a simple thing, from God’s perspective, has such a staggeringly low probability, how low must the probability be for the existence of an omniscient being with cosmic powers? Such a thing is trillions and trillions of orders of magnitudes more complex than a statue.

    Your second piece has some interesting interpretations, as well. You write:

    Yet Mr. Hitchens’s categorical claim that religion poisons everything is undermined by the common interpretation according to which God’s testing of Abraham taught, among other things, that the then widespread practice of child-sacrifice was contrary to God’s will, and must be put to an end forever.

    I’ve never seen that reasoning given. I was taught that God tests your faith, and that that’s what he did to Abraham. In the light of other massacres in the Old Testament, a simple chastisement against child-sacrifice seems a bit off message.

    Mr. Hitchens is the one who unequivocally insists that religion poisons everything, and it is Mr. Hitchens who holds out the utopian hope that eradicating it will subdue humanity’s evil propensities and resolve its enduring questions.

    I think you overinterpret the word “poison”. If you read his book, you’ll find that by “poison” Hitchens doesn’t mean “makes evil”. He means that religion taints everything. He quotes the physicist Steven Weinburg often, saying, “For good people to do evil things, that requires religion.”

    As for the compatibility of science and religion, atheists contend that there’s a whole load of compartmentalization going on. If you think evolution true, then you must think that creative processes can arise without the need for deity of any kind. It just depends on how far you abstract such an idea out. Dawkins would contend that all creative processes arise naturally, which is in keeping with the evidence. After all, we’ve not witnessed a single “creation event”. If you think that creative processes can arise without a deity, but you still believe in a deity who creates.. well, there’s some contradiction there. Or at least equivocation. Which processes arise naturally and which are created? You can’t say. And so naturally anything we don’t understand is in the realm of God. And when we do understand it, it enters the realm of science. Dawkins simply contends that delegation should stop; things we don’t know are still in the realm of science. They’re still fundamentally scientific questions.

    It is like deriving the meaning of the Constitution today by reading its provisions without reference to “The Federalist Papers,” which provides authoritative commentary on its principles

    This is a malformed analogy. The Federalist Papers were written by contemporaries of the Constitution. Most theologians were not contemporaries of the Bible. Further, many if not most writings from Biblical contemporaries were expunged in various heresies over the years. And further yet, much of the Bible was altered throughout its long history without a clear record of the precise changes made. As for the content of the Federalist Papers, they advocated ratification of the Constitution. Which Biblical writings merely advocate its adoption, as opposed to assuming its truth? None that I can think of.

  5. There is that old saying. “Nature abhors a vacuum.” If you take religion out, something else will take its place. This has happened in history, and it has not always been pretty.

    Obviously, Dawkins and other atheists must believe in the probability of some sort of higher god-type being if they believe in the probability of the universe happened/evolved into existence.

    The Bible has been quite vetted over the years, though there is no denying there will always be a notary public cloud over the authenticity of any writings that old. That being said, if there is an omnipotent God, I think He would find it easy to make sure His message made it through history intact.

    I don’t think the followers of the God of the Bible believe creative processes (“something” from “nothing”) can arise without a deity/creator, thus there would be no expectations of random creation events in nature. That’s an Achilles’ Heel to “no creator-evolution”: where did matter come from in the first place?

  6. Great post and conversation. I have two posts that address the gigantic holes in Dawkins’ notions.

    One problem is that he fails to realize that not all religions are the same, except in relation to their general connection to a text and a supernatural being. Otherwise, there is a lot of divergence between say Jehovah’s witness on the one hand and other varieties of faith. Also, the Christian faith has been going through a radical re-birth over the last decade in terms re-interpreting faith in 21st century America, which I can’t imagine Dawkins comes to terms with. I offer about 4 criticisms of Dawkins in both posts. I also suggest reading the most on-point analysis of Dawkins in Commonweal (the link is in both posts). To make it easy, I’ve included the link here to one of my two posts…

  7. There is that old saying. “Nature abhors a vacuum.” If you take religion out, something else will take its place. This has happened in history, and it has not always been pretty.

    Well, one thing’s for certain, skeptical and rational inquiry have never replaced religion’s predominance a single time. The things that replace religion often mimic religion: personality cults, hero worship, violent nationalism, and other kinds of irrational beliefs and stances.

    Obviously, Dawkins and other atheists must believe in the probability of some sort of higher god-type being if they believe in the probability of the universe happened/evolved into existence.

    This equation is faulty, unless you cede that God is simply another name for the universe. But most religious actually argue that God exists outside and independent of the universe. Therefore these two probabilities are not equivalent (that is, if we assume that the universe’s origin was randomly initiated and is in fact probabilistic).

    I don’t think the followers of the God of the Bible believe creative processes (”something” from “nothing”) can arise without a deity/creator, thus there would be no expectations of random creation events in nature.

    But evolution is such a creative force. And many religious people do consider evolution factual. Evolution is what naturally happens if you have mutating replicators, just as beaches are what naturally happen if you have oceans and tides. There’s no intelligence behind the sifting of the rocks from the sand, it’s a product of natural forces.

    That’s an Achilles’ Heel to “no creator-evolution”: where did matter come from in the first place?

    Well, evolution doesn’t speak to how the universe was created. What it does do is show us that complex creative processes can arise naturally. If it happens once, we may infer that it can happen again. And indeed, the beach example shows that. On the other hand, we’ve never once witnessed a “creation” event. We’ve never seen a deity just create something before our eyes. And that would be my position on things. We have more evidence that things form due to natural processes. We have no such thing when it comes to created processes.

    If we take the religious line that God has simply always existed, we arise at a similar conundrum concerning God’s origins. If God can simply “just exist”, why can’t the underlying forces behind a natural, sans-deity universe “just exist”? Saying “something doesn’t come from nothing” and then postulating just such a thing (God) makes no sense.

  8. In an interview in Time magazine, Dawkins agreed it was possible a powerful being could exist but it would probably be much more grander and complex than what humans have come up with in creating their gods. The way he put it was rather condescending, as if Christians think of God as an old man sitting on a cloud. God would not exist in our reality, we would exist in PART of His. If God exists in fourteen dimensions, for example, it would be impossible to describe Him with the mere three or four dimensions we inhabit. If a sphere (a three dimensional object) were to come into contact with a pure two dimensional universe, the point of contact would appear to 2-D residents as if the sphere was created out of nothing… it might be seen as a dot or perhaps a circle, but a sphere would be hard to comprehend, and maybe impossible to prove. That’s just one dimension of difference, so imagine that difference multiplied. Dawkins and many Christians are actually not in disagreement on how amazing a true God would be.

    This is the type of creative process I was referring to: something out of nothing; matter where no matter existed before; a miraculous event. Yes, things can evolve or change into new forms naturally or via stimulus, but that does not explain where all the matter came from. That is not a small detail. Once set in motion, there is little need for more creation events as the universe begins to function according to its purposes. Could a creator have used evolution in whole or in part to set our reality? Certainly.

    If a “supreme being” created a ham sandwich in front of a live studio audience, would such an event even be accepted as a true “miracle”, even after it could not be explained? Despite the ten plagues that sprung them from Egypt, food creation (mana and honey), a piller of fire to lead them at night, and the parting of the sea, how did the Jews respond to all the “creation events” just a short time later? They built a gold cow to worship. Ouch. Why perform “creation events” if a few months or years later they are forgotton or doubted? God seems to put much more stock in faith.

    Once we step outside of our dimensions, time means nothing: beginnings and endings are possibly irrelevant. God could “just exist” or a sans-deity universe could “just exist”. Both are possible. Science can prove neither. There is a little faith involved in either choice. Aggressive athiesm that seeks to ridicule religion and talk of God seems just as close-minded as a Christian that refuses to examine what science has discovered.

    (Kudos, Jon, to your rational, respectful posts on this subject. I think you’ll find the same in return on this blog.)

  9. I agree with most of your post, Matt.

    Your third paragraph is interesting, though. The supposed moral of the exodus story stems from the assumption that Yahweh did all these wondrous things for the Hebrews, and then they abandoned him. Of course, the finale to this whole endeavor is that Yahweh punishes them for their lack of faith; the calf worshipers are murdered, and the rest of the Hebrews are sentenced to 40 years in the desert.

    I think we have to be careful about parables, because their virtue may sometimes stem from the assumption of their truth. Specifically, there’s no evidence that there ever was an exodus, or even that the Hebrews were, as a people, slaves to the Egyptians.

    This leads to an interesting question. Why do great miracles seem only to happen when everyone else isn’t around to record them? Belief in these myths appears to hinge on their remoteness in time and place; if they were unambiguously false, no one would believe them; if they were unambiguously true, everyone would believe them.

    A skeptic would say that they never happened in the first place, and that their authors purposed this ambiguity so as to avoid criticism. In other words, it’s the old “You can’t disprove this” canard. Or, as Thomas Jefferson puts it:

    If it could be understood it would not answer their purpose. Their security is in their faculty of shedding darkness, like the scuttlefish, thro’ the element in which they move, and making it impenetrable to the eye of a pursuing enemy, and there they will skulk.

  10. Be the Exodus a history or a parable, the result is consistent with human behavior. “Miracles” do not guarantee belief.

    If there is a creator, why does He not drop miracles every weekend in Paris, New York, or Cairo to prove His existence? The question itself assumes that God thinks like us and that we could understand His goals. Assuming we were created for specific purposes not fully known to us, there may be a very good reason we are not treated to creation events on a daily basis. I wish I had a better answer, but (as I mentioned before) God seems to favor faith over sight.

    Here is an interesting quote from the apostle Paul while he was in Athens. (Yes, it’s from the Bible, but it’s still good food for thought for those skeptical of its veracity). It seems to indicate God wants people to look for Him, as if the search itself were important. Paul noticed the city was full of idols, and one day he used that observation as an opening to address some of the citizens (Acts 17:22-32):

    22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

    24″The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28’For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

    29″Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

    32When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

  11. I do not see god as this joy stick who determines fate. Science is right in that reason and actions shape our cause. God does not force things to occur, human behavior and laws or motion do.

  12. If God exists in more dimensions than we do, time would mean nothing to Him. Time could be laid out like a yardstick: He would see the beginning, the middle, and the end of this existence. A nudge at year 2000 B.C., and He would see the results instantly in 2000 A.D.. How often (if ever) would He do this? I have no clue, but the degree to which His hand is on the rudder of history would not remove the fact that he could know what we are going to do before we do it. Is that fate? Free will? Both?

  13. Boy do I agree with you. I recall taking a geological chemistry course with David Cole while an undergrad at Harding. He gave this great lecture on how silly Christians have responded to the age of the earth; he contended that both science and Christians cannot “really” measure time because it (time) is a concept/ measurement created by man. Time for God maybe different than that of man.

  14. Great discussion about the faith vs. sight topic. Jon says that if miracles were unambiguously true, everyone would believe them. I’m not so sure…

    The silly example I always think of is why doesn’t God just hang a big neon sign on the moon that says “Attention Humans: I made all of this — God”. That would probably be about as unambiguous as you could get. Yet I think all of us on this board could imagine about 100 theories that humans would invent to say why this wasn’t authentic. (Snopes.com – “Did God really make the moon sign? FALSE”)

    Now what about some miracles he really has presented for us: the incredible miracle of the sun rising every day to fuel the natural processes of earth in our fine tuned universe. The heavens declar the glory of God! And he contacted man directly to claim credit for them. Sounds pretty unambiguous to me, yet men still seek out other explanations.

  15. The silly example I always think of is why doesn’t God just hang a big neon sign on the moon that says “Attention Humans: I made all of this — God”.

    That would be a start. But you’re not using your imagination. God is supposedly omnipotent, after all. How about something that’s clearly supernatural, that clearly goes against the laws of physics, for instance?

    Now what about some miracles he really has presented for us: the incredible miracle of the sun rising every day to fuel the natural processes of earth in our fine tuned universe.

    Fine-tuned? We exist on a third of the surface of a single planet in a single solar system of a single arm of a single galaxy out of billions. Our planet makes up less than a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a percent of the total mass of the observable universe. That’s a lot of wasted space and effort. Why not create a single planet with a single sun? And why not make the sun *actually* revolve around the Earth, like the Bible says it does? Why make the Earth revolve around the sun? Why put twenty billion species of insect on the planet? Why put billions and billions of species of bacteria here, when we can’t even see them with our naked eye? Why design organisms so that 99% of the ones that have ever existed are now extinct?

    It’s awfully narcissistic of you to assume that all of this was done specifically for us.

    And he contacted man directly to claim credit for them.

    No, someone who lived thousands and thousands of years ago claimed God contacted man directly to take credit for them. That you assert it actually did happen is a matter of faith.

  16. >>The silly example I always think of is why doesn’t God just hang a big neon sign on the moon that says “Attention Humans: I made all of this — God”.

    This initially has some intuitive appeal, however its analogous to saying why didn’t our parents not give us the money for a car instead of earning it or why didn’t our teachers just give us the A’s.
    That would defeat the whole purpose of faith.

    And, conversely, once you learn that red is red and blue is blue, is there really a need for God to tell you.

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