No, strike that…God’s existence not disproved…no, that’s not it either.
Jim Holt, who writes on philosophy for Slate, is often good but today, on God, he is merely facile. He manages to write 1300 words without mentioning the most obvious objection: that God is a classical violation of Occam’s Razor. He is an entity without necessity. This places the burden of proof on those who assert his existence. Holt does discuss, briefly, the equally powerful objection that God is incoherent — irresistible forces, immovable objects, that sort of thing — only to dismiss it. “This is very much a philosopher’s argument, and it has been worked over to the point of inconclusiveness.” Ah. The philosophers disagree. So we laymen can safely put it aside.
He also puts the problem of evil in its weakest possible form, by choosing as his example a catastrophe willed by men, the Holocaust. Here there is an easy answer, and Holt quotes a Professor Van Inwagen of Notre Dame, who provides it: “To ask God to give me free choice between x and y and to see to it that I chose x instead of y is to ask him to do the logically impossible.” This rejoinder has somewhat less force against an accidental disaster, an act of, er, God. The classic case, the one that shook the faith of Voltaire, is the Lisbon earthquake of November 1st, 1755, All Saints’ Day. It was in the morning, when church services were being held. Thirty-five of the forty churches in the city collapsed, more than 10,000 people died, and the faithful in church generally fared much worse than the infidels at home. This ought to persuade anyone that, if God does exist, He is at least anti-clerical.
Holt does tell one excellent joke, however. Q: How do you protest when a Unitarian moves into the neighborhood? A: You burn a question mark on his lawn.