There is no God…enjoy life?

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I attend a parish in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and our Pastor told us that he was recently in the city of Chicago and saw a billboard that said “There is no God…enjoy life!” Then he asked the congregation, “Are you happy?” A joyful “yes” followed!

Later, I did a quick internet search and found this slightly different billboard:

As is often the case, whenever I come across a world-view like the above I’m more taken aback by the lack or reason than the lack of faith. I suppose one could research surveys of the general happiness of believers vs. nonbelievers, or more specifically the happiness of Christians vs. atheist/agnostics, but terms like “happiness” and “believing” can get subjective and the nonbeliever might  dismiss results that favor the believer with comments like “ignorance is bliss” or “brainwashing is powerful stuff”. So instead, let’s breakdown the message in the photo above the in the same way one might breakdown down any sweeping statement.

Use of Overgeneralizations

Regrettably, the term “God” is often used as an overgeneralization that can mean almost anything, which makes it mean almost nothing. If you told a mechanic “My car is not working” he would have absolutely no idea what the problem is without more information. He could not even know how many problems; it could be just one simple thing or many complex things. Similarly, if you were to say “I believe in God” we would really have no idea what you believe; it could mean just one simple thing or many complex things.

If we understand God to be the ultimate source of “The Good”, “The Beautiful” and “The True”, or more precisely, Goodness itself, Beauty itself and Truth itself, then the sign above becomes nonsensical and perhaps sarcastic. It would read: “There’s probably no Goodness or Beauty or Truth…enjoy your life.” Really? How would we do that?

Use of Hidden Premises

We often use perceptions, assumptions and base premises in our thinking without even realizing it. When my youngest daughter was around the age of four, she kept asking me to “measure her feet”. I could not figure out exactly what she really meant. In frustration, she would point to our digital bathroom scale. Think about it; you stand on the scale, look down, and a number pops-up over your feet…measure my feet. The hidden and false premise is that the number on the scale must relate directly to the feet.

The billboard statement contains a hidden premise that this “God” must be an obstacle to human fulfillment. Some sort of competitor at best; an enemy at worst. The desire for truth, beauty and goodness are implanted in us by God to draw us to Him and to each other in the quest for peace, justice and a joyful life.  If we now understand God in terms of The Good, The Beautiful and The True, the only way God can be your competitor or enemy is if you are pitted against the aforementioned.

The Principle of Complete Explanation

The Greek Stoics taught that one of the basic principles of reason was that the best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data.1

To say there is probably no God is to say the most reasonable explanation for the amazing complexity and order of our bodies, our minds, the Earth and the entire universe is probably…nothing. In other words, we ultimately come from nothing for the purpose of nothing. Is that where the data leads?

In terms of science, Christian scientists of the past like Newton, Galileo and Pascal took reason seriously with a premise which may have went like this…“We know the creator is intelligent, so we must go forward assuming the universe is intelligible.” Today, many hold the backwards, upside down and non-negotiable premise of, “We know the universe is intelligible, so we must go forward assuming there is no intelligence behind it.”

In the final analysis, how can the most reasonable conclusion be to deny reason???

 

  1. Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, Ten Universal Principles (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), p. 11.

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. The unstated premise behind the message on the billboard is Epicurean. Whether the person or persons who paid to put the message up know that is another question altogether.

  2. “In the final analysis, how can the most reasonable conclusion be to deny reason???”
    The end justifies the means. The imposition of man as God is the end. Denying man’s rational, transcendent soul is the means.
    Gregory the Grest said: “The Supreme Sovereign Being is pre-existent”, infinite. Only God is infinite, before all ages. Man is finite. Man’s deification of himself as God is finite. Man’s interpretation of passions, personifications and characters are finite.
    There is only one infinite Supreme Sovereign Being as two preempt one another causing each to be finite.
    Atheism preempts the infinite God with a finite interpretation of God.

  3. Regarding the three sections of the post:
    A. When atheists speak of captial-G God they are referring to Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, etc. They are not referring to the ultimate source of the good, beautiful, and true. The only people who do that are Christians who are trying to define God into existence:
    1. God is goodness itself.
    2. There is good in the world.
    3. Therefore, God exists.
    Atheists will either claim that God as described in the Bible is not all good and/or it’s possible for there to be goodness without God.

    B. I think Christians can agree that religions (including Christianity) *can* cause problems in achieving happiness — at least on Earth. There are squabbles caused by religious disputes that are personal, social, and governmental. That is not to say that they are all bad or can’t lead to a greater good in a few cases, but those problems exist and can affect one’s happiness. In this section you again try to define God into existence by saying he is the source of all that is good, beautiful, and true. Until that is proven non-believers are going to dismiss the same way that other faiths claim their deities are the source of the same concepts.

    C. There are two problems with this section. The first is your claim that an explanation that explains more is better than one that explains less. This is easily proven wrong. Let’s say a jetliner mysteriously crashes in the Pacific. Aviation officials are baffled as to what happened, why there are no human remains in the debris, and why the black box recording is blank. They can explain little. I step up and claim that there is a pterydactl in the area that can turn invisible, has a shriek that sends out an EMP pulse, and eats humans. My explanations explains more, but is not based on facts. It’s total conjecture. Now that doesn’t mean that any religious explanation is disproven, but we can’t say it’s necessarily better than one that admits we can’t explain everything.
    Secondly, we didn’t come from “nothing”. We came from everything. The singularity before the Big Bang was the whole of the universe condensed to a single point.

  4. It could be that the universe is an ongoing cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches. I certainly don’t know, but I think Carl Sagan makes an interesting point for anyone who would state that God did it all means we don’t need to investigate the matter.

    ” In many cultures, a customary answer is that a ‘God’ or ‘Gods’ created the universe out of nothing, but if we wish to pursue this question courageously we must, of course, ask the next question – where did God come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question? Or if we say that God always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe always existed? There’s no need for a creation, it was always here. These are not easy questions. Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries, with questions that were once treated only in religion and myth.”

  5. Mike,
    A:
    Think of the audience. A person viewing the sign may have a different definition of God than you or me. If they meant God of the Bible they could have said that; at least that is a bit clearer. Clarity is important. There is no objective good without an objective God. A firm atheist can’t point to anything in Bible and say it is good or bad; right or wrong without contradicting himself. He can only point to what he likes or dislikes; what he thinks is good or bad (opinion). Did Christians define God into existence? Did men define circles into existence? Or did men simply use words to describe the reality that was already there based on facts?
    B:
    “…religions (including Christianity) *can* cause problems in achieving happiness “
    I would say misconceptions and/or lies about religions (including Christianity) WILL cause problems in achieving happiness

    “Until that is proven non-believers are going to dismiss the same way that other faiths claim their deities are the source of the same concepts.” First we need to prove there can only be one deity. It is proven quite nicely here if you’re a fan of logic: http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Metaphysical_Proofs#

    C:
    This section is all about going where the data leads. Is there proof pterodactyls live? I have not seen any. Are there proofs for God? Yes, many like the above. The problem is thinking of God as one thing among many like a flying spaghetti monster or pterodactyl. Wrong start leads to wrong end.

  6. Mike,
    Seems Sagan got his philosophy from David Hume? For example, who designed the designer? If a well-ordered natural world requires a special designer, then this great designer requires an even greater designer and so on and so on ad infinitum. If we can accept a mysteriously self-ordered intelligence as an explanation for the natural world, why not just accept a mysteriously self-ordered natural world by itself? The problem is the reality we observe in the natural world; the data and the logic. Nothing in the natural world is really self-ordered. The order everything has is contingent upon the order of something else that came before it, until you trace back to some final reality that requires no other condition for its order.

    In other words, there must be something beyond “the physical” which caused “the physical” and given the level of intelligibility we observe it’s reasonable to say that “something” is intelligent.

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