When you say atheists worship the god of chance and make a theology out of statistics, you’re using those words figuratively. That means you’re using metaphor or a figures of speech, which presuppose a meaning of the words other than their literal meaning. Literally speaking, atheists don’t worship anything, let alone chance, and statistics isn’t their theology. For example, chance isn’t alive and therefore isn’t a deity. Also, I believe atheists have at their disposal science and philosophy, not just statistics. Possibly, science and philosophy provide more than just the illusion of understanding. Incidentally, it’s theism that provides only that illusion, since the theist appeals to God and miracles to explain what happens in nature, which is the same as positing mysteries and questions rather than solutions and answers.

You imply you don’t have to explain why some people wait a long time for a bus and that it’s narrow-minded of me to have suggested you need to do so. What I was getting at, of course, is that the disparity between your having gotten lucky (or having received a miracle) and not having to wait for a bus, and other people’s not getting so lucky and having to wait a long time is a problem for your worldview. Your religious beliefs entail that you were rescued by your friend who drove up, and that God or some benevolent power was responsible for that seeming coincidence. Obviously, not everyone gets so lucky under similar circumstances.

I can even speak for myself, since when I went to school I often had to wait a long time for the bus. Once in winter I was running to the bus stop to catch the oncoming bus but I missed it, and the bus sped past and sprayed me with a wave of slush and snow from the side of the highway. Another time I was on a crowded bus and the driver was starting and stopping too fast. I was standing near the middle, holding onto a metal handle when the bus jerked and an old and frail Indian fellow fell into the cavity where the steps are that take you through the side door. I mean I looked down and he was curled up in that filthy hollow.

So when I say “you have to explain” such disparities, I’m assuming you realize it’s for your own good, since obviously many, many people aren’t so lucky (or to put it in your language, they don’t receive the same miracle you did). What that means is that if you tell people your story and they have different experiences, they’re liable to be offended since your story may be taken to imply that you deserved to be rescued from your situation whereas they didn’t from theirs. For example, I could have said that, because of my experience with buses. But it wouldn’t just be me; it would be the hundreds of millions of folks who’ve had trouble with buses. They’d all be looking askance at you, wondering what gives you the right to think you’re more deserving of receiving a miracle when waiting for a bus.

Instead, what I said is that your religion could use a theodicy (a theistic explanation of the existence of evil or unnecessary suffering). The reason I assumed you understand you’re obligated to provide such an explanation isn’t because I’m “narrow-minded.” It’s because I’m familiar with the history of monotheism, going back over two thousand years to when the Zoroastrians devised a dualistic explanation of the imperfections in nature. The Gnostics challenged Jews and Christians with a similar way of dealing with the classic problem of evil that besets monotheism.

You say I’m being “mindless” in denying that when people reach impasses they’re rescued by miracles, whereas I could instead just test this with an experiment. If your hypothesis is that no one ever receives more suffering and hardship than they can handle, since they’re always rescued by a miracle when things get too rough, that hypothesis is falsified by the existence of suicide. Around 45,000 people killed themselves in the United States in 2016, for example, and 220,481 people killed themselves in India in 2019.

Your hypothesis would thus have to be modified to account for that data. You’d have to say instead that some people are rescued with miracles when they’re at their lowest point and some people aren’t but are allowed to exit the testing grounds of life on Earth (by being killed). Notice that that modified hypothesis is (1) unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific and unworthy of being tested with an experiment, and (2) consistent with the naturalistic appeal to meaningless chance and coincidence. Both the naturalistic and theistic worldviews can accommodate the mixed scenario in which some people suffer too much and other people are rescued from suffering too much. The differences in their experience could be due to chance (meaningless coincidence) or to some divine plan such as the one you provide which I’ll come to in a moment. So the evidence alone wouldn’t show that one explanation is better than the other. What does count in naturalism’s favour, as I said, is the fact that theism isn’t a real explanation since theism is unfalsifiable, it appeals to miracles and mysteries, and it doesn’t reduce complexity to simplicity.

As for the theodicy you laid out, may I explain to you why it disgusts me? You go as far as to say, “You could even imagine two people comparing notes and the one with the less scary experience may be envious of the one who had a harder time.” And you say that, “It’s possible, likely even, that people who had an easy time would prefer that things had been harder so they could have learnt more,” and that “It may be the case that people who have a difficult time on Earth rather than being punished, are being rewarded, in the same way as a more advanced student would be given a more difficult exercise to complete.”

Your theodicy implies that evildoers such as the Nazis or serial killers or Islamist terrorists are doing the Lord’s work. Therefore, any act of murder could be rationalized with that warped utilitarian logic. Instead of being nice all the time, why not kill children to teach their parents a lesson? Why did the US fight against the Axis Powers instead of joining Hitler to teach the world about a thousand years of fascist global domination? Why stop Hitler from exterminating the Jews when the souls of the Jews would be rewarded in Heaven? Why respect anyone’s life on Earth, when earthly life pales in comparison to the eternities before and after we’re incarnated? Why do God’s work by being compassionate when you could serve God just as well by being evil? In short, why be good rather than evil, given your theodicy?

Your theodicy goes way too far in justifying evil and suffering. For that reason, your worldview literally disgusts me. For some reason you called me “narrow-minded” three times. Why you’d make such presumptuous personal remarks would have baffled me were it not for the fact that those remarks came from the same person whose worldview implies we ought to maximize evil to toughen our souls and maximize the lessons we learn, but whose worldview is also incoherent since that theodicy is contradicted by the invocation of miracles that are allowed to happen on special cases, such as on the holy event of Philip Braham’s being rescued from having to wait awhile for a bus.

I have a Ph.D. in philosophy, which I’m pretty sure makes me open-minded compared to the average person. In philosophy we entertain the wildest speculations, after all. Also, if you’d have checked out my blog which I link to in my Medium profile, you’d have seen that I criticize new atheists and secular humanists, which means I don’t fall in with fads or mindlessly subscribe to some creed.

Anyway, good luck to you.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store