April 25, 2011

Atheist Tales - "Dear Theologian" by Dan Barker [review by starlight]

"I know that I exist. I know that I could not have created myself. I also know there is no higher God that could have created me. Since I can't look above myself, then perhaps I should look below myself for a creator. Perhaps - this is speculative, so bear with me - perhaps you created me." -God

I couldn't help but skip to Dan Barker's Atheist Tale after all the hype it's gotten. Originally published in Barker's Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists, this stand-alone story is a fictional letter from God to a doctor of theology, asking the same questions man has asked for centuries. God is very confused as to how he came into existence, how he is expected to be the ultimate judge of morality, and what his purpose is. It's a rational argument that combats all of the typical theological debates, and put in the mouth of the Big Man himself, it's very convincing.

Atheist Tales is all speculative, sci-fi short stories, but there's a nice medley here of the humorous poking fun stories, the serious and dark dramatic stories, and some unique pieces that consider alternatives to the religious paradigms that exist today. Dear Theologian is the story for the logical philosophy buffs who are familiar with all the big arguments - the argument from design, the problem of evil, the cosmological argument. But you don't need to have studied philosophy or theology to follow the debate, particularly if you are a rational human being who doesn't live in a fantasy world.

My personal favourite thing about Barker's argument is that he even finds a good way to combat that annoying religious trump card of "God is beyond human understanding". My favourite comes (I believe) from Keirkegarde, that one can no more logically prove the existence of God than count to infinity. But for God, when trying to understand the nature of his existence, this whole 'mystery' argument is completely useless: "On the one hand, you use logic to try to prove my existence, but on the other hand, when logic hits a dead end, you abandon it and invoke 'faith' and 'mystery'". I love this story - it's a highly amusing read for any atheist, logical minded or no.

By the way: to continue my ridiculous use of familiar movie stills to promote Atheist Tales, we have The White Wizard as God approaching a closed-minded, irrational fool of a man, Denethor Steward of Gondor, as the Theologian. Don't ask where I come up with this crap :)

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