Remember that (latest) rant by Bill Maher, where he called God a d*ck and mass-murderer? Someone challenged me to do a point-by-point assessment of his arguments. I almost didn’t take the trouble.
Not because his ideas are difficult to refute. Actually, his rant was mostly snark and assumptions. Any clown can spout nonsense and get applause from a studio full of bobbleheads — not exactly intellectual discourse.
So, what did he say?
His meandering rants reduce to roughly three main points, (full context here, for any fact-checkers in the house):
1) Religion vs. Science (he seems to mean, “Ignorance, vs. Rational Thinking”)
2) Noah’s Age
3) God Called Immoral
So let’s look at these points in order.
1) Religion vs. Science?
The often-quoted “because Science!” argument is worthless. It says nothing, sidesteps debate, and attempts to claim an unearned victory. Simply put, “my appeal to authority trumps yours”.
It (wrongly) assumes that believers reject scientific discovery. It also wrongly assumes that atheists don’t. “The End of Science” raises some good questions about flaws in such thinking.
The root question isn’t really a “science” or “religion” one anyway. The Noah question is a question of history. Is he historical or fictional? Scholars used to dismiss Homer’s Iliad as a mere legend, until archaeologists confirmed the existence of the historical Troy. This is no different.
[Aside: Did you catch Maher’s “disease on a cruise ship” dig? Ironically, specific instructions about hygiene and sterilization in Leviticus (compare: “Universal Precautions“) — if properly followed in said cruise ships — would significantly reduce disease transmission. Not bad for a so-called bronze age fairy tail.]
2) Noah’s Unlikely Age.
This objection has more weight than the first. But this one works ONLY IF its own assumptions are true. As an atheist, Maher’s commitment to neo-Darwinism makes long human lifetimes absurd. But not even all atheists buy Darwin’s assumptions anymore.
Hypothetically, if history (again, not science or religion) supported the Christian claims of human origins and corruption, the foundational variables of all Maher’s assumptions would change. What would those changes look like scientifically?
We would expect to see that formerly unblemished genetically perfect creature (humanity), having become corrupted, would become subject to entropy. Formerly unblemished DNA would accumulate transcription errors which would compound over generations. Genetic errors, compounding exponentially, would predictably and dramatically reduce human lifespan over relatively few generations.
Considering we frequently hear “science” predicting that someday we’ll be able to modify/repair/manipulate DNA to create nearly endless lifespans, such extended lifespans are anything but irrational, it’s simple genetics.
Since either claim is rests upon the existence or non-existence of God, invalidating #2 requires an attack on the existence of God. This is precisely Maher’s next tactic.
3) Is God Evil?
In fairness to Maher, the “Problem of Evil” (as it is known) is one of the strongest, most complex objections to the Christian faith, and requires more than a few words to properly address it. [See quick explanation of it here.]
Let’s look at what Maher said, (paraphrasing):
…God drowned men, women and children, and is therefore immoral … God’s mad at himself … destroys everyone, and not just the ones he’s mad at.
Counter-Question: Is Maher Evil?
Rather conveniently, Maher has put himself in the role of Inquisitor (irony noted), but does not put his own ideas to the test. Maher claims God is immoral and monstrous. Why? Because God was ok with the deaths of men women and children in the flood.
What are we to make of these objections?
Is Maher so tender, so devoutly pro-life that he cannot imagine harm to another living soul without feeling outraged? No, actually. In his “We need to Promote Death” interview, he goes so far to say that not all life is precious, and he cheerfully affirms abortion, assisted suicide, regular suicide and the killing of the “right” people. (See the whole clip, if you like.)
I can see three ways to interpret his objection.
1) Maher is calling both God and himself morally evil. [affirming the Christian doctrine of sin]
2) Maher is calling God’s killing of many people a good thing [affirming the Flood’s morality] God just has broader definitions of “the right people” than Bill does.
3) Maher really is only interested in attacking/undermining Christian belief; he doesn’t mind using dishonest tactics to accomplish this. It’s hypocrisy and play-acting; and it’s the same fault he enjoys exposing in others.
But is he right to call God morally evil? What about all those dead people?
Consider: if we are all mortal, “WHEN will we die” is a lesser question than “WHY must we die”.
If death is just a natural process, some will die young, some don’t. Big Deal. Why are we so worked up about it? (“Not all life is precious”, right Mr. Maher?)
But if — as Christians claim — death is linked to sin, the deeper question is what will God do about sin and death. It’s THE big question of most religions. Rather than being a disinterested deity treating people as playthings, our God personally stepped in with a solution we could not provide for ourselves.
Christ came to remedy sin. God offers himself as a (permanent!) solution to rebellious man’s problem of sin and death, at great personal cost.
That’s not monstrous. That’s sacrificial love.
One last thing. Why did I reply to this rant? Because I’m just a regular guy with a regular job – like most of you. Ordinary Joes need not fear the “big bad atheists”. Just think things through. If I can do this, anyone can.