Thoughts on accountability in this life and the next

A question was asked of atheists on Quora recently to explain how they felt about the “void of justice” if no one is held accountable in the next life for the evil they did in this life. This is usually asked as a corollary in the kettle logic arguments employed against atheists.  Many serial killers, we are told,  have a long life and a peaceful passing surrounded by loved ones, never being brought to justice for their crimes.  The crooked financial advisor who bilked grandma and grandpa out of their life savings retired on a yacht in the Caribbean with his ill gotten gains without a care or worry in the world.  Whoever it was that stole your dog ‘Bosco’ when you were in the 2nd grade really did get away with it.  There will be no comeuppance for them because there is no afterlife in which a comeuppance would happen according to the atheist. In fact, nothing will ever happen to them according to atheists. Ever.  They got away with it and that’s that, according to the unbeliever. I mean, the nerve.

The serial killer example is the most often employed presumably because it is thought to add the most moral heft to the question. When I hear this, and I hear it often, I like to think I know how Huxley felt when he turned to his friend and said “the Lord hath delivered him into mine hands” as he rose to answer Bishop Wilberforce’s question about his ancestry.   I’ll get to Huxley’s answer in a moment.

My retort to this question is always the same:  This question should be asked of the Christian, not the atheist, for this is what the Christian believes.  The serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, also know as the Milwaukee Cannibal, became a born again Christian while in prison before he was killed by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver. Dahmer confessed and was convicted of murdering 17 young men some of which he sexually abused and cannibalized.  If the Christian’s doctrine is to be believed then Dahmer’s conversion insured his immediate entrance into heaven.  What of sis accountability for his unspeakable crimes?  According to the Christian, he has none.

I challenge you to come up with a more pernicious and amoral idea than this. Once this is believed all that remains is convincing oneself that the one who sits on the throne of heaven is now the coxswain of one’s life to guarantee first place in the race to the bottom of the moral cesspool.  Christopher Scarver, after he had beaten Dahmer and another inmate to death with a pipe, returned to his cell and informed a prison guard: “God told me to do it.”  Life, it seems, has it’s own sense of irony, both for serial killers and kettle logic apologists.

It takes intellectual courage to accept the life we live is the only life we have and to understand that justice, if it is to be found at all, is to be found in this life. Rather than being an impetus, the idea that there is a future comeuppance in a world to come saps the vim and vigor of our efforts to ensure justice in this life. “Don’t worry, God will right all the wrongs.” To think in such a way engenders apathy towards injustice and allows one to be a silent witness to the most horrific and barbarous acts against our fellow man.  It is the creed of the coward.

In their famous debate on evolution it is said Bishop Samuel Wilberforce asked T.H. Huxley, who was given the name “Darwin’s Bulldog”, whether he traced his ancestry from apes through his paternal or maternal grandmother. Huxley turn to his friend and whispered what I related to you earlier, rose and responded, “I would rather be a man descended from two apes than be a man who is afraid of the truth.”





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