WARNING: This article may contain spoilers to “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”. If you somehow haven’t read that book yet, Go read that first! It’s great!
One social group I tend to have an easy time getting along with is Atheists. Ultimately I think they’re dead wrong about the origins and state of the universe, but they tend to be groovy people in the meantime, and typically they’re intelligent and logically consistent. And if there’s one thing atheists love it’s Douglas Adams, the author of “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”
Atheists often use Adams as a poet laureate of their worldview, using his words and characters to make analogies about atheist thinking, and add spice to statements made about how great it is to live with neither gods nor masters. Much like the way we use Tolkien
The New Atheists seem especially fond of this. For instance Richard Dawkins, in his book “The God Delusion” in order to defend the premise that the world is wonderful enough on it’s own, and we shouldn’t need to invent a “creator” or any such silliness to appreciate it, quotes Hitchhikers:
“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
Or sometimes I’ll hear another phrase from the book used as a rallying cry for logical atheists who find the whole idea or theism self contradictory
“And God disappeared in a puff of logic”
That sort of thing
But I must say, I finally finished “Hitchhikers” this morning and I’m disappointed.
Not in the book of course, the book was brilliant, but I’m disappointed in my atheist brothers and their interpretation of the text. I don’t at all see what they seem to see in the book, and in fact I see some very Pro-Christian ideas.
First of all, all of the quotes I’d heard before turned out to be taken utterly out of context. The bit about God disappearing comes from a very tongue-in-cheek argument against the existence of God that relies on 3 false premises that don’t support the conclusion.
In context it’s quite clear that the intent of the author is to make fun of philosophy, not theism. Adams is saying that Philosophers will argue about the existence of God no matter what, such that even if incontrovertible proof of intelligent design were to be found, it would be used by the philosophers to disprove God (who said He would leave room for faith) as much as to prove him.
Adams returns to this theme in a later chapter (25), introducing a philosopher called Majikthise who is upset that a machine is being used to calculate answers to life’s mysteries saying
“What’s the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives you his bleeding phone number the next morning?”
Same message, same point, but this time God clearly exists (the capitalization is Adams’)
As to the Garden with the fairies? That’s from the mind of Ford Prefect who is appreciating a binary sunrise on what he thinks is a perfectly normal planet, rather than the legendary planet Magrathea. It doesn’t have to be Magrathea in his mind, it’s good enough already…
…Except that in the book it totally IS the legendary planet, and Ford is missing it.
What a fitting analogy for Dawkins. Yes Dr. Dawkins, you’re quite right, the earth would be enough if there were no God… But there is a God… So what’s your point? You’re acting like Ford Prefect visiting Magrathea while grumbling that this normal planet isn’t enough as it is.
Ultimately Adams, though an atheist, ends up writing a book which doesn’t threaten Christendom, but casts a dark shadow on Scientific Naturalism.
The Guide Itself is a comprehensive book written over many centuries by multiple authors about how best to get through life. Sound familiar? Within the pages, Adams consistently upholds the value and importance of asking how and why questions about the nature of the universe, while still expressing comfort in mystery
He describes the burial of fossils, the sculpting of coastlines, calls glaciers “high art” and as to scientific naturalism, in Chapter 30 The Planet Engineer says this
“Science has achieved some wonderful things of course but I’d rather be happy than right any day”
Put that in your reductionist pipe and smoke it.