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If There Is No God

Comment

We are constantly reminded about the destructive consequences of religion — intolerance, hatred, division, inquisitions, persecutions of "heretics," holy wars. Though far from the whole story, they are, nevertheless, true. There have been many awful consequences of religion.

What one almost never hears described are the deleterious consequences of secularism — the terrible developments that have accompanied the breakdown of traditional religion and belief in God. For every thousand students who learn about the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials, maybe two learn to associate Gulag, Auschwitz, The Cultural Revolution and the Cambodian genocide with secular regimes and ideologies.

For all the problems associated with belief in God, the death of God leads to far more of them.

So, while it is not possible to prove (or disprove) God's existence, what is provable is what happens when people stop believing in God.

1. Without God there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil." This does not mean that an atheist cannot be a good person. Nor does it mean that all those who believe in God are good; there are good atheists and there are bad believers in God. It simply means that unless there is a moral authority that transcends humans from which emanates an objective right and wrong, "right" and "wrong" no more objectively exist than do "beautiful" and "ugly."

2. Without God, there is no objective meaning to life. We are all merely random creations of natural selection whose existence has no more intrinsic purpose or meaning than that of a pebble equally randomly produced.

3. Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God. We live, we suffer, we die — some horrifically, many prematurely — and there is only oblivion afterward.

4. Human beings need instruction manuals. This is as true for acting morally and wisely as it is for properly flying an airplane. One's heart is often no better a guide to what is right and wrong than it is to the right and wrong way to fly an airplane. The post-religious secular world claims to need no manual; the heart and reason are sufficient guides to leading a good life and to making a good world.

5. If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers. Only if there is a good God do Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler have different fates.

6. With the death of Judeo-Christian values in the West, many Westerners believe in little. That is why secular Western Europe has been unwilling and therefore unable to confront evil, whether it was Communism during the Cold War or Islamic totalitarians in its midst today.

7. Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism.

It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed that men's and women's natures are basically the same, that perceived differences between the sexes are all socially induced. Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm.

8. If there is no God, the human being has no free will. He is a robot, whose every action is dictated by genes and environment. Only if one posits human creation by a Creator that transcends genes and environment who implanted the ability to transcend genes and environment can humans have free will.

9. If there is no God, humans and "other" animals are of equal value. Only if one posits that humans, not animals, are created in the image of God do humans have any greater intrinsic sanctity than baboons. This explains the movement among the secularized elite to equate humans and animals.

10. Without God, there is little to inspire people to create inspiring art. That is why contemporary art galleries and museums are filled with "art" that celebrates the scatological, the ugly and the shocking. Compare this art to Michelangelo's art in the Sistine chapel. The latter elevates the viewer — because Michelangelo believed in something higher than himself and higher than all men.

11. Without God nothing is holy. This is definitional. Holiness emanates from a belief in the holy. This explains, for example, the far more widespread acceptance of public cursing in secular society than in religious society. To the religious, there is holy speech and profane speech. In much of secular society the very notion of profane speech is mocked.

12. Without God, humanist hubris is almost inevitable. If there is nothing higher than man, no Supreme Being, man becomes the supreme being.

13. Without God, there are no inalienable human rights. Evolution confers no rights. Molecules confer no rights. Energy has no moral concerns. That is why America's Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed "by our Creator" with certain inalienable rights. Rights depend upon a moral source, a rights giver.

14. "Without God," Dostoevsky famously wrote, "all is permitted." There has been plenty of evil committed by believers in God, but the widespread cruelties and the sheer number of innocents murdered by secular regimes — specifically Nazi, Fascist and Communist regimes — dwarfs the evil done in the name of religion.

As noted at the beginning, none of this proves, or even necessarily argues for, God's existence. It makes the case for the necessity, not the existence, of God. "Which God?" the secularist will ask. The God of Israel, the God of America's founders, "the Holy God who is made holy by justice" (Isaiah), the God of the Ten Commandments, the God who demands love of neighbor, the God who endows all human beings with certain inalienable rights, the God who is cited on the Liberty Bell because he is the author of liberty. That is the God being referred to here, without whom we will be vanquished by those who believe in less noble gods, both secular and divine.

Dennis Prager hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show and is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is the author of four books, most recently "Happiness Is a Serious Problem" (HarperCollins). His website is www.pragerradio.com.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Comments

7 Comments | Post Comment
Dear Dennis Prager:

¶ I'd like to take the time to respond to some, but not all, of the points you raise in this column.

¶ "1. Without God there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil." . . . [U]nless there is a moral authority that transcends humans from which emanates an objective right and wrong, "right" and "wrong" no more objectively exist than do "beautiful" and "ugly."

¶ If God is truly a source of "objective" morality, why do different people believe God says different things in regard to many moral issues, and cite passages from scripture to support their opinions? The fact is, of course, that morality is a human invention, a cultural construct based on social consensus. And it changes with the times -- just look at history.

¶ "2. Without God, there is no objective meaning to life. We are all merely random creations of natural selection whose existence has no more intrinsic purpose or meaning than that of a pebble equally randomly produced."

¶ It's true, life has no meaning or purpose in the teleological sense. The very concept of "purpose," in fact, is unique to the human mind; as far as anyone knows, we humans are the only creatures that think about, or need, a purpose for their existence. As an atheist, I don't need to believe in a God to find meaning in life. I live for my own sake; my own happiness, and the happiness of those close to me, is the only purpose I require.

¶ "3. Life is ultimately a tragic fare if there is no God. We live, we suffer, we die — some horrifically, many prematurely — and there is only oblivion afterward."

¶ Why is it necessary to believe in an imaginary afterlife? This isn't the Middle Ages, you know. Life, at least for most of us in the developed world, is pretty damn good. People are living longer, healthier, more productive and more satisfying lives than ever before. What's wrong with making the most of our lives here and now, because we know it's the only existence we have? In what way is that "tragic"?

¶ "5. If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers. Only if there is a good God do Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler have different fates."

¶ That is absolutely true. We all have the same fate when we die. Our consciousness ceases to exist and our bodies become food for worms and bacteria. In nature, whether you were a good or a bad person is irrelevant. So what?

¶ "8. If there is no God, the human being has no free will. He is a robot, whose every action is dictated by genes and environment."

¶ That is simply a non sequitur. One can be an atheist and reject behavioral determinism. It's not necessary to believe in a God to understand that human adults are self-aware, self-directed beings, responsible for their own actions.

¶ "11. Without God nothing is holy. . . This explains, for example, the far more widespread acceptance of public cursing in secular society than in religious society . . . In much of secular society the very notion of profane speech is mocked."

¶ As well it should be. What's wrong with words? Words are mere vocal utterances. The only power they have is the power we give them.

¶ "13. Without God, there are no inalienable human rights . . . Rights depend upon a moral source, a rights giver."

¶ Rights, like morality, are a cultural invention. Rights exist for those who believe in them and are willing to defend them with force if necessary. God has nothing to do with it.

¶ "As noted at the beginning, none of this proves, or even necessarily argues for, God's existence. It makes the case for the necessity, not the existence, of God."

¶ So, if believing in leprechauns somehow made us better human beings, would that be an argument for the necessity of belief in leprechauns?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Scot Penslar
Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:25 AM
Instruction manual for humans:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you're not doing this, you're not following the instructions.

No mention of God, no need to segregate believers and non-believers or even more specifically, believers in your faith and non-believers in your faith. I have no problem believing in a power greater than man. I just still haven't found any convincing argument that one set of beliefs is correct while the others are all wrong, without invoking the ultimate hubris of some form of manifest destiny - and that's simply not part of following the instruction manual.
Comment: #2
Posted by: atom
Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:56 PM
Those people you think are without religion just don't believe in YOUR God, you idiot. There are plenty of spiritual and religious people around. They just don't have the gall to try to use their religion as justification for fighting wars and killing in the name of God.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Masako
Sat Aug 23, 2008 11:28 AM
Let me see if I get this right...
Without God, there is little to inspire people to create inspiring art.
Without God, there are no inalienable human rights.
"Which God?" the secularist will ask. ANS: The God who demands love of neighbor
So, then WITH God, and art and inalienable human rights, we can shoot to maim our neighborhood street artists? Hmm. Not sure what commandment that breaks but it must be in there somewhere...Love thy neighbor? Turn the other cheek? Forgive your brother before you come to Me?
What is it with you people? You are a shame upon the name of Jesus Christ. He would NEVER shoot a graffiti artist.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Jo Anne
Tue Aug 26, 2008 4:47 PM
http://mirrorsponge.blogspot.com/2008/08/if-there-is-no-god-what-really-follows.html
I rip this apart
Comment: #5
Posted by: Ben Nardo
Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:31 PM
No good or evil without God? really?
The problem with religion Dennis is its generated a whole phalanx of idiots who want to use the
benefits of modern science while denying its correct.
I'd respo0nd more however, you are merely a provacateur and contribute nothing to the national disocurse on ways to correct our ills . In fact you contribute to them by standing on the fringes and yelling as loud as you can. Will
Comment: #6
Posted by: will fraser
Tue Jun 12, 2012 8:07 AM
Dennis Prager has stated that the killing of innocent children is wrong only because there is a god. Without god, he tells us that he could not tell the moral difference between killing children and jay walking. To that I respond, thank god I'm an atheist. I jay walk every day. Didn't Mr. Prager's god of the old testament command sacrifices? Moses ordered his soldiers to kill children and non virgin women and take virgin girls as booty prize. Didn't christians burn women to death for practicing medicine without a penis? Don't muslims today stone women to death for trying to get an education or being sexy? Atheists take responsibility for their actions and don"t say "the devil made me do it".
Comment: #7
Posted by: Nelson Schwartz
Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:38 PM
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