Thursday, November 26, 2015

Passionate about sharing bad news?

As a social media community manager, lately I've noticed a trend in the assault on faith by what I would call "extremist atheists."

I differentiate "extremist atheists" from other kind of atheists because this particular flavor seems very passionate about convincing others that there is no God, or at least sticking it to those who believe there is. It's always seemed to me that your normal, run-of-the-mill atheist wouldn't be so motivated. Life is short, after all; why go to all the trouble if there is no God, there is no hope for our future; and there are no absolute foundational moral values (which follows on the heel of "there is no God," in my opinion). What's the point? The logical thing would be to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

But the extremist atheist is "evangelistic." Actually, that's not exactly the right word, since "evangelism" means "to share good news." It's also come to mean simply "the passionate support of a cause," but the root of the word is the Greek euaggelion, which is literally "good news." Since atheism's news really is bad news (there is no God, no hope for a bright future; when we die, that's the end of the story), I would propose the use of the Greek word diaphémizó, which instead means "to share bad news," instead.

So "evangelistic" would become "diaphemistic" in the case of the extremist atheist. They are passionate about sharing bad news. And bad news, unlike good news, really does have to be sold. You have to work at it. Who wants it?

The diaphemistic atheist would object they are simply crusading for the purpose of supporting and disseminating the truth. (Assuming their claim to know that there is no God can be supported logically and demonstrated to be the truth.)

What's interesting to me, then, is how the recent strategy I have seen being used by diaphemistic atheists flies so heartily in the face of logic. What strategy is that?

Here's an example on the wall of the Facebook site managed by the Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse:

The lone commenter, our thoughtful diaphemistically atheist friend Marcus, would have us believe that if there really was a "Lord" He would not have "stood idly by" to let such a horrific thing as the Paris attacks happen. Rather than "standing idly by" He would somehow intervene when such terrible tragedies occur.

In Marcus' view, there are three possibilities. 1) The Lord, if He exists, is good and doesn't wish evil to happen, but is apparently incapable of stopping it. He is therefore not Omnipotent. Or, worse, 2) The Lord is not good. He simply doesn't care. Those terrorists can destroy lives all day long, it's none of His concern. Or 3) There is no such Lord. (And I'm guessing this third option would be the one the diaphemistic atheists support.)

Marcus obviously feels this is a thread hanging out of the garment of faith, which threatens to unravel the whole thing. So, in the name of logic, let's tug on that thread a bit and see what happens.

If the Lord was willing to intervene to stop the Paris attacks, it follows He must also be willing to intervene to stop other horrific evils: Let's start with the "big ones" — all wars, all terrorism. Maybe if you're of one political inclination you would add climate change, corporate greed, animal cruelty to the list. If you're another, you might add governments which oppose human freedom, abortion, hunger, disease, etc.

Now you're getting down into the weeds a bit. If a good God was willing to intervene to stop terrorism, wouldn't He also be willing to intervene to stop child abuse? Neglect? Traffic accidents? The coyote killing my child's favorite cat? Etc.

The world is full of evil and pain. Anyone with a brain knows that much of that evil and pain is caused — intentionally or not — by careless people who do wrong things. A husband cheats on his wife. A teenager commits suicide. A lonely and addicted man drives drunk and plows head on into a van on a family vacation, seriously injuring or killing its occupants. God must necessarily intervene to stop all these things, if we require Him (if He exists) to intervene to stop the Paris attacks. And if you don't support this statement, you're going to have a really hard time knowing where to draw the line. (If you can draw that line, that must make you God, right?)

So how would God "intervene" and stop our frequent tendency to do evil to our fellow human being and cause them pain? The only possibility would be through some divine intervention that violated our free will, right? He would necessarily have to turn us into automata that just did whatever He told us to do, mindlessly. Frankly, we wouldn't be having this discussion, if that were true.

I think the Christian narrative gives a much more logical answer to this dilemma. God created human beings "in His own image" — and a key aspect of that image is that we have inviolable free choice. When we are confronted with matters of right and wrong, big or small ... to steal a pencil, or to unload an AK-47 into a crowd of unsuspecting shoppers ... He allows us to choose, and doesn't forcefully override our choice. (In the Narnia Chronicles, C.S. Lewis called this the "Deep Magic," those inviolable principles of the universe, of justice and right and wrong, which God follows because they are His nature.)

But God is good. He is working to redeem a broken world suffering from the wrong choices of those He created with free will. That redemption is partial and not yet fully complete. But the price has been paid, God has taken the results of all our wrong choices and experienced the ultimate consequences on our behalf. And through that act He is working to gather to Himself a people in whom free will is working the right choices, from the center outward.

The redemption isn't fully realized yet, and things may get worse before they get better. There will be more Paris attacks, more child abuse, more hunger and starvation, more disease, more pain and injustice. But the injustice is temporary. Ultimately true justice will be served and the world made right — the right way, without violating the inviolable principles of the universe.

I would warn diaphemistic atheists that they too someday will be served justice. The Bible says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" God is not mocked. All things are working out for the good in accordance with His purposes, to those who believe.

On Thanksgiving, be thankful that you were created with free will. You can choose to mock. You can choose to be part of the problem, and not part of the solution. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!