Fellow blogger, the one-person evangelical army, altruistico, recently published a blog titled “How God Reveals His Presence.” I think most atheist bloggers are familiar with altruistico’s good-natured, yet incredibly condescending, posts and comments. But I always enjoy reading posts with fantastic claims, so I clicked it and gave it a once over, and then a twice over, and ad nauseam.
I usually don’t respond to other blogs, but the implications of this one compelled me to act. I get to that in the second part of this post. First, I’ll handle some administrative matters.
First, altruistico claims that god can, in fact, be experienced. This claim is absurd because anything that can be experienced can be measured, and since no one has been able to measure these divine “observations,” then we can rule them out until such measurements may be gathered. If god can interact with the natural world, then god ceases to be supernatural. Therefore, divine observations should be able to be measured.
Altruistico might respond that god has not been measured because he appears to us in the spiritual world, not the physical world. This might be a valid point if not for the fact that the “spiritual world” is merely an hypothesis that, like divine observations, cannot be measured and therefore have no place in objective discussion. In other words, people who claim that a spiritual world exists do so without evidence. The same can be said about their claims to divine observations.
But what stopped me in my tracks, mouth agape, rubbing my eyes together in disbelief is the second way in which Altruistico claims to experience god. Here it is with added emphasis on the ridiculous parts:
God sends a message. Sometimes the Lord lays on a person’s heart the need to get alone with Him. When this happens to me, God is usually saying He’s ready to give me a sermon. It is unwise to ignore such urgings or even to delay until a more “convenient” time—I have made the mistake of putting off listening only to discover that when I finally did slow down, the message was harder to receive outside of the Father’s perfect timing.
Believing that god has “perfect timing” that may contradict your own “convenient time” is to submit to the idea that if you feel god wanting to have a conversation with you, stop what you are doing, no matter what it is, and have a chat with god.
Your house is on fire. Your children have about a 30 second window to be rescued before their only escape path becomes engulfed in flames. You feel god knocking at your mind. Do you stop trying to rescue your children and invite god in for a cup of tea? Or do you ignore the rappings at your brain and save your children before it’s too late? According to altruistico, it may be “unwise” to try to save your children.
My example is quite extreme; I admit this. But the implication is true nonetheless. Altruistico and other apologists might make the claim that “god knows what he’s doing. If my children are in danger he can both have a conversation with me and save them at the same time.” This is dangerous because when another person’s life is in danger, the only assumption we can make is that direct action must be taken to save that person’s life. Leaning on god in situations like that is a gross version of responsibility diffusion.
While my example is extreme, we can apply this elsewhere: Have a conversation with god instead of paying your taxes on time. Earn a penalty. Have a conversation with god instead of checking on the pie in your oven. Burn your pie. Have a conversation with god instead of keeping your social obligations. Suffer harm to your reputation. These may all be trivial (the opposite extreme), but they are true nonetheless.
If you want to pray because it helps you, go. Pray. Your life will be happier. But don’t stop to pray at inappropriate times because you fear that you might miss some of god’s words. That can harm you and others in many ways. There is nothing more important in this life than to enjoy life as much as possible in ways that produce the least amount of external harm as possible. So pray when it’s appropriate, altruistico, not when god demands it.