Happy Easter

[Classic: 4/5/2007] — It’s nearly Easter, and the atheists, God bless them, are writing bestselling books to prove the good Lord’s nonexistence. Truly, they have their reward.

One of the most famous of them, a British professor named Richard Dawkins, says atheists are generally smarter than Christians. I wouldn’t doubt it.

After all, St. Paul says God has chosen the foolish people of this world to confound the wise. I don’t know how many times some simple soul has put me to shame when I thought I was being clever. Oops! Maybe polished professors never have this experience.

Of course, atheists are clever! People who spend a lot of time justifying themselves generally are. If you devote your waking hours to seeking reasons not to believe, you’ll find plenty of them. Darwin sold a lot of books to clever people like that.

Then there is the argument from comparative religion. Religions are a lot alike, they can’t all be true, so isn’t it probable that they are all false? By that kind of reasoning, you can prove not only that we don’t know who wrote Hamlet, but that it was never written at all.

Was Jesus just like a lot of other religious leaders? Such as? Do other religions have prayers like the Our Father? Did the ancient Greeks ask Zeus to “forgive us as we forgive others”? Did the Aztecs pray like that? How many other religions command their votaries to rejoice, be of good cheer, have no fear? (“Trust in Poseidon”?)

And many other religious figures, we are told, have performed miracles every bit as impressive as those attributed to Jesus. Really? Did they cure blind men and cripples while assuring them that their sins were forgiven?

And did they, even after they had died (and risen again, it goes without saying), make converts who would die for what they had taught? Did any of them ever give a speech like the Sermon on the Mount? If so, where can I find a copy?

For that matter, did any of these impressive religious teachers, who seem to have been very numerous, match Jesus in what has been called his “command of the moment,” making memorable retorts, still quoted centuries later, to enemies trying to trap them with trick questions? Have any of their reported ad libs endured as permanent moral teachings, like “Whoever among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone”?

Come to think of it, the atheists could strengthen their case somewhat by producing the prayers of other religions to show how much they resemble, or even surpass, Christian prayers. Why don’t they? Just asking. But I have my suspicions.

Just as President Bush says Islam is a “religion of peace” because he assumes that all religions are pretty much alike (and like Christianity) by definition, so the atheists seem to assume that all religions share the features of Christianity they detest. I wish they would go all out and really press the analogies — honestly, not selectively.

When you point to the rather horrid regimes run by atheists in the twentieth century, you can count on the atheists to disown them, on the pretext that men like Stalin were the “wrong” sort of atheists because they were just as “dogmatic” as Christians. With people who argue this way, you’d better cut the deck before letting them deal the cards. They’re saying that empirical evidence is inadmissible — except when they want to use it.

If Hitler and Stalin believed in Darwinism, that doesn’t count against Darwinism, because they “abused” it. You get the impression that Darwinism can be safely applied only by people who practice Christian morality — but of course, that such people are mostly atheists. In other words, atheists make better Christians than Christians do. Well, at least, they are smarter.

How can God be both good and omnipotent, when there is so much evil in the world? I can’t answer this one, and it has tormented believers so deeply that the Scriptures themselves ask it many times. It’s known as the Problem of Evil. I can say only that it’s trumped by the real mystery, the Problem of Good.

This was posed, in a way, by a woman whose name I forget: “If there is no God, who do we thank?” Only a woman would think of that. And by the way, if there is no God, who do we thank for creating woman?


This column is included in a new collection of Sobran essays titled Subtracting Christianity: Essays on American Culture and Society (fgfBooks, 2015). This column was published originally by Griffin Internet Syndicate on April 5, 2007.

Reprinted with permission from Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.