Ross Douhat put up a post on the difference between Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens when you compare their well known atheistic stances. Most of the way, nothing really stood out, but this part got me thinking;
Whereas Dawkins and co. are appalled by the belief in God, Hitchens is far more appalled by the idea that anyone would want to obey Him. Every true romantic needs a great foe, a worthy adversary, a villain to whose destruction he can consecrate himself. Never one for half measures, Hitchens just decided to go all the way to the top.
After reading this, it got me thinking about something that had never really crossed my mind. Note that Douhat’s claim is that it’s not really the belief in God that irks Hitchens, it’s deference and obedience to the divine. Whether this is true of Hitchens’ position, I can’t say – but the way Douhat frames it, it sounds like Hitchens isn’t so much bothered by the fact that people believe in God – he’s bothered that people who believe in God obey God.
Now of course I can see not obeying if you don’t believe, but could you (really) believe in God and not obey? For some reason this seems to raise an intuitive alarm for me, though I’m not sure specifically why it does or how to argue or defend it (I’m still thinking about it). Part of what seems to be at the core of my intuition here is a belief that not obeying God reduces to a failure to really (fully, anyway) believe in God. Sort of a kind of Platonic argument in a way (in the way that Plato explains the bad)– to refuse to obey can always be reduced on some level to a failure of belief. Perhaps this is why characters like Satan are always so interesting and perplexing to many people. After all, here’s the one guy who can be said without any doubt to know that God exists, but yet he does not obey. Is that really possible, though? Is there a necessary connection between true belief in the divine and deference to the divine?