Can death disprove God?

Of course, when people die, atheists come out in droves, imagining they’ll score a quick point for their team by protesting that such “senseless” death—especially the death of children—necessarily proves God doesn’t exist. (Just as predictably, by the way, politicians come out in droves, hoping to score a quick point for their respective teams. So far, the deaths from the Oklahoma tornado have been publicly blamed on global warming and Congress’ sequestration.)

I saw one comment on a news article about the recent tornado that left dozens dead: “If Yahweh exists, he sucks at his job,” the commenter said. He at least left room for God to exist; I guess he’d call himself an agnostic. But the atheists tend to go all out; for them, the Moore, Ok. tornado is another proof that God is simply not there.

The problem with trying to logically connect a tornado with a proof of God’s non-existence is that… well, there’s no logical connection.

I’m honestly not quite sure how such a syllogism would even function. Perhaps:

Premise 1: If God exists, children won’t die in tornadoes.

Premise 2: Children died in tornadoes.

Conclusion: Therefore God does not exist.

This is actually a valid argument (in formal logic, it’s a common structure called Modus tollens), but it is ultimately unsound. In other words, the reasoning within the argument works, but the main premise is false. The atheist here claims that if God exists, children won’t die in tornadoes. That is not true, but the atheist needs for it to be true. That brings us to the problem.

The Problem

The problem is, the atheist is forced to make an arbitrary value judgement—an arbitrary definition about how God must or mustn’t be—in order for him to even attempt to argue something about God.

To define is to create, in the most basic sense. It is to separate a thing from out of other things and distinguish it, set it apart. For example:

Here’s a box.

Box

There’s nothing in it.

Now here’s the same box, and inside it I have drawn a human shape (or something like it).

Boxman

I created that shape, defining it as something OTHER THAN the box. By drawing its outline, I gave it definition; I gave it substance (as much as it can have on a computer screen, at least). I am the creator of that specific human shape.

When I define a human shape on a computer monitor, I am (at best) an artist.

But when the atheist defines God (“If God exists, children won’t die in tornadoes.”), he does something immense, with a rather surprising outcome.

Because to define is to create, the atheist, in a sense, creates God (though only in his own mind) when he defines God. Besides the fact that such a creation threatens to undermine the atheist’s entire argument (he would at the very least need to say, “If God exists outside of my mind, then children wouldn’t die in tornadoes…”), it really puts him in a pretty serious pickle.

If the atheist thinks that God—if he exists—would be the most powerful being in all of existence, it then becomes self-contradictory to say that the atheist can define (and therefore create) God.

Unless…

The atheist is actually much more devious than he appears. Because in this logical quandary, it so far appears that God (the most powerful being in all of existence) has been created by the atheist (and strangely, for the sole purpose of the atheist’s proving that God does not exist at all). But it turns out the atheist has set God up all along.

Because, in the atheist’s argument, he has defined (and therefore created) God, that God simply can not be the God the atheist wants us to think of when we read his argument (namely: the God who is the most powerful being in the universe). Rather, the God the atheist has created is some other imaginary (we must assume) being whom the atheist has named “God” in order to confuse us. That’s devious.

For clarity’s sake, we’ll change the atheist-created-God’s name. We’ll now call him Goad.

So to summarize up to this point, the atheist has created Goad, but is calling him “God,” and says that a necessary prerequisite for Goad’s existence is that children mustn’t die in tornadoes. That’s devious. And since some children did very recently die in a tornado, the atheist has quite neatly proven that Goad therefore can not and does not exist (at least, not outside of our minds).

But, it gets worse for the atheist, who may be devious, but who is clearly not very clever.

Accidental Proof

The atheist has created Goad—just some imaginary thing (some logicians might call him a “straw man”) that he’s going to use for the sole purpose of destroying. But he’s calling Goad “God” because he wants us to think he is really talking about the Christian God.

(As a side note, never has any Christian theologian or prophet ever definitively concluded that the death of children would disprove the existence of God. And never have any of the canonized communications from God given that stipulation [of course, that would be quite odd, anyways].)

And by what we can assume is the atheist’s expectation of our definition of God (that God is the most powerful being in existence), it would seem the atheist, in offering his own definition of God (that if God is to exist, children can not die in tornadoes), has created God.

In other words, in creating Goad, the atheist (probably accidentally) posits himself as actually having created God. And if the atheist created God, then God just got bumped down to second place in terms of his power among all things in existence. For who would disagree that the creation is higher than the creator?

And if God got bumped down to second place, then who is in first place? Well, the atheist.

Now the atheist is really in trouble, because he has actually proven that God does exist (since he, the atheist, is now God by his own declarations, and surely he would not attempt to argue that he himself does not exist! Anyways, Descartes would have an absolute conniption) while attempting to prove God does not exist!

But I doubt very many people can accept that God (in this case, the atheist) could be confused about his own existence—he ends up proving it while trying to disprove it. So I don’t think this atheist will garner much of a following.

And that, of course, does not even matter, since it is not up to human beings to define (and therefore create) God. Rather, God is self-defining, as he says to Moses: “I am that I am.”

Conclusion

The deaths in Oklahoma are tragic. And for those who deny the existence of God, such seemingly arbitrary, senseless, inexplicable death must reinforce the view that life itself has no inherent order, sense, or meaning.

But for those who believe in God, who know God and are seeking to know him, such tragedy moves us to pray for the hurting and to press deeper into the infinite mystery without which God would only be Goad.

A friend of mine has blogged about a Christian perspective on the recent deaths. It’s very helpful. I hope you’ll read it:

Why I (still) believe in Jesus when children are killed

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One Response to Can death disprove God?

  1. Xavier de la Torre says:

    Thank you for this, and thank you for providing the link to the other blog. Both allowed my heart to properly break – and got me praying for us all. God bless you.

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