[Update: This blog post has appeared as an electronic article at EzineArticles in June 2011.]
As a long-time atheist, I frequently encounter monotheistic (particularly Christian) arguments on the love of God and on the concept of free choice granted to humans by such a being. (Such discussions almost always assume the existence of God, to begin with.) In the context of godly love, God loves all human beings. Free choice is granted so humans cannot feel supernatural impositions. These arguments, however, pose two fundamental problems from a rational perspective. As a prologue to discussing these problems, I hereby grant the existence of God and argue on the following: (1) Can there really be a godly love?; (2) Is the concept of free choice valid in the context of Christianity? These two problems are interrelated, as shall be seen below.
Suppose I am God. I create you, a human being, and tell you the following: “Love me, but it’s a free choice. That is, you can choose not to love me and not to be with me for eternity. But, be careful, if you don’t love me, I’ll burn you for eternity.” This is the message of the Bible compressed to the point. Now, is this love? Or rather, is an externally imposed love really love? In that sense, one may choose not to love God, but one may also choose not to love Satan, the eternal antagonist. So, why shouldn’t there be an intermediary “heaven” without both God and Satan so that love in God’s sense makes actual sense to human beings as well and does, thereafter, support the notion of free choice?
One is often exposed to the metaphor that loving God is like loving your father. (There exists a plethora of such metaphors, which tend to reduce metaphysical universes to physical counterparts!) The inherent problem with this parallelism is that if God is the ultimate omniscient, omnipotent being, then there is no ultimate escape whatsoever from his (her?) realm. Hence, even if his love were not imposed (which it is implicitly), then human beings and angels would have no choice, in a manner of speaking. Thus, the notion of free choice is excluded immediately because a human being or an angel would be completely stupid* not to love such a supernatural being after all.
This logic undermines the very existence of such a being. To see the fallacy consider this: if your father imposes his love unto you, you can always choose to have your father out of your life; that is, you can escape it. In God’s case, you cannot escape it either way (be his supernatural love imposed or not). Hence, there exists no inherent free choice nor godly love in that respect.
The points above bring in the metaphysical question: “Why, then, did God create us?” The Christian escape for this question is ignorance,** in the sense that humans (as purely rational beings) cannot be allowed to ask such questions. Now, the very fact that I, as a human, am asking such a question does not prohibit or ban my rational way of thinking. If there really were a supernatural power that did not allow rational minds to ask metaphysical questions, then I wouldn’t have asked such a question in the first place. No being, however powerful, can prohibit thoughts in a rational mind.
The more exasperating motif is the attribute of God having foresight. In other words, such a God created this earthly show† having the foresight that humans would eventually fall apart along with a fraction of angels, including Satan. If not for the very reason of sadistic pleasure, I don’t see any other reason why such a deity would create this show. If humans cannot ultimately escape such an infinitely existing omnipotent deity, then I don’t see how the concept of free choice and love come into play either.
The metaphysical question posed above and the avoidance of such a question by monotheistic religions incite rational minds to consider the odds in favor of the existence of such a deity. In hindsight, would such a god exist, given that such a god had the foresight of good and evil, sufferance, rationality and given that such a god decided nonetheless to create a show for whatever reason? Then, if this were a show and whatever the reason of it, wouldn’t it make such a god appear ridiculous and ultimately anathematic and sadistic? What are the odds that a loving, all-caring, all-intervening god would exist in the first place? Thus, I remain almost surely an atheist in that respect.
In his book, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything“, Christopher Hitchens embraces the concept of antitheism in the following sense. While atheists are such because they find no evidence in favor of the existence of a deity, they don’t exclude the possibility of having the wish that such a deity and its promises of eternal life exists. An antitheist, on the other hand, would be against such a deity even if it existed based on the premise that such a deity would have dictatorial control not only over our lives, but also over our thoughts! This abhorrent supernatural being makes it clear why it can’t ultimately provide us with free choice and godly love. I couldn’t agree more with Hitchens and, despite the fact that antitheism leaves a hole, in my opinion, in the philosophical circle of knowledge regarding the possibility that a deity exists, I still choose to oppose such a deity conceptually, rationally, and by all other intellectual means.
Without loss of generality, the aforementioned thoughts apply to all monotheistic religions. The burden of proof lies on such religions, needless to say. A rational mind, therefore, would and should assume the position (not the belief!‡) provided by atheism. My point in this discussion is that, even if such a deity existed, it would be an ultimately inescapable, abominable reality wherein everybody’s thoughts are controlled by the deity with the fake granting of free choice and godly love. I would certainly oppose such a deity and I am, therefore, an antitheist as much as my conscience instructs me to remain an atheist.
† And what a wonderful show it is, by the way. We live in a tiny, meaningless corner of this humongous universe, which is constantly under the threat of astrophysical explosions, collapses, crashes, destructions, and the like…
‡ It is important to note that atheism is not a belief system or a religion on its own. Atheism is merely the intellectual position (and predisposition) of rejecting to hold a particular belief or belief system or dogma (such as religion) without evidence.