(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)
Continuing from yesterday’s post, in trying to convince me of the existence of the afterlife, the woman who stopped me on the street outside my office suddenly brought up Hitler. Religious people love Hitler because they think he is a winning argument for them. They argue that he was an unbeliever and he did evil things hence unbelief leads to evil. Even if the two premises are true, the conclusion does not logically follow. But even the first premise is false since Hitler was born a Catholic, never renounced it, and even spoke many times in favor of god. In a speech delivered just a year before his death, Hitler says, “I may not be a light of the church, a pulpiteer, but deep down I am a pious man, and believe that whoever fights bravely in defense of the natural laws framed by God and never capitulates will never be deserted by the Lawgiver, but will, in the end, receive the blessings of Providence.”
Some Catholic apologists like Dinesh D’Souza argue that Hitler was secretly an unbeliever who was cynically using religion just to gain support for his appalling policies. But all that shows is that believing Catholics and Lutherans were the ones who supported the Nazi program, hardly a recommendation for religion. Also, when you start appealing to secret motives, you are heading into dangerous ground. After all, using that kind of reasoning, I could argue that D’Souza is secretly an atheist who is deliberately using idiotic arguments as a subtle way of discrediting religion.
Anyway, back to my encounter with the Jesus woman, I was surprised by this development because Hitler, although he almost inevitably makes a cameo appearance in these discussions, is usually religious people’s Hail Mary, the big gun, brought out at the very end when all else has failed. This seemed a little early in the game for him to make his dramatic entry. Also, haven’t these people heard of the decision rule arising from Godwin’s Law?
So I asked, what about Hitler? She said that if there were no afterlife, then he would not get the punishment he deserved and surely that was wrong. I said that she was not making a case for the afterlife but was merely indulging in wishful thinking, hoping that there is an afterlife so that scores could be settled. But her introducing Hitler enabled me to ask her some questions.
Isn’t a god who would condemn people to eternal torment doing something that was even worse than what Hitler did? God wasn’t sending people to hell, they were going there because they had been given the gift of free will and they were choosing to reject god.
But doesn’t god have the power to not send people to hell? Yes.
Then if they end up in hell, that must be because he wants them to go to hell, right? No.
How come? It is Satan who puts them there.
So is Satan more powerful than god? No.
Then why can’t god overrule him? Because he is just. People go to hell because they have abused the gift of free will and rejected god.
But if he has given us the ‘gift’ of free will, why is he punishing us for using that gift in a way that he disapproves? Because he is just.
Doesn’t seem like much of a ‘gift’, does it? What’s the point in giving people free will and then threatening them with eternal damnation if they use that will to make decisions he doesn’t like? Doesn’t that destroy the purpose of giving free will? If we choose to do wrong, it is our own fault if we go to hell.
I decided to move on.
I asked the Jesus woman whether she believed that Noah’s flood occurred. Yes.
In that flood, god deliberately murdered all but the eight people in Noah’s family, including tiny infants. Wasn’t that worse than anything Hitler had done? Didn’t that make god the worst genocidal maniac in history? No.
Why not? Because all those people died because of their sins.
What about the infants? Doesn’t it bother you that god murdered vast numbers of tiny newborn infants by drowning them? What had they done to deserve that awful fate?
At this point, she started making stuff up, the way that religious people do when they have no answer. They think they can get away with this because they assume that the person they are talking to does not know the Bible. The doctrine of original sin that says that even newborn babies are also sinners has always been a tough sell, even for the most ardent believers, and she did not even try to pull that one on me. She instead said that god had immediately gathered up in his arms all the babies who had died in the flood. It is a nice cozy image but irrelevant. A murderer who cuddles his victim immediately afterward is still a murderer, and even creepy to boot. It is also totally fictitious. I told her that the Bible said no such thing. As far as the Bible was concerned, in drowning babies god was carrying out his plan exactly as envisaged and I challenged her to show me where in the Bible it said that god had scooped up the drowned babies.
She was stumped and asked me to wait and went off to get reinforcements from the rest of her group and came back with a middle-aged guy and a younger man. But not only could they not back up her assertion of god’s act by providing me with biblical verses (which I knew they couldn’t) they had no better responses to the questions.
Is murdering a baby an evil act? Yes.
Is drowning huge numbers of babies evil? Yes.
Wouldn’t a huge number of babies have drowned in the flood? Yes.
So why were they worshipping an evil, infant-murdering god? No, because if god does something, it cannot be evil.
This answer was so laughable that I let it go and decided to move on to another topic, which I will describe tomorrow.
POST SCRIPT: Some Grey Bloke tries to understand god’s love and hell