Steven Weinberg, episode 2 of Jonathan Miller’s The Atheism Tapes (2004)
Theologians worry away at the “problem of evil” and a related “problem of suffering.” On the day I originally wrote this paragraph, the British newspapers all carried a terrible story about a bus full of children from a Roman Catholic school that crashed for no obvious reason, with wholesale loss of life. Not for the first time, clerics were in paroxysms over the theological question that a writer on a London newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) framed this way: “How can you believe in a loving, all-powerful God who allows such a tragedy?” The article went on to quote one priest’s reply: “The simple answer is that we do not know why there should be a God who lets these awful things happen. But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative. If the universe was just electrons, there would he no problem of evil or suffering.”
On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Housman put it:
For Nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither care nor know.
Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (1995)
Victor Stenger (29 January 1935 – 27 August 2014), God: The Failed Hypothesis (2007)
Sean B. Carroll, Freethought Radio, 24 May 2008
Because the [religious] moderates are so nice we all are brought up with the idea that there’s something good about religious faith. That there’s something good about bringing children up to have a faith.
Which means to believe something without evidence and without the need for justifying it.
They’re entitled simply to say, “Oh, that’s my faith, I believe it, you’re not allowed to question it and you’re not allowed to ask me why I hold it.”
Once you teach people that that’s a legitimate reason for believing something then you as it were give a licence to the extremists who say, “My belief is that I’m supposed to be a suicide bomber or I’m supposed to blow up buildings – it’s my faith and you can’t question that.”
Richard Dawkins, speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival