According to Max Lucado of the Christian Post on November 9, the results of the US Presidential election simply don’t matter. Only God’s sovereignty matters. And, us silly mortals needn’t worry because that won’t change. Unless, of course, it never was to begin with.
Lucado quotes Proverbs “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases.” When you stop and actually think about this passage, its in direct opposition to the most central theological tenet of christianity … free will. Now the Christian will argue that limiting options doesn’t take away free will, so much as limit it. But free will is by definition the ability to choose between all options. Furthermore, why would god choose to direct so many people’s river towards atheism. Why woudn’t he direct us away from it?
Lucado stated that on one occassion, god changed the heart of the king of Assyria so that he aided the Jews in the Construction of the Temple. On another occassion, he stirred the heart of Cyrus to release the Jews to return to Jerusalem. But in Genesis, rather than stir the hearts of the ENTIRE WORLD; he chose to kill them all by drowning it, save Noah’s family. Was stirring the hearts of the world beyond the power of god, or did he simply not care enough about people to try? So much for omnipotence and omnibenevolence.
Lucado states that god’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace. He states that when we realize that god influences the hearts of all rulers, that we can pray instead of worrying or, in his pithy turn of phrase “we select prayer over despair”. Except, theists can’t actually demonstrate that prayer works. Furthermore, why even despair, why not do something about it? Despite your candidate losing an election, a vocal dissent serves a function in politics. It serves as a moderating force and prevents elected officials from overreaching.
Lucado finally uses an analogy about some missionary work he did in Brazil. He was flying somewhere when turbulence hit the plane. He began freaking out about crash landing in the middle of the Amazon and “being gobbled up by piranhas or swallowed by an anaconda”. The pilot turned to him and said “We won’t face anything I can’t handle. You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”
The problem with this analogy is two-fold. One, there’s such a thing as christian eschatology. A Christian can never be certain whether a bad turn of events is part of the divine plan for armageddon, or just a bad turn of events. Second, in a democracy, god’s not in control. We are. We’re the pilot of the plane. So the anxiety stems not from our candidate losing, but our worldview losing.
And that’s a pretty scary place for theists to be. Not so much atheists. Most of us have had our worldview completely shattered. The anxiety stems from the doubt that arises from having your indoctrinated beliefs challenged, and that others not sharing them is a complete mystery to you. My advice to theists: embrace that doubt.
Doubt is lethal to indoctrination but vital to you. Independent thinking is scary because there is no safety net. You will make mistakes, offend others, and be corrected many, many times as an independent thinker. Many things are beyond your direct control, and sometimes you have no choice but to let those things happen as they do. I sometimes catch myself thinking “Please don’t let X happen. Please please please!” but I no longer ask god to intervene.
Hope doesn’t leave simply because you reject god. Hope is a natural and healthy human emotion. But hopes are dashed whether you pray or not. If prayer is a yes or no question, and god tells you no, then what good was praying? It comforts you to think that someone is listening, regardless of the outcome. There are 4 billion people on the planet who could listen to you, and you choose the person who hasn’t visited this planet since the bronze age.
There are plenty of ways to self-soothe and process disappointment. In a way, prayer is self-sabotage for the believer. Enough disappointments eventually begin to call into question the existence of god. It certainly did for me.
The bottom line is that theists simply don’t process doubt and disappointment in a healthy way. They rely on god to do the emotional and intellectual heavy lifting, and then complain about being persecuted when things simply don’t go their way. More than anything else, this grates on the nerves of atheists. We acknowledge that things don’t go our way all the time. We tend to process and move on. Theists tend to dwell in their perplexity and wallow in their disappointment. They don’t have to, they choose to. They relinquish their sovereignty to a deity that simply doesn’t deliver. That’s on them.