“I would rather believe in God than the truth,” the rabbi replies.
Many a truth is told in a jest.
A Time magazine poll in 2006 noted that 64 percent of Americans said that if science disproved one of their religious beliefs they would reject the science and accept the tenet of their faith.
So it is hardly surprising that trillions of words have been written about someone who does not exist.
Edward R. Murrow, attached to Patton’s Third Army liberating Buchenwald, was so stunned by the horrors he witnessed that he asked his radio listeners: “Where was God?”
Nowhere. God is a creation of mankind. But people must believe in a higher power. So they cling to myth. Indeed, a Newsweek poll a few years ago showed that 92 percent of Americans believe in God.
James Wood spent thousands of words in The New Yorker last summer, dragging in Aquinas and Maimonides, to say why an Oxford don believed in a Supreme Being.
Another torrent of words comes from “The Reason for God” (2008) by Timothy Keller, pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.
Keller extolled “the deity of Christ, the infallibility of the Bible, the necessity of spiritual rebirth through faith in Christ’s atoning death.”
“This astonishing, dynamic conception of a triune God is bristling with profound, wonderful, life-shaping, world-changing implications,” he writes.
Do you want to connect or reconnect with God? Keller advises: Repent and “believe in Christ.”
Keller talks of heaven and hell, which do not exist except in the imagination of Dante. But incredibly, 80 percent of Americans believe in heaven.
Keller urges readers to make Jesus the center of their lives. He declared that life without God “leads to emptiness.”
It is impossible for a rational mind to accept any of those beliefs.
Robert Jensen, University of Texas journalism professor, betrays his super intellect with a verbiage-filled, nonsense-packed book, “All My Bones Shake” (2009). His questing to know “the mystery” of God is unconvincing. His fails to understand himself, he says, but prays for strength to be human. Spare me.
In “The Question of God” (2002), author Armand Nicholi stages a debate between C.S. Lewis, celebrated defender of the faith, and Freud, liberator of the human mind. Freud wins by a knockout.
But the most exasperating book is “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) by Chris Hedges, a learned graduate of Harvard Divinity School.
Hedges would have you believe that America is swarming with atheists because the present-day stars of atheism — Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens — have written anti-God books.
Perhaps those authors have converted a few dozen people out of a nation of 310 million. But America is overwhelmingly God-drenched.
Hedges talks much of sin. Sin is a religious word. Secularists commit wrongs.
He says we cannot be indifferent to the transcendent, “that which lies beyond the reach of rational deduction.” Atheists are indifferent to something that does not exist.
Hedges asks such frat house questions as: “What are we? Why are we here? What does it (life) all mean?”
The absurdities mount. “The Nazi death camps and the Soviet gulags were spawned by the Enlightenment,” he writes. Talk about revisionist history!
“There is no clear, objective definition of God,” Hedge says. No kidding. You cannot define something that does not exist. As Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
We are not progressing morally, Hedges writes. True. But when has the nation ever progressed? In the 21st century we still raise a hullabaloo over abortion, capital punishment, evolution, homosexuality and gay marriage.
Anyone who knows even a modicum of history can recall the senseless carnage of World War I and the incomprehensible extermination of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
But after the foolish foray into religion, Hedges is on firm footing when he denounces the stupidity of the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The American occupation forces are just one more source of terror,” Hedges writes. “The United States is becoming a militaristic state … a corporate state that seeks not the common good but maximum profits.”
Hedges concludes that without God atheists have no reason to be ethical or moral. Atheists need neither God nor religion to be ethical and moral. They know with Thomas Paine that their minds are their church.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at email@example.com.