--Ricky Gervais (hosting the Golden Globe awards)
The other day on my commute to work I heard a rather interesting story on NPR. I don't recall all of the details, of course, but the following is the gist of the story:
During World War I there was a great battle between a British battalion and a German battalion. As the battle progressed, a British soldier noticed a German soldier who had been injured so gravely that he estimated that this foe was effectively out of the fight, and in an act of mercy, decided not to kill him. The two men were close enough to make eye contact and the extremely grateful German soldier never forgot the face of the man who spared his life.
Fast forward several years to when the now very prominent German soldier, who had recounted this experience many times as an act of God, recognized the face of a British man in a photo in a newspaper as the same man who spared him. The German man felt so overwhelmed with gratitude that he was compelled to send a letter of thanks to the British man, but not knowing how to get a hold of him, instead sent the letter to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who then forwarded the message on his behalf.
The British man was awe-struck by this message and replied by issuing a statement that if he had known who the German man would one day become, he would have shot him on the spot. The German soldier was (if you haven't figured it out by now) Adolf Hitler.
I kind of chuckled at this when I heard it. It reminds me of so many similarly serendipitous accounts that one has to ask, "are all seemingly miraculous events justifiably attributable to God?" Nowadays, my answer is a flat "NO"; but even when I was religious I would ask similar questions.
I always found it odd that whenever someone would tell a story of god helping them, or of a miracle of some kind, no one in the audience ever asked them for justification. They always just nodded in agreement and took the story at face value. I suppose this might make sense if one believes that god controls everything. But wouldn't this also mean that god gave the person the hardship, thus necessitating divine intervention, in the first place? So really what they are saying is that god gave them a problem and solved it for them, so that they would recognize his hand in their life. Really?
The very idea of such a proposition being made by people who also believe in a god of omniscience and omnipotence is laughable. As far as I can figure, an omniscient and omnipotent god who created everything stands in opposition with the notion of freewill (as many Calvinists will point out).
Consider it this way: god created this universe knowing in advance everything that would happen, and chose to create this specific universe in which billions of people would fail to meet his standard and join him in heaven, and knowing who those people would be before he created them, despite having the ability to create a different universe in which everyone would be saved. Therefore, either god chose your eternal path for you before he even created you, and is responsible for every action you take, especially the evil ones for which he judges and condemns you, thus negating any illusions of freewill you might have, or an omnipotent and omniscient god does not exist and freewill remains intact.
He also could have created a universe in which I believe in his existence. Therefore, god made me an atheist.
Mr. Deity and the Evil