Walter worries that such high falutin’ discourse might be. He writes:
There are times when I wonder if the mental energy expended over this question is worth it.
He then goes on to offer an argument for passivity about the most perfect being there could be.
My view is that if there exists a benevolent and personal God, then that God will deal with each of us fairly in a possible afterlife. I could ask for no more.
If there exists a malevolent God we are all screwed and we may as well enjoy what time we have in this existence without thought to the horrors coming tomorrow.
If there exists no God and/or no afterlife, what use is there in expending mental energy over questions that will never be settled…unless you simply enjoy talking about the subject as I do. I have many friends who give absolutely no thought to religion at all. As long as they don’t harm me with their apatheism, what good will it serve to keep them up at night with questions which continue to be argued in perpetuity?
Walter’s view is tempting, for it would remove any sense of urgency to the discussion of God, his existence and nature, and place it firmly within the same category as questions like “What would you do if aliens landed on the White House lawn?” In other words, a perfect topic of speculative reflection and little more.
But let’s be careful here. Walter’s comments are dependent on Walter’s own intuitions as to how a perfect “benevolent and personal” God would act. And let’s note at the outset that human intuitions generally are not exactly reliable. The average person tends to view the world in a way skewed to their advantage. Surveys have demonstrated that most people tend to think they are smarter and wiser than the average denizen. Needless to say, somebody is suffering from faulty perception.
So if we are liable generally to view ourselves with rose colored glasses, do you think we might be prone to viewing our relationship with any perfect divine being that should happen to exist in equally optimistic terms? That’d be a safe bet.
This doesn’t mean that what Walter said is incorrect. But it does suggest a shadow side to it. Yes, if there is a God then he’ll deal with us in a manner that is objectively fair. However, there is no guarantee that we, with our distorted and inherently unreliable self-perceptions, will receive what we’re expecting as a result of that exercise of justice.
And this suggests to me something quite interesting. Perhaps the discussion of God is not just another means to while away a lazy afternoon in idle conversation. Perhaps it is instead a dangerous and potentially transformative exploration of our own penchant for self-deception. And that, it seems to me, is a conversation well worth pursuing.