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Kingdom of Priests

Speaking of religion-bashers who dodge a challenge, Jerry Coyne a while back wrote a couple of posts on his blog responding to me on the problem of theodicy but when I replied with a fundamental challenge to him, he went quiet. Just for fun, here it is again, expressed in briefest form:

What kind of world would convince you, Jerry Coyne, or any atheist, that there is a God? No vague waving of hands, if you don’t mind. No sarcastic rhetorical questions, which Professor Coyne does offer. (“I may be wrong, but couldn’t God have arranged the world so that people could ‘grow and change spiritually’ without horrible things happening to innocents?”) A straightforward reply in concrete terms would work well.

Exactly what level of evil could the hypothetical Deity — perfectly good and all powerful — tolerate so that his existence retained the advantage of being plausible to you? I argued earlier that if we’re going to say that God’s permitting the suffering of an innocent creature is the ultimate and conclusive point in favor of disbelief in him, then that would have to include any such suffering, any at all. If leukemia in children would cross the line, what about arthritis in senior citizens? Remember we’re talking about a God without limits on his goodness and power. If he’s got no excuse for a lot of undeserved pain in the world, he’s got no excuse for any.

If Jerry Coyne is consistent with his premise, then the only world into which he should be willing to admit God is the perfect and perfectly boring and insipid turtle terrarium that I described, a place that no God that I can imagine would bother to create in the first place.

Some clever commenters replied that life in the turtle terrarium sounds like what religious folk call Heaven. Not at all. Heaven comes at the end of life when you’ve presumably stored up some spiritual capital that can be enjoyed in the hereafter, while you receive God’s splendor and love without the sort of mediation we experience now. 
More to the point, no one currently living knows what Heaven (or Hell) really and truly are. As with the Messianic age, trying to imagine such things and put them in words invariably produces, unless you’re a prophet, an absurd cartoon. Better not to try.

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