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What're You Gonna Do About It, Cry?

Mark I. Vuletic

[Warning: The following article was written in smart-ass mode. The point is correct, but the tone is decidedly smart-ass. It is not that I am going out of my way to offend anyone (except perhaps for popular religious apologists, who are simply reaping what they have sown)--rather, this article is just another attempt on my part to say something true without boring everyone to death. Best wishes, Mark.]

Since eternal souls were at stake, it is understandable that the Inquisition used instruments of torture rather than rational argument to convert recalcitrant heretics--torture, one might say, has more rhetorical force. Likewise, since popular religious apologists are in the job of saving souls, it is understandable that they use whatever tools are available to them to persuade their audiences. Torture having become unfashionable with the rise of humanism (religious and nonreligious alike), popular religious apologists now turn to the next best thing--arguments which play upon the audience's fears. One can still effectively terrorize without displaying the thumbscrews.

I do not, here, have in mind the bombastic "You're going to burn in Hell, and I'm going laugh, laugh, laugh!" argument, although that is indeed precious. Instead, I would like to focus on the more subtle arguments which appeal even to the McChurch types, who would not for a second tolerate some yahoo threatening them with fire and brimstone. These arguments are what atheists (and rational theists, God bless them!) might sensibly call "What're you gonna do about it, cry?" arguments, because each can be quickly and soundly defeated by the simple rejoinder of "What're you gonna do about it, cry?" Allow me to demonstrate with a hypothetical exchange:

Believer: You don't believe there is a god?

Me: No.

Believer: But if there's no god, then there's no ultimate purpose to life.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Believer: But if there's no god, then there's no guarantee of life after death.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Believer: But if there's no god, then there's no guarantee that justice will ultimately prevail.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Believer: But if there's no god, then there's no pragmatic reason for a person to refrain from an unjust act when he knows for sure he can get away with it.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Believer: But if there's no god, then there's no one to comfort us when we are all alone.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Believer: But if there's no god, then the universe is cold and sterile.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Believer: But if there's no god, then we have to do our best to govern ourselves, with all of the risk of error and corruption that the enterprise entails.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Believer: But if there's no god, then I have believed a falsehood all my life.

Me: What're you gonna do about it, cry?

The point, simply enough, is that even if atheism has consequences that one finds disagreeable, that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever upon whether or not atheism is true. Now, again, many of the theistic "arguments" above have other problems with them, but even if they did not, this one problem alone is sufficient to render them worthless. Atheism is no less probable even if it confounds every one of our hopes and desires. By no means does reality have to be the way we would like it to be. What're you gonna do about it, cry?

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Michael S. Valle for first introducing me to the phrase "What're you gonna do about it, cry?", as well as to the phrase "I ain't got time to bleed," which I regret does not figure into this article.


Copyright ' 2002, Mark I. Vuletic. All rights reserved.

Published:
  2001-09-01

Categories:
  Humanism

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