Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness?” —Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great
IN SUGGESTING THAT ATHEISM is often driven by base motives, I do not mean to imply that there is not sincere unbelief. In this chapter I consider a problem that has baffled believers no less than unbelievers, one that poses a serious obstacle to belief in the Christian God. Horrible things happen in this world. Millions are put to death in concentration camps. Hurricanes and tsunamis unleash their murderous fury on unsuspecting populations. A psychopath opens fire on a university campus, killing innocent students. My friend Bruce Schooley, to whom I’ve dedicated this book, is battling to survive cancer. None of this seems to have any explanation. Voltaire railed against a divine being who would permit the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and all its devastation. Darwin was struck by nature’s cruel capriciousness, a theme Richard Dawkins stresses in his more recent anti- religious polemics. “The God of birds and trees,” Steven Weinberg writes, “would also have to be the God of birth defects and cancer.” He adds that for himself as a Jew, “Remembrance of the Holocaust leaves me unsympathetic to attempts to justify the ways of God to man.” Steven Pinker poses the dilemma in its classic form, “If the world unfolds according to a wise and merciful plan, why does it contain so much suffering?” Weinberg and Pinker raise the good question: if God exists, why does He allow any of it?
The problem of evil and suffering is considered by many people to be the strongest argument against the existence of God. The reasoning goes like this: If God exists, He is all-powerful. If He is all-powerful, He is in a position to stop evil and suffering. But we know from experience that evil and suffering go on, scandalously, mercilessly, without even a hint of proportion or justice. Thus there cannot be an omnipotent being capable of preventing all this from happening, because if there were, He surely would. Therefore God does not exist.
I agree that evil and suffering pose a serious intellectual and moral challenge for Christians. (Interestingly, in Hinduism and Buddhism there is no such problem. Hindus believe your suffering in this life is the consequence of your actions in a previous life.Buddhism holds that suffering is the product of egocentric desire and can be overcome through a dissolution of the self that has those desires.) When terrible things happen they seem more easily explained by God’s absence in the world than by His presence. But what few have noticed is that evil and suffering also pose a formidable challenge for atheists. The reason is that suffering is not merely an intellectual and moral problem; it is also an emotional problem. Suffering doesn’t wreck minds; it wrecks hearts. When I get sick, I don’t want a theory to explain it; I want something that will make me feel better. Atheism may have a better explanation for evil and suffering, but it provides no consolation for them. Theism, which doesn’t have a good explanation, nevertheless offers a better way for people to cope with the consequences of evil and suffering.
I noticed this in April 2007 when the deranged student at Virginia Tech went on a homicidal rampage, perpetrating one of the worst mass killings in American history. In the aftermath of the carnage, even on the secular campus, atheism was nowhere to be found. Every time there was a memorial ceremony or a public gathering, there was talk of God, divine mercy, and spiritual healing. Even people who were not personally religious began to use language that was drenched with Christian symbolism and meaning.