More facebook fun.

My friend Michele posted about the Schiables and the judge not letting them off.  One of her friends came onto the post and said:

So upsetting, tragic, wrong, and just plain stupid. If God exists (and my best guess is He does but I don’t want to debate that here) He works through people He’s created (doctors!) and what we’ve accomplished with modern medicine. It’s like that old, ironic joke about the drowning man refusing all this help people are offering because, “God will save him.”

I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t let it go.

In a universe where god didn’t exist, where all we could rely on were other people, you’d see us depending on doctors, fireman, etc. for all of our problems to be solved. A god who “works through them” in that way is no different from god not existing.

What’s even more ironic is the people who claim we must believe in this god to avoid eternal torment, but who believe in a god that purposefully makes his existence identical to his non-existence. Such a god is cruel to the extreme and we should be grateful it doesn’t exist.

And I’ve heard the joke [name deleted] mentioned.

Have you heard the atheist version of the joke? It goes like this:

“The man in a row boat came by and told the man on the stoop to get in and he’d save him. The man on the stoop said “Ok” and got in.”

And that’s the rub. When we act like there’s no god in the world (i.e.: we take sick people to doctors, we invent satellite weather radar to predict the paths of hurricanes rather than relying on the architect of those hurricanes to warn us, etc.) we always do much better as a society.

I suspect this is because trusting in things that aren’t there is a recipe for disaster.  Better to rely on our own minds and upon other people.  Even if neither is perfect, they’re better than nothing.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Andrew B.

    Competent people act. Helpless people pray. The solution is: make people more competent.

    • baal

      The pray people don’t like increasing competency. Hence their endless efforts to defund the public schools and colleges (or to get them to teach not-science in science class).

  • Bear Millotts

    “I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t let it go.”

    I know why. Because you’re one of those uppity atheists. Thankfully, so am I.

    • wombat

      Damned uppity atheists, with their reason and logic and evidence. How dare they be so rational?

  • baal

    “his existence identical to his non-existence”<—that

    Really, just that.

    Were he real, we'd see something much more convincing than a bunch of uptight men (and it seems to be pretty much entirely men) running around making bad arguments in support of His existence even after all of the arguments were defeated. Repeatedly. and to their faces.

  • Speedwell

    When a friend of mine tells that joke, it’s not about a guy on the roof, it’s about a mom and two kids. The first guy in the boat offers to take them on board, but she primly declines because he said “Jesus Christ” when he saw them there and she won’t let her children associate with a man who takes the Lord’s name in vain. The second guy is in a motorboat, but she declines that offer as well because he’s with a woman she considers to be the “town slut”. The third guy, in the helicopter, is from the military, but she has been conditioned to mistrust the Federal government. They all die, of course, and at the gates of heaven, the angelic functionary with the list checks off Jason and Madison but can’t find Mom. As she’s being dragged off screaming by demons, the angels whisper among themselves about the kind of woman who would rather let her children die than believe that God could have sent a sinner to help.

    • invivoMark

      What a vile “joke”! As horrible as it is to let one’s children die like that, no one deserves to be tortured eternally for it. And those children sure as hell do not deserve to have their mother ripped away from them! What kind of immoral jerkwad is making these rules?

      Oh yeah. The source of all morality is.

      • kagekiri

        In your last sentence, source and/or morality need quotation marks pretty badly :P

        • Zinc Avenger

          I’m not too sure about the use of the definite article, either.

  • Zinc Avenger


    • kagekiri

      God is perfectly good….at hiding!

      The fact you can’t find evidence is itself proof he exists (and is really, amazingly good at hide and seek)!

      I mean, the people who know him best and read all of his words can’t even find the slightest proof of him. Checkmate, atheists!

      • wombat

        Have they checked under the couch cushions? It’s amazing what you find in there. Last time I looked, I found three marbles, two pens, two dollars, three socks, a watermelon, my neighbor’s dog, two thirds of the state of Texas, and the rings of Saturn.

        • Azkyroth

          At least you didn’t find a ring from Uranus. O.O

  • Art_Vandelay

    “What more do you want from me?” asked God. “I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

    Because simply making the rain stop would have been too much to ask?

    • Zinc Avenger

      Then how would He show His omnipotence by sending boats and a helicopter? They would totally not have been sent out to save people if it wasn’t for God overriding their free will to make the emergency services with access to boats and helicopters use those boats and helicopters in an emergency.

      God loves free will so much He couldn’t bring himself to override the free will of the guy on the rooftop to get him to accept the offers of help he was given by people risking their own lives for his benefit. This is obviously not applicable to the boat and helicopter operators whose free will was totally irrelevant; God drove them into personal danger like tele-operated rescue robots because free will is sacrosanct unless God needs all the credit for the actions of humans.

      Without God the boats and helicopter would have stayed put and everyone would just have had gay marriage or something.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Well, you know what they say…Free will ain’t free.

    • Stev84

      Same with the people who praise gawd when someone survived an accident or disaster. Why didn’t go prevent the accident in the first place? And what about the other people who died? Guess, gawd didn’t give a shit about them.

  • sparkyb

    This is excellent. I love the way you can so succinctly take apart these arguments, JT. Last night I received the first religious email forward that I “just couldn’t let go.” I thought after a year of reading this blog and studying the way you masterfully refute this nonsense that I’d be up to the task. After reading this, I realize I still have a long way to go.

  • GCBill

    Omnipotence entails the power of complete self-concealment! Checkmate, TJ!


  • Manoj

    “A god who “works through them” in that way is no different from god not existing.”

    Not to mention the fact that until modern medicine arrived, God did not really work through anything. Something to think about?

    • Gehennah

      I’m sure god’s lips were all over the butt end of the leaches, sucking hard to help them bleed people.