Tuesday, January 8, 2019

I've Answered "The Question Of Evil" Over And Over Again. Atheism Contains No Way To Identify Something As Evil

“. . . [Nietzsche] had the good manners to despise Christianity, in large part, for what it actually was--above all, for its devotion to an ethics of compassion--rather than allow himself the soothing, self-righteous fantasy that Christianity’s history had been nothing but an interminable pageant of violence, tyranny, and sexual neurosis. He may have hated many Christians for their hypocrisy, but he hated Christianity itself principally on account of its enfeebling solicitude for the weak, the outcast, the infirm, and the diseased; and, because he was conscious of the historical contingency of all cultural values, he never deluded himself that humanity could do away with Christian faith while simply retaining Christian morality in some diluted form, such as liberal social conscience or innate human sympathy.”

David Bentley Hart

Last year, while I was going through the great Swiss theologian Hans Küng's book Does God Exist for the first time* I was tempted to do a long series on only the very long 4th section of the book in which he discussed the emergence of romantic era philosophy, itself a development out of "enlightenment" thinking, into its farthest logical consequences in Nietzsche's nihilism, but it would have been impossible to do Küng's comprehensive brilliance justice in even a series of blog posts.  There are also, especially for an English language audience, too many secondary figures in Continental, especially German thought of the time to make sense of much of it.  I've hardly gone through it to the extent of even adequate familiarity.   I doubt I will in my lifetime.

The encounters in the long essay, of the young Nietzsche with a range of thinkers,  Schopenhauer, F. A. Lange, David Friedrich Strauss, Darwin, Haeckel, etc. his close friendship with Wagner which was smashed definitively when Wagner wrote Parsifal - Nietzsche was scandalized by its quite medieval Christian subject matter - and his subsequent push past all of it to admit the logical result of atheism and materialism documenting what David Bentley Hart wrote more than two decades later.

And Nietzsche didn't just stop with that logical conclusion in moral nihilism that is inevitable when atheism is the basis of thinking, he admitted that without the moral content which is contained in the Christianity (and other religion) things won't stand at an innocuous amorality, it will become might makes right, a Hobbesian struggle of all against all** in which the strongest and most unrestrained will, in fact, rise to the top where the most able of them will impose their desires and will on those they can.  Hobbes, Mandeville, . . . many other thinkers in the line of those who reject religion, who reject Christianity and who, for whatever reason, bring that to a state of logical integrity will end up accepting, if not joyously approving the violent, aristocratic enslavement of most people by those who can and will do that.  Though I think those who praise Nietzsche for his rejection of Strauss's style of bourgeois rejection of the results of their atheism overlook that he, himself, couldn't face the inevitable result of his own nihilism.  He imagined Supermen who would have lives of art appreciation along with their amoral ruthlessness.  That was a delusion, I don't think that Nietzsche was enough of an observer of art that he realized that what would degenerate wouldn't stop at morality and intellectual distinction, even science but would also dissolve art into a market-driven drivel which the Superman class he correctly predicted would rule the world would be indifferent to except on a basis of fashion.

Donald Trump,  Vladimir Putin, other epic vulgarians of the ruthless billionaire oligarchy are what comes from the rejection of God, of The Gospel, of The Law, of the Prophets and their equivalent in other religious traditions.  Trump Tower, Putin's pleasure palace, in which, perhaps, a few pieces of art might collect as status symbols for the vulgarian Supermen is the real result of nihilism.

To answer the claim, Atheism dissolves everything, including all intellectual holdings, including all holdings of morality, it replaces only what someone figures they can't get away with in its place.  And, so often, especially when there is a difference in power between two people, there isn't any prospect of there being a consequence for the powerful***.  It can't even, in the end, come up with a holding that raping children is wrong.   In Europe it took Christianity to introduce the idea that the sexual enslavement of children was wrong.  It was ubiquitous before then.
Any atheist who opposes the rape of children has to leave atheism to hold that moral stand.  It is intrinsic to Judaism and Christianity.

*  The more comprehensive habits of German language scholarship ensures that if you've read one of his books only once, you haven't really read it.

** That Nietzsche had Hobbes and other thinkers from earlier centuries to support that point shows that the rejection of religion, especially in the context of European-Western thinking, Christianity, the pattern is for violent, ruthless amorality to rise as a tacitly stated virtue seems irresistible.  It is only by those who refuse to carry things to their logical conclusion that that is deniable.

***  Look how long it took only one of Woody Allen's teenage girlfriends in the 1970s to drop a dime on him.


  1. The "problem of evil" is a canard from the 17th century. I got tired of addressing it some time ago. It takes a misconception of God, and of "evil", and creates a straw man.

    A hollow man, as Eliot described it. Alas! Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, to bring the Bard into it for good measure.

  2. * The more comprehensive habits of German language scholarship ensures that if you've read one of his books only once, you haven't really read it.

    Bultmann's magisterial study of the Gospel of John includes footnotes that take over the page and present counter-arguments and running arguments with whole fields of scholarship. Trying to take it all in can be exhausting. but it also makes you understand what real scholarship looks like, and what flyweights most "intellectuals" in the public sphere (read, popular) are.