I’ve been following the debate between atheists and theists on this platform for a while. I even contributed occasionally, in comments and in a post of my own. The latest, a long, closely argued piece by Benjamin Cain, took apart the arguments put forward in a previous essay (which I have not read) by a Rabbi.
I confess I did not read Cain’s article in full either, just skimmed, taking in the major points. It soon became apparent that these posturings are a pointless waste of time: a hobby for those who enjoy trying to prove that black is white or that water is capable of flowing uphill.
It seems to me that whether you believe in a creation myth or Stephen Hawking’s scientific explanation of the universe is immaterial to the here and now. To use a couple of tired old cliches, it is what it is and we are where we are. What matters is how we behave towards our fellow humans, including making sure that we do as little damage as possible to the environment so that those who come after us can enjoy it just as much as we do.
If you need to believe in an external intelligence who decrees how we should behave — and punishes you severely if you don’t — in order for you to ‘do the right thing’, or even to comprehend what the right thing might be, that’s fine by me. And maybe it is because of religious indoctrination as a child that I know what the right thing is and endeavour to live my life accordingly.
But, in all honesty, who but a fool could deny the common sense of the ‘golden rule’, however it is framed. The King James version of the Christian bible quotes Jesus of Nazareth: “Do unto others as you would be done by them”, For others it is more simply framed as “do no harm”.
We can, of course, have endless arguments about what constitutes harm in different contexts, but the origin of the universe and the existence, or not, of a creator is irrelevant.
If my behaviour makes it impossible for you to meet your daily needs of food, clothing and shelter, then I am at fault. Again, we can argue about the ways in which my behaviour, or yours, contribute to the suffering of our fellows. And, again, neither your belief in God, nor my atheism are relevant.