The Passion of the Atheist - The Issue of Benevolence (part 2)

"Any notion which challenges the idea of a benevolent god in turn challenges the notion of an afterlife."

The Issue of Benevolence (part 2)

In the last segment I offered what would be considered a logical refutation of the idea of a benevolent god. But, as I stated at the beginning of this work our purpose here is not to engage in the same old logical dance, but rather to investigate the emotional aspects at play here and the impact they have on our respective positions. The only reason I gave you the logical assessment in the last segment is so that we can better evaluate the validity of the emotional aspects we're about to discuss, and that logical assessment will be key in making a judgment about the validity of our emotional responses.

Let's start with the atheist position, not out of any sense of bias, but simply because it is far less complex and much easier to explain.

Now, there is for the most part only one emotional component at play for the atheist here. That emotion is what we call empathy. In simple terms it is the emotional response one has when seeing a fellow human in some sort of distress. When we see a starving child or a victim of violence or diseases ravaging the population we are hurt and angered by this and we say that no benevolent god would allow such things to occur. While we do indeed have a logical reason to back this up, it is in all honesty an emotional response born of empathy for the plight of our fellow human beings. How could it possibly be anything less?

This emotional response leads the atheist to validate our emotions by addressing the issue from a logical stance as I did in the previous segment. If we are honest then, as I hope we can be, we must admit that the emotional response came first and led us to seek out a logical validation of the emotion. There is nothing wrong with this and it in no way diminishes the logical assertion that follows from it. The logical assertion stands apart as an impersonal assessment from the emotional response that brought us to that logical assessment. It then stands on its own merits regardless of the emotional response it was borne out of.

Now, some may wrongly assume that I have posited the notion that the theist lacks empathy, but this is far from the case. The fact is that the vast majority of humans, both atheists and theists, are full of empathetic emotion for their fellow man. So what is it then that drives the theist to hold to the notion of a benevolent god despite an empathetic response to the suffering of their fellow man?

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The answer is that there are other emotions at play for the theist which they allow to override their empathetic response. Chiefly there are two overriding emotions at play for the theist here and they are selfishness and fear. These emotions add another layer of complexity to the theistic position as we shall see.

The selfishness I speak of here is not the sort of in your face selfishness one would notice right away. It's more subtle and quiet. You see the theist has supposedly been promised a reward in the form of an afterlife. In this supposed afterlife all things are supposed to be perfect and they'll never die or experience pain or suffering ever again. Of course this afterlife is contingent upon the existence of a benevolent god, and therein lies the problem. Any notion which challenges the idea of a benevolent god in turn challenges the notion of an afterlife.

So the theist is then willing to make any excuse to justify the existence of a benevolent god even if it is inconsistent with reality or even the idea of benevolence altogether. This is where these apologist arguments such as free will and original sin come into play. The theist is so emotionally invested in the idea of an afterlife that they are willing to posit ideas that vilify all of humanity, simply in an effort to negate their own empathetic response which tells them, just as it tells the atheist, that a truly benevolent, omnipotent god would not allow such things.

Once we understand this, the fear I spoke of for the theist becomes apparent. The fear they succumb to is the notion that no benevolent god exists and therefore no afterlife exists. This notion is simply untenable for the theist because they are sold already on the ontological fallacy and so cognitive dissonance takes over. They are simply unwilling to examine both the emotional and logical implications at play.

At this point we can now weigh these arguments against each other based on the emotional aspects and make a judgment about these two positions. For the part of the atheist the emotion at play is empathy and we can say that this is an emotional trait which is desirable and that has merit and value. For the theist however, we see the emotions of selfishness and fear at play and we can say that these are wholly undesirable emotional traits that lack merit or value. So we can state that the atheist position is superior both emotionally and logically, and in fact we can state that the theist's position lacks any validity at al,l both emotionally and logically.


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