So my current project is Stealing From God by Frank Turek, a philosophical apologetic mostly targeted at the New Atheist. I haven’t finished yet, but I am currently chewing through the section on morality and evil, and I gotta say it is a tough read for the thinking man.
A mistake almost constantly made by theists and atheists trying to make their case is to rely on the evidence that convinced themselves as true. In the case of Frank Turek, the evidence that convinces him that God is real is the idea that justice has to be a concept defined, written in stone, unchangeable through all time; he does not understand Justice unless Justice is spelled out objectively. I would tend to characterize his version of justice as that of a child being told something is wrong and to not do that thing; he has no intuitive grasp of it except for what he is told, and to an extent he has a point. The problem is how simple he wants the rules to be, and that is where I take umbrage.
“There is justice,” goes the thought, “Because I want there to be. How else would a child rapist who escapes the law be punished?”
But this is an incredibly spurious argument to someone who does not believe in an afterlife, though it could be a good argument to help solidify the belief of someone who believes in a just universe. The thing about me is that I don’t believe “There is no God,” I simply believe that “if there is a god, I don’t think he particularly cares about each individual person.” I have lots of evidence that Turek does not touch directly, but that is at least partially understandable; you can’t cover everything in a single book–even I have written more on morality than fits in a single book, and I would hardly consider myself a prolific writer.
The problem is that he only challenges the easy parts, he only challenges the parts for which the Bible gives him the words to use; murder is wrong, child rape is wrong, and the fallen nature of man makes us sinful and corrupts the laws of God writ upon our soul. Not only is that argument easy, but the spurious claim that “We wouldn’t even know it was wrong if we didn’t have something to compare it to,” is another philosophical argument used to prove, in his mind, that God exists. I do not understand how it is “intuitive” and “obvious” to him that we need to compare to a moral absolute, and that the only moral absolute is God, I simply do not.
But what about the hard questions? Yes, God had to make a world where evil exists so that we could have true free will. I can even get behind that assertion, I can believe in it; I understand that evil is a part of the universe in that way, and that people will be awful to other people… But what about the less obvious things that God did that are just terrible? Terrible design, designing in seemingly needless suffering.
To echo Stephen Fry, what about children born with bone cancer, who live a 7 year life in a hospital, largely in pain, then die?
What about the child of a loving couple, born with severe Down’s Syndrome, destined to live a short life then die? In severe cases, it may be a vegetative life, the whole time through?
The child of a mother with AIDS? The child of a heroin addict? The child of an alcoholic?
In every one of the above cases, though with the possible exception of Down’s Syndrome, the child will suffer terribly, through no fault of their own. In all of those cases, it is a case of God designing the world such that children have no choice, no chance but to suffer.
It gets even worse, actually, if you consider Down’s, for as per Psalm 139:13 “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” That is some shoddy workmanship; children born blind, children born with one eye, children born missing organs, miscarriages… If you believe that God literally forms each person in the womb by hand, then you have to accept that he is very prone to mistakes.
Where it comes to morality he is much in the same boat, but I have to repeat the same point; why does he believe there has to be a moral absolute? While I hate to echo Dawkins, for whom Turek has obvious disdain, but this comparison was made “If a man can fart and it can stink, does that mean that there is a truly preeminent stinker, and we must call him God?” Why do we need to compare it to an absolute? I don’t understand that leap, and I will keep reading in the hopes that something becomes clarified to me, but I believe Turek is so secure in his beliefs that he will not challenge the questions that would help me clarify mine.
I just needed to get a few of these thoughts out of my head while I was thinking them; I am sure I’ll post something more complete as I read further.