Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Atheists Might Wish God to be a Dictator

Home  >  Philosophy  >  Atheism/Theism

Some atheists view God as an oppressive dictator, but I think if atheists realized who and what God is, they would if anything be upset that he wasn’t more of a dictator if it turned out that he existed. Let me explain. My conception of God is that he is the supreme authority in the universe, and so I believe that as the divine commander, what is morally wrong is one and the same property as that which God forbids; ergo doing evil is going against the will of God, and God gives creatures the power to defy his will and therefore to do evil. Every time we sin, God submits to our will over his. Even if one doesn’t believe that God is the transcendent authority behind moral duties (though I think it’s fairly clear that he would be if God existed), clearly one ought to recognize that humans doing evil would be against what God wills if he exists, and yet God gives humanity the power to defy his will. Indeed, as the sustainer of the universe God even continuously gives godless people the breath to blaspheme him. This is hardly the description of an oppressive dictator.

What about hell? Wouldn’t God be a tyrant for sending people to that horrible prison? I don’t pretend to know what hell is like, but I think it’s conceivable that this is again a case of God allowing human freedom to go where he’d rather not have it go, and that the doors of hell are (to borrow from C.S. Lewis) locked on the inside. C.S. Lewis doesn’t believe that the damned souls might not desire to come out of hell, “in the vague fashion wherein an envious man ‘wishes’ to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good.” Lewis also says, “I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully ‘All will be saved.’ But my reason retorts ‘Without their will or with it?’” In effect, God says to those who reject them, “thy will be done.” When separated from the locus of goodness itself, the result is hell. God is not a dictator, and the consequences of this are precisely why an atheist might wish him to be one.