But Job answered and said,....Suffer me that I may speak;
and after that I have spoken, mock on.
Mark me, and be astonished,
and lay your hand upon your mouth.
Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
Therefore they say unto God,
Depart from us;
for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
What is the Almighty,
that we should serve him?
and what profit should we have,
if we pray unto him?
For what pleasure hath he in his house after him,
when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?
Shall any teach God knowledge?
One dieth in his full strength,
being wholly at ease and quiet.
And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul,
and never eateth with pleasure.
They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.
Maher is especially fond of the ploy. He will lean back in his chair on his HBO programs, smirk and mock anyone who prays for help from an “all-good God” when that God permits all the horrors we
see in the world: abused children, mass murders, the reports of torture and natural disasters on our nightly newscasts.
(The essay originally appeared in an earlier book by C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, a collection of radio talks he made on the BBC between 1942 and 1944. MacMillan published that book in 1952. The passages I quote below come from a chapter called “The Rival Conceptions of God,” in Book II “What Christians Believe” of Mere Christianity.)
He notes that many atheists point to the injustice in the world as a proof that God does not exist. But he then asks, where atheists “got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” What are they comparing this universe with when they call it unjust?
“A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet.”
Lewis anticipates the atheist’s objection; he understands they will insist that ideas about justice “are nothing but private ideas of our own.”
But he maintains that response is dodging the question.
The argument against God’s existence “depends upon saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please one’s private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exists — in other words that the whole of reality was senseless,” the atheist is “forced to assume that one part of reality — namely their idea of justice — was full of sense.”
“Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
I submit that Peter Hitchens, the brother of the late atheist Christopher Hitchens, draws the appropriate conclusion.
Atheists think the way they do, writes Hitchens, not because logic and reason lead them to that conclusion, but because they choose not to believe:
“I desire, and therefore choose to believe in one kind of universe, one that has laws and purpose with justice woven into its very fabric.
“The unbeliever desires, and therefore chooses to believe in, a chaotic universe where the dead remain dead and actions have no effect beyond their immediately observable consequences.”
And a universe, I would add, where an individual is free to live his life in pursuit of self-gratification as the reason for being, a life one where sacrifice, duty, and self-denial make no demands upon our moral choices.
That freedom may sound attractive on first hearing.
But it strikes me that Bill Maher lives his life with a sneer on his face more often than with a smile."