The Day Of Atrocity And
The Argument From Evil
I don't know if this topic has been covered already or not, but I'm going to bring it up. If it has, just point me toward the answer(s).
President Bush has been pushing religiosity, especially Christianity, in as many ways as he possibly can since September 11. Moreover, other areas in America have taken the attack as a time to expand their churches by offering special services and whatnot. Christian leaders, like Billy Graham, have managed to give a "promising" outlook in their faith for the victims (although I think it's more intended for us, the survivors, as an attempt to make the Christian notion of "Heaven" seem more appealing).
In all of this, I wondered if anyone had stopped to ask where God was the day of the attack? As an atheist, I think that if God does exist, that He just stepped out the door at least for that day. Romans 8:29-30 speaks about God predestinating people's futures. Does this mean that He created thousands of innocents simply to suffer and perish? That seems anything but "loving" if you ask me.
I don't know why, but I think that asking that question -- "where was God that day?" -- could be more valuable to atheism than the aftermath seems to be for Christianity. To me, assuming that I'm wrong and that God does exist, then He either created those people to die; or He abandoned them, which He says that He will never do in Hebrews 13:5.
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: November 20, 2001 1:16 PM
This was one of the first questions to come up. It's a natch, in other words, because the Argument from Evil is the primary objection to the notion of a rescuing deity. In fact, I commend you for even asking this question because it shows that you are thinking about these questions that are naturally raised whenever the claim is made that a God exists. Way too many of our fellows simply bury this question each time it rears its ugly head in our minds. But you have faced your own doubts head-on and have formulated (worded; expressed) those doubts as fluently as I've heard them expressed since the Day of Atrocity struck, changing our lives forever.
The best study of the Argument from Evil is in Theodore M. Drange's book, "Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God." The Argument from Evil states that the existence of evil cannot be reconciled with the existence of a loving god (although some forms of Deism and almost all forms of pantheism are entirely compatible with the existence of evil). The key to understanding this argument is to state it in terms of there being as much evil as we observe and to suggest that were there a God, there would be less evil than we currently see on this planet. Unless you incorporate this element, you'll probably have problems with this one.
The Argument from Nonbelief states that the existence of atheists cannot be reconciled with the existence of any god who is believed by Evangelicals. In other words, if God wants us to know that He exists, He has done a very poor job at arranging the situations so that humans have much of a consensus regarding who He is, what He has said, and what He wants from us. Just examining the diversity among beliefs is enough to kill this one (and was one of the things that most viciously plagued me as a Christian: how could ALL these people be going to Hell just for a lack of knowledge of who God is? Why has God called so few humans into His fold? Clearly such a God cannot possibly exist, otherwise, more people would have a greater grasp of His existence.
*[Footnote: My computer clock must be kept on Greenwich Meridian Time due to a bug in MacroMedia Dreamweaver, so this was sent out at 6:06 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time on September 13, not 1:06 A.M. on September 14, as the time stamp on the letter indicates.]
Within a few days after the Day of Atrocity, I went so far as to predict that this question would eventually gnaw at the faith of America's faithful, most of whom pray to a rescuing deity of some sort. Europe lost its faith after WWI and even more so after WWII. I suspect that America's love affair with religion has seen better days. We have already witnessed America's church attendance slip back to pre-September 11 levels and below. I have nothing concrete beyond that, but still stand by my predictions of the week or so following September 11. Here is an excerpt from my initial sample letter (September 13*), when I called upon our readers to oppose Bush's Day of Prayer (September 14):
I am shocked, saddened, frightened, and any number of other things as a result of the devastation brought upon United States civilians last Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I know I will never be the same.
While I have reason to hope in that the United States responded to contain this disaster as quickly as possible, I am still fearful for our future. The main reason for this is the immediate response from our President and many other prominent leaders and spokespersons.
Our President wants us to -- pray!? To whom, might I ask? Is there a deity who can both hear and respond to our prayers? If so, where was this deity on Tuesday morning?
No. The wholesale loss of life and destruction of tens of thousands of families only reiterates my doubt that a God exists who listens to the prayers of humans.
Instead, I think many Americans will follow the lead of Europeans after World War II and jettison our love affair with the idea of a personal, rescuing deity.
I now strongly suspect that the subsequent wholesale exploitation of the Day of Atrocity for the purpose of promoting religion and attempting to legislate Christianity as the State Religion, of which we've seen only the beginning, will prove quite an embarrassment as the young see through its façade and expose it as the fraud that it is.
**[Footnote: See our April 23, 2000 e-list dispatch titled "Miami Mayor Vilifies Immigration Agents As 'Atheists.'" At least one other atheistic web site now hosts a report of this incident, but at the time, they issued no statement that I know of -- and we subscribed to their e-list at the time. We keep all e-list dispatches we receive, and our collection jumps from an April 20 dispatch to an April 26 dispatch, both from the ACLU: in the latter dispatch, they questioned the use of force in capturing Gonzalez but not the comment made by the Mayor.]
In my latest e-list dispatch, "Survey: NonReligion Makes Strides In America," I pointed out that a year and a half ago, when Miami's Mayor Joe Carollo vilified the INS agents who captured child refugee Elian Gonzalez by calling the agents "atheists," nobody (except Positive Atheism) said a word!** At the time, I said that this behavior "deserves the swiftest, sternest, most widespread condemnation the nontheistic communities can muster." I'd be surprised if the Mayor received more than a few dozen letters, most of whom found out about his comment from our e-list.
Last month, however, as spokespersons and public figures from several corners mocked, vilified, and denounced "atheists" in celebration of what they thought was America's newly rediscovered religiosity, hundreds of thousands of letters and e-mails from atheists and our allies all over the world poured into the Inbox of each culprit. One USA Today writer had to shut down the boards on her web site because the cost of maintaining it became too high! The editor of a Georgia newspaper that published a letter from a reader calling on atheists to "Get off of our country!" told me that they had never received a reaction like this from anything they'd printed! That's quite a difference in a mere 18 months, from no reaction even from the atheist groups and agencies (save PAM) to literally knocking some of these culprits right off the Internet for their unsavory comments about atheists!
Atheists are now very much aware of what the general public has been doing to us, and they will no longer be able to get away with what they've taken for granted for all these centuries. Much if not most of this is the younger generation, although I personally know dozens of septuagenarians and similarly aged atheists who wrote letter after letter after letter to each of these culprits and their employers and anybody else they thought might listen (plus to all their friends urging them to write as well).
This echoes reports last year of some old crank who dragged a wooden cross with a wheel at the base from the Oklahoma City site of the Murrah Building bombing to the Colorado site of the Columbine High School massacre. Having walked from Mexico to Santa Barbara, California, I can relate to such a journey as a social statement: this fellow wanted to bring the message of hope that his religion claims to offer to the students of this tragedy-torn school. However, in a move that surprised even atheistic observers (not to mention this poor preacher), the Columbine students met him with scorn, accusing him (and particularly his religion) of being out of touch.
These are the same kids who are today watching George W. Bush and countless other exploiters capitalize on the WTC and Pentagon bombings as an excuse to promote their private religious views (and you'll notice that only one specific brand of Christianity appears to be at the forefront in these acts of profiteering). And these are the same kids who tomorrow will be calling the shots, first by writing the poetry that will inspire their generations and those to follow, and then by writing the prose and nonfiction which will guide all living generations, and later by writing the laws by which we all shall live, and finally, after all is said and done, by writing the histories of these decades, by which our lives and our deeds will be judged by future generations.
I don't want to give undue credit at the expense of any group, because it takes the whole crew to be as successful as we've been with this particular round of battles. However, I do celebrate the fact that we appear to be in good hands with our younger set of Americans, and I hope (and openly predict) that this is the generation which will eventually accomplish for atheists what no other generation has been able to pull off (with the possible exception of the Age of Enlightenment, whose gains were temporary as far as the situation in America is concerned).
Younger Americans (the under 30) are extremely atheistic compared to their older counterparts. You'll find very few fundamentalists in this age group; for the most part, the "Left Behind" series is not popular among the young, as the "Rapture," "Armageddon," "Great Tribulation," and "Late Great Planet Earth" scare-tactic scenarios seem, to them, outrageously absurd and exploitatively dishonest. The kids who grew up playing with plastic dinosaurs acknowledge the Theory of Evolution and are not creationists. A few are "Intelligent Design" creationists, but the basic foundation of this model is not anti-science like the "Young Earth" creationism, which the young pretty much reject out-of-hand.
I suspect that as this group grows older, atheism will become more and more mainstream. By this I mean that religion will necessarily take a back seat to humanity itself. Atheism is little more than a way to distinguish ourselves from theists. Were it not for the claims of theists, we atheists are nothing more than pure humanity, theism being an added attraction, something that people add to their lives on top of their humanity. Atheism is without this theism; that is, without this added attraction. Thus, when atheism takes the forefront, the atheism itself will hardly be noticed except by students of anthropology who by nature give names to such cultural conditions. We who are living in those times will hardly notice the atheism. Atheism is not a positive situation but is a negative -- the absence of a that positive situation known as theism. Atheism is human normalcy, and without the theism playing such a big role in culture, our society, as an atheistic society, will approach normalcy and this will, for the most part, go unnoticed. (I apologize that I am having such a difficult time trying to formulate this concept (this nonconcept) into words, but give me some time and I'll see what I can do about putting this concept down on paper so we can talk about it and thus see our situation and our future more clearly. I only hope that this barrage of different attempts at stating it has given you enough to at least try to understand what I'm trying to say!)
Anyway, I thank you for your question and I urge you to be anything but embarrassed for asking it, because to ask this question is to show that you are living in a healthy state of doubt as regards the religious claims that are literally choking the awareness of almost an entire nation. The surprise for them (and the good news for us) is that the most recent survey shows that one out of seven Americans is "not religious."
Surprise, Mr. Bush! Surprise! "We Exist. We're Atheist. Get Over It!"
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
people with no reason to believe
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.