Friday, September 25, 2009

"Is God Dead?" Redux

At the US News & World Report website, the "God & Country" column has a couple of recent stories of interest. Of course, there is the poll that PZ links to, but there is also a brief bit on the recent death of John T. Elson, the Time magazine editor responsible for the "Is God Dead?" issue. Poking around through various different obituaries (here, for example), I find (not surprisingly) that the firestorm that erupted around that issue has not subsided. People are using the comment threads to Elson's obituaries as a forum to continue their arguing (I almost said "continue their debate", but that would not be true).

So, is God Dead? I say no. Something which was never alive cannot properly be said to be dead; trees may be dead, but not stones; birds may be dead, but not clouds; people may be dead, but not living-room sofas. If we may say God was alive through the thoughts of believers (the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" version of being alive), then God is still not dead, because there are still believers.

Which brings us back to the poll. "A new survey says a quarter of all Americans are likely to claim to have "no religion" within 20 years. How do you view the boom in Americans without a religious affiliation?" With fewer and fewer believers, is God (in the "YVtiaSC" version) dying? Answer: mu. The question is useless. What matters is the actions of those left who do believe, whether they are a huge majority, a bare majority, a large minority, or even a handful.

The sort of true believers who will never spare the rod
For they know that they are following the sacred will of God;
Devout and faithful followers, the ones for whom Christ died,
Or the ones who know that Allah will be watching them with pride,
The servants of Jehovah, who see prophecy fulfilled
When they look upon the legions of the heathens that they’ve killed,
The good and gentle pilgrims who burned witches at the stake
Which was only right and proper, and was done for Heaven’s sake;
The powerful inquisitors, the torturers, the beasts,
The sexual molesters who still hide among the priests,
Fanatic true believers, who, as part of Allah’s powers
Would hijack planes and crash into the World Trade Center towers
The actions of believers, and the deeds of the devout,
If you’ll pardon me, are things that I could really do without.

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