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Why I am an atheist – Steve Jeffers

I am an atheist because God if God exists, he could tell me what the best Steven Spielberg movie is.

God – Yahweh, anyway – is omniscient. He knows everything.

So God knows what the best movie ever made is. If he can do that with all movies, he can do it for just Steven Spielberg movies.

‘Wait,’ you say, ‘what do you mean by “best”? If we could agree which movie had the best special effects, it needn’t be the one with the best soundtrack, or best performance by a supporting actress. The best romantic comedy isn’t the best horror movie.’

‘Ah-ha,’ I reply, ‘thing is, while we think it’s a complicated question, it wouldn’t be for God. He also knows what ‘best’ means in this context. He perfectly understands the question. He has perfect understanding, remember?’

‘God can only do the possible,’ a theologian chips in. ‘Omniscience means he knows everything it is possible to know, not that he knows impossible things.’

‘Interesting,’ I say. ‘So … God will be sending Spielberg to Heaven or Hell based on his judgment. God has the capacity to make absolutist judgment calls on a movie director’s entire *life*, one with literally eternally-binding consequences, and that’s objective, but he couldn’t make a judgment call on the same man’s *movies*?’

‘If there is no objective truth, God can not declare an objective truth,’ the theologian smugly asserts.

‘But God could have a subjective opinion?’

‘No.’

‘Some store clerk in Blockbuster can have a subjective opinion, but God can’t?’

‘Er … yes. Erm, hang on. Got it: there are some things people can do that God can’t, like lie, scratch their bum and so on’.

‘But this is just an intellectual exercise. Are you saying that God would be incapable of knowing that Jaws is better than Jaws The Revenge?’

‘Did I say “no”? I meant “yes”. God can have an opinion.’

‘But … how can something omniscient have an “opinion”? He knows or he doesn’t.’

‘Aaargh, aaargh. I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ the theologian weeps. ‘I only got into theology because I failed all my exams. I wanted to do a proper subject. It’s fifty years, at least since anyone who wasn’t a simpleton studied theology. I admit it. It’s why, when asked to name five great modern theologians one guy who always makes the list is Martin Buber *who died in 1965*. We’re *all* cretins. Every single one of us. It’s true.’

OK. So we can ignore the theologians. Color me shocked.

Here’s the thing, and it’s something the Greek atheists had worked out: God’s opinions would have to be our facts. Either that or God is the mere servant of a higher truth. In which case, cut out the middleman. Functionally, God’s opinions are our facts – who would we be to argue?

*If* God exists, his answer to the question ‘what is Steven Spielberg’s best movie?’ would be the right answer. If he says it’s Jurassic Park, it’s Jurassic Park. Not Jaws. Not Close Encounters. Not Schindler’s List. Not any of the others, don’t even think that’s a possibility. It’s Jurassic Park. There is *one* answer, no appeal, no ambiguity.

The Christian God could state what the best Steven Spielberg movie is. If you disagree with his choice, you are *wrong*. Not mistaken in your opinion, you are wrong.

God could tell you, and be right, whether the sports team the Cleveland Steamers are better than their rivals, the Boston Stranglers. He could tell you what the best hat ever made was. He could tell you if Wednesdays are better than Thursdays, dogs are better than cats, red is better than blue. God could tell you who the most beautiful woman in the world is. God could tell you what the best breast size for a woman is. God could tell you whether white skin is better than black skin.

And that’s all just SILLY.

It’s silly enough before you realize that no-one can ever ask God these questions, or ever get the answer. Let’s leave aside that religion is basically a quest to double guess God on entirely subjective questions like ‘is homosexuality good?’ or ‘is it right to steal bread?’. Or that rival religions are just like the rival sports teams in the example above, and that their adherents are claiming precisely that, no, God knows their team is best. Religion is a quest to understand whether red is better than blue. It’s the futile asking of absurd questions.

The answer is often that there is no one right answer. It’s the answer to many of the problems our world faces, particularly the social issues, and generally speaking it’s the people who think there’s one right answer who are the root cause of those problems in the first place.

‘There’s no one right answer’ is not an allowable statement in a universe with an omniscient God in it. It’s a very frequent answer to questions in the universe we live in. There’s only one possible conclusion from that: there is no God in the universe we live in.

And that’s the reason I’m an atheist.

Steve Jeffers

Comments

  1. pyrion says

    Why can’t the correct answer to “What is better, blue or yellow?” be “Neither!”?

    I think your argument is flawed. There are questions with more than one single valid answer. An omniscient being would be able to tell you exactly which questions those are. He would not have to have a definite answer to those questions.

    If you want to attack omniscience i think it’s easier to argue that then free will can not exist (whatever free will means). And free will is absolutely essential for christians.

  2. mythbri says

    So one would have to ask God “What do you know?” instead of “What do you think?”

    Lots of knowing, not so much with the thinking. Sounds like religion.

  3. says

    I’m kind of evolving a view that Theology might actually not be as useless as it appears.

    Thinking about the limits of omniscience or omnipotence or absolute love or whatever as though they are as real entities as infinity might occasionally lead to some interesting conclusions about human experience, if only the conclusions weren’t always bent to “and therefore (Christian) God.”

  4. says

    Fair play, one of the most original offerings of this series so far in my opinion. Interesting points and ideas you kick around there. I haven’t got the time to partake right now but perhaps it will spark some interesting debate…

  5. alwayscurious says

    Excellent post Steve!

    pyrion–Perhaps “neither” is a correct answer…but as the author points out, your fate is determined by how well you guess correctly (no pressure). Despite conflicting or absent any evidence, you have to make a choice that conforms to God’s. What happens if all-knowing God did happen to prefer purple as a wardrobe choice? Or dislikes people who wore pink? Of course this assumes that God does doesn’t/can’t change his mind despite implications in some parts of the Bible. In which case, maybe Spielberg could convince God that all of his movies are EQUALLY good. And does giving God freedom to change his mind negate his ability to make objective, eternal judgements?

    NelC–Theology is a close cousin to philosophy — its usefulness stops when the subject matter becomes artificial or constrained. In my experience, theology attempts to rectify the relations of God & people in ways that end up justifying the theologian or his audience. At that point, it then becomes impossible to separate “God’s will” from the theologian’s idealized world. Christian theology always MUST point back to “and therefore (Christian) God”, otherwise it wouldn’t be (Christian) theology, right?

    Any one of us could sit here all day and dream up scenarios about God’s existence & directive, but is that really useful? How can one differentiate between them in practice? After playing this game times, my answers are no & impossible.

  6. tommeunier says

    Dogs are better than cats for what exactly? Dogs are better than cats for pulling sledges across tundra. Cats are better than dogs for falling from heights and climbing trees. Red is better than blue for standing out from a blue background, blue is better than red for indicating that platelets don’t contain oxygen. These are fake questions, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect an omniscient being to know the answer to every possible false dichotomy.

    To a large extent, this argument only addresses an omniscient Christian god, and that only answers the question, “Why are you not a typical American modern Christian?” It needs to be extended to answer for other gods. I guess that extension could be as simple as, “And that’s the only type of god I have considered, and will deal with other arguments as they come up, having not had a better case posited to me.”

    Anyway, very entertaining and thought-provoking viewpoint, and I thank the author.

  7. Crudely Wrott says

    Very well presented, Steve.

    Also well presented is the comment from tommeunier just above.

    The notion that there is an absolute answer to any given question is, “Absolutely not”. Unless you’ve a point to prove that has been left begging, that is. Attempts to qualify the nature of an invisible supernatural spook is archetypical pleading, there being no other alternative.

  8. robertkittinger says

    Here’s my rebuttal: God could definitely tell you what movie was best in any category or overall. If you asked him what criteria he used, he could explain the various weights assigned to all of the infinite factors he considered. If you asked further, he could explain why all of those weights were chosen. Why consisten cinematic lighting was worth .02823745054837363520% of the overall score, etc…
    God doesn’t need me to defend him, but when I see people trying to use logic and then fouling it at ever turn…well I feel like I’m dealing with some of my religious nut friends who can’t, understand why marijuana should be decriminalized.
    This guy jumps out the gate using a spectrum ranging from worst to best, but the entire “Word of God” says their iis “Holy”/perfect and then varying degrees of distortion which are all “unholy”/imperfect. We’re all in the spectrum of imperfection. My life, my sexual sin, is no better, no different, from any of my homosexual friends’ actions. “Even my best actions are as filthy rags before God”. God knows Jaws is better than Jaws 2 on the spectrum of imperfection, but neither escape the spectrum to attain perfection. So how much can Jaws actually boast over Jaws 2? Yet God still loves Jaws 1 and 2, even in their imperfection..enough to sacrifice his only Son to see them…i mean save them.