God and Wonderdad: A final discussion of antitheism
I thought I’d be done with antitheism by now but some people insist on holding on to bad ideas. So I’m going to close off this discussion with an illustration which gets to the irrational, emotional heart of antitheism.
Ollie is a ten year old orphan living in an orphanage in London. He was found as a two year old (or thereabouts) wandering the muddy streets of the city, crying and holding a worn blue blanket. For the last eight years Ollie has lived in the orphanage and it has been, by any stretch of the imagination, a hard life. He sleeps on a straw mattress infested with bugs. Rats and mice are his nocturnal companions. In the day time he suffers beatings from the larger boys and the headmaster. His meals throughout the year are all the same: a pasty, tasteless gruel which is made (or so the other boys say) from pig slop turned bad. His only joy is a single candy cane that he receives from a group of nuns every December.
Late one night Ollie is sitting on his straw mattress in the chilly darkness listening to the rats scurrying and the horses and carriages rolling by on the streets below when Johnny calls out to him in the darkness.
“What is it Johnny?”
“Imagine that you have a wonderful dad out there somewhere, a wonderdad! He’s the best dad in the world and he loves you very much. For some reason you can’t understand you were separated from him eight years ago. But he’s going to come for you and make everything right. Wouldn’t that be amazing?” Johnny says dreamily.
Ollie can respond one of two ways. He could say “Yes, I hope there is a wonderdad out there like you say” or he can say “No, I don’t want there to be a wonderdad.” I can understand that after eight years of pain and disappointment Ollie might say he hopes there is no wonderdad. But how could we explain that response? There are two possibilities. The first possibility is that Ollie didn’t take Johnny’s question seriously. When Johnny says “Imagine that you have a wonderful dad” Ollie actually imagines that he has a deadbeat dad and then understandably says “No thanks.” The second possibilty is that Ollie did imagine that he had a wonderdad and still rejected the idea. But why? In that case it must be that his rejection of wonderdad is spoken not out of reason but rather irrational emotional pain and bitterness. Perhaps that is psychologically understandable as a gut reaction, since wonderdad’s existence immediately creates a target for all his disappointments. But if the dad really is a wonderdad and not a deadbeat dad, then all that anger is ultimately misplaced. And it surely is self-destructive. Ollie cannot let that bitterness be the final word.
But could it be the final word? Could Ollie be that embittered that he would reject the embrace of his wonderdad upon his arrival at the orphanage? Would he really turn his back upon the smiling countenance and open arms and, clutching the threadbare blue blanket, march back up the stairs and to his cold room and straw mattress?
Perhaps it is possible that Ollie could act in such a wholly irrational and self-destructive way. But if so, the lesson to us is this: don’t be Ollie. We are all in the orphanage now. Some of us believe there is a wonderdad for every child in that place. Others of us do not. But all of us ought to hope there is.