I’ve been reading Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist for a while now, off and on. I’m about a third of the way through. It is an odd and often-compelling book that, frankly, I am enjoying very much. My friend Eugene Curry, who told me I should read it, warned me that Day is himself an odd bird, and, in that, Curry is certainly correct.
Vox Day is a kind of polymath provocateur. I find some of his views to be extreme and a few of them to be outright distasteful and wrong. I just happen to find his attack upon atheism to be profoundly insightful and effective. The book is a weird and wonderful read.
Except the first lines of it.
I hate the first lines of the book and thought they were worthy of open rebuke. Here’s how he begins his book:
I don’t care if you go to hell.
God does, assuming He exists, or He wouldn’t have bothered sending His Son to save you from it. Jesus Christ does, too, if you’ll accept for the sake of argument that he went to all the trouble of incarnating as a man, dying on the cross, and being resurrected from the dead in order to hand you a Get Out of Hell Free card.
Me, not so much. I don’t know you. I don’t owe you anything. While as a Christian I am called to share the Good News with you, I can’t force you to accept it. Horse, water, drink, and all that.
So, it’s all on you. Your souls in not my responsibility.
Of course, Day is right about “horse, water, drink, and all that.” And he is right that he “can’t force you to accept it.” But the beginning (“I don’t care if you go to hell.”) does not necessary follow from those two facts, and neither should it.
When I first read these words I was immediately reminded of Paul’s contrasting attitude in the beginning of Romans 9. Remember?
I am speaking the truth in Christ – I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit – that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
I share Day’s indignation concerning the hubris of modern atheism, but I dare say that beginning a defense of theism with blunt articulations of our disregard for the eternal destinations of those to whom we are speaking does more than hurt the argument. Furthermore, given the truthfulness of Christianity, it rather conflicts with the heart of the God whose existence we are seeking to defend.
Now, I expect Day was being provocative. That is his stock and trade. But one does wish he had avoided an initial provocation that threatens the argument he is seeking to construct. After all, a God whose followers do not care whether or not the world goes to hell is not a God most folks would care to know anyhow.
Christians do care whether or not people go to hell.
Or we certainly should.