Heather Mac Donald and God
my articles written in response to Heather Mac Donald’s attacks on religion and God. (Note: Mac Donald’s name is pronounced the same as though it were spelled “MacDonald.”)
God and disasters [my three-part discussion with Mac Donald at VFR at the end of 2004 about God and the Asian tsunami]
If randomness proves the non-existence of God, what does order prove? [A follow-up question I sent to Mac Donald that she did not answer.]
Mac Donald versus God [This and the following articles deal with Mac Donald’s public attacks on religious belief which she commenced in 2006.]
Mac Donald, reason, and conservatism
Mac Donald “depressed” by Americans’ belief in God
Michael Novak’s avuncular response to Mac Donald at NRO
Atheist website [December 2008: Mac Donald launches anti-religion venture with Derbyshire, Razib, and Stuttaford.]
Mac Donald, the Know-Nothing who claims to know the only way that things can be known [“The irony to which Mac Donald seems utterly blind is that she herself only has that belief in the goodness and indispensability of marriage because of the demonstrated goodness and indispensability of that institution over the course of history, that institution that would not have existed, and thus could not have provided the empirical basis for believing in its goodness, without the very religion and the religiously based customs and understandings that she says are unnecessary.”]
Season’s Greetings from Heather Mac Donald [Dec 2009: “Mac Donald doesn’t just disbelieve in God; she is unhappy, miserable, angry, indignant, and bent out of shape at the thought that anyone, anywhere believes in God. Christmas season must be a hell for her.”]
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James W. writes:
Well, L.A., I read the links, but it wasn’t necessary to go beyond Mac Donald’s assertion of “we have a right to expect” of God.
This is exactly what even those Enlightenment philosophers that had lost their faith were terrified of—that the loss of religion would bring a loss of humility.
If Mac Donald is telling God—even her imaginary one—what she has a right to expect, there can be no limits on what she may expect from me.
As JBS Haldane said, My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
Terry Morris writes:
In part II of the discussion you state:
“This to a large extent is the result of the contemporary religion of the self. Since my self and my needs are the most important thing in the universe, if something good happens to me, it must be God doing it.” (emphasis mine)
Thus it is me that is determining, under the contemporary religion of the self, whether an event that happens to me is good or evil. I’m the only one that can determine that, under contemporary religion, since my needs, my wants, my desires are the most important things in the universe. I’ve written about this before as well. Several months back, as a matter of fact, a local woman who’s been on State assistance for years won the lottery here in my State, and in the local newspaper article about it, take a wild guess who she attributed her winnings to. You guessed it.
Incidentally, the woman used her last two dollars to buy the winning ticket.
Thanks for bringing these threads together, and for being in the first place their occasion. You do us all a great service. That there is so much good sense out there adds to my hope.
Reading through the whole thing, it strikes me that Mac Donald’s fundamental error has been neatly captured by Novak. He says, “We are not God’s judge. He is ours. If you do not grasp his sovereignty over all things, it is not the true God and Creator of all things that you are thinking of.” Mac Donald and all her ilk—including, I fear, many who profess and call themselves Christians—err first by treating God as some sort of addendum to the world, and conforming thereto; when really it’s the other way round. God does not explain the world, is not for the purposes of the world, but the reverse: the world explains God (in the sense that it explicates God, literally out-folds him), and the world is for the purposes of God. Mac Donald wants everything to be all nice, according to her ideas of what niceness is. But unfortunately, whether or not God exists, this world is not about her or her ideas, but vice versa. In the contest between Mac Donald and the power either of godless nature or of God, only Mac Donald can possibly come up wanting. As she, and all of us, most certainly will. Put another way, hubris is bad policy.
So long as she is worried mostly about her own ideas, and feels that God has fallen short of her ideals, Mac Donald has not really thought about God at all. Her atheism is not therefore a theory about how the world really is, but only dressed up adolescent whining about what she wants from it, and is not getting. Poor little thing! She thinks that the Holy One is about such as social justice, or feeling all nice, when in fact such trifles are the unlooked for sequelae of a proper humility.
Mac Donald is exactly correct that God as she understands the term does not exist. But that’s only because she doesn’t understand the term.
In Part II of my December 2004 exchange with Mac Donald I wrote:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 11, 2007 03:26 PM | Send
When we pray, it’s not that the infinite God comes down and answers our little petitions. It’s that we bring ourselves into contact with God, and that changes us. So the idea that if some prayers are answered and others aren’t, that proves that God is some capricious character, is a complete misconception of God.Implied in what I’m saying here is that God at every moment is pouring his bounty upon the universe, and that because we are normally turned away from him, we cannot receive it. Prayer means that we are breaking from our usual ignoring of God and turning back to God and acknowledging his existence and our dependence on him. That turning back to God opens us to a tiny measure of God’s infinite bounty which is always there.
However, this explanation by itself may not be adequate, as is suggested next.
I also wrote:
Anyone who had your notion of what God is supposed to be, a direct intervenor in everything that happens, a cosmic busy-body, would have to be an atheist. No intelligent Christian or Jew believes that God is directly intervening in every event the way you describe.This statement would appear not to be correct. I’ve been reading Washington’s God by Michael and Jana Novak, and their many quotes of Washington’s constant statements about Providence make it clear that Washington believed that all things that happened on earth, even the bad things, were the work of Providence. The bad things are part of God’s larger purpose toward a greater good which we often cannot see. However, Washington himself had so often seen how great misfortunes and calamities ultimately resulted in great blessings, that he developed a deep and abiding sense of an all-ruling Providence whose favor man could attract through prayer and self-reformation.
I’m not sure, but it’s possible that Washington’s view and my view are two ways of describing the same thing and can be reconciled.