Apologetics of the Day: God Hides to Show He Exists

So I ran out of good podcast episodes, and was listening to The Mar. 18, 2014 episode of Bryan Fischer’s Focal Point (or, as George Orwell might have put it, the Two Hours’ Hate).

He started by railing against Bill Maher. For those who missed it, Fischer, along with the rest of right-wing America, got upset at Bill Maher for pointing out that the God of the Bible, the one who drowned every single person on earth, is a psychotic mass-murderer with anger issues. Apparently you’re not supposed to call attention to that.

On his show, Fischer pointed out the logical flaw in Maher’s reasoning by saying that he , and since God didn’t actually murder him right then and there, that proves that God is merciful and kind.

God allows Maher to continue living after saying these things, Fischer explained, is in order to give Maher an opportunity to repent and ask forgiveness.

“Bill Maher might have thought he was being hip and kind of trendy and kind of cool and all of that,” Fischer said, “but he is going to be judged for those careless words. God hopes it doesn’t come to that. God could, by all rights, take him right now and Bill Maher would have to face judgment by the end of the day. Why doesn’t He do that? Because He is patient with Bill Maher. He doesn’t want to have to do that. He wants to give Bill Maher the time to come to his senses and to come to a place of repentance

Yesterday, Fischer continued in this vein (starting around 2:31 in the podcast; dunno about the video):

[t]he reason that God doesn’t judge us the moment we commit a sin is because he is patient. He is kind, he doesn’t want to judge. He is slow to judge, but abounding — slow to anger, but abounding in loving kindness and mercy. And he is patient with all men because he wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth. He doesn’t want any to perish. That’s his heart.

And so that’s what I explained about Bill Maher: why does God let Bill Maher get away with those kind of profane, blasphemous rants? Well, it’s because he loves him, and he’s extending patience to him and he is hoping that by giving Bill Maher enough time, he will come to the place of repentance. […] Just simply speaking Biblical truth about God’s heart toward those who are clearly his opponents, hostile to him, why he lets them get away with so much? Because he’s patient, does not want any to perish, wants all men, including Bill Maher, to come to the knowledge of the truth.

One thing I noticed is how Fischer tells us what God wants. Apparently the rule is that when God does something bad, like kill everyone in the world in a flood or fail to stop the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, you’re not allowed to say that God is a murderer, or indifferent, or like that; the “mysterious ways” rule applies. But when God does something good, like cure someone’s cancer or fail to reduce a talk show host to a pile of ashes, go ahead and talk to your heart’s content about what’s in God’s mind.

But mainly, I noticed that according to Fischer, the real reason God didn’t murder Bill Maher is because he wants Maher to “come to the knowledge of the truth”, i.e., that God exists. And so God didn’t do anything. Because what better way to show someone that you exist than by remaining hidden and not doing anything, just like a thing that doesn’t exist? That’s just logic theology.

Is it Okay to Have A Beer With Bill Maher?

On Saturday’s episode of The Non-Prophets, PZ Myers and Matt Dillahunty (and any other hosts who managed to get a word in edgewise between those two) had a discussion about Bill Maher and his frankly kooky views on medicine.

They talked about the growing atheist community, the growing skeptical community, and how we’re likely to see more people like Maher: he’s an atheist (even though he’ll tell you otherwise), but he’s obviously no skeptic, at least not with regards to medicine.

Now, one notable trait of both the atheist and skeptic communities is that we love to argue. This a feature, not a bug. And both PZ and Matt agreed that there’s no reason, if someone on “our side” says something stupid, not to call them on it.

But it seems to me that there might be a problem here, one that will become more apparent as both constituencies grow: people join atheist and skeptic groups for different reasons.

Skeptics get together because they see a lot of woo and superstitous nonsense around them, and want to figure out how to fight it. They want to figure out objective truth, and teach others to do the same.

On the other hand, people join atheist groups to get away from religion, especially in highly-religious areas like the south. That is, it’s often primarily a matter of socializing with like-minded people.

And when you tell people that they’re wrong, they tend to react negatively, unless they’re that special breed who like having it pointed out to them when they’re wrong.

Currently this isn’t a big problem, because there’s a lot of overlap between the atheist and skeptical communities. Skeptical groups get together for beer, and atheist groups have lectures. But I suspect that this will change.

If all goes well then religion will fade with time. More people will be brought up atheist by default. That is, they’ll have no particular reason to consider the existence of any gods, either because their parents talk about them, or because they’re trying to get to the bottom of this thing that so many people seem to believe. At that point, the main impetus for atheist groups will be gone: people will get together to knock back a few beers, or read books, or watch the game, and not to get away from religion. But woo and superstition will remain, and so will skeptical groups.

But at some point between now and then, there will be a time when there’s still a niche for groups for getting away from religion, but also when a significant number of people in those groups believe in weird things like astrology or homeopathy or whichever flavor of idiocy is in fashion at the time. And then the atheist groups will have to decide whether they want to be a social organization that tolerates woo, or a skeptical organization where you risk having your deeply-held opinions ridiculed.