My article “If God wants to damn your children, should you agree?” elicited a couple notable responses.
Walter replied as follows:
“I think the riddle is this: what do you do if God’s perfect goodness is so different from human conceptions of goodness that His actions are utterly indistinguishable from what you would normally consider as evil? Should you ignore your own moral compass and simply submit, or should you follow your conscience and rebel, guaranteeing your own damnation in the process?”
Walter’s questions suggest the wisdom of the latter course of rebellion. To make that clear, he adds at the end: “Anyways, I would think that most loving parents would likely chose to stick with their kids, come hell or high water.”
I take it that Walter’s response will sound to some like moral courage. But alas, it looks to me like nothing more than irrational dogmatism.
Imagine a society of flat earthers sitting around the campfire when the shape of the earth comes up. “How about this?” one of them muses. “Possibly, the natural cosmic processes produced a sphere rather than a flat disk? Don’t get me wrong. I believe the earth is a flat disk. But wouldn’t y’all concede that it’s at least possible that we could be wrong? And if we are, wouldn’t you want to know and to learn how to live in accord with the earth’s spherical shape?”
Immediately one of the other flat earthers offers the following indignant reply:
“I think the riddle is this: what do you do if the shape of the earth is so different from human conceptions of that shape? Should you ignore your own perception of that shape and simply submit to the sphere, or should you follow your perception and rebel, guaranteeing your own ignorance of the earth’s true shape in the process?”
Such a response would be, I take it, a bit crazy. Of course you should accept the earth’s sphericity and learn to live with it if the earth is a sphere. (Spoiler alert: it is. More correctly, it’s an “oblate spheroid”.) This response presents us with nothing more than an irrational commitment to the flatness of the earth.
Similarly, should it turn out that non-Calvinist moral and theological intuitions are incorrect, there is nothing bold or courageous about maintaining those incorrect intuitions. That too is nothing more than irrational dogmatism.
Lotharson is even more insistent than Walter on retaining error and, for that reason, even more obviously irrational:
And if I were to learn beyond the grave that Calvinism is true, I would utterly refuse to worship God because it is just logically impossible He would be good in such a case. (and if I worshiped Him in spite of that, I would just be a despicable coward).
Both Walter and Lotharson appear to assume that “God” on this scenario is less than perfectly good. But this is to ignore the operative definition of God throughout this discussion, viz. the most perfect being. The scenario is not “what if God should turn out to be not God?”. The issue, rather, is “what if we should turn out to be wrong about the nature of the most perfect being and the moral good?”
To “utterly refuse to worship” the most perfect being because you previously held incorrect beliefs about the divine nature and moral value isn’t moral courage, it is foolishness. And to label as “despicable cowards” those who would embrace the truth after learning of their error, isn’t noble, it is dogmatism.
It doesn’t matter what p is: should p turn out to be true (whether p is earth’s sphericity, or Buddhism or atheism or Calvinism), I want to know that-p and to begin to come to terms with its implications. To do otherwise is not courageous or principled, it is mere irrational dogmatism.