What’re You Gonna Do About It, Cry?

[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.