Arts & Culture

How Atheism Poisons Everything

Celebrity atheists abound these days. They move a lot of literary product and enrich themselves by selling something in which they do not believe. I sincerely wish their books would talk about God, but they really do not. In fact, … Read More

By / October 24, 2008

Celebrity atheists abound these days. They move a lot of literary product and enrich themselves by selling something in which they do not believe. I sincerely wish their books would talk about God, but they really do not. In fact, their titles sometimes give their agenda away. The highest profile of them all belongs to the celebrated writer Christopher Hitchens who titles his classic work: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Search far and dig deep into the volume and you will find precious little discussion about God. Rather, Hitchens is obsessed with what extremist religions stand for.

In my book, What God Can Do For You Now: For Seekers Who Want To Believe, written to help people overcome the obstacles to God-belief as well as refute the atheists who shift the subject away from God, I respond:

GOD IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THAT PEOPLE DO IN THE NAME OF GOD.

RELIGION IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT PEOPLE DO IN THE NAME OF RELIGION.

Another superstar atheist, Sam Harris, spills his ink marrying God to Islamic terrorists: "We must not overlook the fact that a significant percentage of the world’s Muslims believe that the men who brought down the World Trade Center are now seated at the right hand of God amid ‘Rivers of Purist Water.’"

When atheists deign to talk about God, they paint a picture of a deity no one would want to embrace. A third comrade in arms, Richard Dawkins, creates this subtle portrait:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist and infanticidal, genocidal, malevolent bully.(R. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006)

Don’t you wish Dawkins would tell us how he really feels? He’s real subtle. Even those atheists who do talk about God and are a little less vituperative present this irony: they have the exact same view of God as the fundamentalists: a control freak, an ogre who tells people what they must think, believe and do, who punishes those who stray and who leaves no room for women input or dissent.

I firmly believe that one of the reasons some people have trouble believing in God is that they inadvertently buy into their God concept which is extremist and which is a false picture of the Bible’s viewpoint. According to the Bible God seeks a covenant, a relationship which is a two-sided agreement. God expects our input and, moreover, needs us as a partner to do together what neither of us can do alone.

Don’t take my word for it. Many authoritative figures have their own concept of God. To Maimonides, anticipating modern physics, God is the unmoved mover who set the universe in motion. To Martin Buber, God is an Eternal Thou, always available in personal relationship. For Mordechai Kaplan God is not a transcendent power, but a naturalist force in the universe inspiring us toward the good.

Don’t be defeated in your spiritual search by false information. Judaism offers a broad range of theological views to draw from. If you tell me that you are not sure you believe in God I will show you a God concept you will find compelling. My best advice is never to buy your God concept from an atheist. They spend too much time not telling you what they do not believe.

Rabbi Robert Levine, author of What God Can Do for You Now, spent the past week guest-blogging on Jewcy. Want more? Buy his book!