This is not going to be a real “review” of Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, mostly because I don’t particularly want to talk a lot about the whole book. This is actually the first I’ve read of any of Vox’s nonfiction work outside of blog posts, and I found his nonfiction writing style to be eminently readable. The footnotes are good, too – not only references so that one could match what he’s saying about atheists to the source material, but also humorous asides that entertain. (Once again, I’m enamored of the Kindle’s easy linking ability that leaves pages clean while offering easy access to footnotes! Now I just need a touch-screen version of the Kindle, so that I don’t have to use that little square “mouse pad” to navigate.)
The most interesting (to me) part was where Vox details his own (very odd) conception of God’s power; using the metaphor of a video game designer. He takes issue with the conception of God as universal micro-manager; the mindset behind “God has a perfect plan for your life” type of Christian thinking. He calls this “omniderigence” and (of course) criticizes Calvinists for this idea. Now, the concept of God-as-puppet-master does lead one logically to the conclusion that free will doesn’t exist; I don’t argue with that in the slightest. My only issue with the Calvinist bashing is that no actual Calvinists of my acquaintance actually believe that free will does not exist. (My conclusion: Calvinists are not as logical as Vox Day insists that we must be. We take the train of logic to our preferred station, and then get off, to appropriate a metaphor used by another. There’s a certain amount of woo-woo mysticism in the Calvinism I’ve grown up with. Although that’s probably a bad description of it. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.“)
Vox Day’s view might be far outside any mainstream denomination’s theology – but it’s actually one that makes a great deal of sense. Or maybe I just like it because I’m a nerd and I like computer games. And, to be honest, it really, really, really doesn’t matter to me if God is omnipotent or tantipotent or whatever, because as Vox points out, from the human standpoint omnipotent and tantipotent are going to look exactly the same. And which is the more correct conceptualization of God is not really relevant to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” (The Calvinist view is more along the lines of APCs speculating about lines of code in their own programming that they can’t actually see, in any case.)
One of the reasons I appreciate the Game Designer metaphor is because the whole “God as puppetmaster” theory never made any sense to me even when I was a kid. God has a perfect plan for your life? Okay, sure, maybe up in Heaven or outside the reaches of spacetime or whatever, your life has a script. Down here on Earth, it sure doesn’t seem that way: we have to go around making decisions all the time instead of reading off lines and stage directions from a script. This is what gets me about the “I prayed about it” decision-making process. So you talked to God about your decision. The odds of you receiving direct, unmistakable guidance about which decision to make? Very low. God did not make that decision for you: you decided. On the basis of what you thought God would want you to do, I hope. Not that I’m trying to belittle the influence of the Spirit or anything – if you truly felt His illumination on your decision, I believe you. But the fairly sizable number of people who use “I prayed about it” as an excuse to go do something clearly sinful has kind of poisoned that idea for me, so unless I already know you as a respectable Christian, I’m going to assume you mean “I’m posturing for increased social status among my Christianese-speaking social circle while simultaneously placing my decision beyond any potential criticism I might otherwise receive.”
I’m more of the opinion that God set things up at the beginning so that He doesn’t have to micromanage the results of mankind’s individual decisions. Does God specifically go out of His way to punish four generations of those who hate Him? Dude, He doesn’t have to lift a finger. God doesn’t need to sit around coming up with ways to make godless people’s lives specifically and personally miserable (and all those Psalms lamenting the way the wicked thrive would argue against that, anyway). The wages of sin is death – and since a great deal of “sin” consists of “violating the human user’s manual” OF COURSE generations of God-haters suffer the temporal consequences. For example, sleep around in violation of God’s command to keep sex to marriage? Guess what, STDs and emotional damage! You think those things don’t affect people’s children? What planet have you been living on? Children learn by mimicking their parents – and if their parents go out of the way to violate God’s commands, those children are going to grow up doing the same, barring God’s grace. Just read social columns in the newspapers around the holidays to find out all the wonderful ways your family can mess you up – that’s not divine intervention, that’s temporal consequences. Looking at my family tree, guess how many generations are currently all alive at the same time? Four.
Of course, God set the universe up in the first place, so in a sense, temporal consequences are divine punishment or reward for behavior. I just don’t get the sense that God spends a lot of time personally smiting the unGodly. Could He? Sure. Does He? Doesn’t look like it to me.
So anyway, The Irrational Atheist was good and I recommend it. (Next up on the reading list: Hugo novellas. Help, I’m losing my momentum!)