For the past few years I have followed with great interest the ongoing staged debates between today's leading atheistic thinkers - Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, et, al, and various representatives of theistic thought. In most cases, trying to be as unbiased as possible, the atheists have clearly carried the intellectual battle and, in those few cases where they haven't, the best the theists can claim is a draw.
All of this has got me to thinking.
The peoples of earth today are divided along sectarian and/or religious lines more so than perhaps any time in history. The gulfs are great, and often spill over into persecution and even outright violence. Why should this be?
For the purpose of argument, I am going to suppose for a bit that the theists are correct: That there is a God, that this God created everything including us (either directly or indirectly), that He loves us and/or at least cares about what we do and desires our love or devotion (or something like that) in return, and that He will either reward or punish everyone at some point in the future.
Here's the point -- Given all the confusion and conflict over religion throughout the world, and given the declining rates of faith in much of the western world at least, along with the growth in popularity of the aforementioned atheistic spokesmen, why doesn't God settle this question for once and for all?
Why doesn't God show up at one of the atheist vs. theist debates, clarify precisely what He is and what He expects or demands, and perhaps, for good measure, smite the famous atheist at the podium as a sign that enough is enough?
Of course He would have to plan his appearance carefully. He could not, for instance, appear as a burning bush in a crowded auditorium filled with flammable materials. That could end badly. Nor could he just appear as a deep, booming voice from above, because folks might reasonably assume some cheap, theatrical trick.
No, it seems He would have to show Himself in some convincing as well as authoritative way.
I know what the faithful among you are thinking - God prefers to remain hidden, thereby increasing the value of faith, etc.
I'm not sure that is a good argument however. He's been more than willing to visit and communicate with humankind in the past. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and others enjoyed personal interaction with the Deity. Why should we assume that he desires to remain hidden now, when he played celestial peek-a-boo on a somewhat regular basis a few millennia ago?
Could it be that He prefers ignorant, cattle-sacrificing, patriarchal desert dwellers to sophisticated, educated urban types? That would explain, I suppose, why His religion is so -- well -- sadistic, backward, and patriarchal.
Does He suppose that sending us Jesus ended the need for further communication? I can't help but feel that, if that were the case, He could have chosen a better location -- say a more developed civilization like China, or a time when mass communications would have enabled a far greater long-term impact -- like now!
No, I can't think of a single good reason why God wouldn't appear today, put those nasty atheists in their place, and at the same time unite the peoples of the world in His one, true faith.
Well -- okay -- I can think of one.