Old lines

Mark Vernon at Hay.

[N]ew lines are being drawn in the debate between belief and non-belief. In short, the initial dispute appears to be exhausting itself and in its place, a more subtle discussion is emerging. The question is no longer simply, Does God exist? That has never admitted of a final answer anyway. Instead, it is this: What would it be like to live in a world without God?

Oh please. That’s not a new line, for god’s sake. It’s not as if nobody has wondered or discussed what it would be like to live in a world without God until now! The question has never been simply ‘does God exist?’; who said it was? On the other hand, an awful lot of people go around simply calmly assuming that God exists, and that we all agree that God exists, and that there is no reason to think God doesn’t exist, and that we all know who and what God is, and that we all know what God wants from us, so some people have recently been reminding the assumers that their assumptions are assumptions and that they’re rather silly and presumptuous. But that doesn’t rule out talking about what it would be like to live in a world without God, or for that matter talking about what it is like to live in a world without God, and it never has, so there’s no need to draw any new lines, the lines have been there for a long time.

If there is no longer any foundation for ethics, because there is no ultimate source of goodness, then human beings alone must choose how they will live. Some people will choose to be good. But others will not; they will choose to be evil. And it is not easy to say why they should not.

No, it is not, but that ‘ultimate source of goodness’ is not helpful either, because it is easy, but wrong. It is easy only in the sense that it ignores its own weakness.

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