Is Atheism Self-Contradictory?

Dear Father:

An atheist having written to you remarked that God seems to break His own natural Laws, and that therefore there is a discrepancy in religion. All things, he says, must have a cause, and since God has no cause, He must not exist. I wonder if he realizes that his own theory violates this same principle; that matter and energy which have supposedly existed for all time had no cause, as well. Therefore, his theory falls under the same logic. We must note that God made laws for His Creation, which bound the things He created; it would be silly to apply those laws to Him. He is far too above nature to be subject to the same laws. In the same way, He made laws for humans because humans are rebellious creatures and need rules; He made no laws for Himself, excepting only those inherent to His Being (infinite Mercy and infinite Justice, for example), because He Himself is perfect Unity, and therefore cannot rebel against Himself. Laws are only necessary for lower things; Perfection does not need anything that is conducive to Perfection. God's laws are like the rules parents set down for their children; children need rules such as bedtimes because they are too young to manage their time themselves. In the same way, men (and nature) need God's laws because they are rebellious and otherwise would not remain in God's peace. Because of the free will given to him, man often rebels; nature has no free will and therefore does not. The laws are there to keep Creation in line; since God is in no danger of going out of line, it is entirely unnecessary for Him to be bound by laws. Every miracle is a violation of laws made for nature, except that they are not really violations, for God directly willed them. When Elisha made the axe float in water, was that not a seeming violation of natural law? But it was not; God did it, and He is bound by no law. Nature itself, however, is bound by laws, and nature would have pulled the axe to the bottom of the river. In summary, to organize my points in a more orderly fashion,

1. Men and nature need laws to keep them in line;
2. God, being Perfect, never goes out of line, and therefore needs no laws;
3. God, therefore, cannot be discounted on the basis of natural laws.

He is not limited by His Creation; His Creation is limited by Him. It is foolish to assume that He is limited by natural laws, just as it is foolish to assume that a parent is limited by the rules he imposes on his children.

I am just addressing a point in a letter from someone on what he called the discrepancies between science and religion; I agree that those discrepancies are a result of human misunderstanding and not of nature. The misunderstanding, I think, is largely on the part of the scientists, not the theologians. But in any case, it seems to me that his statement that God might have given someone a mind so "rational" that he could not recognize God's existence in order to further our understanding of the cosmos is erroneous, to say the least. God cannot will any moral evil, since He is the Infinite Good; therefore, it would seem to be impossible for Him to will anyone to not believe in Him, since that violates His Commandment (the first of the Decalogue, specifically) and is therefore a moral evil. Is my reasoning sound? Or am I overlooking something?

Omnipotens te et nos benedicat,

Donald Patrick Goodman III


See Conversation with Jane Haddam