CNN invites us to discuss whether "God"
exists — and stacks the deck
By MarieAlena Castle
Communications Director, Atheists For Human Rights
CNN called to ask me to be on a Christmas Eve program with a Christian to discuss "Is There a God?" It was an opportunity to get a few facts to the public, but I had no great expectations, given the religious bias of the media. The segment was taped the afternoon of 24 December, with me in Minneapolis in front of a camera, talking with the heard-but-unseen interviewer and the god believer. The program aired at 9 PM CST, with only about half of the taped material used. A video of this interview is on our videos page.
Not surprisingly, the segment was not allowed to amount to much, perhaps because CNN knew what I might say from the pre-program interview conducted a couple of days earlier. God beliefs cannot survive an open, factual discussion of their validity.
The segment was treated as a trivial time filler on a slow news night. It deserves a profound and serious discussion. Of all the ideas put forth in human history, god beliefs have caused — and are causing today — more misery by far than any others, yet it is taboo to discuss them.
STACKING THE DECK
What we got from CNN was another example of Christian propaganda and bias.
- The advocate for "God," Bruce Feiler, was allowed to talk twice as long as I was, and part of my time was used in responding to an afterthought of the interviewer, who obviously wanted to conclude the interview but seemed apologetic for having given me relatively little time. Then, when I responded, the interviewer cut me off.
- Atheists got a chance to see the vacuousness of Bruce's answers. He said that, in the stories written about god, "we do have ample evidence, if you will, if that's the right word — it's not scientific evidence — but evidence that humans yearn for god, and in these stories that god is yearning for humans as well." No one would disagree with this, but it doesn't begin to answer the program's question, "Is there a god?"
- While Bruce was talking, nine scenes with religious themes, as well as scenes of suffering after the Indian Ocean tsunami and New Orleans flood, were shown. No images were shown during my comments. They could have been about the winter solstice, since I explained that's what the winter holiday is about.
A REAL DISCUSSION
Given the opportunity for a serious discussion, here are just some of the facts that show that a god (defined as the eternally existing omniscient, omnipotent spirit that created the universe) does not and cannot exist:
- To exist, by definition, means to consist of something and to be somewhere. Since no one can say what this god consists of (and how they know it) or where this god is located (and how they know it), "god" is a word without meaning, a sound that expresses nothing more than an imaginary idea.
- The god idea has no foundation in reality. Reality is the stuff that doesn't go away when you stop believing in it. All gods, without exception, go away when you stop believing in them. Humans have believed in thousands of gods over the centuries. Whenever belief in them went away, so did the gods.
- One would think a god, by definition, would be necessary in some way (other than as an incitement for wars, massacres, oppressions, etc.). Yet, millions of people get along fine, and usually better, without god beliefs. Where god believers inspire progressive social behavior (such as ending slavery and achieving civil rights for women and gays), they do so by re-imagining the god beliefs that justified the oppression in the first place.
- We don't know why there is something rather than nothing. That the universe exists is evidence only that the universe exists. It tells us absolutely nothing about how it got here. To imagine that a god created it explains nothing. We still don't know how it got here and are left wondering how the god got here. Now we have two mysteries instead of one.
- We exist in a universe that is basically a huge debris field 15 billion light years across, full of violence and destruction. We are hunkered down on a small and highly unstable rock wobbling through that debris field. The lifeforms that evolved in the thin biosphere surrounding this rock survive by eating other lifeforms. Evolution works off of high birth and death rates, with many defective products. There is no greater prescription for misery. This precarious existence cannot reasonably be called evidence of an intelligent, caring or even minimally competent creator.
- G. K. Chesterton wrote, in a poem about god beliefs, "The yearning that His hand has wrought, will not His hand fulfill?" This yearning is said to be evidence for a god, but it is only evidence for a yearning to escape the trials and tribulations of life that became horribly evident to humans when evolution chanced to produce in them self awareness and foresight. This yearning leads people to seek evidence for a protective god and a happy afterlife wherever they can. So they see the face of Jesus on a tortilla, or the image of the Blessed Virgin in an oil stain, or they find lost objects and attribute it to a saint's intercession, or they have a near death experience of "heaven" and all the facts presented by neuroscientists — that it was only the workings of a brain deprived of oxygen — cannot convince them that they didn't get a peek at the "afterlife."
- Humans are more moral and competent than the gods they worship. Normal humans would not allow the suffering that saturates our world. (As for the evil humans do, most of it stems from god beliefs.) The history of human development has been of efforts to overcome the misery inflicted by nature, from discovering fire to inventing the wheel to curing diseases. Much of this progress has been hindered by god beliefs.
There is only one god for which we have evidence, and it's one that nature created inadvertently — us! — warts and all. The sloppiness of the evolutionary process shows. We just have to make the best of it.