God as plot device…

02/18/2002

One of the more interesting quizzes I’ve taken recently examines the logical consistency of one’s beliefs about god. I’m a staunch atheist, and have been for over fifteen years now. My ideas consolidated around the time I was Christened in fact – essentially against my will at the late age of thirteen.

To me ‘god’ seems such an implausible idea – like a spacial anomaly in Star Trek – something that fulfils a plot function, but seems a bit of a cliché the three-thousandth time it’s used to explain why something unexpected happens. People have so much need for a god figure to provide a sense of purpose to life. I don’t know if I’m happier for not having a purpose – but I don’t think I could have any self-respect if I secretly believed my purpose was a placebo but went along with it anyway.

The quiz tells me that I’m essentially very consistent in my views about god. In fact it only criticises me in one area – and I actually think it’s wrong to do so. The quiz told me, “You’ve taken a direct hit! You said earlier that God doesn’t exist and you claimed that if she does not exist there is no basis for morality. Therefore, you are committed to the view that there is no basis for morality. But now you say that torturing innocent people is morally wrong. But if there is no basis for morality, then you cannot rationally say of any act that it is morally wrong.”

It seems to me that morality is a more noble achievement if it is wrought than if it is given. Just because there is no one to judge us at the end of our lives, does not mean that we don’t feel the need to be judged? And if there are standards to judge us by – even standards we just decide to judge ourselves by – then does it matter where they come from? … whether they come from biology, or from society’s inculcation of belief, or from the spread of virulent memes. As long as we’ve fought to clarify our beliefs, as long as we haven’t simply believed what we have been told, as long as we’ve struggled for consistency and clarity and to do what we believe to be best, then why can’t we call that a man-made morality to be proud of – and not less proud of because it’s in defiance of a godless, arbitrary universe – but more proud that we have been able to create meaning of some kind for ourselves in the midst of total darkness.