Liberals, Moderates, Conservatives and a Tsunami


‘Even if a belief in God had a reliable, positive effect upon human behavior, this would not offer a reason to believe in God. One can believe in God only if one thinks that God actually exists. Even if atheism led straight to moral chaos, this would not suggest that the doctrine of Christianity is true. Islam might be true, in that case. Or all religions might function like placebos. As descriptions of the universe, they could be utterly false but, nevertheless, useful. The evidence suggests, however, that they are both false and dangerous.

In talking about the good consequences that your beliefs have on human morality, you are following the example of religious liberals and religious moderates. Rather than say that they believe in God because certain biblical prophecies have come true, or because the miracles recounted in the Gospels are convincing, liberals and moderates tend to talk in terms of the good consequences of believing as they do. Such believers often say that they believe in God because this “gives their lives meaning.” When a tsunami killed a few hundred thousand people on the day after Christmas, 2004, many conservative Christians viewed the cataclysm as evidence of God’s wrath. God was apparently sending another coded message about the evils of abortion, idolatry, and homosexuality. While I consider this interpretation of events to be utterly repellent, it at least has the virtue of being reasonable, given a certain set of assumptions.

Liberals and moderates, on the other hand, refuse to draw any conclusions whatsoever about God from his works. God remains an absolute mystery, a mere source of consolation that is compatible with the most desolating evil. In the wake of the Asian tsunami, liberals and moderates admonished one another to look for God “not in the power that moved the wave, but in the human response to the wave.” I think we can probably agree that it is human benevolence on display—not God’s—whenever the bloated bodies of the dead are dragged from the sea. On a day when over one hundred thousand children were simultaneously torn from their mothers’ arms and casually drowned, liberal theology must stand revealed for what it is: the sheerest of mortal pretenses. The theology of wrath has far more intellectual merit. If God exists and takes an interest in the affairs of human beings, his will is not inscrutable. The only thing inscrutable here is that so many otherwise rational men and women can deny the unmitigated horror of these events and think this the height of moral wisdom.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 16

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One thought on “Liberals, Moderates, Conservatives and a Tsunami

  1. “For most of the history of our species we were helpless to understand how nature works. We took every storm, drought, illness and comet personally. We created myths and spirits in an attempt to explain the patterns of nature.”
    — Ann Druyan —

    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers, as useful.”
    — Seneca —

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