Introductory spiel: One of my more recent books, Not Seeing God: Atheism in the 21st Century (UK), has a plethora of gems in it for the reader and a smorgasbord of variety. It was a labour of love and was particularly rewarding due to the fact that so many great writers had been involved in the production of the book. There were some 24 writers from the ranks of Patheos Nonreligious and they all did their bit to make the project a really good looking, good feeling, and intellectually stimulating affair.
There is a great variety of writing and subject matter on offer, in the book, with the first section (Part One: DECONSTRUCTING GOD) dealing with philosophical, moral and theological issues with the God concept. The second section (Part Two: REFLECTING ON GODLESSNESS IN MODERN SOCIETY), deals with atheism within various contexts in modern society, from cinema to the military, politics to education. The final piece of the puzzle (Part Three: LOOKING TOWARD A FUTURE IN A GODLESS WORLD) asks the reader where we go from here, and seeks to give a few answers.
I am going to split up my opening chapter to the book over a number of posts here. All of that which I will excerpt has been the subject of various posts over time. After all, you are my sounding board. Here goes. This is the fifth piece in the series.
God’s not fair
We have, like it or not, this collection of human beings that God has designed and created. Or if you are a theistic evolutionist, God created the system that created the humans. Either way, with his omniscience, he knew that which would come to pass.
God created a whole range of people. Men, women and others (if you don’t adhere to a gender binary) is one range. The neurotypical and people on the autistic spectrum might be another range.
I assume that, since heaven and hell appear to be the consequence of this here existence, the main point for earthly humans on earth is to enter into a loving relationship, freely, with God. Yes, you can ask what happened to people who existed before the Bible, or in the Amazon who have never heard the Gospel, who don’t know the Bible. Theologians like William Lane Craig have argued that God has front-loaded all those souls whom he knew would freely reject him into those peoples. Dark. Fatalistic. Another answer might be that humans have morality written on their hearts and that we don’t need the Bible, nor such a relationship with the Christian/Muslim/InsertNameHere God, in order to succeed in the Test of Life and get into heaven. Well, that’s a whole problem for theists, meaning we are not needing God for morality, not needing the Bible for guidance, and it is a good argument for secular humanism!
Back to the point. God has created ranges of people, and science has shown that these different types of people have different probabilities in believing in God. Women, for whatever reason (it doesn’t matter whether it is genetic, biological or environmental), are more likely to believe in God than men. Scientists less likely than others. And, interestingly, certain autistics far less likely than the neurotypical to believe in a personal deity.
One hypothesis about this last group, based on work by Norenzayan, Gervais and Trzesniewski, is that certain autistic people are less able to empathize, to see life from someone else’s point of view. They are less able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Where religious believers are consistently wondering how God, as a personal agent, is viewing their life, their moral actions, these autistic people are unable to do so. That kind of intersubjectivity is much more difficult for them. And so they end up not believing in God, being almost unable to believe in a personal entity out there who is watching their every move.
What this means is that God is unfair. He’s stacking the cards, loading the dice, such that certain subgroups of people are more or less likely to freely come to love him. If that is at least part of the endgame, then God is not fair, and not omnibenevolent