No doubt most of us are familiar with the famous story. The setting was an Oxford dinner many years ago. In the after glow of a fine meal and the blushed cheeks from three or more glasses of port Bertrand Russell was asked “Dr. Russell, if it turns out that you’re wrong and after you die you discover that God exists, what will you say to him?” According to the story Russell then replied “Not enough evidence God, not enough evidence.”
The story has the aura of an urban legend about it, but at least one well known philosopher (John Searle) has insisted that he was at the very dinner where Russell made the quip.
Frank offers comment in the spirit of Russell in response to my anti-antitheism argument. He writes:
I cannot both deny god and loathe him: that would be absurd. But I am not content to accept that god’s ways are mysterious and I should just put up and shut up. The god of the old testament was bad enough, smiting left and right and ordering parents to sacrifice their children. But at least he left you alone after death, and didn’t promise eternal damnation for failing to obsequiously bow down before him, as the new testament makes explicit.
If I appear before god someday, and get my question, it will be, why did you cause so much harm to babies and children and the helpless and the starving; natural calamities that have nothing to do with the exercise of free will? (If I am not zapped out of existence for my insolence, a second question might be, why did you permit Gigli to have been filmed?)
Believe what you will, but to call it ridiculous to gave a pass to a god, for the same acts that we would castigate anyone else for? Pascal can brown-nose; I won’t do it.
So according to Frank, the rest of us are gutless syncophants, trying to get on the good side of the Almighty (should he exist). But not Frank. If God does exist he’ll swagger before the metaphorical throne with a literal list of grievances in the ultimate Promethean struggle.
The problem with all Frank’s righteous indignation is that it ignores the definition of God. If we accept the Christian (and classical theist) definition of God as the most perfect being then there is no evil that occurs which is not consistent with that perfection. Thus, Frank’s righteous protest is really one of two things. Either it is a completely incoherent protest against the wisdom of a perfect God or it is a fully appreciable protest against a being that is not God. Frank is thus left either with incoherence or obfuscation.
Sadly, Frank’s comments are mere rhetoric, the kind that plays wonderfully to an after-dinner crowd of slightly buzzed atheists on their fourth glass of port, but one which is bound to leave the clear thinking designated driver cold.