My friend Laurie has written a letter to Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and textual critic of early Christianity. Laurie sounds angry but makes beautiful sense at the same time. Maybe this is what is known as righteous indignation.
Here is an excerpt:
You’ve devoted your life to undermining the authority of Scripture – to destroying, if possible, any faith that has been placed in it. I doubt you would express it in those terms. I believe you feel you’re doing a good thing. Setting people free from slavery to superstition. But I couldn’t help but wonder, nor could your interviewer, what’s left in the absence of faith. She asked you where you now find meaning in life. And you went on to proclaim your own gospel – a gospel of freedom from the knowledge of God. You described how your hope now lies in, well, the knowledge that after this life there’s nothing – no one to answer to, nothing to account for, nothing to fear, nothing to anticipate. You describe the freedom that comes from knowing that – freedom to live each moment to the fullest, freedom to work to alleviate the suffering around you, etc.
This freedom you speak of has captured my imagination these last few days. I’ve thought long and hard about what would be the way to live if this is all there is, there is no God, no judge of the universe, no standards, no accountability, no ultimate right or wrong, no punishments, no rewards. There would be no sin, it is true. There would be no guilt. There would also be no reason to respect human life or laws, other than to avoid arbitrarily established penalties. If men are not all created in the image of God, then there’s no reason for me not to detest any person of a color not my own, or less intelligent, or uglier, or meaner, or nicer, or more beautiful, or richer, or weaker, or older, or sicker. And don’t try to speak to me of dignity, the higher good and perpetuation of the species. What on earth difference does that make? If it’s all just random, what the hell difference does any of it really make? There is no benefit, or lack thereof in the continuation of any species, or this world as we know it. There is no reason for me to watch my language, to be kind, or to seek not to offend. As to those who suffer around me – there is no reason to feel anything but glad that it is them and not me who is suffering – unless of course I could think of something tangible to be gained in assisting them. There is no reason for me to love anyone except to the extent that they please me, and only for as long. There is no reason for me to love my children or care for them. There is no reason to refrain from abusing them, if it gives me relief or pleasure. There is no reason for me not to seek revenge if I feel “wronged” – though how I could be wronged, when there’s no such thing as right – well…. (If I don’t make it “right”, who will?) In a godless world all there is for me, a being formed by random happenings, is my moment by moment sense of pleasure and pain (though why I would interpret one as “good” and the other as “bad” is a mystery) – or, as the Scripture so succinctly puts it: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”.
To read the entire letter, click A letter to Bart Ehrman.
I think what makes me indignant, rather than just sad for him (and I am sad for him), is that if his view is correct and he truly in his heart-of-hearts believes it, it shouldn’t really matter to him what anyone else believes – he should just let people have whatever view brings them happiness or comfort, since that’s all that matters anyway. But he’s not content to do that. He’s trying to turn people’s worlds upside down, with very little view to the ultimate outcome, and getting rich in the process.