By Joshua Holland
Posted on December 29, 2006
The hacktacular Cal Thomas has penned an awfully lazy column attacking atheists for their "faith" (judging by the length and intellectual depth of the thing, he may have scribbled it while the turkey was resting):
The Atheist Wager
I wonder about the question. Why is it "in vogue" to disbelieve in a Creator of the universe, who loves us and wants to have a relationship with us and not "in vogue" to believe?
Um, because you're completely full of shit? I don't know how Cal Thomas defines "in vogue," but according to this Harris Poll, 90 percent of Americans believe in God (51 percent believe in ghosts), including 85 percent of those ivory-tower losers with post-graduate degrees. And, of course, atheists are the most distrusted and despised minority in the country -- "in vogue," indeed.
The first rule for the Culture Warrior is: Never let the facts get in the way of claiming you belong to a victimized minority (see Christmas, the War On).
Anyway, of course I have conversations with atheists everyday, though I do not always know of their unbelief unless they tell me. We can talk about everything, or nothing. I know some atheists who are pro-life (though they have an inadequate base for being so). That's because if God is not the Author of life, then we are evolutionary accidents who may treat each other as we please.
As a supporter of the Iraq war, it's safe to say that Cal Thomas is objectively anti-life, or at least believes we "may treat each other as we please" after the fetal stage. I guess he doesn't believe God's the author of brown people's lives.
I'd add that the fact that atheists converse with Cal Thomas "every day" just illustrates the depth of their tolerance.
In conversing with an atheist, it is important to understand that such a person will never be brought to faith by information alone, because the same information is available to everyone. If information were sufficient to make a believer out of an atheist, then all would believe.
If information were sufficient to make a believer out of a skeptic, then all would believe in Santa. How else to explain that the cookies were gone on Christmas morning?
Seriously, does anyone have a clue about what information he's talking about here?
It takes more faith not to believe in God than to believe in Him.
There's something almost pathetically desperate about these attempts to portray atheism as a belief system, rather than a worldview based on an absence of belief. They're saying: If my belief in God is an irrational act of faith, then your lack of belief must be as well.
It is also intellectually lazy. You have to believe the vastness of the universe "happened" without a Designer and that unique things like fingerprints and snowflakes occurred by pure chance.
Ah, that's the "information" of which he writes. Of course, a mathematician can explain the formation of snowflakes perfectly clearly, as this review in the Journal of the American Mathematical Society illustrates (PDF). And the fingerprint argument is just another fraudulent argument advanced by "intelligent design" folks and quickly squashed by people with a modicum of scientific knowledge. Funny that Thomas would throw that out after calling atheists "intellectually lazy."
Having said that, Cal may have stumbled across an answer to the age-old question of why an all-powerful God would tolerate such an abundance of misery and pestilence in the world: She's too busy designing each and every snowflake to pay attention.
An atheist wagers his or her present and eternal future that he or she is right. If the atheist is right and there is no God, there are no consequences. But if the atheist is wrong and there is a God and a Heaven for those who come to Him on His terms, and a Hell for those who reject Him, then that has the most important consequences.
That's a reference to Pascal's wager, the argument that believing in God is a better-safe-than-sorry proposition, given that an eternity burning in Hell is at stake. One of the commenters at the Washington Post gave a perfect response:
The real atheist's wager is this:
"It is better to live your life as if there are no gods, and try to make the world a better place for your being in it. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent god, he will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him."
There's some morality we can all embrace.
Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer.